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Future of connectivity, productivity will still center on answering basic questions

And as telematics grows and matures, OEMs need to move to a common open architecture and a standardization of data-gathering devices, not simply add on more, panelists agreed. (From left are Peterbilt's Scott Newhouse; Volvo's Rich Ferguson and Jim Coffren,Hirschbach. (The Trucker: DOROTHY COX)

The Trucker News Services

8/21/2014

DALLAS — The saying goes, “There’s an app for that.” In trucking, it’s often, “There’s a device for that.”

But as cabs get crowded with more and more devices, displays, gadgets and such, are the core things getting done? Is the driver able to get his or her load there on time and safely, and if there’s a problem with the truck, can it get fixed quickly and who else can deliver the load if there’s a wait or a lot of down time?

These basic problems remain and in fact, down time may be the No. 1 problem in the trucking business today, costing up to $400 an hour, according to a productivity panel at the Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference Thursday just prior to the beginning of the Great American Trucking Show here.

And as telematics grows and matures, OEMs need to move to a common open architecture and a standardization of data-gathering devices, not simply add on more, panelists agreed.

Speaking were Rich Ferguson, senior vice president for aftermarket and soft products, The Volvo Group; Scott Newhouse, director of product planning and strategy for Peterbilt Motors Co., and Jim Coffren, vice president of maintenance for Hirschbach Motors.

There are so many ancillary products connected to the truck’s data bus the complexity may begin being a hindrance not a help, explained Coffren, with Ferguson adding that a software change not related to electronics can sometimes interfere with electronic connectivity.

On the other hand, Ferguson noted, this “connectivity” is working as intended. He told of a lane change event of one driver who was tired; based on lane change data, i.e. that the truck was drifting into other lanes, the back office called him and he pulled over.

And, panelists agreed, a systematic approach to vehicle connectivity has experienced “new life over the past two years.”

Coffren said most loads in his fleet are being tendered and booked electronically now. He gave the example that electronic tracking of something as simple as what liquids the driver adds to the truck daily or periodically can indicate say, a leak that needs fixing before it gets out of hand.

It’s not just data, panelists said, the important thing is gleaning information from that and acting on it.

In the future, they said, trucks will send data to the cloud and the back office will pull that data out of the cloud, but third-party partners will be used to access the cloud by means of a more open architecture format.

Such things as what a code means and helping the customer to understand the data is paramount for the OEMs, said Ferguson.

And it still amounts to getting the basic answers from the data. For example, what are the things that break down on a truck the most, with panelists agreeing that engine and powertrain-related problems still are the primary sources of problems.

All of which prompted Newhouse to add that there needs to be continued work on coming up with a more perfect truck.

The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at editor@thetrucker.com

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