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Calling All Tires

REACH will help the communication between customers and compagnies. Photo: Shutterstock

Today’s truck owners are turning to advanced technologies in order to limit downtime and improve safety.

One of the major challenges facing commercial vehicle owners is the need to monitor the health of their tires. The bigger the fleet, the more tires they need to keep track of, and the more chances that a tire could fail prematurely without any apparent warning.

To remove the blind spot from this equation, commercial truck owners are turning to technologies that help them monitor all the tires on all their vehicles, with the goal of providing an early warning should a tire be about to fail.

Goodyear’s TPMS PLUS program, for example, actively monitors tire pressure, tire temperature and GPS location. Data is sent to the cloud, and management gets real-time alerts whenever a tire has a leak or is reaching a high temperature. This constant real-time monitoring allows commercial fleets to proactively manage potential issues before breakdowns occur.

The same technology can also be used to detect the theft of wheels and tires, while providing GPS asset tracking.

IntelliTire is a subscription based, automated tire management module based on in-yard and on-road TPMS. It offers automated pressure and temperature alerts, as well as asset tracking based on RFID and/or QR codes. The solution is designed to help truck fleets reduce their tire-related costs and improve efficiency.

This technology is designed around in-yard monitoring. The system uses sensors attached to each wheel, along with an in-yard router. IntelliTire monitors the pressure and the temperature of each tire. Traditionally, fleets relied on either technicians or the driver to check the tires regularly. With this technology, human dependence, and human error, is eliminated because the system monitors all the tires automatically.

Beyond monitoring

While monitoring tires and alerting management to possible problems before they happen is valuable in and of itself, some technologies are reaching out to go beyond the basics.

Bridgestone has partnered with a small start-up aptly called REACH. This is a brand agnostic (it will work with any brand tires, not just Bridgestone) driver productivity platform used by both truck fleets and truck service providers.

Designed to centralize communication, the REACH platform utilizes a web portal and/or smart devices to connect commercial fleets directly to service providers across Canada for over-the-road and local service needs.

The platform speeds service delivery by reducing and/or eliminating the need for phones calls. “A lot of dealers may still operate on a notepad or sticky notes basis,” explains James Greer, Director of Business Development, TBR, Bridgestone Americas. “They get a phone call coming in from a fleet. They take down a note and hand it off to a technician, and the technician goes out.”

Greer explains that when a truck breaks down, the driver normally calls central dispatch, or his local terminal. “With REACH, you can still have the phone call, but what we want to do is increase the speed with which the service is delivered,” he adds. “There’s a mobile application for REACH, so the driver can simply log in, answer a few questions, and push ‘submit.’”

The request for help is then sent to the fleet’s dashboard in REACH, and when they get it, they can search for nearby service providers, see the location of the broken-down truck, and even communicate with the driver via a chat function without the need to make a phone call.

REACH allows management to reach out to nearby vendors to get the truck the service it needs as quickly as possible. REACH shows how far the truck is to nearby tire dealers and service providers, and indicates which products and brands each one carries.

“If they’re a participating provider, which means they’re signed up with REACH too, then the fleet can literally hit one button and dispatch the whole breakdown to them without a phone call or anything else,” Greer explains.

REACH has a growing network of service providers in the USA and Canada, and the system can connect commercial truck drivers with service providers that will care for their tire needs, as well as address mechanical issues when a breakdown occurs.

Future developments

Currently, REACH is able to save drivers and management a lot of time. “We’re seeing a drastic drop in time-to-dispatch,” Greer adds. “Before REACH the software we were using within our own internal call centre to manage events and breakdowns – we were trailing upwards of  30 to 40 minutes to handle each event, and dispatched out to a dealer. With REACH we’re now down to less than seven minutes.”

In the future, however, these same technologies will be able to determine which nearby vendor has the specific tire or specific part needed to get a commercial client back on the road. “We’re working on being able to identify inventory in stock,” Greer says. “That kind of integration should be available later this year, or early next year. We don’t want a fleet to dispatch to a dealer if they don’t have what that customer needs.”

Expect to see commercial tire manufacturers and their vendors offering technologies like this in the near future. It’s no longer enough for tire companies to compete on “best in class” tire products. Today’s commercial fleet managers expect digital solutions and advanced technologies that will help them monitor their trucks, and keep an eye on their tires in order to avoid costly breakdowns before they happen, as well as get their trucks back on the road as quickly as possible when unforeseen breakdowns occur.

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