Trucks at Work

Letting technology do the talking …

So I spent some time at a Volvo Trucks event held at the Nacarato Volvo Trucks dealership outside of Nashville, TN, this week getting a glimpse at how OEMs are trying to deploy to help both dealers and carriers speed up the truck repair process.

To that end, Volvo’s been working on a “remote diagnostics” package for some time now – indeed, I wrote about some of the early stages of this work nearly five years ago – developing ways to tap into all the electronic information being generated by today’s trucks.

Now, Volvo’s system is deliberately designed to “filter out” only essential data, and then sharing that data with its so-called “Uptime Center,” customers and dealers in order to minimize vehicle downtime. Also, the remote diagnostics package is only available for Volvo-branded trucks equipped with Volvo-branded engines built after May 19, 2010 and is limited to engine diagnostic codes as well.

Conal Deedy (above at right), Volvo’s product manager for communication and electronics, explained that’s because initial tests of the remote diagnostic systems produced too much information – pinging the OEM, dealer and customer about mundane items such as lose headlight wires, low washer fluid level, etc.; items that not directly affect the operational capability of the vehicle.

Deely also provided a brief overview as to how the “remote diagnostics” system is designed to help dealers and truck owners alike, which you can view below:

In short, the technology is supposed to provide two levels of warning: a “yellow alert” concerning problems that will eventually affect the truck, giving time for the fleet to make repair arrangements, and “red alerts” for codes that indicate a problem demands immediate attention.

Deedy also noted that Volvo field tested its remote diagnostics package on 1,300 customer-owned VN tractor models for a year and found it helped reduce diagnostic time by 71%, reduced average repair time by 25% and on average improved vehicle uptime by one day per fault code event.

Volvo’s also working on ways to try and shave more time off the repair process once the vehicle reaches a dealer or fleet shop via the introduction of factory-installed “quick response” or “QR” codes, to allow technicians to rapidly download information about a specific vehicle with the click of a tablet computer or smart phone.

You can see how that works below:

Fleets can rightly grumble that all this “gee whiz” electronic stuff not only makes trucks more complicated, it can often lead to false code readings and other bothersome problems.

Yet there’s really no choice when it comes to the “overabundance” of electronics in today’s trucks; they are simply a fact of life as they are required to control exhaust emission levels in accordance with federal government mandates – and may also do double duty when the mandates governing heavy truck fuel economy go into effect as well.

It is what it is, as the saying goes, so the industry might as well find ways to make other uses of all the electronic data – which just might help reduce a lot of the repair headaches truckers suffer from in the long run. We’ll see about that.

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