Whether you are an owner-operator or own a fleet of heavy duty trucks, semi-truck diagnostics like OTR Diagnostics play a crucial role in making sure these goods are delivered safely and on time during long hauls.

Put yourself in the shoes of a semi-truck driver cruising through the desert with no help for miles, wouldn’t you want to make sure your truck is running perfectly? That’s what having control over your semi-truck's diagnostics can give you!  

While traditional diagnostic tools have been in use for years, new advances in technology with heavy-duty truck diagnostics have emerged as a promising alternative to expensive OEM software.

In this blog, we will compare OTR Diagnostics with other semi-truck diagnostic tools, highlighting their features, benefits, and limitations.  

OTR Diagnostics: A Brief Overview of the Benefits 

OTR Diagnostics is a recent innovation in the world of semi-truck maintenance. With OTR Diagnostics, it goes beyond your typical handheld scan tool. You can read information at a dealer level and reset fault codes from your mobile device!

Whether you have an iPhone or Android, the OTR Diagnostics app will work with both. Plus, OTR Diagnostics gives you access to vital information about fault codes, their causes and more.

You can even send dealer level commands like, reset fault codes, reset aftertreatment, and initiate a forced DPF regen.

Unlike traditional diagnostic methods that require your truck to be stationary in a repair shop, OTR Diagnostics allows for real-time monitoring and troubleshooting while you're on the road.

Other Semi-Truck Diagnostic Tools   

Before diving into the comparison, let us briefly examine some of the traditional diagnostic tools commonly used in the trucking industry.

There are a bunch of heavy-duty truck diagnostics that are able to work on your semi-truck. They could be called your premium aftermarket diagnostic tools that claim to work on all makes and all models.

More than likely these types of diagnostic tools may require you to purchase a powerful laptop, a special adaptor, and license in order to support the software.

Purchasing one of these premium aftermarket tools may make sense if you own a fleet or a number of trucks, but for the one truck, owner-operator, or small fleet it makes more sense to go with a tool that requires less startup cost, and that could work from your phone.  

Handheld Diagnostic Scan Tools:

Handheld scan tools are portable devices used for viewing fault codes and basic diagnostic information from a semi-truck's engine. They are widely available and relatively affordable but may have limitations in terms of comprehensive diagnostics. They also have a history of not living up to the functions that are promised.  

Diagnostic Software:

Many heavy-duty truck manufacturers offer diagnostic software packages that are specific to their vehicles. These OEM software solutions provide in-depth diagnostics and access to manufacturer-specific systems and data but can be costly, complicated to use, and limited to particular semi-truck brands.

Each manufacturer has their own software. Paccar (Davie4), Volvo (Premium Tech Tool), Cummins (Insite), Detroit Diesel Diagnostic Link (DDDL), Isuzu (IDSS), Hino (DX2).

More than likely they come with an expensive start-up cost consisting of an expensive and powerful laptop to run the software, subscription costs, and time put in for training you and your staff.  

Telematics Systems:

Telematics devices, like those used in fleet management, provide data on truck performance, location, and driver behavior. While they offer valuable insights for fleet managers, they may not offer detailed diagnostics for specific engine issues.

What are the differences between OTR Diagnostics and other heavy-duty truck diagnostic products?

Real-Time Monitoring:

OTR Diagnostics excel in real-time monitoring, as they collect data as your truck is running. With live data, you will know the moment something goes wrong along with a detailed explanation of what the issue is.

This way, you are more prepared to deal with the issue, possibly saving you time and money on tow and dealer fees. When you are traveling down the road alone, and you run into an issue, you want to use a product that you trust and is trusted by 1,000’s of truckers.

Along with possible incompatibility with your rig, traditional tools typically require the truck to be stationary for diagnostics.  

Data Depth and Complexity:

OTR Diagnostics can offer deep insights into your truck's systems, including engine performance, emissions, and more. Traditional tools vary in their capabilities, with manufacturer-specific diagnostic software providing the most comprehensive data for specific truck makes and models.  

How Much Do Truck Diagnostic Tools Cost?

OTR Diagnostics involves an initial investment, including hardware and software subscription fees. However, that amount is a drop in the bucket compared to what you would pay for dealer and tow fees.

It will also save you money in the long run by preventing unexpected breakdowns. Other tools vary in cost with subscriptions and hardware cost. Most of which are really pricey and complicated to use.

OTR Diagnostics takes advantage of using your phone to monitor your truck's diagnostics.  

How Accessible are the Tools?

OTR Diagnostics turns your phone into a powerful truck diagnostic tool. Making it ideal for owner operators like you.  

Traditional tools often require physical access to the truck, along with it being stationary which can be challenging for long-haul owner operators.  

OEM software requires a laptop to be able to use it. What happens if that laptop dies on you? Your truck is in derate, you have a fault code, now you don’t have an extra back up tool to see if you can make it or if you need to replace a sensor before you are scheduled to go out.

You don’t want to be stuck with only one diagnostic tool, it’s that important. If you use that tool one time to save one load, then it’s worth it.   

Are Diagnostic Tools Compatible with My Truck?

Check if your truck is OTR Diagnostics Compatible

OTR Diagnostics is compatible with various truck makes, models and engine types, offering versatility and compatibility across a broad range of heavy duty vehicles. Traditional tools may be limited to specific truck brands or models. 

Do you need an OEM diagnostic tool if you are an owner operator? 

They are going to give you premium level access on your truck. Do you need that level of diagnostics? Probably not.

Did you know that every OEM software requires training. “The moment you plug in that OEM software, I guarantee you're going to have issues. It’s just the way it is”, says Jason Chise, CEO and founder of OTR Diagnostics in an interview.

“It works one day, and then doesn’t the next. You’re wasting a ton of time trying to get the software to work.” 

You have an ELD, do you still need to get a Diagnostics Tool? 

The short answer is YES! Your ELD is a tool to manage electric logs, the port its connected to doesn’t give you access to the information to the diagnostic capabilities.

They don’t require you the dealer level access. A lot of times your semi truck will throw a generic code, and you will need to dive deeper into the issue to find out what the root cause is.

You want that peace of mind that you can continue to on your journey, or you will need to take it to a shop.  

Make sure to do your research when choosing the right truck diagnostic tool: 

It’s really a great idea to do your research as to what your needs are before purchasing a diagnostic tool for your semi truck. “I wouldn’t want to plug a tool into my truck that isn’t designed for it because that tool may cause damage.” says Jason Chise.

Which would make a person think twice about plugging in any third-party hardware that isn’t made for your truck into your truck. Don’t purchase something that is more than what you need.

You can waste time and money trying to figure out how to work the program. Make sure you are doing your research and checking the reviews before purchasing.

Buyer beware, some diagnostic companies make claims that they are compatible with all makes and models of trucks but in reality, are not.   

Why aftermarket diagnostic tools are the perfect solution for owner operators:

The aftermarket software is a perfect solution to the OEM software issue. Diagonostic tools like OTR Diagnostics represent a significant advancement in the trucking industry, offering real-time monitoring and in-depth diagnostics while the truck is on the road.

Plus, having the ability to view live data, read and reset fault code history is a huge advantage for owner operators.

Jason also said, “If it’s my business, I want to be in control of my vehicle, and I want to be in control of my diagnostics.” The choice between OTR Diagnostics and other tools depends on your specific needs, budget, and the types of trucks you own.

For instance, if you own a Volvo you would need that specific software. In some cases, a combination of both OTR Diagnostics and traditional OEM diagnostics can provide a comprehensive solution for semi-truck maintenance and repair in a technician setting.

Staying informed about the latest developments in diagnostic technology is essential for making informed choices in the ever-evolving world of semi truck diagnostics.

Take your diagnostics seriously, don’t let others dictate when and how your truck is serviced. Get the power over your truck's diagnostics in your own hands. You can start by learning more about OTR Diagnostics here.