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Are Enhanced Telematics The Digital Answer To A Paper Problem?

Remote diagnostics are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around since the late 1990s, when manufacturers began building electronically controlled engines. The arrival of these engines allowed the advent of telematics systems that could link up to the engine and transmit faults codes back to the office.

While the theory was that telematics would prevent breakdowns and expensive repairs, in reality the data was difficult to decipher by fleet managers. The industry was still new and in the end carriers found it difficult to justify the expense.

Then, everything began to change.

Telematics in the Modern Age

One decade into the 21st century, Daimler Trucks of North America teamed up with a company that made telematics and fleet management software. Together, they created a propriety system that would become standard on all Freightliner trucks with EPA 2010 Detroit and newer engines.

This new system was built so that if a fault code light appeared, Detroit’s Customer Support Center would be alerted. They would then review the problem and provide information to the vehicle owner.

Shortly thereafter, other heavy and medium-duty truck and engine manufacturers got into the telematics game. Just two years ago, Volvo Remote Diagnostics teamed up with another software provider to enhance their own telematics and service event management systems.

Trucking has been slow to adapt to the changes forced upon it within this newly mobile marketplace. Might enhanced remote diagnostics and mobile apps be the digital answer to a paper problem?

The Market Explodes

While remote diagnostics might sound appealing from a mechanical standpoint, the return on investment actually comes from the operational side. In reality, it’s not about what fleets save in maintenance costs, it’s about how they are using this information to revolutionize their core operations.

Companies utilize the most popular platforms to deliver solutions that wouldn’t have been thinkable a short decade ago. Rigs now support proprietary systems that communicate directly with Android or Apple devices.

As new products come online, fleets can utilize telematics to manage every aspect of the operation. Advanced applications interface with payroll, fuel purchasing and work order management systems.  Businesses have visibility across the enterprise and run seamless operations.

Present Day Applications

The fact remains: fleet managers operate different types of vehicles and they don’t want to be forced to manage them through three different interfaces.

Considering most fleets operate a mix of vehicles, custom tailored applications have been exploding onto the market. After all, carriers need systems that work equally well no matter what make or model they are installed on.

To answer this need, software providers are offering fault monitoring applications that provide diagnostics and repair information for a variety of vehicle models and types. Within a short period of time, single interface platforms have become the norm.

Factory-installing telematics hardware provides additional options as more applications come online. Fleet managers are able to turn on tracking, messaging, and e-log applications as the need arises.

Fleets use diagnostic feeds from various sources to supply their own uptime service management systems. In a twist of irony, competing companies are now almost dependent upon one another to ensure the success of the fault code sharing system.

The Next Frontier

Social media has transformed almost every aspect of our lives, including trucking. GPS telematics had operated in a static phase for more than 15 years before change arrived.

Rigs can now be installed with what are essentially “plug and play” devices to allow monitoring of truck driver operating trends. Cloud-based software systems analyze the data and provide real-world applications that basically gamify the reward and recognition programs used within fleet operations. This brave new world of software optimization is called social telematics.

Another advantage lies in the low price fleets can expect when investing in these platforms. Because these companies operate their most prized asset in a virtual environment, interoperability and networking costs are low.

As to where these advanced applications lead, only technology can tell. Advanced applications seem to be coming online by the day. With superior telematics and built-in hardware, the proverbial sky is the limit.

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