WASHINGTON, D.C. — Goran Nyberg wants Volvo’s trucks to be the iPhones of the trucking industry. The president of Volvo Trucks North America told trucking journalists this week the future of trucking is all about connectivity and creating a vehicle that can be enhanced with third-party applications.
“We will be focused on being experts of the trucks and the performance of the trucks and whatever apps may come in the future, we need to have an open mind to make sure they work with our features,” Nyberg said during a wide-ranging discussion with journalists that returned frequently to technology and connectivity.
Nyberg said trucking is just “scratching the surface” of what can be achieved through emerging technologies. He pointed out there are now 100,000 Volvo trucks using Remote Diagnostics and that the system is becoming more predictive. The vast amount of data collected from those trucks now allows Volvo to predict when certain parts will fail and to warn customers. However, Nyberg said a change of mindset is required by fleets to truly take advantage of this opportunity.
“The culture in our business is, we repair trucks when they break down,” Nyberg said. “We can bring more value to (customers) if we are allowed to be proactive in our approach.”
Nyberg used the airline industry as an example. Aircraft parts are replaced before they break because unplanned stops and failures aren’t acceptable. With Volvo now collecting data from thousands of trucks it can now predict when parts will fail and encourage fleets to be more proactive about replacing those parts.
“Why should I run the truck until it breaks down if I know this component has reached its end of life?” Nyberg questioned.
This data also allows Volvo to act more quickly to identify trends and activate campaigns.
Volvo continues its war against downtime, with the opening of its Uptime Center last year and now with the rollout of a Certified Uptime Centers program that recognizes dealers that have implemented strategies to repair trucks faster. These dealers guarantee a diagnosis within two hours of a truck’s arrival and have special lanes available for quick repairs. So far, seven Volvo dealers have received the Certified Uptime Center designation, Nyberg said.
Volvo is also continuing to explore the potential of truck platooning. Later this year it will conduct trial runs with the University of California, Berkeley, running three VNL670s in platoon formation. Nyberg stressed this technology won’t replace drivers.
“In all technology, you need to have the human factor that can override the system when it’s not working,” he said.
Volvo officials acknowledged interest in alternative fuels, including natural gas and dimethyl ether (DME), has waned as diesel prices have fallen.
“I think we can all agree that alternative fuels will be a part of the future,” Nyberg said. “We still believe in DME, but we don’t think the market is ready…At $2 a gallon (for diesel), it’s a challenge for any alternative fuel to be financially feasible. I think we all know fuel prices will come back. It might take time, but if fuel goes back to somewhat normal, the appetite and interest in alternative fuels will increase again.”
Volvo executives also hinted of a major powertrain breakthrough that will be announced in late March. But despite the best efforts of journalists, they weren’t revealing any details about what it will involve.