Getting down with uptime

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Uptime was the buzzword of the year for Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks – and they finally brought the word to life with their new joint venture, the Uptime Center in Greensboro, N.C. that opened officially just over a month ago.

At a press event on December 9, both companies allowed the media into the brand new 123,000 square-foot building to show them the 24/7 Uptime call center agents at work, whose sole mission is to get trucks off the side of the road, in and out of the shop and on the road.

Though the rest of the trucking industry has their hands tied up with the latest spec’s to make their truck run as fuel-efficient as possible, Volvo and Mack believe uptime is the latest trend that more fleets should be paying attention to if they want to reduce costs.

“I would say today, in communication with customers, of course, fuel-efficiency is always there but uptime is key and it’s a key driver today from any customer that we talk to,” said Goran Nyberg, president, Volvo Trucks North American Sales and Marketing. “Because as we all know, if the vehicles are not running, our customers are not making money.”

Nyberg stressed the importance of having all the aftermarket experts and telematics responses teams under one roof saying, “We can gather all the support people and their expertise immediately when we have a case. And it gives the ability to find the parts the customer may anywhere in our dealer network to get the customer back up and running quickly.”

He added that the birth of telematics has reduced diagnostic times by more than 70% and decreased repair time by 20% already.

Both Volvo and Mack calculated that unplanned downtime can be very costly to fleets today.

“If we look at it from a customer’s perspective, we understand very easily that a down day can equal $2,000 a day between lost revenue, driver pay, and rentals,” said Stephen Roy, president, Mack Trucks North American Sales and Marketing.

Roy added that both Volvo and Mack’s goal is to expedite the process of getting the truck serviced and to help customers reduce downtime.

“We need to make sure we can do everything possible to keep our trucks running,” he said, adding that dealers have already seen a major difference in how mechanical situations are dealt with. Now, he said, dealers can get the downloaded data from the truck while the vehicle is still on the road. Once it’s at the dealer, they can scan the QR code (which is located on the inside of the driver’s door), give the work order to the technician and can get to work on the problem faster than before.

The space had a “new building smell” and currently houses 630 employees (some sitting and some standing thanks to the adjustable desks that promote a healthy work environment) About 175 of them are Uptime agents, who were busy on their headsets talking to various dealers, fleet managers and drivers to help find them solutions. All Uptime agents are cross-trained to help both Volvo and Mack customers and use Volvo/Mack telematic technologies like Volvo ASIST and Remote Diagnostics, Mack OneCall, and GuardDog Connect to indentify problems, then alert the fleet of that problem. From there, depending the problem, agents set up a time frame for scheduling repairs with the fleet or call a Volvo/Mack dealer to locate a specific part.

The agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help customers through the Greensboro call center. Both Volvo and Mack say there are anywhere from 140-180 agents working during the day and 40 on the night shift, though these numbers are hard to estimate because of the overlapping shifts required for a workplace that is always in operation. Combined, the agents in the Uptime Center speak five languages (English, French, Spanish, Russian and Polish) though the center uses a third party company to translate any language the agents run into.

Members of the press invited to the grand opening got to watch in on a live call where a truck had a yellow code – meaning the code wasn’t severe but maintenance did need to be scheduled soon to prevent a breakdown. The information that gets fed through to the uptime agents show the kind of truck, the latitude and longitude of where the truck is at that time (to help agents see if the truck is still rolling and which dealer is the closest for repairs). When a fault code is detected the agent contacts the customer to discuss what should be done in a timely fashion and gets the truck in and out of a service bay and back on the road as soon as possible. Journalists got to watch as an agent contacted the fleet and discussed what the driver’s next steps should be to get the truck back to normal.

“We don’t send every fault code,” added Roy. “That frustrates customers, I’ve heard customers who have had 30 emails a day and they don’t know what to do with them. So we’ve narrowed down what’s important – which is what is going to take a truck down?”

Though the building places these two companies’ strong, bold logos side by side, almost in competition, it only makes sense that these two brands joined forces when they did because of their dedication to the quality of dealer service facilities they have available.

Since 2010, Mack dealers have invested around $400 million where it saw a 35% jump in service bay capacity and a 62% increase in hours available for service. Likewise, Volvo has invested $411 million, with more than 50 new facilities either planned or underway. Volvo’s investment has seen parts department employees increase by almost 70% and a 150% increase in the amount of Volvo master technicians.

“An airline doesn’t allow any unplanned stops,” said Nyberg adding that the ambition of the center is to be able to predict when a component is nearly the end of its life expectancy on a truck. “We should have the same mindset when it comes to trucks, to make sure we can do whatever we can to make sure we change those components before the event actually happens.”

Sonia Straface is the associate editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface.

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  • Hi
    Interesting what new technology is capable of doing. The bottom line is still, can I get my truck in and fixed in a reasonable amount of time in the area where I’m trucking. I feel shops are overbooking them selves because of the ever increasing demand for repairs required, directly coinciding with the ever-increasing sales of trucks. There is definitely a need for more shop space and technicians. Would it be possible for Volvo to look at opening bays up to accommodate the jobs that are of a shorter nature that do not require you to book a week or more in advance to get a 2-4 hour repair done? Can they go back to the old way where a shop foreman knew how to fit in a short job in between a job that may be several days long. I recently experienced that at a Volvo dealer. Tell you what that sure made my day.
    Maybe some shop foreman may have their hands to restricted to do that. I’ve found that when I’m waiting at a service counter and over here them on the phone telling the person on the other end of the line that they are booking at least a week ahead and can’t help them. I feel for that person. I’ve been there on many occasions. This really hits the pocket book especially if they are a small operator
    like me. I think they should have a serious look at leaving a bay open to accommodate the shorter jobs.