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They say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So, what if you could plan maintenance and parts replacement on need, rather than standard service intervals? The cost benefits are invaluable. Equipment maintenance has a large part of the bottom line of trucking efficiency. Host Seth Clevenger begs the question, what if you could forecast when a component will fail? To help answer these questions, two technology suppliers who are working to streamline maintenance join us in the episode. With expanded data analytics, applying cost-saving approaches can happen industry wide.


Rob Bradenham leads Decisiv’s Commercial Vehicles business, working with major OEMs, Service Providers, Fleets, Managed Care Providers, and other participants to elevate the commercial vehicle service ecosystem. He also leads Decisiv’s Data Services business that is leveraging the unique capability of the Decisiv platform to bring together data from all aspects of an asset throughout its lifecycle.

Josh is the Co-Founder and CEO of Aperia Technologies, Inc. Aperia engineers innovation to make transportation more efficient, safer, and better for the environment. The company’s Halo® Tire Inflator and related products improve fuel economy and road safety while reducing tire expenditures, downtime, and maintenance costs for commercial fleets.

Rob Bradenham

Josh Carter

EP. 3

Brought to you by:

Guest One, Mike Roeth

Episode Transcript

Roadsigns S3E3.mp3

Dan Ronan: From Transport Topics in Washington, D.C., this is RoadSigns. Here is your host Seth Clevenger.

Seth Clevenger:  Thank you for listening to RoadSigns, the podcast series from Transport Topics that explores the trends and technologies that are shaping the future of trucking. In previous episodes we discussed how motor carriers can operate more efficiently through fuel saving technologies, aerodynamics and improved productivity, but equipment maintenance is just as important to the bottom line, of course, as costly when a truck is in the shop for repairs or worse, broken down on the side of the road. But on the other hand, replacing components too soon or performing maintenance when it isn't truly necessary also increases costs. And that's where the concept of predictive maintenance is beginning to capture the imagination of fleets and technology suppliers. What if you could look ahead and accurately forecast when a component will fail? What if you could plan maintenance and parts replacement based on need rather than standard service intervals? Once you begin to understand when maintenance is truly necessary there's a world of opportunity to reduce waste, but are we really approaching that point? And what will it take to make that leap to predictive maintenance? To help answer those questions we're going to bring in two technology suppliers that are working to streamline maintenance in the trucking industry. Later in the program we'll speak with Josh Carter, co-founder and CEO of Aperia Technologies, an automatic tire inflation system provider that recently expanded into data analytics to enable a more predictive approach to tire maintenance. But first, we're excited to welcome Rob Bradenham, senior vice president of commercial vehicles at Decisiv, which provides a technology platform to help manage truck maintenance and repairs. Thanks for joining us, Rob.

Rob: Thanks.

Seth: So at Decisiv you work with dealers and maintenance shops, truck manufacturers and fleets to streamline service and repairs. So I'm curious to hear your thoughts on predictive maintenance. We sometimes hear that this industry is approaching the point where we can begin to predict when a part will actually fail, as opposed to just following service and rules or responding to a fault code or breakdown after the fact. What's your take on that? Is that really becoming a reality or is that still out on the horizon?

Rob: So I think there's a bunch of different flavors of what, you know, predicting a failure actually looks like. We definitely have many of our partners today who are using the telematics data using the fault codes to proactively take action. Are they predicting a certain number of days before a failure? That may be something that's a little bit farther out on the horizon but they are, you know, calling attention to issues before a truck is broken down on the side of the road and then using that to initiate a service event. And, you know, they have better information, better data such that they can initiate that service event in a more thoughtful way.

 Rob: Get the truck to a location that can handle it. That might be more likely to have the part and/or the technician who has the capabilities to do that and then also being able to use that data for accelerated troubleshooting. Right, so before the truck even arrives it has a plug-in tool or the technician is able to inspect it, you know, able to start to narrow down what the potential issue is, what the likely cause is and what might be the corrective actions to take

Rob: The other piece, you know, that we're seeing of course, while it's not necessarily predicting failures. It's being able to have more confidence to be able to extend service intervals, right, for planned maintenance. And so that's kind of taken a few forms, one using data around the duty cycle to be able to optimize those PM frequencies based on what the truck is actually doing, what environment it's operating in, what is the context that you're avoiding unnecessary PMs.

Seth: Sure, and you kind of spinning forward and looking further into the future, do you see the point or do you see the day where predictive maintenance someday replaces mileage-based maintenance cycles? And what would it take to reach that point?

Rob: I think yes and no. Right. I think it depends on, you know, we're getting more data, more history, different players and the ecosystem are accumulating more knowledge around what that data actually means, you're able to draw more correlations, are getting a data set that includes trucks operating in a really wide range of conditions, a wide range of service histories.

Rob: So I think, you know, more and more things will shift to using predictive analytics to drive when maintenance is initiated but there's going to continue to be a tradeoff, right. So there's a cost of additional sensors that might be small but there is a cost. There's a cost of getting that data. There's a cost of analyzing it and then you need a certain level of accuracy or, you know, comfort level to move something from a traditional planned maintenance frequency to predictive.

Seth: Sure. So we've been looking ahead toward the future here a little bit. But let's also take a moment to consider recent history in this industry. We've seen all of the truck OEMs introduce remote diagnostic platforms and last several years. These are platforms that can transmit fault codes and really enable a more proactive stance on maintenance. Those systems have been on the market for several years now. So Rob, in your view how much has remote diagnostics changed this industry so far?

Rob: Yeah, I mean I think it has had a big impact, you know, in pretty big broad terms you get more information to more people faster to hopefully make better decisions and to mitigate the impact of failures even if you're giving that information to somebody after the failure it still might be before the truck has arrived at the shop, before the tow has arrived, before the technician has begun to do any sort of diagnosis. And so you end up being able to have, you know, more centralized management of issues, being able to leverage that historical and enterprise knowledge, you know, in a specific scenario accelerated troubleshooting -- which leads to getting trucks back on the road faster, fixed right the first time by having better knowledge to, you know, you're more likely to do the correct action to begin with.

Seth: One of the latest developments for a remote diagnostics and truck telematics is this ability to perform over-the-air software updates and parameter changes remotely. How much potential do you see for over-the-air updates?

Rob: Yeah, I think it has it has huge potential. Well, I guess the traditional model is that in order for the software to be updated has to go into a service location that takes it out of service -- requires a technician to plug into it, requires expensive time and equipment to do that. So I think that the potential, of course, is being able to reduce downtime, reduce unscheduled visits, to a service location. Of course,  that has to be balanced with risk. Essentially I think it's the number one thing that's kind of keeping it back from being super widely adopted which is the, you know, cybersecurity hacking risk, right. Right. Making sure that things are secure. Making sure that a bad actor can't take advantage of that connection.

Seth: What do you think the OEMs and fleets and technology vendors can do to prevent some of these cybersecurity risks, especially as we start to imagine a world where more and more of these updates are performed remotely over the air. What steps can the industry take to mitigate that?

Rob: That's a good question. You know I think one, they're going to have to look for the best partners they can find. Most likely the technology to ensure that those systems are being protected may not sit in-house. You know they're going to have to learn from other industries. Right. So airplanes, right there, they're connected all the time. And at least that industry has so far done a good job of managing this risk, I think, ever vigilant. Right. You know, the black hat, you know, they're out there and they're going to continue to look for new ways to exploit all the different links in that chain. And so it's not just a “develop something once, call it secure, and be done” to, you know, continuous process.

Seth: Sure, and really everything we're talking about here; remote diagnostics, telematics, and using all this data that we're collecting to build more predictive models. This is all part of a broader trend toward the internet of things and really the proliferation of onboard sensors and smart devices. We see those across the world and very much so in our industry as well. And of course that means more data is going to be available. But the challenge with big data is being able to manage and actually utilize it to make better business decisions. What's your thought on that, Rob? What's the industry going to have to do to actually harness all this information and put it to use?

Rob: Yeah, I think the big thing is you know find the right partners to be able to take on specific pieces of that data value chain, if you will. Right. So the right partners to help with data acquisition in a secure economical, scalable way. The right partners to help with aggregating data, the right partners to help with analyzing data, the right partners to help with taking that output from the analysis and translating it into action and putting it into the management systems all the different stakeholders are using. In short, it's going to take an ecosystem approach for everybody to maximize the value and ensure that that data translates to its fullest potential value possible.

Seth: And speaking of partnerships, how much more potential do you see for closer collaboration between all the players in the industry -- the vehicle OEMs, the truck dealers, the fleets as well as the technology vendors really to further streamline equipment maintenance? How much tighter can they work together?

Rob: Well I think the industry has made a lot of strides or many players in it have made a lot of strides to recognize the fact that servicing a truck requires a bunch of different parties to engage in ideally a seamless digital process to make that happen efficiently. And so, you know, many players have made investments in technology platforms that enable integration, that enable expansion future proofing. And I think it's going to be this mindset of enabling and an ecosystem, enabling new partners, new technology partners, to contribute to that ecosystem. And that's going to require sharing of data, easier integrations. Yeah. And kind of an open mindset.

Seth: Sure. Now before we let you go I do want to ask you to share your thoughts about you know the future of this industry, in particular truck maintenance. How do you think commercial vehicle maintenance will evolve in the coming years as we look ahead, say, a decade down the line?

Rob: Yes, there's obviously a bunch of trends that are impacting the commercial vehicle industry right now. You have autonomous driving. You have electrification. You have augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence. Even things like 3D printing will have an impact potentially on parts supply chains and things like that. You know, it's a movement toward more digitization, more data that needs analytics. It needs systems to talk to each other in order for that data to translate into action and to value. You know I think if I were to look ahead, I would see an ecosystem that's more connected where there are no more partners sharing data contributing to that data value stream. And I would see more information in the hands of technicians and service advisers and fleet maintenance managers and then all that I'd see more engagement by manufacturers and not just the OEMs – the Volvos and Paccars of the world but even major components suppliers and them being able to get more data back, have more visibility into the full life cycle of the asset. I think you'll probably see more risk sharing. Right. You'll see fleets saying I don't want to own the risk of maintenance, right. I want my partners, I want my OEM partner, I want my component supplier partners. I want my service networks to, you know, jointly own that, right. And in order for that to happen you really need to have good data across that whole ecosystem be shared to such that those risks and can be understood. I think in general is that connected ecosystem that's able to share data and, you know, drive efficiency and get vehicles back in service faster.

Seth: It'll certainly be fun to watch all this evolve in the years ahead. This has been great food for thought but I think that's a good place to leave it. Thanks again for joining us, Rob.

Rob: Thanks.

Seth: Next on RoadSigns we're excited to welcome Josh Carter, co-founder and CEO of Aperia Technologies, provider of the Halo automatic tire inflation system. Thanks for joining the show. So when we discuss onboard technology for modern trucks, you know, we tend to think about what's in the cab or under the hood. But there's also a lot happening with tires these days as well. So Josh, could you briefly explain how the Halo tire Inflator works for the benefit of those who aren't familiar with the system?

Josh: Absolutely. The Halo’s an active tire pressure inflation system. It actually uses the rotation of a wheel to pump air into a low tire. We like to describe it kind of like a hub-odometer or self-winding watch that can bolt onto a wheel end in five minutes and inflate your tires on the go.

Seth: So this is really kind of a different approach to some of the more traditional approaches to automatically inflating tires. And in this case is a system that can work both on a trailer and tractor tires.

Josh: Exactly.

Seth: So earlier this year Aperia expanded into data analytics with Halo Connect and that's really designed to enable a more predictive approach to tire maintenance. Josh, could you give us an overview of that system and tell us how it can help fleet address potential tire problems before they actually occur?

Josh: Certainly, you know, we like to think about the problem of tire and/or inflation in a pretty broad sense. And an underinflated tire affects your fuel economy and, you know, erodes the casing life and can shorten entire life overall.

But it also affects the maintenance practices and the efficiency of the asset utilization and uptime. You know, that really is a pretty critical problem to all of the operations of the fleet. So we came to market with the Halo to solve the core need, which is managing the air pressure. But even a healthy, well-maintained tire can have issues, leaks and various forms of tire failure. And so we've been putting data acquisition systems into the field and collecting data for, you know, well over half a decade and over a billion miles, and we've leveraged that data to train some algorithms. The Halo Connect as a platform that brings some smarts to be paired with the power of the Halo and actually allows you to not only confirm that the Halo is doing its job and maintaining tire pressure of your healthy tires but helpful to spot any tires that could benefit from maintenance. What it does is allows you to get ahead of those issues rather than finding them when they're presenting as a critical failure on the side of the road. So we can serve up a list, short list of tires instead of telling you a bunch of alerts on tires that are slightly underinflated. The Halo solves all of that and we can really focus your effort in with a fewer number of alerts and get you to focus on the tires that actually need service but also be able to do so well ahead of them needing, you know, critical service on the side of the road.

Seth: Sure, and you can kind of look at this as part of a, I guess a broader trend in the trucking industry where over the last several years we really have seen a significant trend toward capturing and analyzing vehicle data as a way to reduce downtime and maintenance costs. You know, just one of the biggest examples, of course, is in all the truck manufacturers, engine makers have introduced some form of remote diagnostics platform that provides fault code data remotely, but the focus in that case has been primarily on the powertrain. So in a serious case you're now providing a similar service for tires. So how much opportunity you still see out there to apply predictive maintenance to other components of the vehicle?

Josh: Yeah, I think we're just scratching the surface. I mean if you think about our industry, if you think about a truck as an asset and you think about maintaining that asset the vast majority of what we do is still time- or mileage-based meaning, you know, maintenance is performed on some predefined interval. And the reality is that each component on each vehicle will wear and perform differently based on the really, the very unique specific conditions of its exact use case and its exact environment. So a time- or mileage-based interval effectively guarantees that you're going to do maintenance too early or too late. You know, we like to think about a shift toward need-based maintenance and if we can do that will continue driving efficiency when we think about efficiency, we think about the vehicle, its uptime, its cost per mile. I also think we'll help fleets achieve better efficiency and something slightly less obvious, which is its people -- fleet personnel across the entire organization can become more efficient as well. With this trend and so, you know, we're obviously quite bullish on it and we think tires is a really important place to achieve progress and fortunately, it's entirely possible

Seth: We'll watch this evolve in the years ahead. This is certainly an interesting trend that we've been watching and as you said there's a lot of room to grow, and a lot of room for this to expand. The internet of things, of course, is something a little of a buzz phrase but it's been a popular topic in technology circles over the past several years. When you look at trucking it's really not new. I mean, there's been forms of telematics systems and ELDs and trailer tracking for a long time now. That being said there's still a lot of opportunity for that to expand with more onboard sensors and really more sophisticated data analysis to better use the information that's already being collected. Josh, you're in the middle of this. What do you think is the next step for IOT and trucking? Where's this going?

Josh: I think it's going to continue to increase. I'll tell you what I think, what I hope the next step is.

I hope really in many ways for our customers’ sake. The next big step is that we as suppliers start working together, better. It's really not good for us. It's certainly not good for our customers that each and every new innovation requires another cell signal of some kind. It's not uncommon that, you know, as innovations come in there's, you know, some consolidation and some platforms created that can, you know, enable us all to work together, more efficiently. But I still think there's a big opportunity there. Obviously, you know, industry circles and industry events and groups are working on this vigorously. So, I'm quite optimistic. You know, open platforms are in development but we've been, I think we've got quite a long way to go in getting to a place where everyone's working together seamlessly and at the end of day maximizing just the cost of effectiveness for our fleet customers to be able to access these really helpful technologies that can really change, fundamentally change the way that they manage their operations and where they focus their, know their important kind of human capital and human time and focus.

Seth: Sure. And I want to circle back to the topic of fuel economy because that's been one of the recurring themes in this season of RoadSigns -- everything from aerodynamics to just more efficient freight operations and as you know, of course, tires are a big part of that. You know there are so many variables that go into fuel economy and entire pressure is one key part of that equation. Josh what's your sense of how important and how much of an impact tire maintenance can have on the fleets’ overall fuel efficiency?

Josh: Yeah, you know, like I'm sure all your guests explain it really does depend on the fleet-specific operations but we have customers who see greater than 3% increase in fuel economy when they deploy the Halo and are able to achieve, you know, consistent tire pressure and in turn, you know, optimize the rolling resistance on their vehicles. You know, on average I'd say we say see about 2%. What's easy to overlook I think when it comes to tires is, you know, we increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the maintenance program that not only delivers a reward on your fuel efficiency but also, you know, think about the tread life north of you know 15, 20, upwards of 25% extension of tread life and, of course, meaningfully reducing, you know, blowouts and unplanned vehicle downtime as well. So I think in the world of tires there's a kind of a trifecta of benefit across, you know, the safety and uptime across the tire expense itself. And, of course, you know as you said central to a lot of fleets focus on driving innovation is the fuel economy.

Seth: I don't want to let you go Josh before we talk a little bit about the origin of Aperia, you know, is still a relatively new company in this industry but I think it's an interesting story. You know I guess it goes back to your days of Stanford and this was an idea that kind of blossomed from there. Can you give us a quick overview of how this company really came about and why you decided to really target trucking as the market?

Josh: You know, I think we, you know, my co-founder in the business Brandon Richardson came out of the automotive industry and loved solving problems that affect vehicles and vehicle efficiency and safety and, you know, the fun, good old story is Brandon got a flat tire and his passenger vehicle he was driving around in grad school doing his graduate studies at Stanford and he had a low tire that he, you know, we're all guilty of this. I think I said, ‘Hey I'll get to it next week, I'll get to it next week,’ and sure enough led to a flat. And that was a lightbulb moment for him to say, ‘Gee, can't we somehow tap into the rotation of a wheel to power a pump?’ We spent some time working on some pretty crazy ideas and in the process really researching that problem and we're really quickly drawn toward the need and the impact potential in commercial vehicle segment, you know, when you're driving 100,000 miles you're getting six and a half miles per gallon. Your tires cost five hundred bucks a pop. There's a huge opportunity. And you know we've got out into the field, you know, first few years when I first got, you know, plugged into the industry. You know, we were going to trade shows long before we ever took out a trade show booth. We were just so thrilled and appreciative of how everyone from the fleet side to other suppliers, really the entire industry, an ecosystem, was so open and willing to teach and share learnings and that was what fueled our ability to come in and deliver, you know, a pretty clever little product that, you know, that can install quickly, it doesn't need a bunch of maintenance on its own and ultimately it can actually perform and solve the problem we're tackling.

Seth: Well thanks for sharing that. And it's been fun to see the company. Guess I remember, you know, sort of the initial launch. And we've seen it, of course you gain some momentum and it's interesting to see new products at the market with, you know, solving some of these longtime challenges and issues that the industry faces. Before we wrap up here, Josh, we'd like to get any final thoughts you may have on the future of truck and tire maintenance. How do you see the industry evolving from where we are now say over the next 10 years or so?

Josh: Yeah. You know, as it relates to tire maintenance, you know, our vision is that, you know, fleet personnel, their time is extremely precious and we believe there are much more important things they can and should be able to put their brainpower on and focus on to drive efficiencies in their business and ensure that their drivers are actually out on the road, can get home as quickly as possible, can deliver the load and keep their customers as happy as possible and, of course, operate as safely as they can. So, you know, having to put out fires constantly and just try to cast a wide net of manual service to go touch tires and try to stay on top of tire issues. Any tire program is reactionary and, you know, we have the technology, the technology exists to shift a fleet and its maintenance program around tires toward being proactive and even predictive. And that's what the Halo Connect platform -- that kind of one plus one is three, the Halo does its job. It eliminates tire underinflation and delivers significant value but then put the analytics suite on top to actually be able to go and help the fleet focus its time. If you can wake up and have a short list of which tires need attention and we can go and tell you how urgent they are. So it's actually prioritized this tire really should get attention within the day, these next few issues we fortunately are maintaining and deferring the need but they really should get service at the next PM. So please don't, you know, make sure you don't miss the opportunity to figure out what's going on with that tire and the rest of these are doing just fine -- helping fleets, you know, work through their tire issues quickly can get them back to doing what's most important. That's our goal is to eliminate how much time and effort and energy is required and significantly increase the efficacy and efficiency of tire programming. And, you know, it's well within our collective ability to do that. The industry should ask for that and demand it from the suppliers and from the industry and we're pleased to be a part of that solution.

Seth: All right, well, we'll certainly watch as all of this continues to develop and I do think that's a good place to leave it. Thanks again, Josh, for joining the program and sharing your insights with us.

Josh: Always fun to chat, Seth, really appreciate it.

Seth: Before we wrap up let's revisit our original question of whether predictive maintenance is truly on the horizon and what it will take to get there. As we've heard from our guests the use of telematics and data analytics are already enabling more intelligent maintenance of everything from engine aftertreatment systems to tires in the years ahead as the internet of things continues to expand and onboard sensors collect more and more data about various components. This industry will continue to develop new ways of analyzing that information and that in turn will lead to smarter maintenance practices and less waste. Maybe that's not quite the same as looking into a crystal ball to predict the future, but as a safe bet the fleets and their suppliers will move closer to need-based service and parts replacement that will further streamline truck maintenance. This is the final episode of Season 3 of RoadSigns. Then stay tuned for Season 4, which is right around the corner. Until then, I'm Seth Clevenger. Thank you for listening.

Guest One, Mike Roeth