Working on electric trucks is one of the technology challenges facing parts and service professionals. - Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

Working on electric trucks is one of the technology challenges facing parts and service professionals.

Photo: Volvo Trucks North America

How ready are fleets, dealers, distributors and repair garages to service emerging truck technology? That subject got a lot of attention at the recent Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue and Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week. Experts on two panel discussions offered insights into what fleets need to know about current and future technology.

Service Challenges for Electric Vehicles

The first panel was moderated by Roger Nielson, mobility investor and advisor (formerly with Daimler Trucks), and included panelists Mike Epps, managing vice president of operations at Rush; Bill Black, president and CEO, National Fleet Management & Heavy Truck Supply; and John Nelligan, senior vice president at Meritor.

Epps shared that Rush has been wrestling with electric vehicle questions, such as determining where to locate charging stations, how to ensure technicians are trained to work on EVs, and working with municipalities and utilities to ensure there is enough power.

Black said he has done multiple things to prepare, including ordering a Rivian electric pickup and a Tesla EV. “We want to get our hands on them and get used to them.” He plans to send his trainer to EV classes at a local community college. “I want to create a culture of discipline in our company. I don't want to jump the gun [on new technology], but I want to be prepared.”

When asked if the buzz around EVs was something only large fleets would be interested in, Nelligan said, “There is broader interest across the industry. The new greenhouse gas emissions are driving interest. I’ve seen lots of commitment that 50% of the trucks will be electric by 2035.” He added, “If you are a fleet in North America, you see it coming; you see the legislation. Everyone wants to know your green plan, and that is driving things, especially for private fleets."

Epps said fleets will have to figure out repair and replacement cycles for EVs. The move to EVs won't happen overnight, and service providers will have to wait to see what the behavior of the customer is going to be for servicing EVs. “Will techs come to the vehicle? Will service be more mobile?” he asked.

Telematics and Data Challenges

When asked about other technology challenges, Epps cited telematics.

“The single biggest thing is that every truck has its own telematics, and not many fleets are a running a single brand [of trucks]," Epps said. "Everyone is trying to get data to determine what is the trigger point when [fleets] should bring trucks in. There are lots of customer solutions out there for getting that data. We need to consolidate data and make it actionable."

Ben Johnson, director of product management at Mitchell1, and Sandeep Kar, chief strategy officer for Noregon, focused on telematics and predictive maintenance in a second panel. Kar explained that as more areas of the trucks get sensors, more data becomes available.

“The business model for commercial vehicles has changed from 'What problems can I solve' to 'What can the truck do for me.'" Kar said. With bi-directional data transfers, predicting outcomes is possible, he explained.

He wondered if fleets were getting too much information or not enough. What fleets needs is “critical information that is actionable” so they can make decisions about repairs. In some cases, they may opt to replace a part before it fails based on seeing patterns in the data.

Johnson said that having transparency into where parts are in the supply chain will help speed repairs. Data is a component of transparency.

Kar said we are not yet at a critical mass of data, and the data that is available needs to be scrubbed and cleaned. “Date needs to be deep and wide in the next five years,” he said.

“When we get to a data lake and a mass of information, things will be better,” Johnson said.

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