Vice president of maintenance
National Express Transit Services
This is likely the most exciting time to be a fleet technician assigned to a fleet of transit vehicles.
Tools available today include analyzers capable of running hands-off algorithms that test the status of electrical systems, engine control computers, transmission control modules, smart HVAC parameters and “intelligent bus” type devices displaying results directly to maintenance technicians along with specific repair recommendations. Operating parameters for engines, transmissions and HVAC systems can be monitored on many transit vehicles by the technician in the shop while the vehicle is in route service.
Some manufacturers are developing buses that can email or text a message to a technician with real-time information when monitored systems fall out of set parameters.
Never before have buses been built with such integration allowing major control systems on the bus to communicate with each other with results available to a wide variety of smart devices.
Even with all the tools and technology available for diagnosing mechanical problems, the best use of technology is to enhance the training, skill and experience of National Express’ highly skilled technicians.
At National Express we are embracing training and education technologies to get the information our technicians need into their brains. Use of computer technology has recently allowed our technicians to link to on-demand training and certification programs for critical bus systems without the technician ever leaving our facility. Dealer level training programs are available online that help develop the confidence National Express technicians need to maintain today’s transit vehicles. Certification tests completed online allow our technicians to demonstrate their professional competence.
The National Express commitment to technology allows an expert technician in one location to share that expertise through a WebEx seminar with the team at many locations. The use of tablet-type communication devices equipped with cameras allows technicians to go “under the bus” and share real-time pictures and conversations with both internal and external recourses for complex diagnostics. Drivability issues can be recorded during operations and shared with factory engineers. This commitment to technology greatly enhances the technicians’ skill and experience. That skill and experience translates directly to increased efficiencies and enhances cost containment.
In the near future National Express plans to link our technicians through mobile devices to manufacturer repair manuals, preventive maintenance procedures and checklists allowing our technicians to drill down for additional service practices and directly upload data to our maintenance information software.
CEO Orange County Transportation Authority
An automated diagnostic system installed on all buses within the Orange County Transportation Authority’s fleet has cut costs and improved the efficiency of maintenance operations by reducing the need for manual inspections.
With a fleet of more than 800 buses, traveling 19 million miles a year and serving more than 50 million customers annually, it is imperative that OCTA vehicles are running safely and efficiently.
To ensure the fleet is performing at an optimal level, each vehicle receives a nine-point inspection every 30 to 45 days. This includes a thorough review of the engine, transmission, vehicle safety components and coolant system.
Completing the inspection required 60,000 man-hours in 2001. Today, approximately 80 percent of the diagnostics is completed by a computer system, the Health Monitoring System.
Inspection of brakes, the under carriage of the bus and shock absorbers are among items that continue to be checked manually. However, the new Health Monitoring System saves an estimated 20,000 hours of labor each year, equating to $1.1 million in savings.