By | September 6, 2018

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Today’s trucks are capable of providing drivers and technicians with a wealth of information.

Glen McDonald, director of maintenance for Memphis, Tenn.-based Ozark Motor Lines, says on-board diagnostics have helped improve communication between the shop and driver, while also giving office personnel visibility into what is happening to the truck.

Carriers partnered with a leasing agency have an additional layer of teamwork built in that places another seat at the maintenance table and another avenue down which diagnostic information can flow.

PacLease Maintenance Manager Rick Tapp says his company has chosen to route all telematic data in-house for the convenience of the customer, but communicates faults as-needed with the fleet – and possibly the driver – depending on the fleet’s preference and the severity of the code.

“One of the [problems] with telematics systems is they can overburden you with data,” Tapp says, “but then we get other fault codes that say very specifically, ‘if you continue to do this and don’t do this within 10 hours, you’re going to go into a derate.’ Those are the ones we take action on.”

While cumbersome at times, Tapp says on-board diagnostics has helped streamline the flow of information between the driver and the repair bay, while also adding a greater level of detail.

“The driver interview can be pretty critical because in some cases, where a driver writes something up and he turns in a DVIR in to his fleet manager and the fleet manager translates that to us, it can be problematic,” he says. “The driver may just write up ‘brakes,’ and that’s all he puts on the writeup sheet, so that’s the complaint that comes to us. That makes it very difficult for us to diagnose. It could be any number of things.”

“What the telematics piece has done, or what the fault code piece has done, that has eliminated a lot of stuff,” Tapp adds. “Now you can dive into it and see the history on the engine, see the fault codes that have developed and what needs to be targeted.”

In cases of serious fault codes, Tapp says all parties are contacted with a course of action. In cases where the driver opts to ignore the fault indicator, Tapp says a service team will work with the fleet in instances when the likelihood of serious damage to the truck is lowest.

“We’re going to go to the customer and say, “look, we know you’re having a problem. Your driver knows he’s having a problem. If there’s a reason to choose to ignore this, what is it,” Tapp says. “And, quite frankly, it might be that it’s a hot load and the driver is two hours from making his delivery. As soon as they get the load off, we can schedule the truck into a location. So we still got the load delivered without stopping before that.”

Bringing all concerned parties into the decision-making process, Transervice Vice President of Maintenance Taki Darakos says, generally leads to the best possible outcomes.

“When you gray the line between the shop and operations and bring them together to work hand in hand it’s usually a more successful endeavor in terms of doing the right thing and being thorough,” he says. “[Communication has] not gotten any easier. It’s harder and more complicated than it ever was. It’s a very basic process that needs to happen but it can have a really big impact on service and cost. If it’s working well, everyone is ahead of the problems and issues and it improves the overall safety of the fleet. If it’s out of synch, it becomes a real mess.”

For all the pains electronic logging devices (ELDs) are charged with causing, Tapp says they have become an important tool in better synching service needs with mandated driver downtime.

“We’re trying to anticipate how much more driving time does the driver really have. What we used to do in the past was, ‘okay, your truck’s down and you need a replacement truck.’ And by the time we delivered a tuck, and got him switched into another truck, it could be six or seven hours only to find out by the time you get him the truck the guy’s got to lay down and go to sleep,” he says. “If we’d just asked two or three more questions earlier in the process, then we could have avoided a replacement truck, got his truck fixed and everything else.”

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