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Electrification of Heavy-Duty Trucks and Trailers Causing Maintenance Issues for Technicians

Learn about what maintenance issues technicians are having from electrification.

Episode 168: Commercial trucks and trailers are being electrified and the technology is rapidly changing. What maintenance issues are technicians having?

My guest today is Randy Obermeyer, the Vice President of Safety and Maintenance at Online Transport Inc.  

Headshot of Randy Obermeyer, and TMC Logo. In this episode, learn about what maintenance issues technicians are having from electrification.

Randy serves as the Vice Chairman and Chairman of Meetings and will become the General Chairman and Treasurer on Wednesday evening, March 9th at TMC.

Guest Website: TMC.Trucking.org

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile.

Commercial trucks and trailers are being electrified and the technology is rapidly changing. What maintenance issues are technicians having? My guest today is Randy Obermeyer the Vice President of Safety and Maintenance at Online Transport Inc. Randy serves the Vice Chairman and Chairman of Meetings and will become the General Chairman and Treasurer on Wednesday evening, March 9th at TMC. Randy, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. We’re so glad to have you here.

Randy Obermeyer:

Thank you for having me.

Jamie Irvine:

So we’re at TMC, we’re in Orlando, we’re at the annual meeting and electrification is the big theme. I was wondering, why did TMC feel that it was appropriate to have this as the theme for this annual meeting?

Randy Obermeyer:

It’s an emerging trend, it’s an emerging technology that’s coming out. So we thought it would be good to get it in front of everyone. So with electrification, you don’t really have time to mess around. If you’re wanting to get into electrified vehicles, you have to start right away. So, you know, everything takes so much time, from the infrastructure for the charging stations and then the shop layouts and technician training. It all takes a lot of time to develop and really must be carefully considered. So we wanna make sure that everyone has that in front of them so that they can get a good head start on that.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. And talking about training for technicians, diagnostics has become such an important part of the training process and technicians have a whole new skill set that needs to be developed with diagnosing some of the more complex electrical systems. This is only going to continue as the whole industry becomes electrified.

Randy Obermeyer:

Absolutely. Right. So now if we misdiagnose something or we replace the part because we didn’t find either the root cause or the exact problem, we may be spending a couple thousand dollars extra, but if you go into the electrified world, you could be replacing components that are $10,000. So we really have to make sure that we’re doing a good job diagnosing and finding root causes so that we don’t have repeated failure. So if you have something going on upstream, it causes a very high dollar part to go out and you don’t find that you replace the part. And then two weeks later, you end up with the same high dollar part messed up again, because we didn’t get to the root cause.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. And with root causes, when we think of a commercial truck and trailer, I mean, it’s always been a complete system, but some of those different systems have kind of worked almost in silos and now trucks are becoming more and more integrated all the time. Is that why trying to get to the root cause of the problem is even more important today than it ever has been before?

Randy Obermeyer:

Yeah, absolutely. And properly diagnosing is critical with that too, because a lot of components will act goofy when another component is bad because of the multiplexing that goes on, they’re using some of the same wires for multiple parts of the vehicle. So with that multiplexing, if you have one control module, that’s got a fault in it, it could cause problems with the other one. So you could end up a situation where they put a part on, it’s not even bad.

Jamie Irvine:

The shotgun approach when parts is starting to cost thousands and thousands of dollars, just isn’t gonna fly as we’re trying to lower total cost of operation, not drive it up. I think that’s one of the things I like about the, the TMC events, because it really gives people no matter where they are in the industry, an opportunity to come together and learn. And that has been certainly how I benefited. I was saying earlier that every time I start to think I know something about this industry, you come to TMC and you’re humbled pretty quick.

Randy Obermeyer:

Absolutely. Yes, for sure.

Jamie Irvine:

So we’re just gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back.

Jamie Irvine:

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We’re back from our break. Before the break, we were talking about how important it is for diagnostics for getting to the root cause of problems. And I was wondering when we’re at the TMC Annual Meeting, we think of the Technology Maintenance Council and what it does, there’s so much going on and so much to see. What’s your favorite part of the show?

Randy Obermeyer:

You know, at the end of the day, to me, it’s networking. And I would say, you know, prior to me becoming really active with TMC, I came here to try to learn something, what can I take back to my company to make it more profitable, save on expenses. And what I’ve really learned after, you know, four or five years of coming to TMC that I wanted to give back. There’s so many good people in this organization that give. Peggy Fisher’s one of them, she’s leaving us after this meeting. And she’s given so much to this industry, so much to TMC over the years. And when she leaves somebody has to fill that void. So I really like giving back, taking what I’ve learned and sharing that with people. It’s still important to come to learn and take stuff back with you. But I think it’s even more important to share with others what I’ve picked up from TMC.

Jamie Irvine:

Collaboration is the theme of one of the meetings here just yesterday. And when I think about individual members, why should someone, regardless of where they work in the trucking industry, why should they consider becoming a member?

Randy Obermeyer:

Well, there’s just so many opportunities with TMC, the learning that you talked about, there’s so many different study groups, from the management sessions to the tire and wheel study group, to the technician training, you know, there’s so much there. It’s a very broad range of ideas and learning that you can get from TMC. You never know when you might need to reach out to somebody, if you’re in a finance world, or if you’re in the safety world to reach out to somebody that’s an expert in tire and wheel, just like we had the trial downstairs a few minutes ago. You know, reaching out to somebody that’s an expert in that part of the industry can help you maybe win a lawsuit. So I think it’s really important to expand and meet people in all areas of the company.

Jamie Irvine:

You’re referring to the mock trial that was set up as an exercise to help people learn. So just for people who know, there are so many different kinds of meetings that happen here and there’s so many opportunities. So I think you should become a member. I’m glad that you were able to spend some time with us today. Maybe just as our way of concluding our conversation today, what’s just one thing you want people to remember?

Randy Obermeyer:

Get involved. Absolutely get involved. The rewards are so much greater when you get involved. I’ve learned that from my own attendance here at TMC.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. We’ve been speaking with Randy Obermeyer, Vice President of Safety and Maintenance at Online Transport Inc. To learn more about TMC, visit tmc.trucking.org, links are in the show notes. Randy, thanks so much for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Randy Obermeyer:

Thank you for asking me. Appreciate it.

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