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August 17, 2011

Freightliner's Virtual Technician

Operating trucks with the maximum time on the road means top revenue, too, and Freightliner’s commitment to uptime starts with the recently introduced Virtual Technician. Already available as standard on Cascadia models and due to be implemented across the board, Virtual Technician is an application on the truck that watches for engine fault codes.

What makes it special is that it tracks engine data on a rolling minute and captures a snapshot of engine parameters 45 seconds before the code is thrown and 15 seconds after to enable a self-diagnosis of what caused the fault.

When a fault code is recorded, an alert is sent via cell phone to whoever is listed as the recipient – dispatch, equipment manager, CEO, even the fleet's home dealer. At that point, the Detroit Diesel customer care desk is also alerted and a ranking is given to the fault. This can be a 'service info,' which is just an indication that there is something to attend to; a 'service soon' that means a dealer or fleet shop call is necessary but not mission critical; or a 'service now' which calls for immediate action. In the latter case, the Detroit Diesel team responds with suggestions for the nearest service provider so the fleet responder can decide where to have the truck serviced.

The really cool thing is the snapshot, which allows for automatic diagnostics and issues a suggested repair procedure for the technician and a parts pick list at the receiving dealer. Armed with that, the truck owner and the customer service rep can choose a dealer that has a bay open and the right parts on hand to get the truck in and out in minimum time.

Once it’s decided where the truck will be repaired, the Detroit Diesel customer care desk generates a “remedy ticket” and opens a log file to track the repair.

Already part of Freightliner’s dealer-to-customer interface, Express Assessment is a two-hour diagnostic turnaround promised at Freightliner dealerships. However, in most cases with Virtual Technician, the diagnosis and repair are already determined, and the parts have been picked, so what might have been a two-hour wait and a two-day repair under the old system may be a simple in-and-out fix of half a day. Not only is this less of a disruption to the driver and the freight, it may well save the dispatch of another truck to get the load on its way.

And this is just the standard, included-for-two-years program. You can opt for a longer period to cover the life of the truck in the fleet; five-year coverage might carry an upcharge of $300.

Plus there are other add-ons, such as vehicle location, messaging, real-time fuel economy and fuel tax reporting, idle time, speed reports and more, available for a small upcharge.

It’s a fully featured service even now, but there are things like Hours of Service and electronic logbooks, predictive maintenance and other exciting features the company is working on that increasingly will be bundled with the first sale of the truck.

1 comment:

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