DTNA Goes Beyond Trucks and Components with New Detroit Telematics Suite

September 18, 2013

By Deborah Lockridge

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The 7-inch touchscreen can be used by drivers wearing gloves.
The 7-inch touchscreen can be used by drivers wearing gloves.

DETROIT -- Building on the success of its Virtual Technician product, Daimler Trucks North America is going full-bore ahead with telematics. It unveiled the Detroit Connect On-Board Tablet, which not only integrates with Virtual Technician and the Visibility fleet back-office software, but also offers hours of service, pre-and post-trip inspections, two-way messaging and navigation.

Developed in collaboration with Zonar, the tablet is designed for Freightliner and Western Star truck models, and can be easily mounted inside the cab. When docked, voice navigation and text-to-voice messages play through the truck's sound system.

Based on the Android platform, the tablet features an integrated camera and video recording capability, Bluetooth technology, a USB port, a built-in flashlight, and a 7-inch touch-screen display with an hours-of-service clock. The touch screen is a resistive type that will work when a driver is wearing gloves.


The Detroit Connect On-Board Tablet launches with four apps: Hours of Service, Two-Way Messaging, Advanced Navigation and Pre- and Post-Trip Inspection. In the future there will be additional apps available both from Daimler Trucks North America and from third-party developers.

In many ways this will compete with mobile communications and telematics providers such as Omnitracs and PeopleNet. But David Hames, DTNA general manager marketing and strategy, says Detroit Diesel has a couple of things that will set this solution apart:

"Our key approach is, how do we leverage proprietary data to improve the customer's bottom line," Hames told reporters during a briefing at the Detroit Diesel plant outside of Detroit, Mich. "There are all kinds of things we could do in telematics, but we would be an also ran. Where are there opportunities to leverage the data that we have access to, that only we can interpret and understand?"

Brad Williamson, marketing communications manager at Detroit Diesel, elaborated on two such areas, which he calls the company's "secret sauce:"

1. The customer service center, which all Virtual Technician issues are routed through. "We have engineers, manufacturing, everyone here, so if there's a problem that comes up, we can flag those and the folks out there can deal with it on a real-time basis. That's the flagship of the Detroit Connect telematics suite."

2. The log file, which allows the customer center to see not just what's happening at that event, but also what's been happening 60 seconds before and 15 seconds after it throws the code.

The vehicle inspection app uses Zonar's RFID-tag system. RFID tags placed around the vehicle prompt drivers through their inspection as they scan each tag with the tablet reader.
The vehicle inspection app uses Zonar's RFID-tag system. RFID tags placed around the vehicle prompt drivers through their inspection as they scan each tag with the tablet reader.

Specific features found on the On-Board Tablet include:

• Paperless Hours of Service Tracking, which notifies drivers at risk or in violation of FMCSA regulations.

• Two-Way Messaging allows for instant driver and fleet manager communication via free-form or pre-written messages and text-to-voice functionality.

• Advanced Navigation, which generates step-by-step directions, asset-specific routing, map-loading assignments and real-time traffic information.

• Pre- and Post-Trip Inspections, streamlining the vehicle inspection process with quick scanning technology, resulting in faster and more accurate inspections.

The Detroit Connect On-Board Tablet will be available for Freightliner trucks as a factory-installed option beginning January 2014 on new truck orders. Retrofit kits will also be available, not only for DTNA trucks but also for other makes. Availability in Western Star trucks will be announced at a later date.

For more information, go to

Related Stories:

Zonar Tablet Checks Vehicle Inspections to Ensure Compliance

Telematics Unchained

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