"We see the potential benefits of telematics to fleets in minimizing vehicle downtime and increase utilization, increasing vehicle and operator safety through more detailed tracking, and eventually automating certain functions such as pre-trip inspections," said Steve Keate, president of International's truck group.
Keate explained that International plans to pilot-test several telematics services with a few select customers early next year, with an eye to providing its own commercial telematics products by 2004.
Telematics is defined as the sending and receiving of information to and from vehicles and their drivers via wireless networks in real-time. Though most telematics providers focus on providing routing and tracking services between dispatchers and drivers, International wants to concentrate on another area initially.
The primary focus of International's telematics venture, said Keate, will be on developing a prognostic maintenance service, whereby data concerning vehicle operating parameters can be automatically downloaded and transmitted back to a fleet's service center.
"We hear over and over from fleets that anything we can do to reduce the cost of vehicle downtime would be a big benefit to them," said Keate. "As a vehicle manufacturer, we have more knowledge about our trucks than anyone else, so we want to leverage that knowledge in a way to provide useful maintenance data to our customers."