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Diagnosis from afar: Navistar hitting its stride through telematics

Aaron Huff June 4, 2014

On Monday, June 2, a driver phoned Randy McGregor to report a problem: his truck was shaking and the “check engine” light was on. While they were still talking the engine shut down.

About two minutes later, McGregor received an e-mail showing the truck number, truck location, and that a critical engine shutdown had occurred.

McGregor, fleet manager for Transway, a 100-truck carrier based in Holland, Mich., clicked on a link to enter an online portal to do some research.

“I had a pretty good idea right away of what happened,” he said. He located a nearby dealership and towing service using the mapping tools in the portal. Meanwhile, a nearby dealer was reviewing the case file and scheduled a repair upon the truck’s arrival that afternoon.

Main Screen
Navistar’s OnCommand Connect portal gives fleets a standard platform to monitor the health of vehicles from any manufacturer and quickly respond to fault codes.

Transway uses an onboard computing and telematics platform from Omnitracs to capture and transmit fault codes to Navistar’s OnCommand Connection remote diagnostics portal. By clicking on a fault code from the main screen, listed next to the truck unit number, a document opens up to explain, in plain English, what the code means and what to do about it.

The document also has a set of questions to ask the driver to be more certain of the problem, McGregor said.

Transway operates International and Freightliner trucks with Navistar, Cummins and Detroit engines. Prior to using the OnCommand Connection, “check engine” lights could have meant anything. Drivers called the office but McGregor had no information about what to do about it, which often meant sending drivers to a dealership, or having them towed, to avoid a possible breakdown.

Trucks and drivers would then sit idle at dealers for possibly two or three days before a diagnosis was returned. Naturally, drivers might want to ignore the warning lights to avoid such a circumstance.

Conservatively, McGregor estimates the remote diagnostics portal saves the company $2,000 per day by preventing a breakdown or an unnecessary trip to the dealer that would result in lost revenue and additional driver expenses. In many cases, the non-critical fault codes can be handled at Transway’s own shop during the next PM schedule.

How it came to be

McGregor discovered OnCommand Connect about eight months ago before it was officially available in February, 2014. The discovery came when he called Brian Mulshine to discuss some issues he was having with Navistar’s MaxxForce engines.

Engine lights were coming on and were forcing the company to stop drivers without knowing what the problem was. “It was getting frustrating,” he said.

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