The era of touchless maintenance

by James Menzies

Trucking technology is advancing at a rapid pace and shows no signs of slowing down. One of the biggest of these breakthroughs is the use of remote diagnostics to reduce downtime and eliminate unnecessary visits to the shop.

Fleets that are effectively using this technology – now available from all heavy truck and engine manufacturers – are able to monitor their vehicles’ health remotely and bring trucks off the road in only the most dire of circumstances. Previously, the appearance of any engine fault code was often enough to send a truck off-route and into the nearest shop. In reality, with remote diagnostics, most of these trucks can continue on their journey and finish their delivery and have the issue resolved at the next scheduled service interval.

Coming on the heels of remote diagnostics is the ability to program engine calibrations over the air, again presenting an opportunity to reduce trips to the service bay.

At the launch of its new X15 engine series, Cummins explained how its system works. A fleet manager receives notification an engine update is available and then approves the update.

The driver then initiates the update when parked, through an approved telematics platform and voila – the engine receives the latest software programming without incurring any downtime. A backup file is created first, in case there are any troubles with the update. This could be a major benefit to fleets but it gets even better.

Next will come the opportunity to completely reprogram engine parameters remotely.

So consider the truck that runs Toronto-Vancouver and then remains in the Vancouver area to run regional LTL for a couple weeks.

That truck can be programmed before setting out for optimum performance in the mountains and then reconfigured remotely for regional-haul activities. Another practical example is compliance with speed limiter legislation. The truck that is limited to 105 km/h in compliance with Ontario and Quebec regulations can have that restriction lifted when outside those provinces so that it can operate at higher allowable road speeds in other jurisdictions.

And heck, why not update the software parameters while you’re at it so the engine is dialed in to get good fuel economy at those higher road speeds? These new capabilities are exciting but will need to be understood and managed.

A learning curve will no doubt be encountered but the fleets that take advantage of the opportunity to manage their engine programming remotely will surely experience some additional efficiencies and maybe even a competitive advantage.

Optimum engine performance at all times with fewer visits to the shop sounds like a win-win.

Are you ready to take advantage of the opportunity?

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