It’s one of the many “holy grails” being sought after in trucking, right up there with maximizing fuel economy: pulling a truck off the road for service only when needed, which is something often referred to as condition-based maintenance or predictive maintenance.
In Europe, however, those strategies are being lumped under the moniker “flexible maintenance” and Swedish truck maker Scania – part of Volkswagen Truck & Bus GmbH – is now formally introducing such “flexible” maintenance plans to its customers; servicing trucks when operating data indicates that maintenance is needed, instead of set mileage schedules.
"A service contract including flexible maintenance plans means that the operator does not have to keep track of when the vehicle needs to be serviced; instead he or she is contacted by us when it is time," noted Claes Åkerlund, head of service concepts at Scania, in a statement.
"Because the workshop has all of the essential information before the appointment and can prepare for it in detail, the ‘pit stop’ is very efficient," he added, pointing out that Scania aims to offer such “flexible” maintenance contracts in all European markets over the course of 2016.
[As an aside, Scania offers a unique “ergonomics training program” for its service technicians to help reduce risks of strain-related disorders. The training, which is available in 23 languages, combines e-learning with on-the-job training by supervisors. More information is available here.]
Åkerlund noted that Scania is currently rolling out all of the necessary technology to its 900 workshops throughout Europe, with Norway serving as one of the “pilot markets” for flexible maintenance plans.
He added that Scania has approximately 170,000 connected vehicles in Europe that can potentially begin using this service.
"This is new technology, and the fact that all of our vehicles sold in Europe today are connected has made the service possible,” Åkerlund (below at right) emphasized.
“Maintenance plans that are based on how the vehicle is actually used increase both reliability and availability,” he stressed. “The set maintenance plans [of the past] resulted in vehicles being serviced both too frequently and too infrequently. I believe we can all agree that the best scenario is when every vehicle receives the exact amount of maintenance it needs."
Thus oil change intervals, for example, will now depend on how the vehicle is used in practice, Åkerlund noted.
“Long-haulage with 35 metric tons GTW [short for “gross train weight,” the equivalent of “GVW” or “gross vehicle weight” in the U.S.] between Rotterdam [in Holland] and Bremen [in Germany] is probably not the same thing as driving the same distance with the same vehicle between Zagreb [in Croatia] and Munich [in Germany],” he pointed out.
Yet Åkerlund also noted that “periodic maintenance” at set intervals will still be available to fleets, or for use in driving patterns for which such mileage-based service is “the most suitable” in Åkerlund’s view.
Looks as though how maintenance is conducted on commercial vehicles is changing big time on both sides of the pond due to telematics data.