NRC launches Fleet Forward 2020

by Canadian Shipper

OTTAWA, Ont. — The National Research Council (NRC) wants to help fleet owners improve fuel efficiency, reduce repair and maintenance costs, decrease engine idle times, and minimize their environmental footprints.

To that end, the agency has created Fleet Forward 2020, a seven-year multi-faceted technology development initiative for trucking and mining fleets, the defence equipment sector and the transit industry. NRC promises fleet manager in these sectors “customized technical services” and offers to “collaborate with you on mutually-defined projects,” assuming the projects fall into one of four specified areas:

  • Operational effectiveness—NRC offers services from “engineering design to modeling, simulation, prototyping, testing, evaluation and product integration” with the goal of checking equipment and trucks for “dynamics, mobility, durability, functionality, maintainability, and operability in harsh climate as well as the performance of on-board mechanical, electrical and electronic systems.”

  • Vehicle diagnostics and prognostics—NRC will take a company’s fleet data and use that as a basis to transition companies away from “time-based maintenance to asset condition-based maintenance.”

  • Power management—Fleet Forward 2020 promises to develop power management systems that focus on fuel conservation, alternative fuels and intelligent fuel use.

  • Enhanced aerodynamic performance—NRC will use road testing, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and wind tunnel testing to assist fleets in developing tailored aerodynamic solutions.

Fleet Forward 2020 program leader Cristian Tabra said the initiative has concrete goals to meet.

“If you look at the trucking industry, you have 120,000 tractors, give or take, and 200,000 trailers. There are a lot of variables, but overall, in terms of cumulative benefits, we’re looking at about $450 million in total savings. That includes fuel consumption savings. That includes savings in repairs and maintenance as a result of applying various technologies—we’re talking about vehicle diagnostics and prognostics that, in our mind, will help reduce maintenance costs. Aerodynamic drag reduction devices will generate savings in fuel consumption, and so on.”

Additionally, Tabra expects Fleet Forward 2020 to have a positive benefit on employment figures.

“In terms of jobs created, we’ve said that if we develop all the technologies we want to, which somebody will then have to produce, we anticipate the creation of about 1,200 jobs.”

In order for Fleet Forward 2020 to achieve its goals, it will need co-operation from OEMs that produce fleet equipment as well as the companies that purchase that equipment for their trucks. Tabra expects organizations will be attracted to what NCR has to offer.

“There are many large OEMS that regularly come to NRC because of our world class expertise and facilities. Also, the fact that we are very competitive in terms of price when it comes to some other facilities, especially the ones in Europe and the US. That’s a clear advantage for us,” he said.

In order to familiarize trucking companies and private carrier fleets with what NRC has to offer, Tabra said there are outreach efforts happening.

“I can tell you that we are doing everything we can to engage as many fleets as possible by going to trade shows and organizing workshops and so on.”

When asked if he thinks NRC will attract fleet partners, Tabra answered affirmatively.

“My personal opinion is the big fleets will engage and work with us. I’m thinking of Groupe Robert, Wal-Mart, Sobey’s, FedEx, Canada Post, those types of fleets. That’s what I believe will happen.”

He added that NRC is doing everything it can to make it easy for fleets to get involved in the program.

“All we need to do is make contact [with the fleet] either by e-mail or phone and then what happens is we sit down with that company and have a discussion. We ask what they want to accomplish, the requirements, and so on. One of the first things we do, especially if we’re talking about proprietary technology, we sign an NDA so everybody is protected, especially the fleet. What follows next is we put together a proposal for the client in which we outline the scope of the work, the schedule, the cost, the deliverables, everything. That becomes a contract that is eventually accepted by both parties. Then the work gets done. That’s the flow.”

While there is no cost for organizations to join Fleet Forward 2020, they will be expected to pay for all or a portion of the financial costs of any project that is undertaken on their behalf.

As for why NRC developed this program, Tabra said it makes sense to focus on transportation due to its role in the Canadian economy.

“Transportation is a critical industry to Canada. At NRC we said ‘let’s put the best people and research facilities we have to support the transportation industry.’ It took us some time to connect with the industry and understand its needs, but we put together a strong business case and business plan and said, ‘we can make a difference. We can help the transportation industry because we have world class expertise and facilities at NRC.’”

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