New problems, solutions

"Vehicle maintenance technologies may be more important to a fleet's financial health than the vehicles themselves."A brief glimpse at the vehicle and component technologies we'll soon see on the road is an awesome, inspiring view. The integration of high-tech, electronic and "intelligent" technologies into vehicle components will dramatically change the efficiency, economy, and performance of tractors

"Vehicle maintenance technologies may be more important to a fleet's financial health than the vehicles themselves."

A brief glimpse at the vehicle and component technologies we'll soon see on the road is an awesome, inspiring view. The integration of high-tech, electronic and "intelligent" technologies into vehicle components will dramatically change the efficiency, economy, and performance of tractors and trailers in the future.

However, with all the attention paid to creating those new vehicle and component technologies, we shouldn't assume that the service and repair technologies, equipment, and information we've used in the past will keep those vehicles on the road longer and in the shop for less time, less often.

The problems we'll face in the future will be different than they are today. As a result, they will require different, more sophisticated diagnostic, service, and repair equipment - and especially more comprehensive technical and service information available in "real time." The more sophisticated equipment technologies become and the closer we come to a million-mile truck, the more critical it is to make sure we have the maintenance technologies, tools, equipment, and information to prevent and solve the new set of problems we will face.

In the near future, we should expect an increased emphasis on creating highly sophisticated vehicle diagnostic, service and repair technologies that will do some remarkable things with engines, transmissions, emission control systems, fuel systems, axles and drivelines, power steering systems, braking systems, climate control systems, GPS systems - and more.

For example, each diagnostic technology must understand, translate, and communicate critical performance and problem identification data quickly - either from the cab's onboard computer system, or into shop maintenance computer systems. And each must be able to help reduce maintenance time, parts, and labor costs.

And because vehicle and component technologies will be so highly sophisticated, we will need special tools, comprehensive training programs, and continuing access to easy-to-use, helpful service and technical information to make sure we can capture and measure the overall value of our investment.

As we prepare for the future, here are some strategies that may be helpful:

1. Expect maintenance, diagnostic, and service technologies and equipment to be an integral part of the vehicle engineering and testing process to ensure and improve maintenance efficiency when those vehicles go into service.

2. Refuse to compromise. Expect every vehicle to include integrated diagnostic, service, and repair technologies and tools to help reduce maintenance intervals, time, and costs.

3. Expect extensive training programs and comprehensive service information to help cut the time and costs of problem diagnosis and maintenance and improve the quality of the work.

4. Consider the overall "value" of an investment as more important than initial price - the total cost of ownership. As vehicle technologies become more sophisticated, trying to save money by looking for the lowest-priced equipment - or trying to get by with the equipment you have now-may possibly turn the "bottom line" from black to bright red.

Most of all, we can increase the performance of the vehicles of the future by placing as much emphasis on vehicle maintenance strategies and equipment as we do on the vehicles themselves.

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