Disrupting the disruptors

YOUNTVILLE, Cali. – The trucking industry of late has attracted the attention of many so-called disrupters, looking to completely change how freight is delivered or the types of vehicles used to deliver it.

But such stories are usually short on details, claims Matt Pfaffenbach, director of connectivity with Detroit, who was speaking today at a Detroit Connect Showcase press event.

The Detroit Connect mobile app will be released later this year.

“I would like to disrupt the disruptive headlines,” he said. “What I often see, is high-level discussions happening. Rarely do I see where someone out there has explained in detail what it is they are doing or how their product can help the market. I hope we can accomplish that today.”

Today’s trucks generate copious amounts of data, but Detroit is now taking steps to make that data more manageable and actionable for fleets. It is developing more tools to streamline and analyze data so that fleet managers are given only what they need to see to improve their operations.

“Our customers need something which is of use to them,” said Pfaffenbach.

He said Detroit has two goals. One is to create an “exceptional user experience.” This means better integration of telematics with the fleet’s operations. Its second goal is to be the “trusted source of data” among its customers.

“A lot of information comes off the vehicle. If you don’t understand the origin, why it’s available, how it’s calculated, what is going on in the engineer’s mind at the time, you may be acting on bad information,” Pfaffenbach explained. “We see it as our role as an OEM to provide that translation.”

Lauren Attinasi, product strategy manager, connectivity, with Detroit, announced new ways the company plans to make data accessible and manageable for customers. One is a new Detroit Connect portal, which allows fleets to view data generated by their vehicles in easy-to-understand formats. It can also be used to remotely produce Detroit Diesel Electronic Control (DDEC) reports on vehicle performance.

A new Detroit Connect web portal provides greater insight into truck-generated data.

The new Detroit Connect portal also allows for the management of Virtual Technician remote diagnostics. It allows fleet managers to monitor vehicle health, to take deeper dives into fault codes generated by their trucks, and to measure driver and vehicle performance.

Detroit has also created a new mobile app, which puts the same information into the fleet manager’s hands via a smartphone or tablet. An iOS version has already been built and an Android app is in development. Both will be released this fall.

“The truck is now an active member of the team,” explained Attinasi, noting it interacts through the portal and apps with the fleet manager, maintenance manager, fuel manager, and safety officer.

Jason Krajewski, manager, connectivity insight team with Detroit, said today telematics is generally event-based. It takes a snapshot of a value and provides some historical context, which may not paint the entire picture. Some hands-on data retrieval is still required. But soon, he said, data will be streamed over-the-air from the truck to the customer’s back office. It will be aggregated, cleaned and sorted in the cloud and distributed quickly on-demand, accessible to end users through web-based portals and apps.

“The world is about to become much more interesting,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk about data. Data is the new oil. We want to show it’s true we can bring that actionable information to our customers.”

The vision, Krajewski added, is to take data off the truck and turn it into something useful for the company’s customers.

“Our customers dedicate a lot of time to sifting through data,” he said. “We think we can help them by pre-analyzing that data and offering analytics services using the expertise we have in-house.”


James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.


  • IT is coming to every aspect of our life – from online pizza orders to the highly secured NASA programs. So the trucking will not be an exemption. There are a lot of IT solutions for transportation industry. From the apps showing the places with the cheapest fuel to on demand trucking apps frequently called Uber of trucking. These apps like Uber Freight or Convoy or Doft are developed to make the load finding and booking much easier