Fuel Truck Evolution: Technology makes diagnostics easier, offers safety and long-term savings

Aug. 8, 2004

Fueling/Line OPS/Safety

Fuel Truck Evolution

Technology makes diagnostics easier, offers safety and long-term savings

By Jodi Richards

August 2004

While not designed specifically with aviation in mind, InternationalTruck & Engine has found a valuable use in the industry for itsDiamond Logic electrical system. The technology allows the engine,instrument panel, and other vehicle components to continuously communicatewith each other electronically. Avfuel Corporation says it’s already realizing the benefits of the diagnostic and safety features of the system and plans on future deployment.

Mark Schumacher, marketing manager of truck electronics for International Truck & Engine, says the foundation technology was introduced in 2001, with customization abilities being rolled out in 2002.

“The whole vehicle is architected using multi-plexing architecture, or what we call the Diamond Logic electrical system,” explains Schumacher. “And with that, everything talks on a common platform, or a common data link; that’s anywhere from the engine to the transmission to the brake system, down to the switches in the cab, and in addition, the body equipment through the remote power module.”

Schumacher explains the system works through an electrical system controller, which serves as a central computer or “traffic cop, which understands what all the major components of the vehicle are doing, what the driver’s currently doing; in addition, it understands the body equipment. They all talk on a common data link, a J1939 data link. So basically the traffic cop is the central computer that makes the decisions and makes sure the truck is operating safely.”

The truck can be diagnosed using onboard or off board diagnostics, says Schumacher. For example, by hitting the right sequence of the cruise control switches inside the steering wheel, the truck will put itself into the onboard diagnostic mode and the driver, on the display inside the cab, can actually see if there’s anything wrong with the vehicle.

For off board diagnostics, a laptop can be hooked up to the truck.

Avfuel’s Application
According to Brian K. Dunt, production supervisor, Avfuel has been using the technology for nearly two years and has it deployed on some 50 trucks. Plans call for the remote power modules to be deployed on all new 2,500-, 3,000-, and 5,000-gallon trucks.

Dunt describes the remote power modules as “a means for us to interface our electrical components to the controlling mechanisms of the truck.”

One of the main benefits, says Dunk, is the ability to diagnose things at a much faster rate. “It will let us know if a particular circuit that we’ve installed is running at an overage or a shortage of voltage or amperage — depending on how we set it up.

“All the controlling mechanisms that we have on the truck run to the remote power module that we have programmed to do certain things. If those things fail to operate, or if they operate incorrectly, [the remote power module] will give us an indicator on the dash.

“It will also give us a code that will be displayed on the bottom portion of the dash. We can then take that code that is flashing and cross reference it with a code book and that will allow us to know that you’ve got this circuit running at an overage or a shortage of current.”

Diamond Logic Builder software allows Avfuel to tailor the performance of each truck to meet the needs of each customer.

He explains, “We can say, this particular customer may not want the switches to work in this fashion. We could then dictate, by rewriting the software — not changing the components on the truck, but just rewriting the software to work in that fashion.

“For example, let’s say that you were pulling the handle to activate the emergency operator handle. We could have it set the brakes, turn on a light so that it indicates that the truck is getting ready to pump, and take the transmission out of the system so that you would no longer be able to shift the truck into any gear with this piece activated.”

Without a system like this, Dunt says one would have to physically trace down the wires, check for shortages, or check to see if there was an overcurrent on the particular circuit.

Dunt says the software is geared toward body builders, or those that add on other manufacturer’s equipment to the chassis, like Avfuel. The software is designed to interface with any additional components, he says, allowing the system to be user-specific.

Adds Schumacher, “When body equipment — like Avfuel equipment — is mounted onto our chassis, there would have to be people who would have to take our electrical system apart, add switches to it, add warning lights, cut into our wiring system, run wires through our cab. With this system (remote power module), all the body builder has to do is make his connections to the connection point, outside our cab. That means he doesn’t have to cut into our electrical system or figure out what wire to cut or which not to cut. He can simply connect his inputs and outputs to this box mounted outside the cab and he can be ready to go.”

While there is an initial investment for each unit, some $400 according to Schumacher, over the long haul, Dunt says that cost is minimal. “You have reduced breakages, reduced down time, so your repair costs are cheaper. Your truck’s in service longer, it’s a simpler diagnosis, and it’s just a lot better than the old system.”

The Next Giant Leap
International is continually working to update the technology and add even more flexibility to the system. The next “giant leap in this technology,” according to Schumacher, is the integration of this technology with International’s telematics solutions.

He explains that telematics is mounted on a truck and monitors a variety of things, including: where the truck is, where it’s been, and where it stopped to do work. It also monitors how the truck is being driven and if there are any problems with the truck, it instantly can report them the moment they happen. Telematics also has the ability to keep track of the service requirements of the truck.

“That information can be transmitted off the truck, real-time, to people managing the fleet of vehicles. So at any given time, they can understand exactly where their trucks are, what they’re doing, what their operating conditions are, and how they’re being driven. They can just pull up a map and instantly know where every truck is and what it’s doing,” says Schumacher.

A pilot program for this technology is currently underway and a full product launch is expected in September.