Bendix's Wingman Fusion collision mitigation system. Image: Bendix

Bendix's Wingman Fusion collision mitigation system. Image: Bendix

The trucking industry is being bombarded with technology, and that trend is not likely to go away any time soon. Speaking at last week's Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week in Las Vegas, Derek Kaufman, managing partner of Schwartz Advisors and president of C3 Network, LLC, provided insight into seven technologies that are making their way to the aftermarket or soon will be.

1. Telematics    

This is the fastest growing technology sector, according to Kaufman, with an explosion of apps available and too many suppliers to name. Telematics is an enabler of other technologies.

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication will enable platooning, increase safety and act as a platform for intelligent transportation systems. Digital Short Range Communication will feature roadside receivers/transmitters to relay data from moving vehicles. Software-over-the-air will allow OEMs to update vehicle software and firmware remotely, he said.

The challenge with telematics is the struggle for actionable data and the proliferation of apps.

“It’s the Wild West out there," he described the current state of telematics development.

For the future, he expects to see OEMs attempting to take control to supply embedded hardware on new trucks. But he was quick to add that since most fleets run multiple brands of trucks, this may not be realistic. In addition, he sees telematics being able to facilitate things like automated service scheduling.

2. Safety Technology

There are eight major safety technologies in use or under development in the trucking industry, Kaufman said: antilock braking systems, stability control, lane departure warning, collision avoidance systems, blind spot warning devices, interior cameras, rear view cameras and side monitor cameras and sensors.

Investments in safety technologies that reduce accidents should be looked at, considering the high cost of accidents. According to Kaufman, property damage payouts range from $100,000 to $200,000, an accident with an injury can cost a fleet $135,000 to $455,000, and an accident with a fatality results in costs of $885,000 to $1.3 million.

The average cost of a lane departure warning system, according to Kaufman, is $700 to $800, making the return on investment $1.37 to $6.55 for every dollar spent. Collision mitigation systems can result in a 20% to 25% reduction in rear end fatalities and injuries, which will grow to 40% to 50% in the next generation of these devices and to 50% to 60% in future iterations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into creating regulations on collision avoidance for commercial vehicles. Because 80% of truck accidents are caused by passenger car drivers, use of forward-facing video cameras will help fleets capture evidence to use in their own legal defense following an accident. In addition, the use of cameras may eliminate the need for mirrors, which represent a 2% drag coefficient. Kaufman said eliminating them could generate $500 per truck per year in fuel savings.

“The take rate by fleets of safety systems is rising,” Kaufman said.

3. Platooning

“Autonomous trucks won’t be here for the next 10 years, but platooning will be operational in the next two years,” Kaufman said. Savings of up to 10% have been demonstrated by the rear truck in a two-truck platoon, while the truck in front has seen a 4.5% gain. The combined gain results in a $1,750 saving per truck per year, according to Kaufman. He believes that in the future there will be a move away from single fleet platooning to an open participants model and that there also will be a move to platooning with more than just two trucks.

4. Augmented Reality

"I think this will change the industry in ways we don’t even know yet," Kaufman said.

He envisions glasses that will allow the driver to “see through” cab exteriors and also provide technicians with guided repair procedures that will increase the accuracy of first repairs.

5. Fuel Efficiency

Aerodynamic improvements to both the tractor and trailer will result in fuel efficiency improvements. A 25% reduction in drag could generate between a 5% and 15% reduction in fuel consumption. “Wheel covers alone can generate savings of $500 to $800 per truck per year,” he says.

“SAE has certified a 5.54% fuel savings on TrailerTails at 65 mpg,” Kaufman adds. At $2,000 per trailer, the payback is in less than one year. While there is less known about devices such as vortex generators and trim tabs, Kaufman believes their lower cost makes experimenting with them more affordable.

6. Powertrain

The big trends in the powertrain are downsized or downsped engines, alternative fuels and electrification, automated manual transmissions and the increased use of 6x2 axles. “Fuel savings are driving everything in this area,” Kaufman says.

He expects to see more component and subsystem electrification and ultra-capacitor starters. He also sees growth for natural gas powered vehicles as “the U.S. is sitting on huge natural gas reserves. There is a 200-year supply.” New alternatives in tank design are in development that will address one of the drawbacks of alternative fueled vehicles, and that is the large tank size needed.

In addition, the cost of batteries has kept battery and hybrid electric vehicle technologies from developing, but Kaufman said battery costs are coming down more quickly than originally anticipated.

7. Embedded Software

Kaufman concluded his presentation saying, “Embedded software will change the way we sell parts and service vehicles.”

Components will be constantly updated and vehicle subsystems will be more interrelated because of their software connection.

“Telematics was a game-changer, but embedded software will be even bigger.”

About the author
Denise Rondini

Denise Rondini

Aftermarket Contributing Editor

A respected freelance writer, Denise Rondini has covered the aftermarket and dealer parts and service issues for decades. She now writes regularly about those issues exclusively for Heavy Duty Trucking, with information and insight to help fleet managers make smart parts and service decisions, through a monthly column and maintenance features.

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