MANAGERS: Mike Margarone, Ken Anderson
TITLES: President and director of maintenance, respectively
FLEET: DeCarolis Truck Rental, Rochester, NY
OPERATION: Equipment rental/leasing and contract maintenance provider
Maintaining trucks and trailers is never an easy task due to the complexity of such equipment these days. Yet it becomes an even thornier issue when you take a fleet of 2,000 units and scatter them among 1,000 customers across Western and Central New York, who then end up operating them all across the vast expanse of the U.S.
That's what prompted DeCarolis Truck Rental to see if technology could help it manage its maintenance needs in a faster and more cost-efficient manner.
For Ken Anderson, DeCarolis director of maintenance, it all boils down to a simple number: $120 per day. That's how much, at bare minimum, DeCarolis might have to fork over to cover the rental cost of a replacement truck for a customer if a unit breaks down.
“We wanted to track general wear and tear, avoid breakdowns, improve maintenance schedules, and ensure the drivers were operating their trucks responsibly and safely,” Anderson says.
“Our industry is fiercely competitive and margins are tight,” adds Mike Margarone, DeCarolis president. “If we want to compete efficiently and make a profit, improving customer value and expanding our market coverage are not wants; they are must-haves. Technology is no longer an option in our business.”
DeCarolis started working with a telematics system developed by Vnomics called FleetKnowSys, a technological package originally developed for military customers. Not only did the system return maintenance-related information such as overheat warnings and unusual spikes in oil temperature and pressure to DeCarolis in real time, it also gave the firm's customers detailed data on how to coach drivers to obtain better fuel economy as well.
“It's given us the crucial visibility we need to know what is happening with our assets at all times,” says Anderson. “Having the ability to monitor truck performance and driver behavior in real time has been invaluable for reducing our maintenance expenses and our risk and liability exposure, and we have an overall understanding of how our assets are being used.”
He adds that the technology allows DeCarolis to track numerous subsystems and be alerted via trouble codes when a component has a current issue that needs immediate attention, or might have an issue in the near future.
“The ability to predict issues before they occur is priceless in our business,” explains Anderson. “Being able to avoid a breakdown or even to have a better chance of reducing the risk of an accident before it occurs allows us to confidently offer reliable, safe and high-quality assets for our customers so that their drivers, their load and our trucks get to each destination on time and as safely as possible.”
The system provides detailed vehicle location so DeCarolis can accurately and quickly direct drivers to the nearest service station to address a maintenance problem, as well as ensure the right parts are available the moment they arrive. This level of proactive service has helped to reduce vehicle downtime.
“If we avoid the cost of even one tow in some states, we could pay the FleetKnowSys service fees for one year — or even several,” he adds.
It's also a relatively simple and low-cost technology to install. A “black box,” which is usually fitted under the truck's passenger seat or in the sleeper berth, is connected to a data feed from the vehicle's J1939 data bus.
“We also connect it to other components such as the engine to get fuel economy data, engine power curve information, how frequently the brakes are being applied, all to see how hard the truck is being pushed,” Anderson explains.