Truck News


DTNA working with Zonar on next-generation telematics offerings

YOUNTVILLE, Calif. — Having recently taken a minority ownership stake in tech company Zonar, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) is already making the most of that arrangement and transferring to Zonar aspects of its telematics offerings.

Detroit Connect’s Visibility Fleet Software and On-Board Tablet brands will be transferred to Zonar. Visibility will now be known as Zonar’s Ground Traffic Control fleet tracking system. The Tablet will be referred to as Zonar’s 2020 tablet. The reorganization won’t affect customers, DTNA says.

Meanwhile, DTNA’s Detroit Virtual Technician remote diagnostics platform will retain its current branding, but Zonar will handle the management of subscriptions.

“There’s a significant opportunity to gain important insights through connectivity to ultimately provide a more dynamic customer experience,” said Matthew Pfaffenbach, director of telematics for DTNA. “Our arrangement with Zonar ultimately strengthens our telematics capabilities.”

DTNA invited Zonar executives to attend an aftermarket and telematics-themed press event here this week. The recent purchase (terms of the deal or the percentage of Zonar DTNA now owns, haven’t been disclosed) allows Zonar to maintain its autonomy and continue providing its services to other OEMs. It also allows DTNA to bring in-house further telematics expertise.

“Zonar has always been a valued supplier of ours, but there’s something to be said about having a vested interest together,” said Pfaffenbach. “While it’s a minority stake, the percentage of ownership is not as critical as the level of collaboration we have.”

DTNA CEO Martin Daum now sits on the Zonar board under the current arrangement.

The two companies are already working together to develop the next generation of Virtual Technician. Also in the works is a new “Vehicle Connectivity Platform,” which Pfaffenbach said will combine an on-board device with a back office system that will “provide a new level of connectivity to customers.”

Zonar and Daimler will also work together to make remote diagnostics more predictive. Brett Brinton, co-founder, president and CEO of Zonar said the company has already done prototype tests that can determine, for example, when a turbocharger is likely to wear out.

“We can tell when the failure is going to occur with the DPF system. That’s an example of what’s possible in the future,” Brinton said.

Currently available today, Virtual Technician allows fleets to appropriately respond to fault codes generated by the engine and aftertreatment system. About 20% of all fault codes generated are “driver actionable,” meaning the driver can solve the problem on his own without taking the truck out of service. This allows the operator to reduce downtime, or when repairs are required, to expedite the process since nearby dealers will be notified in advance of the issue, giving them time to ready a bay and ensure the required parts are available.

Getting parts to dealers quickly is another area of focus for DTNA. It is currently running overnight delivery services in some regions. Parts ordered by 4 p.m. are delivered overnight by dedicated drivers who have access to the facility. The parts are in the dealership by 5 or 6 a.m. so that repairs can begin as soon as the facility opens.

By the end of this year, more than 50% of DTNA dealerships will have access to overnight parts delivery, said Friedrich Baumann, senior vice-president, aftermarket, DTNA.


James Menzies

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.
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