Telematics and electronics in trucks have come a long way in the last 20 years, the electronic system throughout just about every truck has become much more sophisticated. Trucks now use a CANbus throughout the vehicle to power and control everything from tail lights, to engine mapping to refrigerated trailer temperature. Add to this, the fact that most of this data is also being streamed back to base at a steady rate so operators and customers can see what the truck is doing and how it is performing.
We don’t actually have a name for the units which are being placed in new trucks today. Originally, it was the radio and then it was the entertainment system with CD player and then it became a navigation system as well. At this point it was called an AVN, audio-visual navigation. Now it is becoming so much more than what was essentially a double DIN-sized black box in the middle of the dashboard.
Starting With the Truck Makers
These black boxes need to connect to the CANbus on the truck and, in some instances the truck maker will only allow certain amount of limited data to be used. Over time they will be opening up this channel to systems like the one on offer from Directed to get full value from it. Some of the truck manufacturers are on board with this already, while others are a lot more secretive about the data being produced by their trucks’ systems.
“The truck manufacturers themselves are now dealing with their own mixed fleets,” says Brent Stafford, Directed Technologies Executive Director. “Volvo is one example. I’ve got trucks from Europe, I’ve got trucks from Japan and some Japanese manufacturing is now happening in Thailand. Now they are very different platforms, different engine management programs. There is another level of complexity. You can have three separate platforms multiplied by 300 different use cases, plus much more.
“They still need someone, locally in a market like ours, who can understand the complexity and deal with local issues to suit local conditions. That needs to be done either at the device level in the vehicle or the cloud level.”
Another major development which is gaining pace among the truck manufacturers is to open up their existing telematics platforms to enable the telematics in the fleet to communicate across brands and not be locked into a particular brand’s telematics system.
“In the past, the truck dealer was able to sell the correct solution to the correct customer, but they can’t sell connectivity,” says Mark Whitmore, Directed Technologies Head of Business Development. “The market needs have changed, so who is the customer going to go to solve the problems? The dealer network is not keeping pace with the changing market. In my opinion, the truck manufacturers need to develop specialist dealerships, like the way that telcos set up separate shops to help small businesses.”
Another factor which will increase the amount of functionality for these new systems will be as truck engines migrate from Euro-5 to Euro-6. The level of data available from the CANbus in a Euro-5 truck is quite high, but the amount is multiplied many times in the Euro-6 powered trucks. This means there is more data, which enables systems to more closely monitor things improving functionality.
Connectivity as a service
“Data going back to the cloud can also be retransmitted for something like rollover report, it can be live on the platform,” says Brent. “It can be transmitted to other trucks in the area. It’s really just a data pool, and like we see with something like blockchain, it’s all about how you can share the data between the platforms.
“Where there is value to share, like with safety data, it doesn’t really matter about the technology. It’s all the same, whether it’s LTE, 5G or the vehicle to vehicle to infrastructure communication, dedicated short range communication like tolls and 5.8 GHz technology, it can be quite neutral. The key is that you transmit the data quickly, receive it quickly and make better informed decisions.”
It can get even more sophisticated where the system can be instructed not to give the driver any messages when they are going around roundabout or when the vehicle is braking, in order to reduce distraction at the most critical times.
When these new systems eventually come onto the second hand market the telematics is still useful. It may have come out of the Woolworth’s fleet and their dispatch app can be removed, but it could easily be loaded up with an app for a different dispatcher.
“We are giving the truck manufacturer the ability to further personalise the truck in the same way as they do when they fit a particular body type onto the chassis,” says Mark. “So, we can add something like the Aldi despatching into the system. There are some really intelligent things we can build into it. There is no reason why these couldn’t become tolling platforms. The system could be used to pay for fuel or pay for parking, all of those things which waste the driver’s time.
“I can say categorically that in five years time telematics will be standard on all trucks. They’ll be using it for service delivery to the customer. There will be a much more sophisticated telematics offering through truck dealerships. Things like temperature sensors, weigh in motion, trailer trackers will be normal on all vehicles.”