How technology is helping in increasing a truck's capability, productivity

Topics trucks | truck market

Industry estimates state that more than 12-15 lakh vehicles will be connected over the next four or five years
  • S Vijayakumar, the owner of five commercial vehicles (CVs), bought a new truck recently. Two days later, it was stolen. However, it was located in a couple of hours and its movement was also stopped remotely. 
  • A logistics company, with a fleet of 150 vehicles, was losing fuel worth Rs 25 lakh a month owing to pilferage. The company was able to identify the source of the pilferage and address the issue. 

Both problems were solved in a matter of hours, thanks to connected truck technologies. Once available in high-end cars, today, most major CV manufacturers, such as Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra, Daimler India and VE Commercial Vehicles (VECV), offer “smart trucking” solutions. 

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) offer these connected solutions as standard fitments in all vehicles that are BS-VI compliant. Industry estimates state that more than 12-15 lakh vehicles will be connected over the next four or five years.
It is like having a “genie” in your truck, says Rajaram Krishnamurthy, vice-president, marketing, sales and customer services, at Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV). “He makes sure your drivers drive safely, that no one steals fuel or the vehicle itself. He knows which route to take to avoid traffic jams and containment zones. He lets you know immediately if something goes wrong and helps you get support to fix it. He can tell you about your truck even if it is a thousand miles away.”

In January this year, Daimler launched its new portfolio of BS-VI-compliant trucks and buses and also introduced Truckonnect, its telematics solution that has already connected over 300,000 trucks worldwide. Truckonnect allows customers to remotely check vital vehicle information, including its location, health and fuel consumption, via an online portal in real time. With this, fleet managers can optimise driver performance, increase fuel efficiency and reduce downtime. 

Data, which is the foundation of a connected truck’s capabilities, is generated through Internet-of-Things-enabled electronics devices installed in these vehicles. For example, on average, Ashok Leyland captures about 315 GB of data and processes one billion data packages daily. 

The growth of connected truck technology also enhances product development and future services. Take Tata Motors, which has built a cloud-based platform called “Fleet Edge”. It captures various data points about the truck with in-vehicle sensors and telematics units, and provides insights to customers through a mobile interface and a web portal. “We are leveraging the connected vehicle platform to complement our products and offer value-added services to meet customer expectations,” says Girish Wagh, president, commercial vehicle business unit at Tata Motors.

“Fleet Edge” offers features like track and trace, geo-fencing alerts, driver behaviour, fuel efficiency and fuel loss alerts, among other things. Integrated with Tata Motors’ home-grown Connected Vehicle Platform, the unit comes as a standard feature in its BS-VI range of medium and heavy trucks and buses and in a select range of intermediate, light and small CVs. 

Ashok Leyland recently showcased “DigitAL Nxt”, a combination of three innovative digital solutions. The first, “i-Alert 3.0”, is an enhanced telematics application that addresses the technical complexities of BS-VI and offers features such as tracking and tracing of vehicles, geo-fencing, trip management, route deviation tracking, fuel management, alerts, service reminders, driver monitoring, and so on.  

The second solution, “AL Cares”, is a digital solution that gives quick access to vehicle details, an e-locker facility to store all vehicle-related documents, provides service reminders, service booking, real time alerts, and a dealer/service locator. 

“Uptime Solution Centre”, the third platform, offers AI-driven prognostics that help detect potential issues in advance and offers real-time analysis of vehicle parameters to enable quick support. The company has also introduced an e-diagnostics app which identifies a problem and offers step-by-step troubleshooting with the help of videos, says Venkatesh Natarajan, chief digital officer and senior vice-president-IT, Ashok Leyland.

The company has equipped about 150,000 vehicles with IoT sensors, while over 7,000 vehicles are being brought on to the IoT platform every day.

As for Mahindra & Mahindra, the company is using its connected vehicle technology to help fleet owners increase their asset productivity. While M&M’s BLAZO range of HCV trucks was launched with the DiGiSENSE connected vehicle technology in the BS-IV era, the company recognised the importance of connected vehicle technology in the BS-VI vehicles which have higher levels of electronics. Hence, it went back to the drawing board to develop its next-generation connected vehicle solution — Mahindra iMAXX. 

“At Mahindra Truck and Bus, we have seen fleet owners achieving an over-10 per cent improvement in fuel economy. They are also achieving a significant increase in asset productivity, in terms of the kilometres driven per vehicle/day, by taking action on the insights provided by the fleet telematics platform,” said Veejay Nakra, CEO-automotive division, Mahindra & Mahindra. 

VECV managing director and CEO Vinod Aggarwal said that from this month, its trucks and buses built on the EUTECH6 platform will be equipped with pre-fitted hardware that will make them completely connected on the road.

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