A VST May Be Worth As Much As an MBA

Updated Sep 4, 2014

The Internet, mobile everything, sensors down to torque on key nuts and bolts, GPS, smartphones, electronic vehicle and driver tracking, social media, miniature electronics, instantaneous vehicle condition data transfers, RFID, remote diagnostics … these e-updates combine to fundamentally change the way trucks and fleets operate.

Three recent CCJ stories I ran across in one week make the case:

ZF showed off a wide array of new systems in Germany this week, but the highlights, however, have to be an all-new dual-clutch automated manual transmission and the new Smart Truck Maneuvering System.

Speculation about autonomous, or “driverless,” vehicles has been commonplace in the trucking industry for years. Now, Daimler has made this concept a reality.

Meritor says it is working on an electronic control system that will dramatically enhance gear efficiency inside its truck axles.

Jack Roberts (executive editor for CCJ and equipment editor of Truck Parts & Service) recently wrote an excellent column in the current issue of CCJ. (See page 23 for the article.)

In it, Jack (fresh from a European tech press trip) speculates about the probability off spectacular change in the heavy duty business due to the computerization of almost every truck operating system. His future vision is great reading.

He minces no words in summing up the conundrum both OEMs and the independent parts and service industries face.

“Our industry — on both the fleet side and OEM side — has got to start proactively dealing with a technician shortage that is only going to get worse as this technology enters production and becomes commonplace.”

He proposes a great step forward in technician utilization — establishing a new type of technician certification and recognition: Vehicle Software Technician. This actually will be just as applicable in passenger cars and ag/construction equipment. Certainly, first rate training organizations like UTI and WyoTech have plans to develop curriculum, as should suppliers of these systems to OEMs.

“As trucks transform into computer-controlled rolling robots, we’re going to need specialists who can analyze, troubleshoot and repair the myriad of onboard electronics that are essential for uptime,” continues Roberts. “In any event, it seems likely to that as vehicles grow more complex, it may make sense to establish specialty tracks for technicians: The concept of a guy working on an engine one minute, putting brake shoes on the next and installing a fifth wheel after that may be archaic and hurting shop productivity.”

Anybody not get this?

Bill Wade is a partner at Wade & Partners and a heavy-duty aftermarket veteran. He is the author of Aftermarket Innovations. He can be reached at bwade@wade-partners.com.

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