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Truck Tracking Gets Hosted Service

International Truck aims to give fleet managers insight into vehicle performance
International Truck and Engine Corp. is getting into the hosting business. The company has partnered with IBM Global Services to develop a telematics system that can be installed in its school buses, trucks, and tractors, as well as a Web portal where customers who buy those vehicles can log on to track everything from engine diagnostics to geographic locations.

Sensors in the vehicles wirelessly transmit real-time data on location or component performance to a database maintained by International Truck. The raw data can be turned into reports to help fleet managers analyze and predict component failures before they happen and help extend their vehicles' life. The service uses the data to trigger real-time alarms—for instance, if a school bus strays from its defined route or a check-engine light comes on in a truck.

Fixing little problems before they become big ones is key to curbing costs. "When the truck is down for a day, it costs between $3,000 and $5,000," says Jeff Bannister, director of truck electronics at International Truck. "This includes lost wages, repairs, and productivity."

The hardware, including cellular communications products from Morey Corp. and Wavecom SA, adds about $800 to a vehicle's cost. The hosted service runs about $40 per month. Mittler Supply, which provides gas and welding supplies, last week began testing the service, International Truck says.

"This service is extremely viable," says Kevin Mixer, research director for automotive and heavy equipment at AMR Research. "There's a lot of room for improvement in the service channel in commercial trucks."

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