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REMOTE DIAGNOSTICS: WORTH PAYING FOR?

I’ve been touting remote diagnostics (small r, small d) as a great way to reduce downtime and expedite repairs and a gathering of fleet managers at TMC seemed to agree that there are benefits to the technology. But is it worth paying for?...


I’ve been touting remote diagnostics (small r, small d) as a great way to reduce downtime and expedite repairs and a gathering of fleet managers at TMC seemed to agree that there are benefits to the technology. But is it worth paying for? That’s the question that a lot of fleet maintenance managers will be asking themselves over the next couple years, as free trial versions that came on new trucks will expire and customers will be asked to subscribe to receive continued support.

An informal poll during TMC’s Fleet Talk session showed that most of the few hundred maintenance managers in the room are currently using some form of remote diagnostics. Asked how many plan to pay for the service beyond the free trial, all but about five hands went down. While the ensuing discussion revealed most maintenance managers see the benefits of knowing earlier what has caused a fault code to be triggered, they still encounter frustrations when they show up at the dealership and are told it’ll be several days before the truck is repaired. Then, it’s back on the road, problem unresolved, and are they really any further ahead? For all the good that remote diagnostics can achieve, a bottleneck at the dealership can undo the benefits in a hurry. Some fleet managers also admitted to struggling to handle the high number of alerts the systems can produce.

Later at TMC, I visited with Conal Deedy, Volvo’s product marketing manager, electronics and communications. Volvo was announcing that its Remote Diagnostics (big R, big D) is now deployed in 25,000 trucks. The very first Remote Diagnostics-equipped truck actually came to Canada and was delivered by Purolator Courier in 2012. Volvo’s at that key stage now, where the first of its trucks with Remote Diagnostics have been on the road for two years and the free test period is coming to an end.

Conal told me the take rate among customers is meeting expectations, and while he didn’t share what Volvo’s targeted take rate for paying customers is, I’m sure it’s greater than the highly informal TMC Fleet Talk poll indicated it might be. “We’ve already started selling years three, four and five,” Conal told me. “We started selling that last year and we’re already seeing a take rate on that. We’re hitting what we thought, maybe more.”

Volvo says its system has reduced diagnostics time by 70% and repair times by about 20%. Since the dealer that receives the truck already knows what’s wrong, it can often skip the in-shop diagnostic checks and move straight to the repairs. It can also move more quickly to ensure the required parts are on-hand. As I’ve written before, there’s a lot to like about remote diagnostics. But is it worth paying for? That’s the big question OEMs will be looking to determine over the next couple years. What do you folks have to say? Are you using any of the OEM remote diagnostic platforms today? And if so, is it a service you’ll pay for once the freebie period ends? Tell me about it.


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