A Guide to Trucking Predictive Maintenance (Part 1)

predictive maintenance

It’s often said that prevention is the best medicine — but for truck drivers, it might be prediction. Predictive maintenance, more specifically, is one of the best tools a trucking company has for keeping its fleet in order, streamlining operations, and ensuring driver safety. The term refers to the practice of proactively using analytics to anticipate when maintenance is needed. This method aims to prevent breakdowns and minimize expenses through the strategic use of data. How often should you do a PM on a semi truck, though — and how do you do predictive maintenance in a way that’s efficient and effective? Read on to better understand predictive maintenance and how it can help you.

What Data Does Predictive Maintenance Use?

Predictive maintenance is primarily differentiated from typical maintenance by its use of data. Rather than simply performing repairs after a problem occurs, predictive maintenance allows drivers to leverage data to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. This is useful for preventing truck insurance claims and maximizing truck uptime. What information, though, is used in this process?

User-Reported Data

Though semi-trucks contain incredibly sophisticated systems, some of the most valuable data still comes directly from drivers. Any note made in a driver’s log about the condition, maintenance, or performance of the truck can be a useful piece of information when developing a predictive maintenance routine. Truckers may report such useful details as the following:

  • Condition of the engine
  • Overall gas mileage
  • Environmental concerns
  • Potential safety issues

Information like this can be an invaluable resource when developing a predictive maintenance plan because it provides real data from the driver’s experience. It can also offer context for data that may come from automated readings.

Sensors Contained in Truck

Semi-trucks contain computers that are connected to dozens of sensors constantly collecting data on various aspects of the vehicle’s operation. There are more than 70 sensors in a typical car, and semi-trucks have even more complex computers, so these tiny devices are responsible for collecting a wealth of data. Some of the most important types of sensors in a semi-truck include the following:

  • Engine oil level
  • Coolant temperature
  • Intake air temperature
  • Oxygen level
  • Throttle position

Each of these sensors provides vital information about the exact functions of the truck’s engine at any given moment. This data helps create accurate models for predictive maintenance plans.

How Does Predictive Maintenance Benefit Drivers?

Predictive maintenance is a promising innovation, but perhaps you’re not exactly sure how it benefits you. There are, in fact, many benefits that truck drivers can enjoy thanks to the efficacy of a predictive maintenance routine.

Avoid Unexpected Downtime

Any long-haul truck driver can tell you that unexpected downtime is one of the biggest threats to their profits. While you’re on the side of the road, trying to identify the cause of a breakdown, you’re losing precious mileage and minutes. Predictive maintenance is a powerful tool because it allows truck drivers to schedule downtime according to their schedule. Performing proactive maintenance helps to prevent wasted time so you can stay on track.

Understand Your Truck Better

Knowledge is power. Predictive maintenance is also beneficial because it helps drivers better understand their trucks. No matter how experienced a driver may be, there’s no substitute for the advantage of raw data, and that’s exactly what predictive maintenance provides. Rather than relying on intuition or visual interpretation, you can consult information that’s based on real-time analytics, thus helping you better understand your truck and its needs.

Make Fleet More Efficient

Unscheduled downtime isn’t just inconvenient for drivers. For trucking companies, downtime is a potential threat to business. When trucks are out of commission, drivers may not meet deadlines, and this can jeopardize relationships with clients. Predictive maintenance helps drivers and their companies avoid this problem while making the entire fleet more efficient. With all trucks on a predictive maintenance schedule, time is optimized and downtime is minimized.

How Do I Perform Predictive Maintenance?

Now that you understand what predictive maintenance is and why it’s beneficial, the question remains — how do I perform predictive maintenance? Learning to do so is a great way to prevent avoidable mechanical failures and other problems that may affect truck insurance rates. Implementing a predictive maintenance routine is a two-step process.

Find the Right Software

Most predictive maintenance programs are generated by proprietary software that connects to a truck fleet and its computers. There are many software options on the market that provide this service and help turn data into better maintenance practices. To find the best one, you should research the various options and consider which is best suited to your fleet’s needs and specifications. Consider factors such as the following:

  • How many vehicles can be monitored
  • Whether cost is monthly, annual, or one-time
  • Reviews and feedback from prior users
  • Compatibility with your semi-truck models

These factors can help you find the best predictive maintenance software for your fleet.

Install the Necessary Equipment

Once you’ve identified the predictive maintenance software that’s the best match for your truck fleet, you will likely need to install some additional equipment. The software may require the installation of additional sensors or a dongle that attaches to your truck’s ODB port. Be sure to place all required devices in your truck correctly so that the predictive maintenance software can accurately collect and configure data from your fleet. Once this has been done, the software will recommend scheduled maintenance events to prevent truck issues.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes. Contact us today at (800) 937-8785 to learn more!