What gets measured gets managed

Bob Rutherford Headshot
Updated May 17, 2022

What could one do with two identical commercial vehicles that are operating on the identical route, with an identical load, running the same speed at the same time?

What if I told you these vehicles had state-of-the-art telematics enhanced with edge computing, artificial intelligence and machine/deep learning capabilities? What could the trucking industry do in the way or research and development?

The first thing that comes to mind: fuel economy testing.

Instead of suffering through the pain and aggravation of running SAE/TMC Type II, III and IV testing for fuel economy, why not document and develop a SAE/TMC Type V fuel economy recommended practice?

The second thing that gets very little attention: driver health issues.

Trucks are noisy fiberglass igloos, vibrating and bouncing down the highway and exposing drivers to whole-body vibration and who knows what else. Why not measure sound and vibration that is detrimental to a driver's health? I’m sure the tire industry, fan clutch industry and suspension industry can benefit drivers by doing research on these trucks. If you are a member of these industries or other industries that would benefit from this research opportunity, please reach out to me.

The third thing that the trucking industry needs to get into high gear on is predictive maintenance. 

An experiment that is already under discussion is an effort (patent applied for) to monitor the air pressure going to any air-operated fan clutch. The system, powered by Tangerine.AI, compares the line pressure to a library of failure modes stored in the AI and ML database. Anything outside the norm is treated as an alert. Technicians can actually receive troubleshooting help because the database failure mode for a loose solenoid wire is different than an air supply line leak.

The fourth thing the trucking industry needs to get serious about is tires.

Let me tell you a story about tires and the tire industry: about 15 years ago I was approached by a Canadian about helping him market his tire related product to the American fleet market. He was going to be attending a Technology and Maintenance Council meeting and wanted me to commit to letting him buy me dinner one night. I told the gentleman I am an engine guy and an air ride seat guy that is a pro at employing fleet specification sales techniques. I’m not a tire guy and don’t want to be a tire guy, so let’s not waste our time. He wouldn’t give up.

I agreed to have dinner and agreed if his product showed fuel savings at an independent test track, I would take his money and try to help him. After a successful test I became notorious in the trucking industry, then I retired, then I semi-retired, then I became a contributing columnist, but that’s another story for another time.

How to use these trucks for tire testing: fuel economy testing of new designs; wear testing; durability; noise; vibration; predictive maintenance; and tire and wheel end balance.

If your organization would like to consider using these two identical 2023 Western Star trucks, please send me details of your testing needs and I will start the process on a pro bono basis. 

Bob Rutherford is a 50-year veteran of the trucking industry. Thirty of those years were as a member of the TMC where he earned both the Silver Spark Plug and Recognized Associate awards for his contributions to the industry. He currently is an industry advisor to Auburn University’s Transportation Institute working with student engineers on tomorrow’s solutions.