Battery electric vehicles, connectivity, telematics, cyber security, advanced driver assistance systems, automated driving, over the air software updates, alternative fuels and the continued growth of e-commerce are all things fleets are facing or will face in the future.
A panel of trucking industry executives offered their insights into many of these topics at the recent Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue in Las Vegas.
Jon Morrison, president Americas, Wabco, says that ADAS have a 50% to 60% penetration in new Class 8 tractors and that there has also been a pick-up in their adoption rate on medium-duty trucks. He believes it is incumbent on system suppliers to help ensure there is enough training in the proper way to maintain and service these systems.
Kent Jones, vice president of global business development and sales, ZF Group, says there is a good adoption case for these safety technologies, many of which are standard on new trucks. “The next level for active safety will be to control the truck with electrical steering. Thirty-two percent of accidents are from trucks leaving the lane. I think you will see increased adoption of these systems going forward.”
According to Sandeep Kar, chief strategy officer, Fleet Complete, says, “ADAS is great, but what really protects the vehicle is braking and steering so service and maintenance of the foundational technologies is important. The aftermarket should focus on these.”
Brian Daugherty, chief technology officer, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, who moderated the panel, says, “We have gone from warning the driver [about a problem] to actively helping the driver.”
Morrison says that it is worth the time and effort for fleets to retrofit their existing vehicles with these collision mitigation systems. Kent believes there will be additional functionality in ADAS in the next five to 10 years.
However ADAS adds complexity to a vehicle. The good news, according to Morrison, is the fact that the systems are fairly standardized regardless of manufacturer. “Their approaches are not dissimilar so that makes it easier for shops to manage.”
Talk then turned to vehicle electrification. Kar reminded the audience that diesel power has an 88% is penetration and the rest of the vehicles on the road are alternative fueled vehicles. He believes that natural gas power is better suited for heavy-duty vehicles than electric vehicles are but believes the truck market is not going to be either/or but rather will consist of a variety of power train options.
Jones points out that 50% to 60% of the transit buses are electric. He believes there are certain scenarios where electric make sense if there is a business case.
Mike Foster, chief technology officer, Allison Transmission, reminded the audience not to lose track of infrastructure when looking at electric vehicles. “That is the next barrier for wide adoption [of electric vehicles]. Irregular routes and long haul are more complicated because of infrastructure issues.”
He adds, “It is going to be about how long the vehicle is in operation and how long you can you have it down to charge. Fleets will have to ask themselves: ‘Can I still get the same amount of work done regardless of the power train?’”
Telematics and connectivity was another area the panel focused on. Kar says, “The aftermarket is in a revolutionary phase when it comes to connectivity. We are moving rapidly toward prognostics, away from preventive to prognostics and then to prescriptive. Now we can say ‘if you drive this truck at this speed, etc. this is likely outcome.’”
Morrison says, “Telematics allows you to take information back to OE so they can improve future design.”
There is also a growing move toward video telematics, Kar says. “Video telematics is growing because it helps foster a safety culture in fleets and can exoneration drivers [in the case of an accident.] It can be used coach drivers in real time or for incentivizing drivers.”
One of the issues that still needs to be resolved when it comes to telematics is data sharing and the question of who owns the data. Foster says, “The challenge is there is both public and proprietary data. We would hope that there is sharing; overall anything that can be shared will be good for the industry.”
Morrison adds that fleets’ perception is that they own the data. “[Suppliers] will have to find some level of partnership with fleets so data can be shared.”
Downsized engines were another topic the panel addressed. Jones explains that downsized engines are being spec’d to capture fuel economy or for lightweighting, but it changes downstream components.
Foster adds, “Transmission manufacturers have to work with engine manufacturers to design that offer protection from that.”
As these changes are making their way to the aftermarket, it becomes clear that there will be an impact on vehicle maintenance and repair.
Foster sees the need for more training because parts are more complex. “The service channel for existing technologies is broad, but as you slowly deploy new technologies the service network will need to be as wide for servicing those new technologies.”
According to Morrison, “The proliferation of different propulsion system with their slight twist to vehicle control architecture increases the need for training. It needs to be clear in terms of what had changed compared to diesel.