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Four advanced CV technologies reshaping maintenance

June 13, 2024
Technologies like predictive maintenance and automation are transforming fleet maintenance. Discover how fleets can capitalize on this potential while accounting for the potential risks.

Maintenance is one of the largest ongoing expense categories for any fleet. At the same time, it’s not something businesses can cut corners on, as ineffective repair practices will lead to more costly and disruptive breakdowns.

Balancing these two sides to fleet maintenance can be difficult. It should be no surprise, then, that vehicle care processes are a key target for digitization efforts. New technologies are starting to reshape modern fleet maintenance in several ways.

Predictive maintenance

The most well-known example of this technological transformation is predictive maintenance (PdM). PdM gathers real-time vehicle health data from onboard Internet of Things (IoT) sensors or other telematics equipment. Intelligent algorithms then analyze this information to alert fleet managers of upcoming repair needs as they emerge.

Read more: How to unleash the power of predictive maintenance

The primary advantage here is that PdM enables need-based repairs without running equipment to failure. Fleets don’t need to inspect trucks manually, preventing wasted time from unnecessary fixes. At the same time, IoT sensors can detect issues before they’re noticeable to drivers, letting technicians resolve problems before they grow more severe.

One predictive maintenance provider called Uptake reported saving one fleet $12,500 per truck annually (based on a four-month trial) by detecting cylinder head failures earlier and more accurately. Overall, 80 assets were found with this issue, and by resolving it earlier, $1 million in savings were generated, according to Uptake. Not every organization will see improvements that substantial, but such cases stand as a testament to this technology’s potential.

Transportation management systems

Transportation management systems (TMS) are another key maintenance technology for fleets today. These cloud-based tools provide a single, remotely accessible window to access all fleet data, such as repair history, truck mileage, and vehicles’ real-time locations.

Being able to see all trucks’ repair history in one place makes it easier to spot fleet-wide trends or know when it’s time to replace some vehicles. Location data can inform proactive maintenance measures. For example, exposure to the elements is a leading cause of rust, so pinpointing trucks that have driven through harsh conditions recently lets technicians know to monitor for metal corrosion.

A TMS can also serve as a way to schedule and track repairs in place of a more sophisticated PdM system. That use case is valuable mainly to smaller fleets that may be unable to justify PdM’s upfront costs.

Robotic repair

A less common but growing fleet maintenance technology segment is the use of robots in repair workflows. Automated solutions have already become standard in warehouses, and now they’re emerging in technician shops, too. While these systems aren’t yet common, they may become the industry requirement as costs come down and more options emerge.

 Robots can’t perform every type of repair, as some maintenance processes include unpredictable factors, and require nuance and complex decision-making only a human can provide. However, they can improve efficiency and accuracy in more repetitive tasks. These include tire rotations, paint applications, and engine inspections.

Consumer car companies like Audi and Ford have already rolled out maintenance robots like these to some dealerships. Commercial fleets embracing similar solutions could shorten repair timelines and overcome labor shortages to balance proactive maintenance with time and price restraints.

Autonomous vehicles

Self-driving vehicles are a more recognizable form of robotics in fleet operations. While autonomous trucks are still working to scale into commercial use, they still have maintenance implications for shops.

 Many unnecessary repairs stem from unsafe driving behaviors. Thorough training can reduce these instances, but even experienced drivers can still make mistakes or may ignore best practices out of habit. By contrast, self-driving vehicles will always follow their programming. As a result, they can drive with greater attention to the vehicle’s state of repair, helping it last longer.

Read more: Autonomous trucks: The road ahead

Fully autonomous vehicles are not yet a reality, but related self-driving features are becoming increasingly available, such as automatic emergency braking lanekeep assist technology. Commercial trucks may get the autonomy treatment before consumer vehicles, too, as their longer, largely highway-centric routes are easier for driving algorithms to handle.

Advantages and pitfalls of fleet maintenance technology

Across all these use cases, fleet maintenance technology has several promising advantages. Most notably, it reduces ongoing spending. While these solutions may cost more upfront, they prevent breakdowns more effectively and save time during repairs compared to conventional alternatives.

Many of these technologies also improve fleet safety. Automating dangerous garage tasks keeps mechanics from harm, and fixing vehicle issues before they cause more drastic damage prevents traffic accidents. While large trucks account for just 6% of fatal crashes, that still adds up to over 5,000 incidents annually, so any improvement is welcome.

Read more: Large truck crash deaths, injuries on the rise

Despite these advantages, fleet maintenance technology introduces complications of its own. Expenses and complexity are common barriers, especially for smaller fleets or those with less tech experience. Any AI-reliant technology—such as PdM—can lead to high false positive rates, counteracting their productivity benefits in some cases.

Fleets must also grapple with cybersecurity concerns. As the transportation industry introduces more IoT devices and other internet-connected technologies, it becomes more prone to cybercrime. Consequently, the sector accounted for 4.3% of all cyberattacks in 2023—even more than the education sector, which manages high volumes of sensitive data.

How to make the most of fleet maintenance technology

In light of these benefits and downsides, fleet managers must take a more nuanced approach to maintenance technology. Capitalizing on these tools can help fleets reduce costs and improve safety, but only if businesses can account for the potential risks.

Effective tech adoption starts with recognizing the most impactful solutions for a specific fleet. Larger ones with more frequent repair needs may benefit most from PdM or robotic maintenance equipment. However, small businesses with tighter budgets and less maintenance spending may find TMS solutions more cost-effective.

Regardless of what technologies an enterprise uses, thorough cybersecurity is essential. Training all employees in basic cyber hygiene is crucial, as 68% of all data breaches involve the human element. Regular firmware updates, data encryption, strong passwords and autonomous monitoring software all all important, too.

Fleet managers should focus on one technology at a time and carefully monitor its impact. As the application starts showing positive returns, they can consider other solutions, taking into account what they learned during the initial rollout.

Technology will transform fleet maintenance

New technologies will change the way fleets manage their maintenance operations, and this shift is already taking place. As these innovations become more common, the industry will improve because of them.

Still, it’s easy to get swept up in the benefits of fleet maintenance technology and overlook its pitfalls. Attention to both sides is necessary for tech transformation to have its intended effect



About the Author

Emily Newton | Editor in Chief, Revolutionized Magazine

Emily Newton is the editor in chief for Revolutionized. She has eight years of creating logistics and supply chain articles under her belt. She loves helping people stay informed about industry trends. Her work in Supply Chain Connect, Global Trade Magazine and Parcel, showcases her ability to identify newsworthy stories. When Emily isn't writing, she enjoys building Lego sets with her husband.

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