Mack offers wireless engine diagnostics

Previewed earlier this year at the International Trucking Show, a new communications and remote monitoring system that integrates other vehicle and fleet management programs such as dispatching, fuel management, routing, and systems monitoring for ABS, refrigeration, and tire sensors has been released by Mack Trucks and partner IVS Intelligent Vehicle Systems.Known as SmartLink, the system features

Previewed earlier this year at the International Trucking Show, a new communications and remote monitoring system that integrates other vehicle and fleet management programs such as dispatching, fuel management, routing, and systems monitoring for ABS, refrigeration, and tire sensors has been released by Mack Trucks and partner IVS Intelligent Vehicle Systems.

Known as SmartLink, the system features 24-hour roadside assistance, remote vehicle diagnostics, vehicle location tracking, and driver trip information. It can also be used to reprogram all V-Mack engine operating parameters over its cellular communications link. The system works with both V-Mack I and II engine control systems, as well as the new V-Mack III system currently under development.

SmartLink will automatically alert a fleet if it detects engine fault codes or other signs of operating problems. It also enables technicians to communicate with a truck's operating systems via its on-board computer in real time without any driver assistance. This allows a technician to monitor and evaluate a truck's operating performance, and to make fundamental diagnostic decisions that can be relayed to the driver, fleet manager, and repair center.

Concurrently, a repair technician is able to transmit all the performance data from the truck's on-board computer to a technical assistance specialist, and together and simultaneously, to analyze and evaluate data to diagnose the specific cause of a truck's condition.

Initially, SmartLink will use both analog and CDPD cellular for wireless communications, automatically choosing the least expensive option available. A spread spectrum link for local wireless communications over RFID systems is also under development, according to a Mack spokesperson. In addition, display screens, keyboards, and other systems for driver access to the system can be added.

A tractor-trailer equipped with a collision warning system (CWS) and "smart" cruise control was the only commercial truck to take part in a major public demonstration of automated highway technology in San Diego last month. The event, sponsored by the National Automated Highway System Consortium, was intended to showcase new technology being developed under a variety of intelligent transportation system (ITS) initiatives.

The demo also includes a Houston Metro bus with CWS, and cars from Honda, Buick, Toyota, Ohio State University, and Carnegie-Mellon University capable of fully automated operation on specially equipped highways.

Eaton Corp., which currently markets its VORAD radar-based CWS, supplied the high-tech truck, which also carried a prototype of the company's SmartCruise, a related cruise control system that allows drivers to set a speed and following distance. Depending on surrounding traffic conditions identified by the VORAD sensors, SmartCruise then slows and speeds up the truck to maintain those settings. SmartCruise is expected to be introduced as a commercial product within the next 18 months.

A multimedia kiosk system from Comdata Corp. allows drivers to send and receive e-mail, as well as request settlement funds through the company's Express Cash service. Called Driver Net, the system kiosks have full multimedia capabilities with color graphics, video, and stereo sound, as well as a printer, smart-card reader, and telephone handset.

Currently the system uses an Intranet e-mail network provided by TIMM Inc. Comdata says that it also plans to add full Internet access including access to the World Wide Web in the near future.

The kiosks have been installed at 100 Ambest Truck Stops throughout the U.S., and another 100 are being placed in Pilot Travel Centers. Plans call for 400 kiosks to be operating by the end of the year.

Fleets using RAM Mobile Data's wireless data and messaging network can now access the system's host computers through an Internet link as well as landline telephone connections.

The new lower cost connectivity option can be activated by current RAM customers by filling out a registration form at the company's Web site (www.ram.com). In most cases, the Internet connection will be activated within a few days, according to the company. Initially, the service will be available to fleets with 20 or fewer mobile units, with higher speed connections for larger users coming later this year.

DOD buys RFID As part of the military's efforts to use commercial off-the-shelf technologies, the U.S. Dept. of Defense will invest $111 million in RFID (radio frequency identification) hardware, software, and services from Savi Technology Inc.

The contract calls for Savi to supply a system that includes active and passive RF tags, handheld interrogators capable of reading both types of tags as well as optical bar codes, and software that will allow the military to track and locate cargo anywhere in the world. Other RFID suppliers providing components for the system will include Amtech Systems Corp., the TIRIS Div. of Texas Instruments, and Logicon Systems.

HELP Inc. (Heavy Vehicle Electronic License Plate) has announced the opening of the third PrePass weigh station bypass service in Wyoming. The weigh station on I-80 westbound in Cheyenne went up at the beginning of the month, joining stations on I-25 northbound in Cheyenne and I-80 eastbound in Evanston.

As part of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, Cargo Transporters has given its drivers 30 minutes of satellite Internet e-mail service and prepaid telephone time. The communications bonus was added to the drivers' CabCARDs, a service from Qualcomm Corp. that allows drivers to send and receive Internet e-mail over their OmniTRACS on-board communications systems, as well as access voice mail, messaging, and prepaid telephone service from any touch-tone phone.

A Web site developed by the LTL carrier Roadway Express has become part of the permanent research collection at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. Roadway Express Online, which includes rating and shipment-tracking services for customers, has been cited by the Smithsonian for its "innovative use of information technology."

The E-Z Newsletter Customizer -- Driver & Family Edition from J.J. Keller & Assocs. helps fleets develop driver safety publications. The Windows-based program provides template pages and stock safety articles, as well as truckstop reviews and industry news. Monthly updates for one year are included.

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