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March 1, 2017 9:00 PM, EST

Volvo Offers Over-the-Air Programming

John Sommers II for TT

Volvo Trucks North America is using telematics via cellular communications to update the trucks, engines and transmissions of its customers’ vehicles without having to come into a maintenance shop.

The Greensboro, North Carolina-based manufacturer said the service is called Remote Programming. It will be available in this year’s third quarter for all heavy-duty trucks with Volvo engines compliant with 2017 federal emissions standards.

“We’re doing more with connectivity. This is over-the-air programming for engines, transmissions and aftertreatment systems,” said Wade Long, VTNA director of product marketing.

Changes in the programming of major components used to be done at a shop or terminal, but now it can be done remotely, Long said, in about the time it takes to eat lunch or fuel up.

The new programming is often done at the request of fleet managers seeking to make subtle changes in the way the powertrain operates. For example, a truck used largely for one customer for six months might be changing to another job in another area for another six months.

In that case, Long said, Volvo can reprogram the engine and transmission for optimal performance for that application. Changes in engine and transmission might then produce the need for changes in the selective catalytic reduction system and the diesel particulate filter.

“If a truck starts hauling liquid bulk freight, you might want to optimize the transmission for gentle shifting to reduce sloshing in the tank trailer,” Long said.

Another need might be reducing the speed at which an engine is governed if a spike in diesel prices occurs. That, too, could be done remotely, he said.

Long spoke here to Transport Topics on Feb. 28 at the annual meeting of the Technology & Maintenance Council.

In addition, for trucks made as early as 2010, there is a retrofit plan for adding remote diagnostics. The hardware kit takes about 15 minutes to install, said Ash Makki, a Volvo marketing manager. After the hardware is in, telematics firm Geotab Inc. connects the truck to VTNA’s long-running remote diagnostics system designed to make vehicle maintenance more efficient.