Of late, connected cars—these have an inbuilt eSIM and are capable of over-the-air software updates—are getting popular, but a connected truck has been around for a while, and in some aspects it’s more advanced than a connected car. “Trucks are for business use, for which productivity and timelines are very important. These can be ensured if a truck is connected,” said Vinod Aggarwal, the MD & CEO of VE Commercial Vehicles (VECV).
All commercial vehicle (CV) manufacturers offer some or the other kind of connectivity solutions.
The company has been offering a telematics solution called Fleetman on its vehicles since 2014. It has about 2 lakh M&HCVs plying on Indian roads with factory-fitted telematics units, providing features such as track & trace, driver behaviour monitoring and geo-fencing. Earlier, connectivity in CVs was achieved through external SIM cards. But the new generation of Tata trucks get the eUICC (embedded SIM), and this technology is called the Fleet Edge.
Girish Wagh, president, Commercial Vehicles Business Unit, Tata Motors, said that a connected truck can significantly reduce total cost of ownership (TCO). “The data generated by a connected truck helps improve asset utilisation, as well as tracking consignments and deliveries, asset health monitoring, driving behaviour, fuel-efficiency reporting, fuel-level monitoring, etc,” Wagh said. Tata Motors offers Fleet Edge as a standard in all its M&HCVs, and select smaller CVs.
Aggarwal of VECV listed four advantages of a connected truck. These are track & trace (remotely access the route, places where the truck halted, how long the halt was, etc), vehicle-centric services (fuel-efficiency data, detection of fuel pilferage, etc), driver performance, and uptime services. “We recently inaugurated India’s first uptime centre at Pithampur in Madhya Pradesh. It provides 24×7 service support and remote diagnostics to operators, as well as predictive maintenance data and diagnostic-related advice,” Aggarwal said. “Data points can even tell us how a vehicle is likely to perform in the future.”
VECV’s connected trucks, which fall under the Eicher Live umbrella, are fitted with an eSIM provided by Vodafone, but with a number portability feature. If, let’s say, the CV is being driven in an area where Vodafone network is not available, data from another telecom provider can be accessed. In the company’s heavy duty trucks, the connectivity solutions provider is AT&T. While VECV has been offering telematics as a standard on all its trucks and buses since August 2020, technology services come at a cost; in case of VECV the subscription is Rs 4,000-5,000 per year, which is currently being offered for free for two years.
Ashok Leyland’s connected vehicle technology is called iAlert, and last month it launched new digital solutions under the ‘Digital Nxt’ platform. These include iAlert 3.0, an uptime solution centre, and AL Care (an app). Vipin Sondhi, MD & CEO, Ashok Leyland, said that using digital solutions has led to operators achieving significant cost savings. “On an average, we have facilitated 15% overall savings, which includes 5-10% of fuel savings and 15% improvement on fleet utilisation,” he said.
Ashok Leyland was the first OEM to provide a connected vehicle solution (iAlert) as a standard on every M&HCV (since 2017). iAlert, Sondhi added, lets operators optimise their order book based on vehicle availability and vehicle uptime. The company’s connected digital platform monitors more than 4 crore km of vehicle run and 10 lakh hours of engine running every day. Today, more than 60,000 customers owning over 1.5 lakh vehicles use iAlert. The company added that a lot of stolen vehicles have also been recovered using iAlert.
Volvo Group India
Kamal Bali, the president & MD of Volvo Group India, said that two years down the line telematics will become one of the most essential aspects of a truck. “All Volvo trucks are telematics-ready; the hardware is there which can be activated with a subscription,” Bali said. Volvo’s solution is called Volvo Live. “From fleet management services to driver support, and from vehicle health data to vehicle usage patterns, everything can be accessed in real time,” he added.
Not all customers, however, readily graduate to such solutions. “When the driver or the owner get fact-based information, and when they see that TCO can actually be reduced by employing telematics, that is when they start opening up to the idea,” Bali said.
Daimler India Commercial Vehicles, which sells trucks and buses under the Fuso and BharatBenz brands, has the connectivity tech called Truckonnect, a telematics solution based on Daimler’s global platform. Rajaram Krishnamurthy, vice-president, Marketing, Sales & Customer Service at DICV, said that Truckonnect is a standard fitment for BharatBenz trucks. “Truckonnect allows customers to remotely check and analyse vital vehicle information in real-time via an online portal, including vehicle location and health, plus fuel consumption. Fleet managers can optimise driver performance, increase fuel efficiency, and reduce downtime,” Krishnamurthy said. “Truckonnect is well received amongst fleet managers who are seeing a sharp rise in efficiency, which leads to better profits. It can tell a fleet operator about their trucks even a thousand miles away.” The company’s connectivity solution for buses is called BusConnect, which is available for passengers as well as for fleet operators.
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