Trucks at Work

The changing nature of trucks

It’s a peculiar thing, the modern-day truck; at once a ubiquitous taken-for-granted feature of our roadways across this great country, and yet also now packed with more computer technology than what NASA used to send astronauts to the moon. (Indeed, the modern-day car contains more computing power as well: click here for more on that story.)

I got to thinking about that the other day after listening to Mike Delaney, president and CEO of the WheelTime Network, talk about how today’s trucks are more than just a collection of parts; they are a collection of parts AND information, which needs to be shared not just with drivers and fleet managers but also amongst the various components necessary to make commercial vehicles roll as well.

[Mike delves into that theme in the video clip below.]

WheelTime – founded in 2004 by 17 principal owners of 200 Detroit Diesel and Allison Transmission service facilities – is also trying to figure out ways to improve on its truck maintenance procedures by analyzing the over 1.7 million repair orders its collected over the last 10 years, enhanced by follow-up interviews with over 50,000 customers.

That kind of data is a big deal because Delaney said the information they’ve collected so far indicates about half of the estimated $63 billion truck parts and service market revolves around preventative maintenance needs. “Many repairs we’ve seen, however, could have been easily avoided or reduced through better preventative maintenance practices in the first place,” he stressed.

As I noted in a round up story yesterday concerning WheelTime’s press conference here at the 2014 Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting in Nashville, TN, the company is now putting its collective behind the “dual-fuel” natural gas/diesel phenomenon spearheaded by the American Power Group, among others.

“By changing the way we think about fuel, and by combining new, but readily available technology with route planning, other technologies, driver training and incentives, we think we can take fuel savings much higher,” Delaney explained.

[He goes into more detail on the subject in the video clip below.]

Since WheelTime jumped into the dual-fuel conversion business last year, it’s completed more than 150 fuel system/tank installations with customer orders – numbers Delaney said are predicted to triple in 2014.

“In 2013 we trained technicians representing about 43 of our locations,” he added. “More classes are scheduled and we will continue to expand training in 2014 to keep pace with expanding demand.”

And those are just some small examples of the pace of change trucks are experiencing these days – a pace that I’m sure that’s only going to quicken in the years ahead.

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