The advent of modern truck telematics has changed how fleets determine when filter or other services are needed — and when quick action is necessary to prevent potential engine damage or failure, a fleet maintenance executive said.
“Back in the old days, you’d get a call from a driver that a check engine light is on,” said Jeff Harris, vice president of maintenance at Van Buren, Ark.-based USA Truck Inc.
“So you’d make your best guess, tell the driver to check the oil level and the coolant in the radiator. Now you get fault code information sent wirelessly [from the truck’s telematics system] directly into the office,” he said. “And those codes are much more specific than a check engine light. In today’s world, it’s not a guess anymore. That’s a good thing.”
Because of the volume of truck telematics data he now receives, last year Harris assigned a technician to monitor and manage truck fault codes full time as they come in daily, including details such as oil and fuel pressure and temperature. If a fault code indicates the potential for a major failure, the technician immediately contacts the driver with instructions to either pull over or get to the nearest shop. USA Truck operates a fleet of nearly 1,700 tractors.
Ultimately, all the telematics data and information on real-time truck performance are valuable with respect to how the truck is running and if its filtration systems are doing their jobs. Yet it does not override or replace the experience, knowledge and intuition of the driver. The conditions in which the truck is running and the real-time telematics data produced on performance play a part in deciding how often to check and replace filtration components, Harris said. “But it’s just as important to listen to your drivers. They are the ones who know the truck intimately and can often alert you when something is just off and needs to be looked at.” — Gary Frantz