Remote Diagnostics: What It Does and Doesn’t Do
By Joseph Evangelist
Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange

Remote diagnostics is one of the buzz phrases in the trucking industry today. Most truck manufacturers (OEM’s) have a system in place that allows fleets to monitor the health of its trucks in real time should they choose to take advantage of it. While the details of those systems vary, they all allow the fleet to see which vehicles are operating as they should be, which are in the shop for repair along with details about the problem, and which trucks are on the road but having issues.There are a number of reasons why you should consider making an investment in remote diagnostics.

  • Bridge distances: Many fleets operate over a wide geographic territory. A fleet may operate out of Sacramento, California but run trucks in Idaho. When an issue arises with a truck that is out of the fleet’s home area, remote diagnostics allow the fleet manager to see what is going on with a particular unit even though it is hundreds of miles away.
  • Bridge communication barriers: It can sometimes be difficult for drivers to articulate what exactly is going wrong with a vehicle. Remote diagnostics keeps everyone on the same page and lets fleet managers know exactly what is wrong with the truck in a clear and concise manner.
  • Improve decision making: Because you will know exactly what is wrong with the truck, you can make decisions about whether the vehicle can continue operating until it returns home, or needs to come into the shop or a nearby dealer immediately for repairs. It also helps you determine what resources need to be sent to a truck that is down, which will help speed up the repair process.

But a remote diagnostic system does not do everything.

  • It can’t fix the truck: While the system can tell you exactly what is wrong with the truck, it can’t fix the truck for you. The proper tools, equipment and technician skills are still needed to get the truck back on the road.
  • It won’t manage itself: Having all the data is great, but someone still needs to review the data and take action based on what the data is telling them. You also need someone to act as the administrator and set up the structure in terms of who gets notified and what information they receive.

In addition, technicians and others receiving the data need to be kept up-to-date to ensure they understand what the data is telling them. They need to be aware of ghost codes; not every notification translates into a serious problem. It’s important that those in the loop see value in the information they are receiving to ensure that it is used properly.

Another benefit of a remote diagnostic system is that it gives you historical fault codes. You can see exactly what occurred in a given time period. This ability to track failure trends allows you to make changes in your maintenance schedule and can be used when making spec’ing decisions on purchasing new equipment.

While remote diagnostics won’t fix your trucks for you, it sure arms you with the information you need to make the right repair decisions while reducing driver downtime.

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