September 26, 2008

Onboard Vehicle Systems

By Eric, Brothers

Fleets may benefit with telematics and next-generation scan tools As onboard systems gain acceptance, fleets are learning how to leverage the information they provide to streamline operations and cut operating costs. Recently, a major truck leasing company implemented onboard system telematics in a wide-scale test to start realizing those benefits. Meanwhile, new diagnostic systems now available feature increasing levels of sophistication in the ways they gather, present and communicate information. Made to be easier to use, the latest diagnostic devices can benefit not only maintenance, but also the fleet's entire operation.

A technician installs the unobtrusive RydeSmart telematics device in one of Ryder's lease fleet vehicles.

Ryder System Inc.'s portfolio of services range from large-scale global supply chain solutions to fleet management solutions that include full-service lease, commercial rental and contract maintenance and support services.

In 2007, Ryder teamed with Telerrac and AT&T to launch RydeSmart, an affordable integrated wireless, GPS and computer technology solution to increase the safety, security and efficiency of customers' fleets. A group of Ryder customers was used for the initial year-long pilot that involved 5,000 vehicles including national and regional accounts in the Great Plains business unit. Now the program has rolled out nationwide with more than 7,500 units as part of the company's full-service lease offering. By 2009 year's end, the company expects a 100 percent increase in number of units. RydeSmart has been installed in the majority of OEMs currently available to Ryder's fleet, including: International, Freightiiner, Peterbuilt, feuzu, Mack, Volvo, Ford and Sterling.

In concept, RydeSmart is a proprietary onboard wireless communications (telematics) system designed to improve vehicle uptime, driver efficiency, highway safety and cargo security, with real-time tracking of customer fleet operations. Physically, RydeSmart is a compact hardware and software unit installed in a truck that connects to the vehicle's existing computer and diagnostics systems. The unit continuously monitors the truck's location, mileage and speed as well as other driver performance and diagnostic data - via a web portal, where information is communicated every 15 minutes or on-demand, real-time as needed. Teletrac provides the integrated global positioning system (GPS), engine data and microchip technologies, and AT&T's extensive data network.

Why did Ryder move to a telematics solution? According to Ryder System Inc. Vice President of Marketing, Fleet Management Solutions, Juliet Johansson, about three years ago, the company started to look at ways to bring technological innovation to its customers to help them better manage their fleets and better control the costs of running those fleets. RydeSmart helps customers handle certain tasks without driver involvement, such as odometer reading and fuel trip reporting. Additionally, says Johansson, it helps Ryder deliver better service and performance to customers as part of its maintenance value proposition. This includes helping customers with emergency roadside calls to find trucks faster, and send the right repair assistance sooner because they can read the engine fault codes.

An in-cab message display terminal is included as part of the upgrade to RydeSmart Plus service.

There are several ways to measure benefits. RydeSmart can save approximately 10-15 percent on fuel from reduced idle time and improved driver MPG rate, says Johansson. "For any fleet, especially with fuel prices what they are now, the annualized payback is anywhere from one to six months, with the average being about three months," Johansson notes.

Utilizing the system's reports, fleet managers can correct areas and identify trends such as potential driver abuse from speeding. The report can provide the number of miles logged, number of hours the engine has run, in-motion time, idling time, time to repair or re-route a breakdown, average speed, excessive speeding time, odometer reading, miles per gallon and fuel consumption. Results indicate the system saves customers on average one hour per driver per day. That productivity increase translates to an extra delivery or more miles covered daily. The technology also helps to reduce costs from lost or stolen equipment.

RydeSmart is billed at a flat fee per month, with Standard, Plus and Plus One service available. All provide GPS location, idling behavior, MPG, braking, odometer readings, trip records and other functions. The upgrade to "Plus" adds an in-cab message display terminal that allows text communication between dispatch and driver. The premium "Plus One" also tracks hours-of-service electronically. There is no cost to the customer for the hardware or the installation.

Customers can monitor the data themselves for functionality, Teletrac monitors the system's connectivity and Ryder monitors the system performance in case it has to notify a customer that a unit has stopped reporting or if there is an issue that needs to be fixed. Monitoring is web-based with near real-time location reporting, and with PC-based s/oftware, unit location can be "pinged" at-will or tracked automatically every 15 minutes via AT&T's cellular network. Johansson says they're still defining how the data improves the company's preventive maintenance program. Because the system is modular, allowing easily added functions, they also are investigating the expansion of functions to include trailer monitoring, signature capture and other management information.

All of Ryder's 835 U.S. service facilities have at least one certified RydeSmart technician with access to the diagnostic tools and software required to properly install and maintain RydeSmart devices.

"Onboard computers will be a staple to fleets in the future," Johansson believes. "Being a part of a company where technicians can interface with state-of-the-art technology - to diagnose and repair via cellular and satellite communications - not only helps us maintain our vehicles more efficiently, but also helps us attract those technicians eager to work with new technology." More information is at www.

On board, in hand

The "next generation" vehicle diagnostic tools for technicians also have been designed with added functionality and increased ease of use in mind. One example is NEXIQ Technologies' Pro-Link iQ, a handheld scan tool for commercial vehicle repair, maintenance and information introduced earlier this year.

In association with Menlo Innovations, an Ann Arbor, Mich.based software design and development firm, the NEXIQ7S productdevelopment team worked with heavy-duty truck technicians to understand what technicians needed and wanted in the scan tools they use in their maintenance and repair work. Menlo and NEXIQ Technologies found that technicians wanted dear, sharp graphics, easier data downloads, and a screen that would allow more information to be dearly displayed. In addition, simplidty, intuitive use and navigation were "musts." What NEXIQ learned was then applied to the Pro-Link iQ's functional design and software programming flow. The result is iQ's easy-to- use, functional touch screen Graphic User Interface (GUI) designed to make diagnostic scanning intuitive and simple.

OTC's new Pegisys Vehicle Communications Interface (VCI) above links wirelessly to the handset (shown at right). A technician can then scan the vehicle from within a 30-ft. radius. Pegisys also can operate like a conventional scan tool when the VCI is docked to the back of the handset.

"We took what we've learned, and working with our OEM partners, provided a software and hardware product that will simplify the technicians' ability to obtain vehicle information for use in diagnostics or preventive maintenance," says Tom Kotenko, director of sales and marketing for Snap-on Inc.'s NEXIQ Technologies brands. "While it is a highly sophisticated and innovative tool, using it is intuitive and requires a very minimal training period," he adds. "Technicians can pick it up and begin working with it immediately through a series of simple touch screens sorted by a set of dearly marked navigation tabs." Data - text and graphs - are displayed on an 8.4-in. color LCD screen. "Younger technicians are familiar with MP3 players, iPods and GameBoys," Kotenko explains, and the iQ is similarly designed to be easier to use.

NEXIQ's Pro-Link iQ handheld scanner features a full-color touch screen and increased functionality compared to earlier scan tools.

Developed to diagnose engine faults, create data lists, perform special functions tests, provide trip information and reports, the Pro-Link iQ weighs only 2.5 lbs. It has software updateable via the Internet, a large capacity hard drive, two USB and one Compact Flash ports, and it can be powered by the vehicle or internal battery, Kotenko adds.

The iQ is available with a number of applications that include a generic Heavy Duty Standard (HDS) application broadcast of public data for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and OBD II for light- and medium-duty vehicles. Also available are proprietary OEM applications for the Caterpillar ACERT, Detroit Diesel DDECI III, IV and V and International mid-range engines. Coming soon are Allison transmission applications covering 1K/2K, 3K/4K, and CECI transmissions and WABCO air and hydraulic applications. More applications are to be added. For the 2010 engines, NEXIQ and other manufacturers must await proprietary information from the OEMs - such as additional special tests - that usually is available first to the OEM and its dealers, and only then the aftermarket. Pro-Link iQ ( is available nationwide through Snap-on franchisees and NEXIQ distributors. The value of handheld devices comes from time savings. According to Kotenko, "You can't repair vehicles nowadays without diagnostics." Handhelds are a service management tool - they are quick and efficient, although there is still a role for detailed diagnostics via PC-based diagnostics, he notes.

David Shock, North American product manager for NEXIQ Technologies, adds, "The iQ underwent a substantial investment of research and development to ensure that its capabilities, features and benefits will be relevant to commercial-vehicle technicians today and in the future."

"Technicians are becoming more sophisticated from their familiarity with personal computers (PCs), and the Internet, and vehicles are more sophisticated nowadays, too," says Ed Lipscomb, senior product manager diagnostic systems for SPX Service Solutions. SPX markets OTC-brand tools, which include a range of diagnostic tools, including the Genisys, Heavy-Duty Code Reader and Heavy-Duty Scan. Their newest product is the handheld Pegisys (http://, due out at the end of August. "As a handheld, it is essentially a PC," Lipscomb explains. "I'm running a Pentium processor, I have a harddrive, I have multi-media capabilities, it has stereo speakers, it has a microphone, it has a headphone jack," Lipscomb notes. "It has touch-screen, SVGA; and it's WiFi-enabled to deliver web-based content at the fender." He continues, "I need a wealth of information, whether it's technical service bulletins, national transportation recall notices, a product hotline for quick fixes, wiring and component location diagrams - and this volume of information is measured in Gigabytes."

That the Pegisys resembles an iPod music player is not coincidental. It has similarly styled controls, is dockable with its scan module, and can communicate wirelessly. In designing Pegisys, the company saw a need to present an easy-to-use, familiar interface, understandable across a broad range of technician abilities and experience. Plus, the device has to be sophisticated to communicate with the vehicle. "We're bringing the PC and PC technology to the fender in a handheld tool," Lipscomb notes. ;

In addition to the handheld, there will be a PC-based version of the Pegisys for Windows and Linux operating systems due out by the end of the year.

In the increasingly complex digital world, "seconds matter," Lipscomb explains. "How many buttons does a technician need to press? You can increase productivity by limiting button presses, and with five or 10 vehides a day that adds up a lot," he says. Also, by providing more information to the technician at the fender, it limits the "walk of death" where the tech wastes time and energy going between the vehicle and a PC terminal. "We're fighting for seconds," Lipscomb adds - even the difference between 22 and 40 seconds on bootup. To speed the device's start-up, the company has applied for a patent on its "fast-boot" technology to enable a technician to obtain data faster.

"Techs have stated, 1 want to be around the latest technology because will be worth more to my employer because I know how to use the latest technology,'" Lipscomb relates. The boss often looks to the technician to be the technology leader. With this knowledge he is more valuable if he can run the technology. As a recruiting tool, "It works both way," says Lipscomb. "The shop that supports that technology and continues the training will be the shop where techs will want to work."

PACCAR Leasing (PacLease) offers its customers a telematics service called PacTrac, which consists of network, platform and onboard computer to enable a range of business applications. Powered by PeopleNet technology, PacTrac offers real-time vehicle location, messaging, performance and security reporting, compliance management and driver paperwork reduction. PacTrac is built into the lease payment and is available in three versions: Standard includes the computer with connectivity options, over-the-air-programming and performance reporting; Enhanced adds the onboard message display with keyboard, automated geofencing capability and more communications options; and Premium adds a wireless and paperless driver logbook plus additional communication contacts per unit per month.

Fleets use PacTrac for dispatch, monitoring driver performance, tracking fuel economy and for security purposes. For one customer, says PacLease, fuel efficiency has shown a quantifiable 1/2-MPG improvement. That equals more than $4,500 per year in savings per tractor (the fleet averages 140,000-160,000 miles per year per tractor).

By tracking driver behavior and working with drivers, the customer also reduced the number of speeding tickets received and improved DOT scores. Fleet productivity also improved.

For details, see

By Eric Brothers, Senior Editor

Copyright Maple Publishing Aug 2008

(c) 2008 Fleet Equipment; Lincolnwood. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.