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Streamlining Fleet Maintenance: An Interview with Sr. Director of Product Management Brian Mulshine

To stay competitive, a carrier needs to maximize their fleet’s uptime by monitoring wear and tear on their vehicles and proactively ensuring all of their assets are operating at their best. And with the ever-increasing demands on the transportation industry, it’s never been more important to invest in maintenance. For an expert perspective on recent maintenance trends and the keys to program success, we spoke with Brian Mulshine, new senior director of product management for Trimble’s TMT Fleet Maintenance solution and Connected Maintenance team.

Mulshine has been part of the trucking industry for more than 30 years, most recently serving as the director of digital service at Navistar, Inc., a leading large commercial vehicle manufacturer. Today, Mulshine brings his expertise to Trimble, where he continues to transform how the transportation industry performs maintenance, with the goal of developing a seamless maintenance ecosystem for fleets of all sizes.

Thanks for joining us, Brian! Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your passion for transportation and logistics?

Thanks – happy to be here. I got my start as an aircraft mechanic in the late 80s. After a few years, a friend suggested I try working on trucks because of the electronic programming, like in planes. So, I started working for Navistar in 1992, and ended up spending more than 30 years of my career there. I held a variety of positions that contributed to numerous systems and programs that improve OEM, fleet and dealer operations.

Most recently, I served as Navistar’s director of digital service delivery. As a part of this role, I helped build the integration between Navistar’s International 360 solution and Trimble’s Connected Maintenance portal. I also spent about 4.5 years at Rush Enterprises, the largest truck dealer organization in North America, where I helped develop RushCare Service Connect, a call center and web application connecting more than 1,000 fleets to the Rush Service Network.

Throughout my career, I’ve been where I was meant to be, meeting the right people along the way. And the transportation industry is absolutely critical to our everyday lives – everything people touch, eat or wear was on a truck at one time. So, I’m excited to be at Trimble in this role. It’s a great team and a great mission.

You’ve been involved in maintenance programs and evolving technologies around them for many years. Why are they so critical?

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time with fleets, in call centers of some of the largest transportation companies in the country, some of which are operating 10,000+ assets. On any given day, 2.5-5% of their fleet might be out of service – that could be 500 or 600 trailers, tractors, etc. – causing major chaos. At that size, the number of staff needed to manage repairs is massive.

When trucks aren’t moving, fleets and drivers aren’t making money. Maintenance software like TMT Fleet Maintenance is essential to driving out waste in this process. Technology helps fix processes by automating manual steps, and through machine learning we’re all getting smarter about it. This is where I get really excited since I like to solve problems.  

What do you see as the primary challenges when it comes to implementing thriving maintenance programs?

Right now, fleets are still dealing with material shortages – trucks are getting stuck in the shop and increasing downtime because they’re waiting on parts. This is part of the ongoing supply chain issues we’ve been dealing with since the pandemic – even vehicle manufacturers can’t get the parts they need to build new trucks.

The cost of the repairs is also increasing. The labor shortage of skilled technicians is an ongoing challenge, causing fleets to outsource repairs more frequently. For fleets that do keep maintenance in-house, solutions like TMT Fleet Maintenance and TMT Service Center can help them do more with the resources they have, keeping workflows streamlined and connecting data sources for increased visibility and communication.

We’ve previously written about the shortage of experienced technicians. How do you think that plays into maintenance program shortcomings, and how can technology improve conditions or attract new talent to the profession?

Unfortunately, the skilled technician shortage is getting worse. As an industry, we need to make the processes easier and technology more reliable. Training is a huge piece of this – learning on demand, and allowing for transition time during the training process.

When I started in this industry, there were 211 fault codes that could come off a vehicle. Today, we’re up to over 2,000, with new data sources and compliance tracking requirements. But do you know what the number one fix for a truck? It’s over-the-air recalibration – which only requires a driver to click a button on their dashboard. The truck will then automatically update the program overnight while the ignition is off. We need to find more ways to streamline processes and make repair processes simpler for all parties.

We’re also dealing with a perception issue. All skilled trade positions are struggling with this, whether it’s in home repair or transportation. Younger generations think working in a repair shop is a “dirty” job and don’t see a tech-savvy, well-paying career path laid out behind it.  As an industry, we need creative strategies to elevate these roles and showcase the available career paths.

We understand you’ve been involved with the ATA Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) over the years – tell us more about the organization and your involvement in it.

For me, TMC is an organization of friends and relationships. Most of the major trucking fleets, vehicle manufacturers and technology providers like Trimble are very engaged and involved in TMC. When I come across issues that need fixing on an industry-wide level, the relationships I’ve built with major industry stakeholders at TMC allow me to reach across the aisle, so to speak, and discuss industry-changing solutions that can benefit everyone.

This isn’t about who makes a better truck, or whose technology is best – this is about working together to drive a process that benefits all of our customers. The transportation industry is moving toward being open and agnostic – customers need to be able to bring their own devices and solutions and be able to integrate with any other company they want to do business with.

How can fleets make strategic investments into their maintenance programs to keep them in-house?

We are seeing fleets choosing to outsource maintenance activities by contracting with providers. This trend points to the technician shortage, along with other considerations like cost. To increase in-house maintenance capabilities, fleets need to start by having the right tools and processes in place. As I mentioned earlier, technologies like TMT Service Center exist to streamline technician workflows to make their jobs easier and more efficient, so they can get assets and drivers back on the road sooner.

Additionally, fleets need to invest in their people, making sure they are trained and educated in not just the skills they need to fix vehicles, but in leadership acumen as well, so they can continue the cycle of training and mentoring their team.

I actually published a paper about this some time ago that provides a guide for developing leadership skills and outlining career paths for technicians. There are so many options out there that might lead to the best job you’ve ever had with a great salary and benefits. Attracting more professionals to this career and further supporting maintenance programs is a key way to improve carrier operations and in turn, the global supply chain.

Want to learn more about our TMT Fleet Maintenance and TMT Service Center solutions? Check out our offering here, or contact our team.