More technology in a vehicle can benefit drivers and fleets. But it also means more can go wrong. And when it does, truck technicians need more knowledge and training to fix those high-tech problems.
At Penske Truck Leasing, investments are being made so shops can keep pace with the electronics on trucks, said Tony Popple, senior director-maintenance vision.
“In 2012, we started using a voice-directed system for PMs and finished rolling it out in 2017,” he said. “The system, which uses Honeywell hardware and an in-house program, directs technicians verbally to concentrate on failure points.”
Ruggedized wireless tablets are now in use by supervisors and technicians, said Dave Kost, director of field systems at Penske. “That way, they have all the information they need,” he said. “Additionally, our ServiceNet system is fully integrated so the maintenance history of vehicles, how-to videos and service bulletins, and real-time links to on-call diagnostic assistance teams are readily available.”
“The more electronics on vehicles, the more potential for failures,” states Joe Mlachak, Penske’s director of vehicle diagnostic applications. “That’s why we have a proprietary system for all OEM and aftermarket electronic devices. We have also improved the wireless infrastructure in our maintenance facilities so technicians can stay connected at all times.”
Gino Fontana, vice president of operations, Berkeley Division/Puerto Rico at Transervice, a full-service leasing and contract maintenance provider, said while the overall structure remains largely unchanged, electronic technologies continue to play a role in shaping how commercial vehicles are maintained.
“You’ll find a lot more electronic tooling such as laptops, diagnostic links, handhelds, and instrumentation designed to interface with onboard technology,” he said. “These devices, in turn, interface with maintenance and manufacturers’ systems so there is an instantaneous connection,” Fontana added. “The speed at which data can be communicated in this environment has also significantly advanced.”
Being truly connected involves connected vehicles, connected shops and connected technicians, said Bill Dawson, vice president of maintenance at Ryder.
“What it takes is a control tower approach,” he said. “Connected vehicles that send massive amounts of information from hundreds of sensors only provide data that’s actionable and usable in shops and by technicians if it can be more easily communicated. Networks win out in a truly connected world and that’s a powerful incentive for continued [research and development].”
To keep pace, a TMC task force led by Alan Lesesky, president and CEO of Innovative Global Systems and president of Vehicle Enhancement Systems, is looking into new gateway technology for trucks that streamlines maintenance data and communications at a lower cost and with higher reliability. Those can also include 5G communications, which will increase connectivity with vehicles tenfold, and enable the use of more sensors that are connected in real time, he said.