Maintenance Outlook Report

Insights into what the near future may hold for vehicle maintenance

  • Detection: Monitoring overall vehicle health and providing early indications of impending failures.
  • Fault Isolation: Associating fault data signatures with physical failures and automatically isolating future occurrences of those failures. This capability depends on having a good vehicle maintenance reporting system (VMRS) in place.
  • Prognostics: Given adequate experience, the technology can give reasonable estimates of time before a recognized fault must be repaired. The prognostic capability, while probably the most valuable to the fleet manager, is also the most difficult to achieve, because it requires predicting the future usage characterization (including vehicle usage, driver style, etc.). However, given sufficient data, the tools should help the fleet manager choose when to schedule maintenance.


PHM technology has progressed from theory to feasible application during the past 10 years. Frontier Technology (FTI) and other companies are currently working to encapsulate the technology within user-friendly, field-ready interfaces.

The current challenge in the PHM industry is demonstrating the value of the technology. As with any product, PHM will only be valuable if the tools can demonstrate a tangible return on investment.

The difficulty in producing such a demonstration is simply time.

PHM is built on machine-learning technology. The software must have seed data to develop models and failure mode signatures.

Thus, there is a significant period - on the order of months - where the tools are not producing useful results, but simply gathering data and consuming resources. It is only over time that the information and knowledge captured within the PHM systems is returned in the form of operational savings.

Much of the current work in this field is thus centered on pilot studies that operate over sufficient duration to prove the economic benefit of the technology.

Once this is accomplished, I see the technology gradually being implemented at both the fleet and the OEM level, eventually becoming an integrated part of the vehicles themselves.

Commercial Vehicle Diagnostics

By David P. Shock, North American Product Manager, Snap-on Business Solutions, NEXIQ Technologies

Snap-on Business Solutions designs productivity solutions that provide practical access to actionable information, designing and delivering electronic parts catalogs, accessory sales tools, warranty process management solutions and manufacturer network development services. NEXIQ Technologies is a brand owned by Snap-on Business Solutions. The NEXIQ brand offers commercial vehicle diagnostic and telematics software and service solutions. The NEXIQ brand supplies these services for the on-highway commercial vehicle OEM, fleets, and off-highway and agricultural industries.

During the last 10 to 15 years, the commercial vehicle technician and fleet vehicle repair centers have witnessed a great number of changes in vehicle diagnostics processes and procedures. The entire environment has changed with the advancement of the vehicle controller network.

The availability of the PC and the availability of OEM- and aftermarket-produced diagnostic software for scan tools has changed the process entirely. In most cases, an Internet connection is now available on the shop floor, further improving the access to information.

The commercial vehicle diagnostic market will continue to see change for the next several years with the addition of the U.S. EPA’s Service Information Requirements Act. The regulation requires manufacturers to provide persons repairing or servicing motor vehicles any and all information needed to make use of the vehicle emission control diagnostic system and other information for making emission-related diagnoses and repairs.


The fleet repair market has a need and desire to obtain more vehicle information to improve fuel costs, vehicle repair efficiency and overall fleet operations.

Additionally, a considerable shift has taken place as larger and well-trained fleet repair facilities now have the ability to complete tasks, such as reprogramming certain aspects of the vehicle. This was unheard of only a few years ago.

Some items have remained, for example, the age-old request by aftermarket repair facilities for more information and improved software to compete more directly with the OEM dealer. The aftermarket has stepped up with improved training for technicians and aftermarket-produced, or “lite,” versions of the OEM software applications.

At the same time, the OEM dealer has also seen a large number of changes. The task of vehicle repair continues to progress as the dealer is now the center for vehicle knowledge, with information supplied by the OEM.

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