Denise Rondini, Aftermarket Editor.

Denise Rondini, Aftermarket Editor.

Fleet uptime and safety were the big themes of this spring’s trucking shows. Both are good themes, and ones that go together when you stop to think about it. Safe trucks get to stay on the road, which is what uptime is all about.

Several truck makers have been promoting uptime through remote diagnostics for a while now. But at this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show, nearly every OEM talked about their efforts to provide fleets with insight into their vehicle’s health in an effort to increase vehicle uptime.

Kenworth launched TruckTech+, a real-time vehicle health monitoring technology provided by PeopleNet. International Truck announced improvements to its OnCommand Connection, making it standard on all new International trucks. Peterbilt launched its factory-installed fully integrated SmartLinq remote diagnostic system. Mack announced it will be implementing its GuardDog Connect integrated telematics system to monitor critical fault codes for trucks equipped with Mack mDrive automated manual transmissions. In speaking at the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association Breakfast Briefing at MATS, Olaf Persson, Volvo Group CEO, reminded the audience that 80,000 Volvo and Mack vehicles in North America are already equipped with remote diagnostic systems.

However, the truck OEMs are not the only ones concerned about monitoring vehicle health. Noregon introduced Truck Check Up, an interactive health station located at diesel fuel islands. According to the company, while fueling, drivers connect a cable to their truck’s diagnostic port to start the scanning. The tractor and trailer are scanned for diagnostic fault code information and drivers get a comprehensive vehicle health report.

Greg Reinmuth, Noregon’s senior vice president of sales marketing, says studies conducted by the company show that “70% of Class 8 trucks passing through a fuel lane have diagnostic-related issues and may require immediate action.” Or not. Sometimes the health reports — from whatever source — will show that while there is a problem the truck can continue operating. Obviously, the problem still will need to be addressed as soon as possible or when the truck is next in your shop.

All these systems that let you know about the health of the trucks in your fleet should in theory help you minimize downtime from on-the-road breakdowns, if you pay attention to them and take action on them. The truck makers and others are handing you a gold mine of information that can be used not only to keep trucks healthy, but also to help you with things like shop loading and parts inventory.

The more you know about the problems, the better able you are to schedule them for repair, assign the technician best suited to fix the problem and make sure you have the parts on hand. You can also share this information with any outside service providers, which should mean faster repair times as well.

You’re being handed some powerful information; you’d be foolish not to take advantage of it.