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How The Internet Of Things Can Help You Transform Fleet Operations

Professional truck drivers struggle with several safety issues when driving. From people following too closely to speed control and bad weather, there’s plenty to contend with when your big rig is on the road. Conversely, fleet technicians seem to have a new component or piece of technology introduced by the day. So, how do they deal with it all?

One concern for truck drivers, one that until this point there was little anyone could do about, was that of blind spots. Driving a large commercial motor vehicle (CMV) means that there are areas around the truck that are blind to your vision, which could cause a potential safety issue.

Additionally, fleet technicians constantly struggle with finding better ways to isolate and mitigate maintenance issues that arise with fleet vehicles, whether it be through prevention or reaction. This is where technology comes to the rescue.

Technology to the Rescue

This is where technology comes in. If you’re a reader of the QuickTSI blog (which we know you are), then you’ve read plenty of articles outlining how technology is reshaping the trucking. The fact is, advanced technological solutions are becoming a critical business tool used by fleets – not just in America, but – the world over.

As new emissions regulations and ELD deadlines fast approach, we are consistently reminded that technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way our industry does business. While things like on-board diagnostics and advanced telematics systems are one thing, they provide one solution to an obvious problem – and one that we can expect to see resolved sooner rather than later.

Today, the IoT and other technologies are stepping in to solve problems that we previously had not expected them to solve. Whether we’re talking about better vehicle reliability, longer uptime, or faster repairs, new answers are cropping up to answer old questions.

Today, we will look at one of those new answers, and that’s in the area of blind spots and improved maintenance outcomes. Even a decade ago, no one would have imagined that we could have utilized technology in a way that would allow a truck driver to have a full 360 view around his or her vehicle, essentially eliminating blind spots.

But, the future is now.

The Benefits

Semi-trucks of old were pretty – relatively – simple pieces of equipment. You had your chassis, your engine, your powertrain and other basic components. Trucks rolling off the assembly line today have turned into complex, sensor-laden revenue generating machines.

Where the key to blind spot eliminating comes into play is in the use of sensors and video technology. When you combine sensors placed around a truck with a video system delivered view an in-dash system, you have almost complete insight into what is going on around the truck.

Even better, dispatchers and others back at fleet HQ can get a real-time view of what’s going on with the truck at all times. Should an accident or other unfortunate incident occur, investigators – whether federal or from the fleet – can get a full view of what happened from almost any angle.

Why Isn’t Everyone Doing It?

The fact is, even though many manufacturers and motor carriers are utilizing on-board diagnostics and telematics systems to address these issues, there is just far too much data being generated, and in many cases these operators not only don’t have the storage capacity, but have no idea what do with the data to begin with.

Fleet owners understand the importance of technology, they just may not know how to properly utilize all its capabilities. Many may be hesitant to fully embrace the power of technology and the wealth of potential that the IoT provides.

Still, as the December ELD deadline fast approaches, opportunities to reexamine how these technologies can benefit fleets present themselves. And we can explain to you exactly how to take advantage of them.

How It Works

When you have telematics and on-board diagnostics systems installed on the vehicle, you’ve already got a lot of information to work with. To get a full 360-view of what’s going on around the vehicle becomes a simple matter of camera installation combined with an in-dash unit and cell or satellite transmitter.

Consider having durable, truck-specific cameras installed either at the top corner of the cab facing back, with a wide-angle view or somewhere near the mid-section of the cab, perhaps between the door and the sleeping compartment.

Fortunately, these cameras can be reinforced to resist the elements, damage or theft. Some varieties come equipped with alarms that can alert the truck driver remotely if someone is tampering with the equipment.

Once installed, the cameras can send a constant feed of information, both into the cab for the truck driver to see, as well as back to fleet HQ through either a satellite or cell connection.

Digital recording devices – whether installed with the in-dash system or back at fleet HQ – can record events in real-time for later retrieval. These systems are simple to install and configure, either with help from the manufacturer or using technical manuals provided with the equipment.

Even better, they can assist far beyond helping the truck driver operate the vehicle in a safer manner. They can also help fleet technicians do their own jobs more efficiently and with better results.

Using the IoT to Enhance Diagnostics

By using everything from onboard telematics to advanced diagnostic systems – when combined with cameras and ELD information – fleet technicians are provided with a wealth of information regarding everything from how well the engine is performing to powertrain issues to low coolant levels.

Generally, onboard diagnostics focused solely on the health of the engine, though this narrow maintenance view can be a bit misleading. Consider that many subsystems under the hood are interconnected and a single failure in one component can cause a chain reaction in others. To get to the real cause of a problem, many different systems and components need to be evaluated.

Take the case of rising coolant temperature. It can take time for the alert to be triggered, so technicians can glean signs from other systems on the truck before waiting for an alert that could signal an impeding failure.

If the problem is a bad water pump, then combining data from the HVAC system with engine data can help a technician isolate the problem quickly. When data is combined, it can be quickly analyzed by a software program within the cloud.

This type of maintenance intelligence can be used to predict failures before they happen, potentially staving off a catastrophic failure that results in a costly repair. Using the IoT, technicians can archive warranty information, historical maintenance data, pre- and post-trip inspection reports and more. But even better, this can help a fleet save real dollars.

Save Money Through the IoT

Consider that repair processes and warranty reimbursements are a normal part of doing business for any fleet and it isn’t hard to imagine where utilizing predictive analytics through the IoT can have a major positive impact on a fleet’s bottom line.

When you can utilize technology to achieve shorter mean-time-to-repair (MTTR), extend vehicle uptime and increase reliability measures, you feel the benefit nowhere more important than on your bottom line.

Utilizing technology in this fashion is mainly done by combining operating data from existing remote diagnostic systems and telematics information from a huge fleet of vehicles in one centralized location, usually in the cloud. This helps when you’ve got a warranty-claim battle on your hands with a resistant OEM.

Software-as-a-Service systems operated either in-house or by third-party providers utilizes adaptive diagnostics to wade through this vast pool of information. Once conclusions have been reached regarding particular vehicles, these systems can dynamically offer up diagnostic and repair steps based on vehicle and repair history.

Using adaptive diagnostics – powered by the IoT – allows fleet technicians to more quickly isolate and analyze a problem. Thus, they get to the root cause faster, fix more efficiently and better train fellow technicians, whether current or new, all of which saves time and – most importantly – money.

Impacting Bay Turnover

And yet, the positive benefits don’t end there. By utilizing the IoT, fleets and service centers can improve their bay turnover. As a result, this creates a greater revenue stream. Not only can you service vehicles far faster, but you can even know ahead of time what repairs will be required.

When you can prepare for a repair before it even enters the shop, a whole host of key performance metrics are improved, from MTTR to customer satisfaction.

In turn, this decreases the amount of stress service center or fleet technicians have to deal with in their every day jobs. When they can get it done quicker, and with better information, expect them to have higher morale and your company will see far less attrition.

Final Thoughts

If you want your fleet to operate at maximum efficiency while also adding to your bottom line, you need to consider that technology is no longer an optional business tool.

Developing a comprehensive IoT strategy for your fleet allows a greater window into vehicle health, employee satisfaction, efficiency, and business processes. If you want to take your fleet to the next level, you’ve got to embrace the purpose-built systems your competitors are likely implementing, even as you read this article.

So, what are you waiting for? The IoT awaits?

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