Safety first

June 1, 2004 By    

Even your most responsible veteran propane delivery man occasionally slips up as he hustles through the day’s delivery schedule and back to the shop while the clock ticks down on his work shift.

Oversights to the checklist of critical safety details at every stop can easily go unnoticed. Were chock blocks used at each stop, or did the busy driver save himself the hassle to salvage time lost to bad weather or a traffic snarl?

It’s no big deal – until an overlooked precaution causes the rare accident that jeopardizes the safety of your employee, customer or innocent passer-by.

Emerging technology is taking a larger role to ensure that those safety details are routinely accommodated. Today’s “smart” equipment blends safety components with maintenance and performance data, producing tools that promise to reduce maintenance costs, increase operational efficiency and enhance fleet security.

International Truck and Engine Corp is rolling out a computer-enhanced electrical system that offers unprecedented safety and security options on bobtails by integrating communication between the truck’s engine, transmission, instrument cluster and body equipment. Its Diamond Logic software and electrical system, which already is in use in other industries, debuted at the Southeastern Convention and International Trade Show in Atlanta in April.

The nation’s largest producer of mid-range diesel engines and medium and heavy trucks has been working with AmeriGas Partners for more than two years to tailor its product features to the unique demands of propane delivery personnel. According to International officials, the result is a bobtail with enhanced reliability, durability and security.

Among its features are:

  • Lights that turn on with windshield wipers;
  • Wheel chock safety and stow;
  • Self-canceling work lights;
  • Audible and visual warning signals;
  • Auto neutral transmission;
  • Continuous monitoring of hydraulic oil levels and temperature;
  • Marker and tail lights that flash when power take-off is engaged;
  • Hose reel out-of-stow alert;
  • Spray-fill and side evacuation pull away protection;
  • A theft deterrent system that requires driver to enter numerical code to move vehicle after engine is started.

“For AmeriGas, prompt and dependable service delivery is the mainstay of our business,” says Rod Quinones, fleet and purchasing director. “Using International’s Diamond Logic Builder software, AmeriGas is strengthening the reliability and sustained performance capability of our trucks. From hydraulic oil monitoring to an anti-theft system, we are tailoring our fleet to better achieve the maintenance, safety and operational consistency required to deliver the level of service our customers demand.”

A simplified wire harness and advanced diagnostics allow drivers and technicians to accurately pinpoint electrical problems for quicker troubleshooting, faster repairs and increased uptime. For example, off-board diagnostic tools display trouble codes and condition descriptions with a direct link to International product service manuals, explains Len Strazza, fleet technical services specialist for AmeriGas.

“We’re excited. We’re really fired up about it,” says Strazza, who oversees a fleet of 3,000 bobtails nationwide.

All International trucks leased by AmeriGas this year will feature the Diamond system. Strazza said the enhancements will cost a bit more, but he expects to find savings in routine maintenance and repairs.

The safer trucks also will be promoted to AmeriGas customers, he notes.

The International Diamond Logic Builder Software accommodates an infinite variety of vehicle configuration options, enabling dealers and truck equipment manufacturers to create customized electronic features.

According to International Sales Manager Jim Ham, trucks can be equipped with as many as three interface modules for up to 18 power connections for add-on equipment and body wiring to be connected outside the cab at a central point. Along with factory-installed switch packs, it allows body and equipment manufacturers to fully integrate their products with the electrical system and eliminate the need to mount aftermarket switching or wiring in the cab.

“We’re just scratching the surface. There are many more things we can do to make a safer, more secure vehicle,” Ham says. “It’s a question of creativity. The system works well now, but we know it will change in six months. It’s supposed to change with creativity.”

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