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March 21, 2019 6:45 PM, EDT

Editorial: Mining Data to Cover More Miles

The importance of mining repair data for information that can help improve the performance of motor carriers’ equipment was a continuous message during presentations at the recent annual meeting of the Technology & Maintenance Council of American Trucking Associations from companies across the spectrum of industry suppliers. They either introduced or updated products designed to wring more efficiencies out of freight operations.

Perhaps appropriate for the audience of service professionals, many introductions focused on parts. An original equipment manufacturer and a large truck dealership chain each rolled out systems designed to speed up ordering and receiving the parts needed to complete jobs. Also, repair data providers introduced systems designed to help technicians more quickly and accurately diagnose problems.

Keeping track of and using data to improve vehicle operations also was front-and-center. TMC and FleetNet America unveiled results from the first year of their joint benchmarking program, through which data from unscheduled roadside repairs submitted by participating fleets is mined and shared with TMC members in an effort to help reduce breakdowns industrywide. Impressively, the average number of miles the best-performing fleet in a given quarter covered without a breakdown increased each quarter last year; in the fourth quarter, that figure topped 75,000 miles.

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FleetNet’s Jim Buell described as “thoughtful” the carrier that achieved that result, but noted that the company wants to do better; it’s studying ways to improve on the individual areas where it still has weaknesses.

Buell also believes that if one fleet can return that kind of performance, so can others. The average number of miles all fleets in the study went between breakdowns in the fourth quarter of 2018 hovered around 10,000, so there’s room for improvement between the best and the worst performers.

There also are plenty of ways for fleets to get better. Throughout conference presentations and across the exhibit hall were products and services designed to improve performance in seemingly every area of a tractor-trailer combination: engines, driveline components, tires, air filters and more. If there’s a system on a rig, somewhere there’s probably a company trying to improve its performance.

And that’s a good thing. Today’s technicians have more and better data than their predecessors, and they’re working on equipment more technologically advanced than anything that has come before. Here’s to the aspiration that as the gathering and mining of repair data grows, so, too, will service professionals’ understanding of how to keep those trucks running smoothly.