Prevent Defense

The technology that goes into fleet maintenance

Credit: GPS Insight
Keeping track of maintenance digitally

Perhaps no heavy-duty truck takes a beating in the line of service as much as a solid waste vehicle.

As such, maintenance must constantly be at the forefront of fleet management priorities, notes Jenny Shiner, marketing communications manager for GPS Insight.

“When it’s neglected, it drives the wrong type of expenses for fleet operations,” she says. “In the past, staying up to date on preventative maintenance was manual, time-consuming, and lacked accuracy.”

GPS tracking has made a significant impact on maintenance management by providing an automated process to track services fleetwide and eliminate the financial consequences of past due services, Shiner points out.

Automated maintenance reminders save time by doing away with manual logging of odometer readings and send even more accurate information instantly, she says.

“Having this data allows waste management businesses to schedule any type of service for their vehicles based on mileage, runtime, or dates,” points out Shiner. “Sending maintenance reminders to the right people on the team will reduce the costs associated with reactive maintenance when the damage is already done.”

GPS Insight delivers GPS tracking ­solutions to waste management operations to help them reduce costs and risks and increase revenue for many aspects of fleet operations, such as fleet maintenance, notes Shiner.

The software’s maintenance module automatically tracks runtime and odometer readings, then sends reminders to managers and drivers when services such as tire rotations and balancing, oil changes, emissions testing, or other types of services are due to be completed.

Along with maintenance alerts, the solutions are designed to provide maintenance reports to help management proactively monitor overdue services, says Shiner.

“Any outstanding services will be flagged in red on the report so managers can take action and get them completed right away,” she adds.

GPS Insight also enables waste management businesses to remotely monitor vehicle diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) to assess engine issues in real time, sending management a notification if a vehicle is experiencing issues with its engine, transmission, breaks, or any other situation that requires the vehicle to undergo immediate inspection, notes Shiner.

Maintenance safety is the driving factor in the Portage County, OH, recycling operation transitioning its fleet to automated Autocar vehicles.

“Safety and the ability to pick up more bins was a major point,” notes mechanic Steven Moore, adding that the county’s recycling officials sought trucks with side arms to cut down on workers getting injured.

In doing fleet maintenance, Moore deals with everything except for major engine overhauls. He uses the Softworks software system that enables plant workers to log mileage, maintenance history, and the parts on hand.

“We go by the mileage to do inspections,” notes Moore. “We do an A and B service for preventative maintenance. Two times a year, we’re draining the oil, changing the filters, and greasing the entire truck—chassis and everything.”

The B service schedule is conducted in between those services.

“We like to do an undercarriage grease job on it and look for tire wear. It helps in keeping up with the daily tasks,” adds Moore.

Moore notes that Autocar’s vehicles have built-in maintenance in the dashboard, offering mechanics the ability to monitor issues such as low coolant through diagnostic codes.

“It provides ease of access for mechanics,” he adds. “It’s an excellent tool to use if you use it correctly.”

Autocar offered training for ease in the learning curve.

“We just got these trucks two years ago and it was a big undertaking to learn everything about them,” says Moore. “The training made it a lot easier because we could see what we were looking at before we actually got our hands on it.”

Autocar also offers a hotline, Autocar Solutions, for mitigating problems that can’t be figured out in-house.

With the Autocar trucks being relatively new to his fleet, Moore hasn’t been able to generate hard numbers on the impact of the new trucks and software on his operation’s maintenance schedule and costs, but anecdotally believes it’s had a positive impact because he’s noting fewer problems.

“Our other trucks are 20 years old. They were leaking a lot of different fluids, so we had to fill them up every day,” he says. “With the Autocar trucks, we don’t have that problem, so a lot of our maintenance costs are down because of the fact of not using so much oil or coolant.”

TMW Systems’ array of transportation management solutions includes TMT Fleet Maintenance, TMT Service Center, and TMT FleetCheck (SaaS), ranging from end-to-end, on-premise software platforms for fleets and independent fleet service centers to a cloud-based solution for smaller fleets, including those of refuse haulers.

TMT’s on-premise software solution, TMT Fleet Maintenance, is designed to help users streamline the entire vehicle maintenance lifecycle, notes Renaldo Adler, principal of asset maintenance, TMW Systems.

“Users rely on TMT to manage overall equipment monitoring, tracking maintenance costs per mile and per hour; recording equipment inventory, product specifications, cost comparisons by part; documenting license permits and inspections with alerts upon expiration date,” he says.

Adler points out that the software is also used to streamline shop operations through preventative maintenance and repair scheduling; work pending, repair order, and proactive notification; setting work standards by job; tracking labor and parts costs; and evaluating technician performance.

Parts purchase management is another function, offering the ability to do inventory analysis and part usage, re-order reports, check backorder status, generate a supplier purchase summary, and conduct cost comparisons by vendor and part.

The software’s warranty management enables end users to track unit, system, and component warranties and automate the process of filing and recovering claims. Fuel management enables end users to track cost per mile, per yard, and per hour and execute site fuel inventory control and vendor purchase histories.

The mobile mechanic app is designed to provide the ability to track labor, enter repair orders, and order parts for remote repairs. Tire lifespan monitoring allows end users to record tread depth and air pressure readings and conduct an analysis of tire costs by brand and unit. Other features include full invoicing/accounting interface and management reporting.

Industry experts agree that key systems to monitor include the engine’s oil pressure and operating temperatures, the after-treatment components of diesel oxidation catalyst, diesel particulate filter, and related technologies. The brake system also is critical to monitor, particularly lining condition and thickness, says Adler.

Credit: Stertil-Koni
Easy access using a Stertil-Koni Lift

The steering and suspension components, ride control components, tires, lighting, and safety components are other important systems requiring monitoring, he adds.

TMW recently introduced a new series of predictive maintenance analytics—TMW Predict—which includes predictive analysis of vehicle performance and potential breakdowns based on vehicle fault codes and “scores of other real-time performance variables communicated through an onboard communication platform,” notes Adler. “This information is fed to the TMT Fleet Maintenance user’s screen to alert to the potential of a breakdown in the field.”

In GPS Insight, the two most common systems used for maintenance are GPS tracking software and maintenance management software.

“The key difference between these systems is automated odometer readings,” says Shiner. “Standalone maintenance management software does not capture odometers without integrating with a GPS tracking platform to capture mileage or run time. This means that fleet managers must manually check each vehicle to know their odometers and enter that into the maintenance software.

“Some GPS tracking providers, like GPS Insight, offer an integration that combines these technologies into one interface. For fleets that use a fleet maintenance software, sharing information between these platforms streamlines service tracking tremendously,” she adds.

Once maintenance issues are identified, having a safe way to work on the trucks is another critical factor.

Stertil-Koni manufactures heavy-duty vehicle lifts that enable solid waste truck maintenance workers’ ease of access. The company’s line includes mobile column lifts, diamond lifts, platform lifts, two-post lifts, four-post lifts, and its Ecolift. The lifts are certified by the Automotive Lift Institute.

Peter Bowers, the technical sales support manager, points out the company’s lifts focus on hydraulic lifting technology and include a secondary mechanical safety locking system. The lifts begin at the lowest clearance from the floor so as they start to elevate the vehicle off the floor, it enters a mechanical lock stage at the earliest possible touch, he says.

Other safety mechanisms include an automatic synchronization system that adjusts for vehicles such as solid waste trucks where the rear of the vehicle may typically be heavier, so the lifting speed becomes equal in front and back to maintain a level vehicle, notes Paul Feldman, Stertil-Koni marketing director.

MSW trucks also have a variety of axle configurations, which are accommodated by the company’s various lift options.

“Trash trucks are notoriously heavy things because trash gets wet and trash gets heavy,” says Bowers. “Vehicle lifts fall into several different categories. There are lifts that engage the chassis of the vehicle to immediately provide it a wheels-free operation. About 75 to 80 percent of the maintenance on any vehicle is done to the steering and the brakes. The simplest thing in the world is to have a wheels-free lift.”

Bowers points out that the majority of maintenance operations use platform lifts not only for full service but for preventative maintenance and inspections required by transportation departments.

“Trash trucks spend a lot of time on the road, and every month, everything needs to be inspected,” he says. “They need to inspect the brakes, the air lines, and other parts. They do a lot of oil changes. Platform lifts allow a very minimal setup time.”

Bowers says that one of the most popular lifts is the one with wheel-engaging columns, favored in the solid waste industry because the capacity of the lifting set can be modified by adding more columns.

A trash hauler in Nevada, for example, may be allowed to have more weight on the truck than one in New York, and so more columns can be added to support the load, he adds. Essentially, the prime factor is the axle capacities for the local situation and how much weight will be in the truck at any given time.

“A lot of times in the trash business, trucks break down when they are full,” says Bowers. “You have to anticipate that you have to lift that truck at or exceeding its rated gross vehicle weight. Trash trucks are notoriously heavy when they are loaded on the road.”

Feldman adds that the lifts are certified to lift a significant amount of weight, such as 80,000 pounds in the rear. On a piston lift, each piston can accommodate up to 35,000 pounds, with lifts that can do four pistons. The scissor lift handles 30,000 pounds per scissors for up to three scissors.

“A modern asset maintenance solution—whether implemented as on-premise software or delivered through the cloud—can ­provide a level of value ROI that is difficult to match in other areas of the business,” notes Adler.

Adler points out that end users have reported “dramatic improvements” in overall maintenance operations, including:

  • A 10% reduction in annual maintenance spending through enhanced warranty recovery
  • A 20% reduction in inventory upon software implementation
  • Additional 10% saving in inventory costs through process automation, on-hand inventory management, and vendor pricing controls
  • Reduction of a full-time-equivalent employee through automation of recordkeeping and other data requirements
  • Reduction of .5 FTE maintenance foreman/supervisor
  • 10% reduction in annual maintenance spend through enhanced reporting
  • Preventative maintenance compliance increase from 75% to 95%
  • A 30% reduction in tires on hand

An overall analysis of the ROI of a modern maintenance management solution has shown that payback can exceed 20:1 in terms of cost per mile, says Adler.

Bowers points out that ergonomics is the biggest maintenance concern.

Citing the difficulty in finding qualified people to work in maintenance, he adds that “people evaluate the work conditions they’re working within when they’re making a decision who to work for.”

People seeking maintenance jobs in the industry will forgo working somewhere where “they roll around the floor like a grease rag” in favor of going to work in environments “where they are not going to get injured and they can do their job in a sensible way, which is with vehicle lifts,” notes Bowers.

Bowers says studies show that there is greatly increased productivity in using a lift.

“That trash truck only makes money when it’s rolling up and down the street picking up trash,” he says. “If the difference between doing a general service is an hour or four hours because the man has to roll around on the floor, that’s a lot of time lost
for picking up trash.

“And a lot of times you have to have DOT inspections. The DOT inspector in most states is not coming in and rolling around on the floor, so if you have to have DOT inspections in your shop for your trash trucks and they’re not up in the air, the DOT inspector will come back on a day when you are up in the air.”

Stertil-Koni recently introduced a full-color touchscreen control console giving the lift operator necessary information, including the number of cycles and the battery charge. It also has an ID to limit access to authorized personnel.

Feldman says the software resides in an illuminated panel, acting as a living platform that can be updated with new enhancements for the technician and manager.

“Most end users want wireless technology,” he adds. “The columns in our one lift are in an encrypted network communicating to each other wirelessly.”

One of the favored lifts for those operations focused on sustainability is the Earthlift. Its columns are made with components that are 98% recyclable. It utilizes biodegradable oil, features batteries that are 100% recyclable, and employs an Active Energy Retrieval System designed to deliver 35% more lifting cycles at maximum load.

Feldman notes that there are safety features in the Skylift focused on ergonomics such as transmission jacks designed to increase uptime and decrease costs and workers’ compensation claims. MSW_bug_web

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