The ultra-low emissions levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency for 2010 diesel engines required significant new technology that added substantially to the cost of new trucks, but some of that technology is now beginning to return dividends in ways completely unrelated to emissions. Case in point – the ability to remotely monitor and even diagnose equipment malfunctions without any input from the driver.
The low NOx and particulate matter limits set by EPA ’10 required development of new sensors and controls to ensure engines and aftertreatment systems work together properly to achieve meet those limits. But the presence of those sensors and controls have also given a truck manufacturer like Freightliner the opportunity to develop a sophisticated remote diagnostic system like it’s newly introduced Virtual Technician, according to David Hames, Freightliner’s general manager of marketing and strategy.
Engineers at Detroit Diesel, Freightliner’s sister company in the Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) family, developed the ability to closely monitor engine performance in real-time as part of their EPA ’10 strategy, Hames told Fleet Owner. With access to that information now readily available on all Detroit Diesel EPA ’10 engines, Freightliner is able to offer its remote diagnostic system as standard equipment on all 2012 trucks carrying those engines, he said.
Developed with Zonar Systems, Virtual Technician alerts a fleet in real-time if one of its trucks generates a vehicle event or warning code. The code is also sent to Detroit Diesel’s customer support center, where it is analyzed by a dedicated technician, who will then advise the fleet on the proper course of action. If necessary, options to schedule emergency service at nearby authorized outlets can be offered, with parts and technician availability verified.
Future dividends from the EPA ’10 technology include the ability to give fleets web-based access to a wide range of data that can be exported to fleet management systems for fuel tax reporting, vehicle location tracking, idling reports and other types of operating data. The optional “visibility package” for Virtual Technician is scheduled to launch next spring, and will eventually be expanded to include navigation, hours-of-service logging and other interactive features, according to Brian Coda, Freightliner vp of sales. Further out, the truck maker sees its EPA ’10 driven technology allowing fleets to remotely update engine controls as well as reset fleet operating parameters like top-speed and idling limits, he said.