Computer and smartphone users don't have to take their devices to their dealers for each software update. Now, the same can be said for trucks.
Truck manufacturers increasingly are enabling fleets to update truck software and programming parameters "over the air" — an innovation that is saving days of downtime.
Ken Calhoun, fleet optimization manager at Altec Service Group, said the potential benefits are "huge."
"Obviously, our greatest desire is always to be able to keep the truck on the road doing its job, and if we can eliminate a significant portion of those service events, how is that not a win?" said Calhoun, who also is general chairman of American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council.
Volvo Trucks North America introduced its remote programming offering in the fourth quarter of 2018 after a soft launch with certain customers earlier in the year. The service provides software updates for powertrain components, with more updates on the way, and 250 parameter updates for speed limiters and other functions. Updates are available for both over-the-road and vocational applications.
Ashraf Makki, product marketing manager, said Volvo fleet customers are notified by an agent that a software update is available. Software updates require about 20 minutes. Parameter updates require 10 minutes, including the conversation between the agent and the driver. The truck must be parked due to safety concerns, with the battery healthy enough to ensure the service won't be interrupted.
The challenge during testing wasn't on the technical side, Makki said. Instead, the company had to train its agents to communicate with customers to instill confidence so they would change their long-standing procedures.
As of late April, Volvo had 783 customers using the service with a total of 18,535 trucks. Those using the service range from large national fleets to single-truck customers.