Today’s Pickup: Volvo and Mack Trucks showcase remote software updates

Mack Trucks showcased downtime reductions from their Over the Air system. ( Photo: Mack Trucks )

Good day,

The ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council has wrapped up, but the big story emerging this morning is the success OEMs have had jumping into software-as-a-service. Both Volvo and Mack Trucks presented on their efforts to leverage their trucks’ connectivity to remotely update software packages on their vehicles and minimize downtime.

Both Volvo and Mack Trucks said remote software updates to powertrain components and vehicle parameters take about 20 minutes, compared to an industry average of 2.3 days of downtime for a manual update. Mack Trucks said its remote software update system, “Mack Over the Air,” has already reduced downtime by over 500 days, while Volvo said it had saved fleets 600 days of downtime remotely updating about 1,300 trucks so far.

Volvo and Mack Trucks also emphasized the importance of investing in people and providing excellent customer service to ensure that the updates went smoothly and the intended efficiency gains were actually realized. 

Did you know?

Truck drivers earned an average of $23.75 per hour in December 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


“In a so-called trade war, driven by reciprocal increases of import tariffs, nobody wins, and one generally finds losers on both sides. We recommend an agreement between the different parties, and talks.”

-Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

In other news:

Uber’s self-driving trucks hit the highway, but not local roads

The trucks operate in Arizona with a licensed truck driver at the wheel, ready to take over in the case of an emergency. But Uber said the eventual goal was to eliminate human drivers inside the cab. (New York Times)

VW ponders trucks IPO amid broader efficiency push: CEO

OEMs everywhere are spinning off operations to free up cash to invest in zero-emission and autonomous cars. (Reuters)

Video: 3,000th Neopanamax transits new Panama Canal locks

The expanded locks were completed in 2016, and volume growth has been steady, with major impacts on East coast ports. (World Maritime News)

Planes, trains, and trucks: global trade boom fires up oil demand

Synchronized global GDP growth is increasing freight movement and that is driving petroleum demand. (Bloomberg)

Air cargo off to a robust start in 2018

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported this morning that January 2018 experienced 8% volume growth YOY, measured in freight tonne kilometers. (IATA)

Final Thoughts: 

Volvo and Mack Trucks’ presentations at TMC of their new remote software updating systems represent just the first round of efficiency gains from connected vehicles. An increasingly pervasive Internet of Things will give OEMs, maintenance shops, fleets, and customers realtime visibility into the status of individual components on trucks—in other words, condition-based maintenance. According to a recent research report by McKinsey, condition-based maintenance technology is at the stage of commercial viability where enterprises, like railroads or truckload carriers, who invest in it can see efficiency gains of 15% or more. 

Eventually, condition-based maintenance will give way to predictive maintenance, when large, high-quality data lakes can be leveraged into training sets for machine learning algorithms. Instead of simply collecting data from truck components and monitoring their statuses, machine learning will identify patterns in the components’ metrics and automatically schedule replacement or service when it’s needed, but not before it’s needed. McKinsey says that this technology is still immature and it’s unlikely that enterprises seeking to implement predictive maintenance will realize worthwhile ROI for the next few years.

The other big lesson from Volvo and Mack Trucks is the importance of people and customer service to make sure that these complex, connected processes are working for the customer as well as they’re working for the OEMs. If there’s a gap in expertise at the level of the operator that remains unaddressed by attentive customer service, efficiency gains could go unrealized.

Hammer down everyone!

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John Paul Hampstead, Associate Editor

John Paul writes about current events and economics, especially politics, finance, and commodities, and holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Michigan. In previous lives John Paul studied Shakespeare in London and Buddhism in India, but now he focuses on transportation and logistics in the heart of Freight Alley--Chattanooga. He spends his free time with his wife and daughter herding cats, collecting books, and walking alongside the Tennessee River.