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Volvo’s remote programming keeps trucks up and running

Volvo's remote programming can update a truck's operating parameters in about 20 minutes.

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While many other trucking manufacturers talk about uptime, Volvo Trucks noted at its Technology & Maintenance Council 2018 Annual Meeting & Transportation Technology Exhibition press conference that uptime has been a central pillar of service for the company since 1997.

The latest service in that area is Volvo’s remote programing of software and parameter updates for customers.

“It is a game-changer,” said Conal Deedy, North America connectivity director. “It allows us to make sure the vehicles are updated to the latest and greatest [software and operating parameters].”

With some 1,300 plus trucks having already received updates, Deedy reported that the average downtime due to an update is 20 minutes. “Depending on the package, it’s a different timeline, but on average, it’s about 20 minutes,” he said.

That has translated into over 600 days of downtime saved for fleets when compared to the industry average of 2.3 days of downtime for a manual update.

Customers purchasing new Volvo trucks receive two free updates per year for the first two years of ownership. Additional updates can be paid for through a subscription package for fleets that require more frequent changes to their operating parameters.

The types of updates available include road speed configuration, fuel economy tweaks to reduce fuel usage, setting “balanced mode” to balance fuel use and performance, and “performance mode” to maximize the performance of the truck.

During the entire process, there is always a human involved in the transaction, ensuring that customer support remain top of mind.

“Uptime isn’t just a marketing word we toss around lightly. It’s about the people, processes and technology we implement to meet our customer commitments,” Deedy said. “Remote Programming is already delivering strong uptime improvements. We see great potential for further improving truck availability and the ownership experience as we build on the platform and capabilities we’ve developed over more than two decades.”

Jason Plumlee, director of maintenance for Saia, was among the early testers of remote programming.

“Unscheduled downtime is very crucial to our operation,” he said, noting that Saia uses its tractors for P&D operations during the day and linehaul use at night. “So, the opportunity to perform maintenance is limited.”

The benefits were immediate, he said. “It gave us the chance to schedule maintenance.” That is important, Plumlee noted, given the size of Saia’s network – some 152 terminals but only 35 maintenance shops.

“I think the technology is evolving so rapidly, it’s important for us to take advantage of the changes so we can [maximize fuel economy],” he said.

Deedy said about 50% of the remote programming updates are initiated by drivers. Plumlee said Saia is still scheduling them through maintenance, but given the locations of its maintenance shops, the fleet will likely move to a model where drivers or third-party shops can initiate the updates as needed.

For Volvo, it is that ease and operational flexibility that remote programming is designed to address so fleets have the best chance to maximize their revenue with minimal downtime.

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