MIAMI-You might say Ryder System Inc. is ``in the chips''-computer chips, that is. The company that leases and maintains a huge fleet of trucks has been testing, along with its major tire supplier, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., ``smart tire'' technology. (That system is described on page 10 of this special section.)
But Ryder also is in the forefront in using a computer system that tracks the 203,000 trucks it puts on the road.
Riveted to the side of each leased truck is a ``button'' about the size of a dime containing a computer chip with two ``megs'' of memory. It records important information specific to a customer or to the vehicle.
Vincent E. Fortuna, vice president, maintenance for Ryder Commercial Leasing & Services, said the chip's data includes the vehicle's number, mileage, a location code to pinpoint from where it came, when it was serviced last, how much fuel and oil it has used, and the customer's name and any special delivery requirements.
A service technician at a Ryder depot touches a wand to the button, which displays the data on a hand-held scanner. It is then dumped into a main computer terminal that keeps track of performance.
As electronic engines become more commonplace in the trucking industry-Ryder has been slowly integrating them into its fleet over the past five years-eventually the buttons' data will be recorded instantaneously as the vehicle rolls, Mr. Fortuna said. Currently, a technician must input information such as mileage each time the truck is serviced.
Previously, all vehicle information had to be relayed on paper or communicated by a phone call. But the scanner system has allowed Ryder ``to run our shops 100-percent paperless,'' he said.