OST, Navistar Aim To Keep Trucks On The Road And Drivers Happy With IoT

In an industry already afflicted by a shortage of truck drivers, safety concerns, and maintenance challenges, vehicle downtime is becoming more costly and damaging – but truck manufacturer Navistar wants to fix that.

Over the past year, Lisle, Ill.-based Navistar has worked with solution provider Open Systems Technologies to build an IoT solution to connect more than 300,000 commercial vehicles.

"When a truck is connected, we've seen an 80 percent reduction in catastrophic failures," said Navistar CIO Terry Kline. "When there are failures, the truckers aren't making money, the customers who want shipments aren't happy, and drivers aren't happy."

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Navistar, which has specialized in building commercial and military trucks, proprietary diesel engines, and school and commercial buses since 1831, has been amping up its strategy around connected vehicles over the past year and a half.

Working with OST, the manufacturer connects vehicles through its OnCommand Connection open-architecture remote diagnostics system. This platform collects data from sensors and electronic control modules on the truck, enabling the company to view valuable information and decrease downtime for the trucks.

Through OnCommand Connection, Navistar helps its customers through an array of data tracking and analysis measures. Depending on the type of vehicles, the trucks themselves have anywhere between 150 to 190 parameters to track the vehicles' system health, movement, and downtime.

For instance, the company can remotely track codes in the vehicles that determine its health and automate inspections – so if an engine code or failure code lights up on a bus, the company will immediately detect it and formulate a fault code action plan.

The ability to track the vehicles' external location and environment, including weather, holds important value for preventing truck downtime.

"We match up the weather data to the truck's latitude and longitude to understand the condition the truck was in when it records certain symptoms," said Kline. "For instance, we can get important explanations for why diesel fuel is gelling if it's 46 degrees below in Montana."

While decreasing downtime is important, Navistar also wants to improve the quality of life for the hundreds of thousands of drivers on the road, said Kline. Driver retention is a big problem – as of 2016, there was a nationwide shortage of 48,000 truck drivers, with driver turnover rates at nearly 100 percent.

While building out its IoT strategy, Navistar initially brought in Grand Rapids, Mich.-based OST to help it figure out which hardware and data center environment would work best for its IoT solution.

Navistar has also partnered with 23 telematics providers to provide a piece of equipment that can clip into the onboard diagnostics port on the trucks, communicating the data over a cellular connection. That data can be analyzed by visualization tools like Microsoft BI and Tableau, according to Navistar.

When that data is in OnCommand, that's where OST comes in, said Kline, supporting all the servers, drives, software and apps. "People can create and have lots of data, but OST has mined the data and made it presentable for the right party to take value from it," he said.