Denise Rondini

Denise Rondini

The spring meeting of the Technology & Maintenance Council usually is a place where ideas flow freely and best practices are shared, and things were no different in Nashville this year. Between press conferences, Task Force meetings, and other presentations, three main themes emerged.

1. Maintenance needs to be systematized.

The shift to data-driven maintenance continues, but inconsistencies in maintenance practices are making that data less valuable. Large fleets have employed maintenance management systems for years, but many smaller fleets have not.

To help smaller fleets, several companies announced new programs. Mitchell 1 introduced Manager SE Truck Edition, shop management software for repair shops that service all makes of Class 4 to 8 trucks. TMW introduced FleetCheck, a maintenance management solution designed for fleets operating up to 150 pieces of equipment. It gives smaller fleets reporting capabilities and other features that are helping larger fleets run smarter and more profitably.

2. Standardization brings clarity.

Part of the systematization of maintenance includes standardization of terms. Once again Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards took center stage at the meeting. Decisiv, provider of maintenance management software, announced a new white paper on VMRS that explores the benefits of looking beyond the 9-digit component code. “VMRS helps the service process start out with the right data and everything else about the repair flows from there,” said Michael Riemer, vice president of product and channel marketing.

The task force on VMRS updated attendees on new code keys that have been added, reminding them that VMRS is a living system that changes as needed to reflect market changes. Attendees were encouraged to make sure warranty agreements reflect VMRS coding. A study group session focused on how VMRS and other standards could be used to bring efficiencies to the heavy-duty parts distribution supply chain.

3. Emissions aftertreatment still a puzzle.

TMC took a deep dive into emissions and aftertreatment systems. The big takeaway was that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Several fleets talked about their experiences trying to determine how to prevent emissions failures from sidelining their trucks. 

Bryan Stewart of Jones Logistics said the company’s leadership got tired of seeing their trucks on the back of wreckers, so they began looking at the PM process and defined a checklist for specific aftertreatment components. The fleet also added oil analysis, focusing on total base number (a measure of the oil’s ability to deal with acid) as an indicator of when the DPF needed to be cleaned.

United Parcel Service added a wet wash system for all DPFs, and found on average that additional step removed an additional half-pound of ash from filters. Tom Chase of Bellavance Trucking said they focus on not only active fault codes, but also on inactive ones to gain insight into their trucks’ aftertreatment issues.

Bryan Lewis of Southside Community College told session attendees that the aftertreatment system tends to get blamed for problems that actually happen upstream. His advice was to change the maintenance vision to look at the whole truck when there is an aftertreatment problem.  He also suggested fleets look at investing in tools that the automotive industry is using, such as potentiometers and high-pressure smoke machines.

He stressed that it is important to train drivers so they understand what the aftertreatment system consists of and how it works. According to Lewis, the bottom line is, “You need patience when working on aftertreatment systems.”

*CORRECTION: The text originally referred to high-pressure leak detection technology as "smoke meters" when "high-pressure smoke machines" is the correct terminology.