Managing Today’s Truck Fleets with VMRS Codes

With today’s truck fleets expected to be more efficient, durable, and reliable than ever, the underlying fleet systems to monitor and manage this equipment must also be up to the task.  In addition to capturing equipment specifications and performance data, these systems must offer relevant and actionable information to users throughout the organization.

This information should be usable across manufacturers and equipment types, and normalized across equipment types, systems, and subsystems.  However, it can often be overwhelming for shop and parts personnel and management to reconcile various coding schemes, and once aligned, make sense of all that data.

Fleet maintenance management systems data often comes in many forms, including structured and unstructured data variants.  Both categories create massive amounts of data (hence the term “big data”).  it is particularly in the area of unstructured data, which is generally found in open-form text, where many data management challenges are occurring today.  In fleets, ­data can originate from a wide variety of sources, including driver trip reports, work orders, PM instructions, etc.

Truck Fleets

Ed O’Brien is a Director of Research at ARC Advisory Group

The challenge for many fleet and transportation leaders is to reconcile the various coding and cataloging systems available from vehicle and equipment manufacturers, computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), enterprise asset management (EAM), and other vehicle maintenance management systems.

One of the most common systems in trucking is the ATA VMRS (The American Trucking Associations Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standard) that has been in use, and continuously updated, since 1970. The VMRS 2000 coding structure, as it is now called, is designed to offer a holistic view of vehicle systems and subsystems. This standard was introduced to the market by the Technology & Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations.

Such a standard was (and is) needed for various reasons, including being able to compare the performance of various components and equipment specs.  It can also be useful as a cross-reference guide for various OEM and aftermarket parts, to allow cross-referencing and comparisons of similar specifications across OEM and aftermarket suppliers.

This is important, because component manufacturers typically provide their own, proprietary part numbers, but not a standardized coding structure like VMRS. Consequently, it can be difficult to cross-reference this information, so many fleets must still reference VMRS codes manually to find matches.

So, how are coding standards like VMRS used in fleet operations?  Essentially, the primary VMRS categories include such information as:

  • The VMRS Equipment Master Record: This effectively a vehicle’s birth certificate. It includes information about the specifications for a piece of equipment, sometimes referred to as a unit, including engine, transmission, axle(s), refrigeration units, tailgates, and other equipment, depending on the type of asset.
  • Equipment Vocation Codes: Vocation codes are used to identify the primary activity or vocation of a piece of equipment.  A wide range of vocations are identified.  Such activities as linehaul, pickup and delivery, combination service, heavy haul, refuse, and mining are examples of vocation code types.
  • Reason for Repair Codes: These codes are used for identifying repair reason types, such as maintenance, including preventive maintenance, routine maintenance, driver’s report, breakdown, management decision, outside influence, etc.
  • Work Accomplished Codes: This category is used to identify what tasks were performed to the piece of equipment.
  • Failure Code: Information about why a part or assembly failed.
  • System Level Coding: Used to identify equipment systems.
  • Assembly Level Coding: Used to identify equipment subsystems.
  • Component Level Coding: Used to identify equipment components.

Note: The above system, assembly, and component codes are typically used together.  For example, within the cranking system code (system #032), 032-001-000 denotes a complete starter, and 032-002-000 would denote a battery.  In the former example, a drilldown to identify specific parts of a starter armature could be further identified by assembly- and component-level coding.  In another example, preventive maintenance tasks can be identified, such as 066-001-000 for an “A” PM, 066-002-000 a “B” service, 066-003-000a “C” service, and so on.

  • Position Codes: Used to identify the position where a part or component are placed (e.g., a left front position).
  • Equipment status codes: Used to identify the status of parts in the repair proves, such as onsite repair, repair in progress, parts on order, waiting for authorization, etc.
  • Warranty codes: Codes to help fleets to communicate with OEM suppliers and aftermarket suppliers to manage and track warranty claim information.

For today’s fleet management operators, VMRS codes can be one of the best tools available to today’s fleet management teams. VMRS codes can help identify costs, trends, and performance information for entire fleets, components, and parts, across vehicle types and vocations.

These insights can also be useful in comparing such information about mean-time-to-failure, cost-per-mile (or per kilometer or operating hours) information.   This information can then be rolled-up or rolled down by total fleet, by common specifications, by new versus rebuilt parts, as well as a seemingly endless array of other performance and cost metrics.  It may very well be that VMRS codes are among the most valuable tools available to fleet maintenance and operations professionals.

Ed is a Director of Research at ARC. He covers analytics, asset management, and robotics for ARC.  His experience includes industry analysis, strategy, market research, product marketing, and operations. His background includes fleet management, and asset lifecycle management (ALM), including how ALM applies to truck fleets.