The benefits of connectivity

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The ability to predict parts failures and to develop VIN-specific preventive maintenance programs are two benefits that fleets can achieve if harnessing the power of connectivity.

Chintan Sopariwala, vice-president, aftersales operations and connected vehicle with Navistar, gave a keynote address at ACT Virtual Aug. 25, espousing the benefits of connectivity – when properly deployed.

But he warned not all data is good data, and that fleets should ensure all systems are pulling information from the same hardware so that data is consistent and accurate.

Navistar’s Chintan Sopariwala says connectivity is the key to a brighter future for the industry. (Photo: James Menzies)

“Your IT group will thank you later for it,” he said. “You will save thousands of hours of data mining and cleanup, and subscription and device costs. Consolidate hardware as much as possible.”

OEM telematics hardware can be integrated with telematics service provider (TSP) platforms so that a single piece of hardware is required, sending data to a single portal.

When looking to tap into big data, Sopariwala advises fleets to first identify the problem they’re looking to solve.

“Keep the end goal in mind,” he said. “What problem are you trying to solve?”

If fuel economy is the priority, fleets can pull data related to mpg, hard braking, idle time, and time spent in cruise control. From there, they can dissect the data based on geography, time of day, driver, truck make, month, etc. They can compare driver and vehicle performance across the fleet, develop gamification programs to incentivize drivers, spec’ the best performing trucks and ultimately improve fleetwide fuel economy.

Big data derived from connected vehicles can also be used to enhance preventive maintenance (PM) programs. Navistar conducted a survey of about 100 fleets and found 36% were using a single PM schedule across their entire fleet. Only 15% had adopted a VIN-specific PM schedule, based on each truck’s individual use.

“The biggest disadvantage in using a single PM schedule across multiple vehicles is it is very likely you as a fleet owner are changing oil sooner than required,” said Sopariwala. “This is where vehicle connectivity comes into play. How about a system that tracks vehicle performance on a real-time basis and notifies you exactly when maintenance is coming due? An advance PM model does exactly that. It can enable fleets to drive thousands more miles before an oil change compared to standard intervals.”

In fact, nine Navistar fleets operating 3,000 vehicles took part in a pilot project with the company and discovered 55% of the vehicles could travel an additional 15,000-20,000 miles before an oil change.

Connectivity also allows for geofencing, which fleets can use to see which service facilities and shippers/receivers are detaining trucks the longest.

“This allows you, as a fleet manager, to benchmark and compare uptime performance for dealers and OEMs and helps you identify those who can best help you maximize uptime,” Sopariwala said.

Navistar itself has geofenced more than 7,000 service locations in the U.S. and Canada – its own as well as competitive shops – and measures dwell time across the network. Fleets can use this data to make smarter truck purchasing decisions, or can adjust pricing for customers that regularly hold up equipment.

And connectivity may soon also predict parts failures, so that repairs can be made in the shop before a roadside breakdown. Imagine known an EGR cooler or valve is likely to fail in two weeks; fleets can replace that part before a costly roadside service call.

“Connectivity is key to a brighter future,” said Sopariwala, concluding it will allow fleets to save money, improve safety, help coach and retain drivers, and increase uptime.

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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