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Switching and Tagging

If you are a fleet manager or fleet safety supervisor, you may think the topic of switching and tagging is not a body of knowledge needed for the safety of your field mechanics. You may be wrong.

Let’s say you have a distribution crew doing storm restoration and one of the digger derricks breaks down. You send a mechanic. He sees poles and conductors down. Does he know how to evaluate the conditions, what to look for and who to seek guidance from? Could he call dispatch and have a competent discussion with them regarding the conditions of the circuits that are down? If he hears crew radio traffic regarding grounds, clearances and clearance releases, would he have any idea what that might mean to his safety?

Mechanics don’t have to be experts at the knowledge level of journeymen lineworkers, but they do need functional knowledge of how switching and tagging operate and what clearances mean to their safety as well as the safety of the line crew.

Background
Discipline is one of the many things that have served our industry well. Decades before OSHA was established by the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, our industry already had disciplined procedures for switching, controlling and tagging circuits. When OSHA began to establish rules for the power-line industry, they recognized the superior discipline that utilities had employed in the control of hazardous energy and wrote into the standards those procedures that were being generally applied across the industry.

Readers can find OSHA’s hazardous energy control (i.e., lockout/tagout) procedures for generation facilities in 29 CFR 1910.269(d). In 1910.269(d)(1), OSHA explains that the standard is for the control of energy sources in installations for the purpose of electric power generation, including equipment for communication or metering.

Paragraph (m) of 1910.269, titled “Deenergizing lines and equipment for employee protection,” addresses locking and tagging procedures for the energizing of electric energy sources that are used exclusively for the purpose of transmission and distribution. Rule 1910.269(m)(1) states that the section applies to the de-energizing of transmission and distribution lines and equipment for the purpose of protecting employees. So, this section is the employer’s minimum guidance for the protection of employees when opening and closing switches and when energizing and de-energizing systems. How the employer accomplishes protection of the worker is entirely up to the employer, with some guidelines in place through 1910.269(m) and the National Electrical Safety Code.

The Williams-Steiger OSH Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970. OSHA – the agency itself – got off the ground around 1972. The 1972 standards included 1926 Subpart V. Over the following decade, there were many problems with the application of the Subpart V construction standard among operating utilities. OSHA published the final rule adopting 1910.269 in the general industry standard in 1994. No revisions to the switching and tagging standard were employed until the latest OSHA changes in 2014, with clarifications to some standards in 2015.

OSHA used material from the IEEE’s National Electrical Safety Code, also historically referred to by ANSI – the original developer of the standard – as ANSI-C2. It was originally part of an ASTM standard that was separated during this OSHA development period. OSHA adopted many of the C2 standard requirements from the 1984 and 1987 editions to develop much of the 1994 edition of the general industry 1910.269 standard. OSHA also considered proposed rules from Edison Electric Institute experts and from a panel of experts at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Those experts proposed their rules based on at-the-time practices already familiar and common to the industry.

Utility Fleet Professional magazine’s “Focus on Fleet Safety” frequently refers to the value and importance of industry-related consensus standards to OSHA, and 1994 was no different. The agency heavily relied on the existing written consensus standards for their proposed rules. In the 1910.269-1994 preamble, OSHA wrote, “… the OSH Act requires the Agency to look to consensus standards for guidance in setting occupational safety standards.” Section 6(b)(8) of the OSH Act states, “Whenever a rule promulgated by the Secretary differs substantially from an existing national consensus standard, the Secretary shall, at the same time, publish in the Federal Register a statement of the reasons why the rule as adopted will better effectuate the purposes of this Act than the national consensus standard.” Thus, OSHA relies heavily on consensus standards in developing requirements for employee safety and health.

Contributing Factors
In the 1994 preamble to 1910.269, writing about effective switching and control, OSHA noted that there are several factors that have contributed to the utility industry’s successful use of tagout programs.

First, OSHA wrote, these notably successful companies had implemented detailed energy control procedures that were quite similar to those set forth in both the proposed and final lockout/tagout standard.

Second, they had established and utilized extensive training programs to teach their employees about their energy control procedures, including the use of tags and the importance of obeying them.

Third, these companies reinforced their training periodically. However, it is the fourth common element – discipline – that appeared to be the most critical to the success of these programs. Companies with effective tagout programs applied disciplinary action to both supervisors and employees who violated the tagout procedures.

OSHA believes that an effective tagout system needs all four of these elements to be successful. But it is discipline that is the most difficult to incorporate into a regulatory approach in the final rule. Not surprisingly, this also reflects the most serious limitation of tagout, which does not arise with lockout. Because a tagout program does not involve positive mechanical restraints on energy control devices, it requires constant vigilance to assure that tags are properly applied; that they remain affixed throughout the servicing and maintenance of equipment; and that no employee violates the tag by re-energizing the equipment, either intentionally or inadvertently, before the tag is removed.

Despite OSHA’s contention that the standards are performance-based, meaning “what the employer must accomplish,” the agency has been very particular in how electrical system control is to be facilitated. There are also referenced consensus standards regarding switching and tagging (see Appendix G to 1910.269), as well as Part 442 of the National Electrical Safety Code. The NESC, being an OSHA referenced consensus standard, does not have the force of law. That means a violation of an NESC rule cannot be the basis of a citation. However, if OSHA decides to cite an employer with a violation of the General Duty Clause, they often use phrases found in the consensus standards if they can show the employer knew or was aware of the protective nature provided by the particular consensus standard rule.

As a consultant and third-party investigator, I often find issues with switching and tagging programs, typically in the execution of switching orders and clearances. Those issues are usually found after a weakness in the program gets someone hurt. As you have often read in these “Focus on Fleet Safety” articles, rigor and discipline are the best ways to prevent incidents. “Rigor” means the policies and procedures, and “discipline” is the attitude that there is no other way to perform a task except in accordance with the correct policies and procedures.

Common Issues
Let’s wrap this up with a look at a few of the most common issues I see.

First, keep it as simple as possible. The more complex a procedure is, the harder it is to remember and follow. Some attempts at developing a bulletproof switching policy end up with too many layers of preapprovals and management signoffs followed by multiple tag colors that represent different departments. The basic requirement is two people: a system operator and a person authorized to order a line clearance. Start here.

Obviously, the more complex a system is, the more security, engineering and load management must be considered. Systems tend to get more complex as these diverse group responsibilities are added. When it comes to tags, there are two requirements found at 1910.269(m)(3)(v), which states, “Tags shall prohibit operation of the disconnecting means and shall indicate that employees are at work.” I have found tags with nine different written notations required on them. The issue is that most of the time, only two or three of those notations are filled in. If you are going to have a policy, make it simple, make it doable, and expect employees to do it the way it was designed.

Many employers require grounding of the de-energized bus before a clearance can be issued. There is no basis in compliance for that rule, and it creates a problem. If you have grounded as part of a switching order, consider whether you can remove grounds to perform testing without releasing the switching order – because you are changing the condition upon which the clearance order was issued. The issue is usually due to a misreading of the standard.

Paragraph 1910.269(m)(3)(vii) states, “The employer shall ensure the installation of protective grounds as required by paragraph (n) of this section.” Paragraph (n) does not require grounds as the only mode of work. Paragraph (n)(2) establishes the characteristics of isolation of circuits for protection of the worker.

Per 1910.269(m)(3)(x), releasing a clearance includes removing grounds and notifying the system operator that the conditions for releasing the clearance have been met, including having removed grounds. To keep it simple, I suggest that a switching order establish isolation of the circuit and then authorize the clearance for crew control of the isolated circuit. The policy would be that the crew who owns the clearance decides which work mode will be used, either isolation or EPZ grounding after testing and verifying the absence of circuit voltage or induced voltage hazards.

The last issue – ownership of the clearance – often comes up with contractors when a utility won’t allow a contractor to hold a clearance. Rule 1910.269(m)(3)(ix) requires that the clearance holder be on-site and in control of the clearance. The standard is very specific about being on-site and transferring the clearance if the holder must leave the work area.

A Final Reminder
I spent some time at the beginning of this article discussing the history of the power-line industry’s switching procedures and their effectiveness. I cited what OSHA had discovered, and I will end here with a reminder of what makes our switching and tagging effective:

  • A well-written policy guided by OSHA 1910.269(m) and Part 442 of the NESC.
  • Extensive training for personnel. Remember that even the most well-written program is only as good as the training you do when you roll it out.
  • Periodic review of the effectiveness of the program and supplemental training opportunities.
  • Accountability across management, supervision and operators regarding the proper implementation of the policy. Rigor and discipline: Make them part of your safety culture.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 27 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Are Your Electrification Targets Realistic?

The latest headlines signal that the electric vehicle market is tapping the brakes, with the road ahead becoming increasingly uncertain. How will this trend impact your company’s ability to hit its zero-emission targets?

The odds are strong that you will need to convince senior management to adjust their timeline and expectations. But how do you present your case persuasively? Here are six points to consider.

1. Present data-driven insights. Share recent developments in the EV market, including the slowdown in growth, production cuts by key manufacturers and shifts toward plug-in hybrids (for more, check out “Fleet Electrification Plans Face Reality Check Amid EV Slowdown”). Highlight how these trends could impact the company’s ability to achieve its sustainability targets.

2. Propose adjusting the timeline. Frame your proposal as a risk mitigation strategy to protect the organization against potential disruption, stranded assets and budget issues if mandates outpace EV technology readiness and availability.

3. Relate your proposal to overall corporate values. Connect the rationale for change to wider company goals around continuity of operations, customer service, safety, cost management and so forth.

4. Recommend realistic adjustments. Rather than an open-ended delay, propose new targets that are realistic yet still ambitious given the market landscape.

5. Propose plug-in hybrids as part of a near-term solution. The PHEV market currently offers a wider range of models than the fully electric vehicle market, including options that may better suit specific operational needs or preferences.

6. Communicate regular updates. Commit to providing regular updates on the EV market, technology developments, regulatory changes, and the results of any pilot programs or initial EV deployments. This keeps senior management informed and engaged in the decision-making process.

The bottom line: If your company’s zero-emission deadlines are in jeopardy, get senior management involved as early as possible so they can set realistic expectations with their stakeholders. Leadership may not like the news, but they’ll appreciate your foresight – and the heads-up.

In Many Ways, Fleet Management is Sales

In this issue’s “Women in Utility Fleet” feature, I speak with Lissa Brady, the fleet asset manager at San Diego Gas & Electric and a director on the EUFMC board.

We talked about her nontraditional path to fleet management, with more than two decades in various sales roles. She said her predecessor at SDG&E also came from a sales background, which helped pave the way for her.

That conversation got me thinking: As a fleet professional, you serve “customers” – your user groups and senior management. In other words, you’re in sales. So, what sales skills are you developing to make you more effective in managing your department? Here are five that translate well for fleet management success.

1. Communication. At its core, sales is about effective communication. Fleet managers constantly communicate with drivers, suppliers, maintenance teams and senior management. Having polished communication skills can ensure that all parties understand goals, expectations and changes in plans.

2. Persuasion. Often, fleet managers need to persuade senior leadership to approve budgets, adopt new technologies or make changes to fleet operations. Sales skills can help fleet managers articulate the benefits and return on investment of their proposals convincingly.

3. Relationship building. Salespeople excel at building and maintaining relationships. For fleet managers, nurturing relationships with vendors, service providers and internal stakeholders can lead to better terms, quicker service and more collaboration.

4. Negotiation. Sales skills include effective negotiation techniques. Fleet managers often negotiate with suppliers for better rates, terms and services. Understanding how to come to a win-win agreement can lead to significant cost savings and better partnerships.

5. Understanding needs. Just as salespeople must understand their customers’ needs to offer the right solutions, fleet managers must understand the needs of their organization, drivers and vehicles to ensure optimal operations.

By honing these sales skills, you can operate your fleet more efficiently and give yourself a leg up in advancing your career.

Safety Signs and the Importance of Training

When I think about safety signs, the first thing I hear in my head is the hit 1970s song “Signs” by Five Man Electrical Band, particularly the part that goes, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.” In our industry, we have a lot of signs, and the truth is that few of them are useful. What is it about signs that helps us, and what is it about signs that hurts us?

Part of my full-time job involves providing expert witness litigation support, so I frequently discuss and relate aspects of the courtroom experience here in these pages. That’s because the purpose of this column is to inform readers in practical language about the realities of safety compliance. And signs have a big role in safety that is very poorly administered.

What Sign?
Here’s an example of what I mean. A few years ago, I worked on a fatality case involving equipment. Based on photographs, there were 147 warning or danger signs on the three pieces of equipment related to the incident. There were three manufacturer operating manuals that showed a total of 212 graphic representations of the warning and danger signs displayed on the equipment. There were 19 workers on the site associated with the incident. Not one worker who was interviewed or deposed could describe any details about the warning and danger signs that were or were not visible to the users of the equipment. What does that mean to us? From the plaintiff’s perspective, it suggests that the employer was a poor trainer that sent out workers who never read the warning signs before operating dangerous equipment.

Five Reasons
That’s not really the case, of course. There are basically five reasons to have signs: instructions for operating; hazard communication; warnings for the uninformed; general prevention of accidents; and reminders for trained persons. For manufacturers, each of the signs they put out is for those five reasons. But even more important for them is the fact that signs are designed to limit manufacturer liability. That’s also why operating and maintenance manuals include page after page of instructions showing the signs and where the signs go. You, the reader, are now likely thinking about all the signs you’ve seen on bucket trucks, digger derricks, tuggers, tensioners, cranes, loaders, dozers, compressors, gas pumps and so forth. You can generally tell what those signs are for and even see them in your memory. That’s because almost every safety sign we see is the product of the work of the 1979 ANSI Z535 committee on safety signs. The ANSI Z535 family of safety sign standards includes six published standards, Z535.1 through Z535.6. ANSI Z535 is the reason why everything related to safety signs – from danger signs to barricade tape – all looks the same. The intention of common appearances is twofold. First, years and years of research have determined the colors and shapes that are most likely to get our attention. Second, if we see a shape or color, it is supposed to ring a bell placed in our left brain by training and/or experience. That ringing bell should cause us to recognize that the sign is for our safety and to look at and read the sign.

Workplace Signs
The signs on vehicles and equipment are one thing. We don’t detail the signs or sign locations that come on equipment. But the signs we place in the work environment are a different story. Those consultants who audit work environments will likely tell you that most operations could stand a review of what signs they have and should have, and whether the signs they use are really doing what we want: preventing hazard-related incidents. One of my favorite audit finds was an open door with two signs on it. One was a NERC-inspired security sign that read, “This door must remain securely locked at all times.” The door was propped open by a cigarette ash can right below the second sign, which read, “State law: No smoking within 25 feet of this doorway.” In this case, the problem was threefold. First, signs are only as effective as the training you do for the people who are affected by them. Second, signs have become so commonplace that they are practically invisible. Third, signs are only as effective as the compliance accountability for those workers affected by them.

Chaucer and Safety
Fourteenth-century author Geoffrey Chaucer was writing about marriage when he put it like this: “Familiarity breeds contempt,” essentially meaning that the more often you see something, the less it affects you. The same is true about offensive conditions. The more you are exposed to them, the less they offend you. When we see something repeatedly in our environment, it becomes invisible unless it triggers a reaction. With signs, the only trigger is a change in the sign or training that creates a trigger response.

About 25 years ago, my office overlooked a covered dock where all the buckets and digger derricks were parked to give them access to the plug-in block heaters in winter. On each piece of equipment, right below the driver’s door handle, was an orange sign asking the driver, “Did you check behind?” It was an accident prevention sign that had effectively lowered the number of backing incidents at the utility. From my vantage point, I could see that few drivers were taking that look behind before they backed out of the parking bay. (Note to readers: Resist the urge to critique our backing safety plan; this was more than two decades ago.) So, we did an experiment. Over one weekend, safety came in and replaced all of the orange stickers with a new red-bordered sticker of the same size and shape. We were not surprised to observe that with all of the commotion at the Monday morning dock, every driver reaching for their door latch stopped and noticed the new sticker. Quite a few of them also stepped from the running board and went to the rear to do the look. This was not a scientific experiment, of course, but it demonstrates the trigger effect that a change in signs has in the work environment.

Training
If you are a safety professional, how much training time have you spent on signs used at your utility? How many workplace audits have you conducted that examined work area signs and compliance? Here is one of my favorite audit issues. Every crane, boom truck and bucket has a weight load limit for the platform, material-handling jib or boom. The signs related to the weight load limits are everywhere. Next time you see one of these operations, ask the operators how much weight they are lifting. I don’t have to guess what you might find. We work in a very static mechanical environment. We pretty much lift the same loads all the time. The weight of a load becomes an assumption. I have had lineworkers honestly tell me that they have not calculated a weight in distribution work for years. Thinking back, I realized I was one of those workers. Algebra, who needs it? Transmission workers calculate more frequently because the consequence of weight in a lift is more readily hazardous. Here’s another example: We label a two-man bucket with a maximum weight load of 600 pounds. One lineman weighs 280 and the other weighs 220. There is an 88-pound coffing hoist on the floor of the bucket, and the ground crew is passing up a dead-end string of eight 8-inch porcelain bells. Right about now, everybody reading this is likely thinking, what about the hydraulic impact driver and tool board? There is nothing unusual or overstated about these examples. They come right from the field. There are many utilities and contractors out there that label their buckets with weight limits. The ones I know about labeled them after a bucket mount failure.

Training workers on the value of safety signs and accountability for following them does make a difference. We can’t train the public regarding safety signs, but we can use standards for placement and types of signs, and we can train workers on the purpose and effect of signs that protect the public.

Consider this: A new substation was built. The engineers used standard guidance for the placement of warning signs installed on the perimeter fence. Using actual approach angles and clear-view distances available to the four sides of the substation, it was decided to place “Danger: High Voltage” signs 5 feet high every 15 feet along the length of the fence. To finish off the environmental aesthetic of the substation, designers settled on a variety of miniature fir trees that would only grow to 10 feet but effectively screened the view of the ugly electrical equipment – and the warning signs. The trees also screened the view of the ladder that a copper thief used to climb the fence. In addition, the trees screened the view of his electrical contact that went undiscovered for days. Ultimately, the purpose of the signs every 15 feet – to warn and protect the public, and to protect the utility – went unrealized. Everybody did their jobs, including the fence builder, the substation mechanics who placed the signs, the engineers who designed their parts of the project, the landscapers and the yard maintenance crew. Yet no one recognized the futility of placing signs that could not be viewed.

Conclusion
I think of how many times the control labels on a tensioner, tugger or digger were illegible to me in the field. I had a pretty good idea of what the levers were for, but I had to ease in to see what was going to happen. You can clutter up the scenery with safety-related signs, but if they can’t be read or recognized, they might as well not even be there. Training and maintenance should have no tolerance for illegible signs. That simple policy doesn’t just ensure the value of a particular sign; the culture of sign maintenance elevates the role and value of safety signs everywhere. Managers, supervisors and safety professionals, take a walk through your workplace for the purpose of a sign audit. See what you have out there. Is it in the right place, and is it the right message? Do our employees know why it’s there and the value of signs?

Safety is no accident.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 24 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

Reflection and Respect

This year marks my 10th anniversary with Utility Fleet Professional and eight years as its editor.

Reflecting on my time at UFP, I’m struck by the level of expertise you need to succeed in the utility sector compared to fleets in other industries.

Before joining UFP, I wrote about a wide range of fleets, from last-mile delivery to heavy-duty trucking to pharmaceutical sales.

While those fleet managers face unique challenges related to their application, their jobs don’t require anywhere near the breadth of knowledge you bring to the table as a utility fleet professional.

With most fleets, you may have a handful of vehicle types you’re working with – box trucks, pickups, vans, sedans and so forth.

But in the utility world, it’s a whole different realm. You manage road vehicles, trailers, off-road equipment and all-terrain utility vehicles. And at some utility companies, the fleet department manages aviation assets like helicopters and drones.

With road assets alone, you’re writing specs for the whole gamut of vehicle types – from cars to Class 8 tractors – to accommodate a wide range of jobs.

You also need to know a lot about accessories and upfits that strike the right balance between crew productivity and safety, such as truck-mounted bodies, strobes, compressors, cranes, aerial buckets and digger derricks.

And that’s just the equipment side of things. You’re also a talent evaluator, recruiter and coach who manages a maintenance shop of skilled technicians and provides them with the safest possible work environment.

You negotiate complex multimillion-dollar equipment deals with various suppliers where only one small mistake can create massive headaches for you, your team and the company as a whole.

And if you’re like most utility fleet professionals, you’re also leading the way in fleet electrification, bringing an even higher level of complexity to your job regarding equipment specs, procurement and maintenance.

I’m sure this just scratches the surface of all that you have on your plate. And what you do often goes unnoticed – until something goes wrong. But as I reflect on your role and responsibilities and all you do as a utility fleet professional, you have my utmost respect.

Tire Procurement Strategies for Utility Fleets

Con Edison, headquartered in New York, operates a fleet of approximately 8,100 active assets ranging from light- to heavy-duty vehicles, including digger derricks, flush trucks, bucket trucks, tankers, tow trucks, buses and trailers.

The utility’s tire procurement decisions are made by an internal tire committee, whose members include engineers from the transportation department as well as garage supervisors and purchasing department employees. The group meets periodically to discuss tire issues and any new updates.

Con Edison engages in various purchasing strategies, such as bulk buying, establishing long-term contracts and forging partnerships with tire manufacturers.

According to Peter Matsis, a senior specialist in transportation, work management, for the utility, tires are ordered as needed to keep inventory quantities comfortable in the company’s 14 active garages. Excluding blowouts, Con Edison follows manufacturer-expected mileage and meets New York State inspection requirements. The company typically purchases about 600 tires a year.

The Best Starting Point
The best starting point for optimal tire procurement is to review what is currently being done, the frequency of tire purchases and replacements, and what the annual spend is, Matsis said.

“Be consistent with tire sizing for vehicle types to allow for smaller tire inventory in the shops,” he said.

Garrison Jelley, account executive, government and metro, for Michelin North America Inc., agreed with Matsis’ guidance. He also recommended creating a list of fleet vehicles and tire sizes, as well as having a designated fleet manager/tire technician on staff.

Con Edison has been buying tires in bulk for over 15 years. Long-term contracts usually last three years.

“Bulk buying allows us to get better pricing, achieve competitive pricing and to apply across [Con Edison and Orange & Rockland Utilities],” explained Larry Jacobsen, who works for the utility as a senior specialist in transportation, IT systems and parts. “Long-term contracts are always helpful with continuity with vendor relationships, and competitive pricing and service.”

Selecting the Right Tires
Utility truck tires are made for specific needs, such as certain applications, traction, wear life and fuel efficiency.

When spec’ing tires, a utility fleet should consider all their needs in terms of how the tires will be used. For a fleet that is fuel conscious, rolling resistance is one of those considerations, Jelley said.

“Start with the type of driving your fleet does, then pick the low rolling resistance version of that tire,” he said. “These often have a special designation within their names. Michelin, for example, designates these product lines with the word ‘energy.’ These tires have been specifically designed to break the compromises that can come with just using low rolling resistance rubber compounds – traction and wear.”

Based on research, testing and personal experience, Jacobsen suggested looking for a high tread wear rating number on the tires being purchased. “This helps with the life and number of miles on the tire.”

Product claims and reviews can be other helpful tools when looking for fuel-efficient products.

Partnering with Manufacturers
A fleet can also consult their tire dealer or manufacturer for assistance in choosing the right tires, Jelley said. It is common for fleets to seek guidance from manufacturers and dealers that can offer expert advice and suggestions.

Con Edison has had positive experiences partnering with tire manufacturers.

“It’s always helpful with continuity, pricing and service, and mutual aid support. Better service, better pricing,” Jacobsen said.

According to Jelley, “The advantages of working with a tire manufacturer allow fleets to stay up to date with the latest versions of tires, as well as work with the tire designers for specific needs. Our engineers and dealers work closely with fleet managers to find alternative solutions if a certain tread or tire does not suit their current job.”

After a fleet is partnered with a local tire dealer, Jelley said they should be able to access a rolling stock of the most common tires and sizes they use. This will allow for faster deliveries by the dealer to the fleet.

According to Con Edison, the typical time frame from order to delivery could be the same day or up to a week, depending on the tire. Matsis noted that limited supply availability is one disadvantage fleets may face if they work with just one vendor.

Jelley echoed that statement. “Supply chain has an impact on all elements, from the raw materials to movement of semi-finished product, all the way to the final delivery to the end user. This is across the industry. These delays impact the ability to be efficient in maximizing plan production and meeting the needs of customers,” he said.

About the Author: Grace Suizo has been covering the automotive fleet industry since 2007. She spent six years as an editor for five fleet publications and has written more than 100 articles geared toward both commercial and public sector fleets.

Be Prepared for the ‘Big One’

At NASCAR’s Talladega, Pocono and Daytona superspeedways, there is always talk of the “Big One.” The Big One is a wreck that frequently characterizes those three-hour, 200-mph, 42-car races on a three-lane-wide oval. Of course, there have been superspeedway races where the Big One didn’t happen. Numerous racing organizations go years without getting caught up in a superspeedway Big One. Sometimes it’s attributed to luck. Other times it’s chalked up to preparation, planning and skill. When the Big One does happen, it’s usually because somebody messed up. Sometimes the person who messed up takes out lots of other people who weren’t messing up. They were just out there doing their jobs.

Whether you are a racing fan or not, you probably already figured out that there are some parallels between racing and utility work. We work in a fast-paced, intense industry. We employ highly skilled craftspeople with demonstrated skills. We have specialized equipment designed with safety in mind to complement the skill of the operators. We also have systems in place to minimize or even prevent injuries if something does go wrong. Still, be it luck or planning, we think we have everything covered – and something still goes wrong. There are obvious differences between racing cars and building power lines, but you likely understand where I’m going with this.

One Big Difference
Here is one big difference you may not have thought of: When cars collide at Talladega or any other racetrack, OSHA doesn’t show up and neither do lawyers (unless they are there to watch the race). I have been consulting as an expert witness for two decades, sometimes as the plaintiff expert but most times as the defense expert. My job is to explain work methods, training requirements and statutory requirements, as well as what happened and what went wrong. I get deposed by lawyers and questioned by judges, and I address juries when a Big One happens. The goal is to explain the details in such a way that the lawyers, judge and jury clearly understand them, with the ultimate goal of a correctly rendered judgment.

In my experience, and with a few exceptions, the great majority of employers have been unprepared for the Big One, especially when it came time to defend themselves against OSHA and in civil litigation.

A couple years ago, I worked on a fatal case where the employer was accused of negligence both by OSHA and the family of the deceased. I was there the day after the incident and investigated with the OSHA compliance officer (CSHO). We talked. He was very forthcoming and said, “I hate to see an employer do everything right and end up with a fatal incident due to employee misconduct.” The OSHA regional director did not agree with the CSHO, rejecting his findings and citing the employer for six violations. Four of them were outrageously misapplied; the other two were complicated but defensible. The employer, a contractor, was immediately dropped by their insurer. It took a year to get to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the administrative federal judge that decides final employer-contested OSHA citations. A year after that, we were in superior court for the negligent death claim. The defense was successful in both cases, one before a federal judge and the other in a civil case before a 12-member jury. The employer was working to do everything right. They invested in safety training and strategies for their frontline crews. They had a robust safety group on every job site. They now invest more time in training their supervision. This is just one instance; there are many more like it. It’s a terrible thing to lose an employee or a co-worker. It’s even worse to face blowback from that experience for several years. Trial lawyers are often harsh on co-workers, supervisors and executives. But most of the issues I see are common, and with the right preparation, much of that blowback can be avoided.

Before we move on, I want to deliver a message to readers who think this is only about protecting the employer: Disabuse yourself of that notion. “Employer and employee, protect one well and both win!” is a maxim I have taught for a long time. If the employer meets the requirements of the OSHA standards and the law, they create a safe workplace for the employee. If workplace safety is properly conducted, the employees are protected, and the employer is shielded from unfounded accusations of negligence or legal noncompliance.

Learn Everything You Can
You need to learn everything there is to know about OSHA, especially how the agency operates and what to expect if they come to your job in an enforcement action. Here is an important concept: Employers who know OSHA often head off trouble because they know what to expect, they know the questions that are going to be asked, they have the documentation that will be asked for, and they know the language of the statutes that drives what OSHA expects to hear. In essence, if you know OSHA, you have a very good chance of clearing up misunderstandings at the closing conference on the site before the citations arrive in the mail. If you can’t accomplish that, your next opportunity is the informal conference. That’s where consultants and lawyers who do know OSHA are brought in. Don’t be afraid to contest local OSHA actions. The OSHA standards are fair, and the procedures are effective. The problem is that they are executed on the local level by people – and people make mistakes. Contesting an action brings the dispute into the legal definition of evidence and legal examination. Always request the informal conference and get an experienced consultant or lawyer to represent you. On many occasions, I have spent hours of research and testimony to prove that OSHA’s uncontested actions were misapplied or even contravened OSHA’s own policy and interpretations.

The informal conference takes place before the regional OSHA area director and follows the OSHA directives to regional directors contained in what is known as the Field Operations Manual, or FOM. The FOM is Compliance Directive 02-00-164 (see www.osha.gov/enforcement/directives/cpl-02-00-164). The informal conference is your first opportunity after citations are delivered to explain why the citations are in error and to argue your case. This is where you get to present evidence that supports a reduction in the classification of the citations, vacating of a citation or reduction of assessments. Don’t pass up the informal conference, and don’t go to an informal conference unprepared. Most importantly, don’t go to an informal conference without knowing the OSHA rules as well as the rules for the employer and the regulations in effect. Lastly, don’t go to an informal conference unwilling to formally give notice of the intent to contest the violations.

Train Your Supervisors
The October-November issue of Incident Prevention magazine – Utility Fleet Professional’s sister publication – includes an article written by Pam Tompkins of SET Solutions. After reading the article prior to its publication, I asked Pam about her choice of topic, which is the employee in charge. As a consulting company, SET Solutions consultants have seen too often how lack of supervisor training contributes to incidents in the field. I’ll go a step further. As an employer or a safety professional, you can have every required policy perfectly devised and clearly written. However, the policies are useless if your supervisors don’t own them as you do. This is not an exhaustive list, but how many of your supervisors can pass a simple test on the OSHA requirements for the following: gas welding and cutting; PPE use, including application, maintenance, inspections and limitations; equipment operation; powder-actuated tools; respiratory and hearing protection; fall protection; hazard communications (GHS); electrical safety; confined space and trench safety; emergency action plans; fire protection; ropes, chains and slings; hazardous atmospheres (H2S); switching and tagging; equipotential grounding; and insulate and isolate work methods? I can almost guarantee that in litigation, your crew supervisors will spend more time in depositions and on the stand than any other official in your company. They are that important and worth every dollar you spend training them.

Tailboard Effectiveness
I have heard it said that the written tailboard form never made a job safer. I agree. It’s the quality discussion and overall experience of the tailboard meeting that employees can relate to, and that’s what makes a difference in the safe performance of a job. However, during litigation, I have spent more time examining every letter, scribble, jot, tittle and note on tailboard reports than I have examining almost any other exhibit. I have also actually heard OSHA experts say in depositions and at trials that they can tell a tailboard process was ineffective because of the nature of the notes on the tailboard record.

When I investigate an incident, I ask for and review the previous five weeks of daily tailboards. I’ve gotten pretty good at imagining the discussions based on the forms, but I gain a better understanding of a tailboard’s quality when I interview the crew members. I hear all the time that if you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen. Oddly enough, if you don’t have a written record of a conversation, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. OSHA does not require employers to retain records of tailboard forms or what is often called a job hazard analysis (JHA). That’s because OSHA knows that an abbreviated form lacking a complete verbal record cannot effectively reflect the content of a conversation. I have frequently advised employers to use the forms effectively in this way. First, maintain a written policy on tailboards and tailboard records. Develop an effective form that guides the conversation; turn in forms daily; have supervisors review the forms and follow up on any questions; and throw away the forms at the end of the week. I know it sounds preposterous, and OSHA will ask for JHAs when they show up on-site. I also know that if you show them your procedure and tell them you don’t retain them, you will never hear about it again. They will simply ask about the daily pre-job safety meeting with each employee they interview.

Contemporary tailboards that have evolved from the hazard analysis wheel and involve a cellphone video of the daily tailboard process have been effective in promoting the quality and effectiveness of the process and don’t require filling out a form at all. Just remember this: Whatever records you keep will have to be defended in some form or fashion, so they better be well-advised. The best way to do that is to train your personnel in how to properly execute your hazard analysis and fill out the forms so that they are valuable as a safety tool – not a tool to work against you. The best part is that if the JHA program is good, you most likely will not have to defend it in court.

Train Your Employees
I am currently consulting on two lawsuits. In both, a non-utility construction worker was fatally injured when they contacted energized power lines. The two cases are 3,000 miles apart. In the depositions, we learned that the injured workers both had some 20 years of experience in their skilled crafts. Neither of them was fluent in English, nor did they have any idea that what they were about to do was going to kill them. Of course, these are extreme cases, but if your line, substation or generation personnel are only craft skilled, not safety skilled, what’s the difference? I have worked on many fatal cases at this point in my career. When I get the call and hear the preliminary description, I am often amazed at what transpired. Lest you assume these are all fly-by-night contractors, they aren’t. They are investor-owned utilities, municipals, cooperatives and well-known national contractors, both union and not. It doesn’t matter why things are this way; what matters is fixing it. If you are following the OSHA guidelines on safety training, you won’t see your crew members sitting through five hours of depositions and two hours of court explaining why they didn’t know this or that. If you train them, that litigation won’t occur because the Big One won’t happen.

I always try to answer this question when I audit an employer’s safety program: Why do they have the frequency rate they do? Is it about luck and managing data, or is it programmed into the workplace with good training, good supervision and good practices? You should be asking that same question of your workplace – because if the answer is “luck,” luck can run out.

If you are a safety professional, I advise you to read, read, read. Learn everything there is to know about OSHA and the acceptable work practices our industry employs. Then teach your frontline supervisors and managers everything you know. Maybe if I see you on the job, it will be about consulting or training and not about trying to keep you out of a multimillion-dollar claim that you are not responsible for.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 24 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

The End of the Pin-On Man Basket

I have been warning my clients to prepare for an expensive high-reach, non-insulating platform compliance issue, and that time is very near, if not already here. The issue is the use of pin-on man baskets for cranes. For quite a few years, it has been illegal to use a crane to hoist personnel with a few exceptions. The most recent OSHA prohibition is found at 29 CFR 1926.1431(a), which begins by stating, “The use of equipment to hoist employees is prohibited …”

As I mentioned, there are exceptions. Specifically, 1926.1431(a) goes on to state, “… except where the employer demonstrates that the erection, use, and dismantling of conventional means of reaching the work area, such as a personnel hoist, ladder, stairway, aerial lift, elevating work platform, or scaffold, would be more hazardous, or is not possible because of the project’s structural design or worksite conditions.”

It is that last part – “because of the project’s structural design or worksite conditions” – that has applied to the transmission power-line industry. In the past, the exception was based on both the height of many transmission structures and the space between parallel circuits in a multi-circuit transmission right-of-way. Bucket trucks could not reach the heights necessary to work the tops of transmission structures. Folding booms required space behind the extended platform, putting the knuckle of the folding boom close to the parallel energized circuits. The solution was 30- to 60-ton cranes with enough hydraulic extension to reach the work. Man baskets pinned onto hydraulic crane booms became a very normal option, and they were and still are widely used across the U.S. with little controversy. OSHA treated pin-on baskets just like crane-suspended baskets. The baskets had minimum criteria for construction, and both suspended man baskets and pin-on baskets had to undergo (1) a proof test specified by OSHA to ensure mounting integrity and (2) a trial lift to ensure the pin-on platform could safely navigate the planned path to the work and work area. These rules still apply to pin-on baskets and are currently enforced under 1926.1431, “Hoisting personnel.” OSHA has been extremely detailed in the safety requirements and enforcement because as the agency has stated, it is a necessary exception to the prohibition of lifting personnel because cranes are designed to lift material, not personnel.

Dual-Rated Cranes
Here is where the issue arises. The design and construction of cranes that are used to lift personnel in a pin-on man basket are covered under ASME B30.23, “Personnel Lifting Systems.” The design and construction standard for aerial lifts is covered under the ANSI A92 family of standards. The A92 standards are not applied to cranes fitted with a man basket. The B30.23 standard does not apply to aerial devices. This separation of classifications was fine until segments of the crane manufacturing industry – particularly National Crane, Altec and Custom Truck One Source – began rating cranes to the A92 standard. All of these manufacturers (and there may be others) are marketing dual-rated cranes that meet both the B30 standard for cranes and the A92 standard when used as a personnel lift with a pin-on basket. Most of them include a model that will reach 200 feet with a swing jib mounted. These A92/B30 dual-rated cranes have remote controls operated from the basket, outrigger sensors, level sensors and other minimum required safety features that make them A92-compliant personnel lifts. One of the values of a dual-rated crane is that it may not be required to perform the proof test and trial lift. The manufacturers recommend such safety checks, but technically speaking, the OSHA standard applies to cranes used to lift personnel, not A92-compliant personnel lifts. Still, even a bucket truck should be inspected before it is raised with personnel aboard. All of the manufacturers require it, and most employers require that the boom be flown to check its functions before personnel use it.

The Bottom Line 
At present, pin-on baskets are still permitted under the exceptions where A92-rated aerial lifts cannot reach the work elevation, are not safe or are not appropriate for the work. If you have access to an A92-rated lift, or access to a dual-rated B30.23/A92 lift that will reach the work, you must use it. If you use a pin-on man basket on a B30.23-covered crane, and an A92 lift is reasonably available, you are in violation of the OSHA crane standard.

I checked with two of the major crane manufacturers, who also manufacture bucket trucks and aerial platforms. If you’ve recently purchased a B30 crane, and that model is also available in an A92/B30.23 dual-rated version, the manufacturer can retrofit your B30 crane to be a dual-rated crane.

There is no date that the rules as explained above will be enforced. The evolution of dual-rated cranes was not foreseeable when the current rules were written. The justification for OSHA’s enforcement prohibiting pin-on personnel lifts in a B30.23 regulated crane does exist. As the manufacturing industry expands their offerings and increases the number of units available in the marketplace, the exceptions to crane-mounted baskets will cease to exist. I recommend that employers, especially contractors, have a frank conversation with their dealers regarding the availability of high-reach, dual-rated cranes. Start planning for the future, including the costs associated with the new equipment offerings.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 24 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

7 Ways Fleet Professionals Can Use ChatGPT to Boost Productivity

Most headlines about artificial intelligence sound the alarm about how AI will disrupt industries and take away jobs. But what’s the reality? What impact could AI have on fleet management? Will it put you out of a job? Or will it make your job easier and more productive?

If OpenAI’s ChatGPT (https://openai.com/chatgpt) is any indication, my money is on the latter. Here are seven ways to start experimenting with ChatGPT today to help you get more done in less time.

1. Automated reports and analysis: Generate and analyze reports on vehicle usage, maintenance schedules, fuel consumption, costs and more. ChatGPT can process large datasets and present concise summaries, trends and anomalies that may require attention. It can also create data visualizations with charts and graphs for your presentations.

2. Training materials: Create training materials for technicians, operators and other staff. For example, use ChatGPT to draft safety procedures, guidelines for vehicle maintenance or tutorials on how to use fleet management software.

3. Vendor communication: Quickly draft emails or other communications to vendors. ChatGPT can, for instance, generate an email to a vehicle supplier requesting a quote for a new vehicle, or to a maintenance provider to schedule a service.

4. Research: Use ChatGPT to find the latest industry trends, regulations and technologies. Suppose you want to know about the latest electric vehicles suitable for your fleet. In that case, ChatGPT can provide a concise, easy-to-read summary of the latest models, their specifications and their advantages.

5. Policy and procedure documentation: ChatGPT can assist in writing and updating company policies and procedures related to fleet management. It can ensure that these documents are clear and concise and written in an easy-to-understand format.

6. FAQs and queries: ChatGPT can be set up to answer common queries from drivers or other staff members. For example, it could answer questions about the company’s policies on vehicle use or provide information on what to do during a vehicle breakdown.

7. Emergency response planning: ChatGPT can help create emergency response plans, draft scenarios and provide guidelines on handling different situations.

Remember, an AI tool like ChatGPT doesn’t replace human judgment but can help streamline processes, reduce human error and provide useful insights. And it’s likely to play a significant part in the future of fleet management. So, there’s no better time than now to give ChatGPT a test drive.

Training Users of Aerial Lifts

Last year, Utility Fleet Professional published an article by Altec’s Phil Doud regarding changes to the ANSI A92.2 standard regarding vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating aerial devices (see https://utilityfleetprofessional.com/blog/ansi-a92-2-2022-changes-and-training-requirements/). It is a good and timely article. In it, Mr. Doud points out that many of the training requirements in the revised 2021 edition of the standard were already expected, but the standard now captures in detail the type and content of training for aerial lift operators and supervisors of those operators.

It is time for such detailed language to be published because we have a real problem with unqualified users operating aerial lifts, especially in energized distribution applications when material-handling jibs are involved. In the past two years, I have provided litigation support to employers and one manufacturer in five civil cases involving material-handling bucket trucks. In each of those cases, I was stunned to hear how the trucks had been used. As an industry, I thought we had a pretty good grasp of the limitations of insulating aerial buckets, but apparently not. As I have consulted with manufacturers, I have found that there are many cases in which operators of aerial bucket trucks have set them on fire or pulled the buckets off the boom due to a lack of familiarity with the applications and limits of the equipment.

In the past, I have personally seen two apprentices in a bucket attempting to pull H-frame cross-braces together to install the bolted-up joiner plate by throwing a lanyard around the back of the outside brace and pulling it in with the bucket. The bucket was torn from the mounting bracket. I’ve also seen material-handling jibs shear off when operators were trying to pull up 350-MCM ACSR for dead-ending. How about pulling up 350 aluminum triplex in a side strain and shearing off the rotating gear teeth, causing whiplash injury to the operator? Yes, that’s happened, too. But probably the biggest mistake that kills operators is thinking fiberglass buckets and jibs are insulating. These occurrences did not just trip circuits – they ignited fires on the outsides of buckets and killed people.

The First Thing to Know
Here’s the first thing to know: Buckets may be constructed of fiberglass, and your testing organization may clip their voltage tester to your bucket, but buckets (platforms) are not insulating. Jibs are not insulating either, even though you will see manufacturer literature with photos of wire in jib wire holders that might make the observer think they are appropriate for energized use. If trainers, operators and supervisors read the manufacturer’s operating instructions, they will find the instructions clearly state that jibs and buckets are not considered insulating. The major manufacturers ring their booms with indicators, showing that the insulating sections of the aerial device are between the boom and the elbow at the lower boom.

In the ANSI A92.2 standard, a portion of Section 9 reads, Aerial devices or apparatus used to lift energized lines require use of an insulating device that has been rated, tested and maintained for the appropriate line voltage to prevent energizing the boom tip.” In their aerial lift operator manuals, all of the major manufacturers clearly explain that jibs are not designed to be considered insulating for the purpose of contacting energized lines. There is a multifaceted reason for this. First, the jib itself must be dielectrically tested and meet the test standards for insulating tools. Next, maintenance of insulating fiberglass tools requires inspection, periodic testing and wiping of the tools before use. In addition, it is very difficult to maintain the minimum approach distance between the worker and the energized conductor in the jib wire holder. Readers of Utility Fleet Professional might think that MAD does not apply since the worker is gloving out of an insulating platform. That is incorrect. MAD applies to all surfaces at a different potential than the employee if the employee is not directly working on them. So, a suspended conductor in a jib must be supported in either an extension adapter electrically rated for the voltage involved or in a strain-link wire holder suspended by a material-handler winch. And the conductor either must be held at a distance from the worker equal to the MAD or it must be covered.

The bucket itself brings up an issue similar to that of misused jibs. If you lay a hose-covered primary phase on the lip of your bucket to move it to a new location, you are contravening several standards. There is no OSHA standard that directly addresses this practice, but OSHA relies on ANSI, NESC, IEEE and other consensus standards for their own citation guidance. A conductor in a hose lying on a bucket lip puts the rubber in compression. “In compression” refers to the weight of the conductor pressing and thinning the rubber hose at the point of compression between conductor and bucket. Once in compression, the insulating value of the hose is unknown. This is the reason for “brush contact” as a limitation of use when protecting workers. The equipment is designed for brush contact; it is not designed to support load in compression or under tension.

I understand the argument that it’s all isolated and insulating and that these common practices are not unsafe. I typically explain the relative risk this way: All of the best practices captured in the consensus standards create a buffer to incidents. Those buffers, such as conductive surfaces, can become contaminated by time between tests and environmental exposures. If we continue to take shortcuts, we force those buffers to shrink until there are no buffers. That is when incidents and injuries occur. While they may not seem to be shortcuts to you, the reader, I encourage you to think about these issues.

Bucket Fires
Buckets also catch fire. I have investigated three bucket fires in civil cases. Two involved buckets that got between phases. In the third incident, a bucket ended up between a phase and hardware on a wood pole.

Fiberglass fibers are not flammable. The binders used in the resin saturate the fibers into a strong fixture. The gel coat that finishes the fiberglass structure is flammable. It is difficult to ignite a fiberglass structure, but the high heat created by an electrical arc is more than enough to begin a burn. What often occurs is that the arcing and fire will puncture hydraulic hoses under pressure, spraying a stream of flammable oil into the fiberglass fire. In all of the cases I am aware of, the bucket fires were initiated due to uncovered phases in contact with a bucket.

Part of this issue is lack of cover. The larger issue in the cases I’ve investigated was that the operators thought it was OK to make contact with an energized phase. The supervisors on the ground, too, didn’t think it was an issue. In each of the three cases, the fire was started by distribution contact that tracked across the surface of the bucket’s exterior wall. In one case, a bucket descended onto a neutral, getting it caught under the boom between the bucket and boom in the vicinity of the hydraulics. While the operator was maneuvering around to try and free up the neutral, the other side of the single-man bucket contacted one of the phases. The arcing immediately burned into the hydraulics.

Solving the Problem
So, how does the ANSI A92 family of standards help to solve this problem? OSHA has generally held that the employer is responsible for training employees in the safety-related requirements of their work. That OSHA expectation and the agency’s General Duty Clause should have prevented all of the incidents cited above. OSHA also expects the employer to ensure employees familiarize themselves with the detailed operating manuals that come with every delivered vehicle and piece of equipment. The ANSI A92 family includes A92.22, “Safe Use of Mobile Elevating Work Platforms,” and A92.24, “Training Requirements for the Use, Operation, Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Mobile Elevating Work Platforms”; these are your guides to compliance with the OSHA standard. There are requirements for manufacturers and dealers to provide familiarization of aerial equipment delivered to the user if the user requests it (see A92.24, 6.3.3). The standard does not require dealers to have training programs but does require them to provide resources to contact training providers (see A92.24, 6.3.2). The word “familiarization” means the orientation of a qualified person for the purpose of becoming familiar with the equipment. There is no reason that an employer cannot develop their own in-house training. In-house or employer-provided training requires a competent person to guide it. The content of the training is the manufacturer’s operating and maintenance manual, meeting the requirements of A92.24, Section 7, “Training Content.” ANSI A92.24 7.3 requires hands-on or practical demonstration of a trainee’s skills.

Ultimately, the employer must provide training that includes a competency demonstration by the operator candidate.

Supervisors of workers who operate aerial platforms are also required to be trained (see A92.24, 7.5). Individuals who supervise the use of aerial devices must be trained in the proper selection of equipment; the aerial platform’s applicable rules, regulations and standards; hazards associated with the use of aerial devices; and the value and use of the manufacturer’s operating and maintenance manuals. This supervisor training rule is almost unique in industry consensus standards; few standards focus on the safety role a worker’s supervisor can play in accident prevention.

The last new training aspect of the A92.22 standard is found at 6.1.2.6, “Rescue from Height.” There is a detailed description of the various aspects of a rescue from height. The section mentions self-rescue as one of the aspects of training and planning. I do a lot of training in rescue from buckets and find that many companies fall far short of performance expectations. Self-rescue is probably the least complicated of all rescue training scenarios, but it also seems to be the least pursued.

Conclusion
All of the information in this article raises questions, particularly if you have read the entire ANSI A92 family of documents. Training, checklists and audit lists are extensive and detailed. So, does that mean you have to follow all of the A92 recommendations to be OSHA compliant? Not necessarily. But you do have to be able to defend the rigor of your aerial lift program and show how its implementation ensures every operator knows the functions, limitations and hazards of the aerial platforms they will operate. The ANSI standards respect the long heritage of expert lineworkers out there who can operate any line equipment in a competent and safe manner. Rule 6.2.5.2 of ANSI A92.22 addresses self-familiarization with new equipment by an experienced operator using the manufacturer’s operating manual. Doing so is extremely valuable because reading through the operating manual can help to prevent future bucket fires, crashes, and related injuries and fatalities that have occurred with unqualified operators.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 24 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

Despite the Momentum for Electric Vehicles, the Future is Still Uncertain

Many in the media, myself included, have touted the inevitability of electric vehicles.

And for good reason. In unison, the automakers, the federal government, several state governments and the utility industry have declared 2035 the year the entire U.S. will flip the switch to all-electric transportation.

The thinking is that federal regulations have worked to cut diesel emissions. Certainly, they’ll work again to usher in the electric vehicle era.

Or will they?

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ATVs and UTVs: Minimizing the Hazards

Throughout all of industry, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility task vehicles (UTVs) are involved in the majority of off-highway vehicle (OHV) incidents that result in injury. It’s not much different in the utility industry.

While there is no official mechanism for counting or comparing vehicle class versus incidents, surveys and experience seem to indicate that of the vehicle classes used in our industry, ATVs and UTVs used in construction account for a high incident and injury rate. I have run safety at three large utility-related entities, and this awareness of the high incidence of ATV/UTV accidents among OHVs – which include pickup trucks, crew trucks, digger derricks and bucket trucks – struck me some 15 years ago.

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‘The Checklist Manifesto’ for High-Performing Fleet Professionals

As a fleet manager, ensuring efficiency and safety is paramount in your daily operations. But how can you effectively balance these priorities without sacrificing one for the other?

One solution may lie in an unlikely place: the checklist.

In “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right,” surgeon and Harvard Medical School professor Atul Gawande breaks down how checklists can reduce errors and improve outcomes in various industries, including health care, aviation and construction.

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Crash Analysis: A Personal Story

I started the analysis almost right away out of habit. Actually, “right away” means later that day. First, we had to escape the burning truck. That was easier said than done because we were all unconscious from the impact.

Let’s start from the beginning. Just a few months ago, on September 2, the Friday before Labor Day, my wife and I were moving her sister to Georgia to live with her daughter. We were cruising at the Interstate 10 speed limit near Slidell, Louisiana. I was towing a 4,000-pound U-Haul trailer behind my Ford F-150 SuperCrew. Gwen, my wife of 33 years, was in the passenger seat. My sister-in-law, Sonja, was sitting in the rear behind Gwen. Ahead, a red Toyota RAV4 was pulled over on the right shoulder, its right-side tires in the grass. The vehicle’s right turn signal was flashing.

About a football-field length away from us, the driver of the RAV4 turned off his right turn signal. At 50 yards away, the driver made a hard left turn and entered the highway, attempting to make a U-turn through the median to reach the other side of the interstate. We hit his vehicle at 70 miles per hour.

All of us in the truck lost consciousness upon impact. One thing I remember is the truck sliding backward. The cabin of the truck was smoky from the airbag deployment. It seemed that as soon as we came to a stop, a rescuer was at my door and Gwen’s door at the same time. “Your truck is on fire – you have to get out,” the rescuer said. The hood of the truck was up, obstructing my view, but I could still see the orange flames and black smoke rising from the engine compartment.

I told the rescuer to get the women out first; I believed I could get out of the truck on my own if I had to. I then passed out again. The next thing I remember, two firefighters were at my door. The fire was out – I remember smelling the fire extinguisher media. Still, I could have sworn I never lost consciousness, although I likely did several times before I got out of the truck.

Accident Response
I found out three days later that it was several minutes before anyone got to us. Traffic had been very light at the time. The first vehicle to stop was a tractor-trailer; the driver stopped at the RAV4. Our rescuers were workers from the weigh station 2 miles away who heard the call and came to help. Louisiana State Police arrived four minutes after the first call. St. Tammany Parish fire rescue arrived six minutes after the call. Luckily for us, those response times were far better than the national average.

The driver of the RAV4 didn’t use his left turn signal to indicate he was going to enter the interstate. No one knows why. The turn was illegal, so I guess you don’t advertise that you are about to do something most everyone knows is illegal, especially when there is a sign clearly showing that the median crossing is for authorized vehicles only. It turned out that the RAV4 driver had missed his exit and decided to use the median crossing for his U-turn. The question I have been asked most often since the crash is, why didn’t I move over? It’s a good question. I do move over for vehicles on the side of the road, especially when they are close to the travel lane and there is visible activity. On this particular day, I moved over about the width of half a lane. The situation looked innocuous until it was too late. I learned that when you have choices to make, you cannot assume anything about the other driver.

In analyzing the incident, moving over may not have been a good option. We impacted into the inside lane, partly by choice (I’ll explain more later). If we had moved completely to the inside lane, I might have been tempted to enter the median to avoid a collision. The grass in the median was tall. From the tailgate of the fire truck, I could see the path we had taken. If I had entered the median 50 feet earlier, I would have hit the raised compacted driveway that crossed the median. We probably would have launched over the median guardrail only to have the trailer land on us.

What I did do was steer toward the front end of the RAV4.

Training Pays Off
Fifty years ago, I was at a police academy where we spent 10 days on a skid pad, performing high-speed emergency maneuvers in a Ford Crown Victoria powered by a 428 Police Interceptor engine. We also chased a driving instructor who did his best to get us to spin off the training track. Additionally, we learned about tactical crash situations and where you do and don’t want to hit another vehicle. All these years later, the training paid off. Hitting the RAV4 at the front wheel lessened the impact of a T-bone collision in the center of the RAV4. My truck’s right-side headlight struck the offending vehicle at the A-pillar, which is the post that supports the roof of the vehicle along both sides of the windshield. Hitting at the front wheel also spun the RAV4 away, reducing the kinetic energy of the crash, just like that instructor told me 50 years ago. That slight angle also fired the air curtains over Gwen and Sonja, reducing their impact with the sides of the truck.

Most readers of Utility Fleet Professional know you can’t make a radical turn without the trailer pushing you sideways. If I had done so, we would have hit the RAV4 more sideways, increasing the likelihood of injuries on the less well-protected side-impact design.

The U-Haul trailer we were pulling was equipped with a passive hydraulic braking system. The weight of a trailer pushing against a hydraulic cylinder between the trailer and hitch creates hydraulic pressure, actuating the trailer brakes. Even with that braking system, the weight of the trailer folded the rear of the truck downward, visibly bowing the truck bed. I can’t tell if the weight of the trailer increased the impact energy, but the jackknifed trailer did plow into the median and slow us to a stop in fewer than 100 yards.

Post-Crash Health Status
After the crash, Gwen was airlifted to a trauma center in New Orleans with a fractured pelvis, a penetrating abdominal wound where her seat belt pressed against her hip, pinching a hole where the pelvis protruded through. She also had a broken foot and a broken hand. After spending a month in the hospital, Gwen is now receiving home-health physical therapy and nursing visits.

I spent a week at Slidell Memorial Hospital with a broken nose, a sprained left hand and foot, and leg trauma from striking the dashboard. My seat-belt trauma was bad, and my brand-new knee replacement was damaged, a situation that is yet to be resolved.

Sonja suffered a ruptured spleen from seat-belt trauma and bleeding in the brain that ultimately cleared up. She is at home in Georgia with her daughter.

The RAV4 driver also survived. I do not know the extent of his injuries, but we will probably learn more in the months to come.

The Important Takeaway
Here is the important takeaway from our experience: Training makes a difference. But hands-on training about recovering control of an errant digger derrick is simply not feasible. What is feasible? Wearing a seat belt. I got to see my truck two weeks after the crash. With all the damage to the exterior, front end and sides, there was a survivable space in the cabin. The cab of the truck stayed intact. Even though the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety only evaluates crash testing at 40 miles per hour, we were protected because the airbags and seat belts kept us within that survivable space. That is an issue in our industry. The U.S. doesn’t demand crash testing of larger vehicles, but the European Union does, and much of that crash data has been used to make big trucks safer. In most crashes of big trucks, the cabin stays intact. If the driver stays in the seat, they are very likely to walk away from the crash. More importantly, if a driver is not seat-belted in front of the controls, they are much more likely to lose control of the vehicle. I would say that most of our drivers do not know how rough the ride is going to be if they leave the highway or carom off another vehicle, especially a top-heavy digger derrick.

During my safety career, I have investigated five digger derrick and bucket truck crashes. Three of them were fatal. Of the fatal crashes, none of the drivers was wearing a seat belt. All the cabs remained intact. The drivers were killed by ejection from the cab in two of those events, and one died from head trauma after contact with the passenger-side A-pillar. I am a big advocate of better driver training, closer monitoring of driver safety practices and seat-belt use. As cars get lighter and traffic speeds increase, we are seeing a greater percentage of highways deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Traffic Engineering
This is a good place to address traffic engineering. Highway speeds are set by the conditions that exist on the roadway (e.g., widths of the medians, widths of the shoulders, distance view, number of side streets, curves and hills). They are also set based on a condition known as the 85th percentile speed (see https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/uslimits/notes/speed_info.htm). Traffic studies have shown that 85% of drivers observing conditions on a roadway will attain and maintain the near-same average speed. About 20% of those 85th percentile drivers will average 5 miles per hour lower than the 85th percentile speed. Two percent of the drivers will drive faster than the 85th percentile speed. If traffic engineers select the data and establish speeds using the 85th percentile method, there will be less variation of speeds, fewer slowdowns and better traffic flow with fewer crashes. Drivers should understand that traffic speeds and controls are part of a buffer system designed to lower the number of traffic crashes. Every time a driver violates any of these controls, the buffers shrink and the likelihood of a crash rises.

Conclusion
The trucks we drive remain as dangerous in a crash as they ever were – it’s just that the likelihood of a crash continues to rise. Are your drivers’ crash statistics acceptable? Is it because of the programs and evaluations you use, or is it pure luck? Remember, your luck can change at any time.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 24 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

3 Books for Building the Right Habits for Growth in 2023 and Beyond

If you’re reading UFP, the odds are you’re growth-minded and have specific career goals you’d like to achieve in 2023. But will you follow through?

After all, most of us abandon our New Year’s resolutions by February. So, how can you defy the odds and maintain the discipline you need to keep working toward your goals throughout the next year? These three books can help.

1. “Atomic Habits” by James Clear

This book offers a proven framework for improving – every day. James Clear, one of the world’s leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits persist not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. As Clear puts it, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

2. “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield

What’s keeping you from living the life you want? According to Steven Pressfield, that enemy is within. It’s called “resistance,” and you must wage an ongoing war against it if you’re going to have a shot at achieving your big goals.

In this book, Pressfield arms you with the mental weapons you need to keep resistance at bay so you can pursue your goals.

3. “How to Fail at Almost Anything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life” by Scott Adams

We’re wired by society and our upbringing to fear failure. But failures can become steppingstones to success if you view those temporary setbacks from the proper perspective. That’s the premise of this book by Scott Adams, who you may know from his Dilbert comic strip.

Adams challenges you to dream big, learn from failure, and then develop systems (or habits) that put you on the trajectory toward what you want to achieve.

The common theme across all three books? Habits begin with small daily actions that build one upon the other. “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become,” Clear writes. “No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”

Knowing When Not to Press ‘Send’

A friend asked for my advice. He had received an email from a frustrated customer disputing a six-figure invoice. The lesson I shared to help him resolve the issue can apply to any leader – including fleet managers – when trying to defuse a tense situation via email.

I finished reading his email draft and looked up.

“What would you change?” he asked.

“Nothing,” I said.

“So, it’s good to go?”

“No. I wouldn’t send it.”

“Really? I spent at least two hours writing this thing last night.”

“I hear you. But that’s precisely why I wouldn’t send it,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“This situation is far too complex and emotionally charged,” I said. “No matter how well you craft this email, there are too many things here they could take the wrong way.”

“What do you recommend instead?”

“Get them on the phone or Zoom,” I advised. “Discuss their concerns and work through this issue together in a live conversation. Otherwise, you’ll both get sucked into a vortex of back-and-forth emails. That will waste a ton of time and escalate the tension, not resolve it.”

He called the customer, and they worked out the issue within 10 minutes. Crisis averted. And my friend got paid.

The lesson: If you’re spending too much time agonizing over a high-stakes email – whether it’s to your boss, an internal customer, a vendor or anyone else – let that tell you something. Don’t press “send.” Pick up the phone, get on a video call or set up a face-to-face meeting instead.

There are some things you shouldn’t handle in writing.

 

Traffic Cones and Flashing Lights

Question: How many traffic cones does it take to stop a speeding car?

Yes, the barriers we use are flimsy, and a traffic cone will not stop an errant vehicle from driving into a work zone. But there are some tweaks we can make to the equipment we use that will improve the level of protection workers on the street can get out of the resources available. Yet even with all our preparations, there is always a worst-case event dramatized by a recent news photo of an errant car, upside down on a bucket truck that was on a right-of-way well off the highway. It is the reason that OSHA and other regulating authorities expect employers to train all employees, specially train supervisory employees and provide the equipment necessary to protect workers as much as possible. We can’t build car-proof barriers, so the best protection is to be proactive by preventing incidents in the first place.

In this installment of “Focus on Fleet Safety,” we are going to look at practical protection of workers on the street, with particular attention paid to the people on the other side of your work zone practices: passing motorists. I have been observing work zones for decades. I drive through them and past working crews every week. I also investigate highway incidents and have had occasion to provide expert witness analysis in both civil litigation and regulatory cases involving highway work zones.

TTC and the MUTCD
Across the United States, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is the primary regulating document for temporary work zones and controls. It is currently in its 10th edition with two revisions, the latest being a PDF version dated May 2012. The MUTCD is a U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration adopted standard. Helpful vendors would love to sell you their commentary versions of the MUTCD, but it is free on the web at https://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/kno_2009r1r2.htm. Keep in mind that, when you select the version you’re going to use, the PDF from the U.S. DOT website is the only official version. In fact, even the HTML version available on the DOT website has irregularities, so the website posts this guidance to users: “The PDF files constitute the official version of the MUTCD and always take precedence over any potentially conflicting MUTCD text or figures that may occur in the HTML files.”

The 11th edition of the MUTCD is in revision now. Comments for the revision are closed but are about 35,000 in number. The next edition is due to be released in May 2023. For those readers who are new to safety administration and not familiar with the MUTCD, the manual contains standards and regulations on traffic control devices, signs and methods. Part 6 is the section on temporary traffic control (TTC).

The whole objective of Part 6 is establishing TTC that safely guides pedestrians, cyclists and drivers through a space where construction activities or incident response has compromised the regular routes of travel. In my audits of TTC, I have found that most setups are moderately effective at directing vehicular traffic, but pedestrians and cyclists are rarely properly addressed. The result is that cyclists and pedestrians are at risk, creating liability for the employer. When vehicular traffic is poorly controlled, it creates hazards and deadly risks for the employees behind those controls. The key to creating good TTC is to view your setup from the perspective of the drivers. A driver is accustomed to white lines and curb markers, speed limit signs and red lights. Drivers may become indecisive when they suddenly come upon temporary signs and traffic cones directing them against those commonly expected controls. When TTC is insufficiently announced via warning signs and/or poorly defined by cones and flaggers, workers are endangered. In the power-line business, there is another aggravating factor, and that is the work itself. Road building is a pretty boring scene. Booms in the air with people aloft, coverup colors and rigging are attention-grabbers that further distract driver attention from the cones and signs that are intended to direct them through the constricted space. That combination adds up to increased chances of an incident. The warning signs and controls must be clear and robust to be effective. It is imperative that your crews drive through the work zone and examine the effectiveness of the lane markers and signs from the perspective of drivers to see if improvements are needed. It is also important to remember that the guidance of the MUTCD is minimum performance guidance.

The first element of TTC improvement is the advance warning sign, especially proper placement. MUTCD Table 6C-1 is a guide for placement of advance warning signs.

The first mistake we tend to make relates to column A above. Each distance listed in the column is the distance the first sign away from the TTC should be placed. This distance is from the point of deviation of traffic established by the first cones drivers will encounter. A placement is often mistakenly made a distance from the first trucks, not the lane change. This mistake reduces reaction time, but if the next two signs are spaced from the misplaced column A location, the whole advance warning system reduces awareness and the reaction time of drivers.

An important training note: It can be just as hazardous to place advance warning signs as it is to have a poorly designed TTC zone. Workers placing advance warning signs, especially on curving, tree-lined or hilly terrain, have been hit by drivers almost as often as workers in TTC zones. The MUTCD features Table 6C-2, titled “Stopping Sight Distance as a Function of Speed.” This table is intended as a guide to assist planners in the placement of elements of traffic control systems. Employers should be training their personnel in sign placement distance, but they should also clearly remind workers that speed, for the purposes of safety, is not what the posted limit states. Speed limits are devised based on off-peak normal traffic density, not on to-work or from-work traffic congestion times. Speed determination is also subjective based on the theory of the 85th percentile. This measure refers to the actual speed 85% of drivers will attain based on their confidence and comfort with the road surface quality, roadway width, roadway markings, shoulder width, vision distance, curves and hills, weather conditions, daylight, and density of trees or foliage lining the roadway. All of these elements affect a driver’s confidence and comfort, leading to the speed they will attain under those conditions. The rest of the matrix assumes 10% of drivers will drive slower than the 85%, and 5% of drivers will exceed the speed of the 85th percentile. Left out of this subjective measure is the number of drivers texting and the 60% of drivers under some measure of impairment after 11 p.m. on any given Friday or Saturday. Adding distance to the warning system, making the notifications and using robust channelizing devices boost the aware-time reaction of drivers heading toward your crews.

Pedestrians and Cyclists
Advance warning for pedestrians is often an issue. We find “Sidewalk Closed” signs right at the beginning of the traffic control zone – 100 yards after the nearest alternate pedestrian road crossing by the work area. Few pedestrians, especially older individuals, are going to backtrack over a distance to reroute their path. They are more likely to try and navigate the traffic space, raising risks for everyone. Traffic work zone supervisors and planners should be aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act makes clear the requirements for maintaining safe wheelchair passage through your work zone. This applies where handicapped persons are likely to come upon your work area. If they are there, you must have a solution for their safe transit through the area. A solution that addresses both pedestrians and cyclists is closing the space to both, with signage ahead of the nearest alternate route so that they can take the alternate route with little inconvenience. By the way, check that alternate route. If you close a safe pathway for your work zone and direct them through an unsafe pathway, you may find yourself liable for creating a hazard for pedestrians when you were trying to do just the opposite.

Channelizing devices are the cones and barrels placed along the roadway to guide traffic through the work zone. The MUTCD states that a short taper, having a minimum length of 50 feet and a maximum length of 100 feet with channelizing devices at approximately 20-foot spacing, should be used to guide traffic into the one-lane section. The issue here is that a short taper of 100 feet with cones spaced 20 feet apart equates to five traffic cones. While the five cones meet the standard, there is a very good reason to use a 3-foot separation – and that is the function of the traffic cones or, better, the real value of cones. The cones are principally a visual device. They can’t stop an errant vehicle unless they are in the back of a trailer hooked to a truck. What they can do is make noise. If you place cones 3 feet apart, the errant driver striking them is going to hear the cones and feel them in the steering wheel. If they are distracted, they will immediately become aware and react. To workers, a car striking cones provides a loud, early warning that something is wrong, giving them more time, even if only seconds, to take evasive action.

We have only discussed a few practical issues commonly discovered in inspections and accident investigations. Chapter 6 of the MUTCD has lots of requirements and guidance for employers, and we should be taking advantage of it to protect workers who operate near highways.

OSHA and Work Zones
OSHA has authority over work zones. They do not investigate traffic incidents, but they do investigate work zone incidents and work zone safety complaints, and the agency can self-initiate an inspection if hazards are observed while driving by a work zone.

One of the first instructions to the compliance officer is to drive through the work zone, observing for the timely and clear direction and channelization of the driver through the work zone. This training of compliance officers has usually been the issue that has resulted in self-initiated inspections. OSHA has published CPL 02-01-054, “Inspection and Citation Guidance for Roadway and Highway Construction Work Zones” (see www.osha.gov/enforcement/directives/cpl-02-01-054). The agency can and will cite employers for violations of the MUTCD, as clearly stated in the CPL. OSHA regulations on work zones are few and generalized, usually referencing compliance with the millennium edition (year 2000) of the MUTCD. The bottom line here is that failing to meet the minimum requirements of the MUTCD can be the basis for an OSHA violation as well as an inspection.

Flashing Lights
The MUTCD has no specifications or requirements for flashing lights. Many city, state and county regulations that amend the MUTCD standards for their jurisdictions require flashing or strobe lights on mobile equipment in work zones. DOT contracts also have requirements for conspicuity and the use of strobes on work vehicles in a work zone.

The problem with flashing lights is the same as the problem with backup alarms. The more you are exposed to flashing lights and alarms, the less noticeable the warning devices become. We may be getting to the saturation point with flashing lights. Adding to that saturation of light is the placement of vehicles in the work area. In observations, I have noticed that little consideration is paid to vehicles not being used in an operation, particularly during these past two years when we have added to the numbers of trucks in work zones due to a greater number of single drivers during COVID. Now we have numerous trucks parked wherever they will fit, and all of them are running yellow strobes. This creates distractions for drivers. I also see trucks parked on both sides of the road when all the work is only on one side. This keeps passing drivers looking for hazards on both sides of the road when only one side really represents moving equipment risks. Where you can plan it, avoid dividing drivers’ attention by reducing unnecessary distractions in the work area.

The bottom line for employers is summed up in MUTCD rule 6D.03.03.A: “All workers should be trained on how to work next to motor vehicle traffic in a way that minimizes their vulnerability. Workers having specific TTC responsibilities should be trained in TTC techniques, device usage, and placement.”

Take a critical look at your traffic control program and training. See if they really meet the safety needs of the workers on the ground and the interest of the public.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 24 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

Electrification: Ambitious Goals, Practical Realities

I spent a few days in June at the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. Ann Brown-Hailey, Seth Skydel, the EUFMC board and the entire EUFMC staff put on an amazing event. It felt great to see everyone in person for the first time in three years.

The theme that pervaded the conference: The future of fleet is electrification – and the future is now.

Terex Utilities unveiled the industry’s first all-electric bucket truck (see article on page 34). GM and Ford touted their upcoming electric pickup trucks and other battery-powered models. And the utility construction equipment OEMs talked about their EV machine lineups (see page 26 for more).

But as I spoke with fleet managers during the conference, I got the sense that some of them felt conflicted by the industry’s march toward all-electric.

They’re excited about being on the leading edge of transforming the industry. But they also feel pressure from their senior management to meet ambitious goals without sufficient clarity and line of sight into how they can deliver.

They’re wrestling with a number of questions: Will there be enough EV models available for each vehicle and equipment class by 2030? Will those EVs perform reliably in all utility fleet applications? Is leadership fully committed to spending the 1.5 to 2 times more per unit for EVs over the next several years? What does the fleet’s charging infrastructure need to look like for on-site and at-home charging to support a 100% EV fleet? How will utility fleets recharge EVs during extended storm response events? What are the consequences if the fleet falls short of the company’s zero-emission goal? How will senior management judge the fleet manager’s performance if the department misses the target because of factors outside of their control? Will they get credit for progress made? What is Plan B down the road if it appears that EV availability, reliability and infrastructure won’t meet demand by the 2030 target?

The bottom line: Fleet electrification offers a lot of promise to protect the environment. And OEMs have made substantial strides toward delivering more and more EV models. But hitting an “all-electric by 2030” target depends on so many factors falling into place that are beyond a fleet manager’s control.

Senior leadership must get on the same page with their fleet managers to strike the optimal balance between the company’s ambitious goals and the practical realities of the market.

The Skinny on Confined Spaces

Author’s Note: Yes, this is a fleet-oriented magazine, so you might ask why this issue includes this article on confined spaces. Well, I’m glad you asked. All utility employees, including fleet employees, are required to have the skills to recognize a confined space and the hazards in the confined space, and they must also know how to protect themselves from confined space hazards. As you read through this article, you will note the descriptions and characteristics of a confined space, and you may find that some fleet-related spaces do qualify as confined and have the same hazards as a plain old manhole. It doesn’t matter who you work for or what you do, a confined space represents risks that will kill if you don’t recognize them.

There are rules in our industry. We, as utility or utility contractor employers, must follow the rules for two reasons. The first reason is that, if we don’t follow the rules, we get into trouble with the regulatory authorities. The second and more important reason is that the rules are in place to protect employees from injury or death. So it is with confined spaces. Confined spaces can and have killed workers.


Confined space is a confusing issue among many of our colleagues and one I get questions about all the time. In fact, a recent inquiry about confined spaces in wind spurred this article. We will first look at the classification of the spaces we work in so that you start from the right perspective as you try to comply with the rules and effectively protect your workers without going way beyond what’s required. Then we will look at how to practically apply the rules in our workplaces.

The Statistics
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, manholes and vaults are the third most frequent locations for confined space deaths. The most common sources of fatal exposure are naturally occurring hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide and naturally occurring methane. Trench collapses killed 168 workers in 2020, the year of the most recent census report. Yes, trenches can be confined spaces.

Looking at the exposure statistics should get our attention. Those spaces are where we work. And we have another emerging confined space issue related to wind generation. There are no census reports yet because wind turbine maintenance is just getting into swing as turbines age and maintenance intervals increase, but we know injuries and fatalities are increasing, too.

OSHA requires every employer to examine their workplace for confined space hazards and develop a plan for worker protection.

The utility industry has a special classification known as an “enclosed space.” For all practical purposes, we have two classifications: permit-required confined space and enclosed space. Let’s start with some definitions. Permit-required confined space regulations are found at 29 CFR 1910.146 (Subpart J) and 1926 Subpart AA. Enclosed space standards are found at 1910.269(e) and 1910.269(t). You must be familiar with 1926 Subpart AA and 1910.146 so that you clearly know what a permit-required space is and when a location is considered one (more on that in a bit). Your utility’s enclosed space program and training must be based on 1910.269(e) and 1910.269(t). So, now let’s look at how all this fits together for practical application and keeping your workers safe.

Understanding Definitions
First, we need to understand the definitions of the spaces we work in. For those, we go right to the definitions in the OSHA standard for permit-required confined spaces in 1910.146. We must also go to the end of 1910.269, where we will find the definitions for keywords used in the 1910.269 standard. Each definition from the standard is followed by an explanation.

“Confined space” means a space that:

  1. Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work; and
  2. Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (e.g., tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults and pits are spaces that may have limited means of entry); and
  3. Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

Explanation: This definition does not cover electrical manholes, vaults or wind towers. First, all three defining characteristics must be present. While condition 1 might be construed as a manhole, walk-in vault or subterranean electrical vault, that assumption is clarified by conditions 2 and 3. Condition 2 uses examples to help readers understand the term “restricted means for entry.” These restricted means are typically flanges or plates fastened in place with several bolts, meaning it takes a very purposeful act to try to enter the space. You can also surmise from this description the types of facilities these spaces are in. Condition 3 further clarifies the space as “not designed for continuous employee occupancy.” The word “designed” means that the entryways are engineered for access with space and hardware to facilitate frequent and relatively convenient access. Inside the space is appropriate room for maneuvering, walkways, walking grates, handholds, covers for hazardous equipment, lighting and/or ventilation. “Continuous employee occupancy” means that it is expected and common for employees to routinely enter the space for operation, maintenance or inspection.

“Non-permit confined space” means a confined space that meets the definition of a confined space but does not meet the four conditions (see below) of a permit-required confined space.

Explanation: The purpose of this definition and the way it is written have to do with mitigating any of the four hazards that make a space a permit space. This practice is known as reclassifying a permit space. If you have a permit space, but you mitigate or control the four hazards called out in the definition for a permit-required confined space, that space is now a confined space, recognizing that if any of the mitigated hazards reoccur, that space is instantly now a permit space. Following are the four conditions that make a confined space a permit space.

A “permit-required confined space” means a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics:
Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere.
Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant.
Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section.
Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard.

Explanation: Characteristic 1 is frequently cited as justification for making a manhole a confined or permit space. The reasoning is that, should a fire occur, a hazardous atmosphere would exist. The assumption is true – a hazardous atmosphere would exist – but it does not apply to manholes or vaults. This definition is about confined spaces that are classified as permit spaces. A manhole or an electrical vault does not meet the configuration for a confined space established in the definitions, so this characteristic is not associated with electrical manholes or vaults. This definition also exempts wind towers for the same reason. Characteristic 2 refers to flowing materials, such as water, or flowable solids, such as seed. Characteristic 3 refers to bottom-dispensing hoppers or storage bins. Sloping walls do not relate to manholes, electrical vaults or wind towers. Characteristic 4 is also used to include manholes because electricity is hazardous, and vaults or manholes can contain hydrogen sulfide or carbon monoxide. While this is true, as is the case in characteristic 1, these electrical spaces don’t meet the configuration requirements of a confined space.

So, a confined space has to do with shape and access, while a permit-required confined space has to do with the hazards within the confined space.

An “enclosed space” is defined as a working space – such as a manhole, vault, tunnel or shaft – that has a limited (different from “restricted” in confined space) means of egress or entry; that is designed for periodic employee entry under normal operating conditions; and that, under normal conditions, does not contain a hazardous atmosphere, but may contain a hazardous atmosphere under abnormal conditions.

Note to the definition of “enclosed space”: OSHA does not consider spaces that are enclosed but not designed for employee entry under normal operating conditions to be enclosed spaces for the purposes of this section. Similarly, OSHA does not consider spaces that are enclosed and that are expected to contain a hazardous atmosphere to be enclosed spaces for the purposes of this section. Such spaces meet the definition of permit spaces in 1910.146, and entry into them must conform to that standard.

Explanation: Now we get to the space particularly defined for the electric utility industry, the enclosed space. Rule 1910.269(e), “Enclosed spaces,” explains that the enclosed space classification is in lieu of the permit-space entry requirements contained in 1910.146. This rule further requires that if, after the employer takes the precautions required by paragraphs (e) and (t) of 1910.269, the hazards in the enclosed space endanger the life of an entrant or could interfere with an entrant’s escape from the space, then entry into the enclosed space shall meet the permit-space entry requirements of 1910.146. This is a very important rule because it clarifies that 1910.269(e) does not stand alone as work rules for manholes and vaults. Section (t), “Underground electrical installations,” is part of the requirements for the protection of workers in enclosed spaces. You must be familiar with and follow both to get it right.

Another Look
Let’s look again at the definition for “enclosed space,” particularly the note to the definition. In simple terms, the note shares two important perspectives from which we interpret the rules of 1910.269(t). First, if it is designed for employee entry, it is not a permit space. Second, if the space is expected to contain a hazardous atmosphere, it is not an enclosed space. Again, this is important in defining an enclosed space, particularly when dealing with basements of wind towers or the nacelle. In a normally operating system, the presence of oil, hydraulics, or electrical equipment and cables is not considered a hazardous atmosphere or other hazard. This is a key issue for manholes and electrical vaults, especially regarding rescue, and here is why.

Remember, a manhole is covered by both 1910.269(e) and (t). Part (t) requires a first-aid-trained attendant on the surface if the manhole has energized cables or equipment. Part (t) also allows the attendant to enter the manhole for short periods to provide non-emergency assistance. Part (e) requires an attendant as well. The part (e) enclosed space attendant must be first-aid trained and is not permitted to enter the space to assist workers inside. In fact, the rule uses the phrase “immediately available outside the enclosed space,” and those duties performed by the attendant must not distract the attendant from monitoring employees within the space or ensuring that it is safe for employees to enter and exit the space. So, why the difference? It is explained in the preamble. Part (t) specifies that the hazard is “electrical contact” to the exclusion of all other hazards. Part (e) includes other hazards such as gases, water and fires/explosions. Where the only hazard has been determined to be contact with an exposed electrical hazard, an attendant can briefly enter the space.

The Bottom Line
The bottom line on rescue from a manhole, vault or wind enclosed space is this: OSHA makes it clear in the preamble to 1910.269 that the intention is to have a space for the electric utility industry that recognizes both the nature of enclosed spaces and the types of tasks we perform in those spaces. Wind is somewhat different in configuration, but it is still electric utility generation, transmission and distribution, so we still benefit from that.

Here is a summary of what you should know about enclosed spaces:

  • OSHA’s intent is that all confined spaces are hazardous until they are classified by a competent person and remediated to make the space safe to enter. Otherwise, they shall be treated as permit spaces.
  • OSHA also intends that a competent person must classify electrical manholes, vaults, tunnels or shafts as enclosed spaces in accordance with the standard before workers enter those spaces.
  • Classification of an enclosed space requires detection of flammable gases, toxic fumes and oxygen levels.
  • Where unacceptable atmospheres require ventilation, gas checks must assure the ventilation is effective prior to any entry.
  • Where electrical systems exist, a competent person must inspect and assure the integrity of the insulating systems.
  • A manhole or vault that’s only hazard is electrical shock requires an attendant who can occasionally enter the space to assist workers (see 1910.269(t)(3)(ii)).
  • An enclosed space has more potential hazards, not just electrical hazards, so an enclosed space attendant cannot enter the space (see 1910.269(e)(7)).
  • Enclosed space rescue where a hazardous atmosphere exists (e.g., smoke, fire, gas, toxic fumes) must be non-entry rescue. This requirement means enclosed space entrants must be equipped with rescue lines.
  • A manhole or vault that has come to contain any hazardous condition, such as smoke, gas or flood, is a permit space and non-entry rescue must be performed, meaning the entrants must be in a harness and lifeline where those potential hazards exist.
  • Entry rescue must be made by a qualified person in protective gear, and an attendant must be on the surface during the rescue entry.
  • Any space that has a hazardous atmosphere must be effectively ventilated or treated as a permit space.
  • Workers around any confined space of any classification must be trained to the requirements of the 1910.269 standard before they enter or serve as an attendant.

Some Final Notes on Wind
When it comes to wind, rescue for a basement or the bottom of a tower is not too difficult to figure out and plan for. The nacelle has proved to be more difficult, and we have had several bad outcomes in those spaces in the past decade. The nacelle gets surveyed for hazards by a competent person just like a manhole does. If hazardous conditions are discovered, remediation must occur. Leaking fluids is a big one, especially if they are flammable.

Egress from a nacelle is either down the ladder or out the top hatch. If the exit is the top hatch, timely rescue must be in the plan. The roof rescue is often a rappel, so that equipment must be in place while the work is going on. Rappelling should also be considered down the ladder. In a fire, it is much faster to rope down the ladder than to climb down it.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 24 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

Electrifying Heavy-Duty Trucks with Hydrogen

Any fleet pursuing a goal of 100% electrification will need to plan to include hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in their mix, specifically for their Class 8 truck segment.

That was the overarching theme of a Green Truck Summit panel session – “How Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Will Affect Work Trucks” – that I attended in March at NTEA Work Truck Week.

The panelists included Morgan Andreae, executive director of the Growth Office at Cummins Inc.; Craig Knight, CEO at Hyzon Motors; and George Rubin, chief commercial officer at Loop Energy.


Here are my seven takeaways from that session. If you’d like to learn more, I delve deeper into this topic with Hyzon’s Craig Knight in this article.

1. Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are EVs.

The difference is in the electric power source: hydrogen and fuel cells versus battery power only.

2. Hydrogen offers a much higher energy density than batteries.

More energy can be stored on the truck at a much lower weight than batteries, allowing for a longer range and larger payload.

3. The current commercial focus for hydrogen fuel cells is on higher-use, harsher duty-cycle fleet applications that involve carrying bigger loads.

Think long-haul trucks, refrigerated trucks, garbage trucks and dump trucks.

4. Hydrogen refueling times are a fraction of the battery charge rates for a comparable range.

Hydrogen takes about the same amount of time as refueling a diesel vehicle.

5. The big obstacle to fuel-cell growth is the lack of infrastructure.

The high cost of hydrogen fuel and fueling stations has constrained fuel-cell expansion, but the U.S. infrastructure bill addresses this challenge. Initiatives are also underway to produce hydrogen locally to serve the local market. This model should reduce costs by minimizing hydrogen fuel transport.

6. There’s still a lack of knowledge and education around hydrogen fuel-cell technology.

That’s why OEMs are targeting the fleet/work truck industry as early adopters to help build awareness for the broader market.

7. Hydrogen fuel-cell generators could be an answer for EV resiliency.

Fuel-cell generators could replace fossil-fuel-powered generators to charge battery-electric vehicles in the field – especially important during storm response situations – or supplement existing grid capacity to handle power surges.

Safety Signs and Sign Policy

You might be surprised how a little thing like a safety sign can turn out to be one of your company’s biggest financial losses of the year. Over the last decade, I’m aware of three clients who lost big because a sign they put up was the wrong color, the print was imprecise, or the employer didn’t have a sign policy or effective safety sign training.

Let’s start with having a sign policy. When helping to develop any policy, I always tell clients that the policy you write is only as good as the training you provide when you roll it out. For instance, if I were to research signs in preparation for a sign policy, I would likely start with the ANSI Z535 safety sign standard. That is where you find the results of the research and testing performed by industry on how to compose and employ effective safety signs. Having done all the research, you establish a procedure and policy that ensure signs are effective. Your new policy enhances worker safety and the safety of the public, and it protects the employer. There is only one very big problem: Your sign program will not be effective if the workforce that uses the signs, the facilitator who provides the signs, and the employees who install or maintain the signs don’t understand sign color, size, print and placement. This is especially true over time when the signs become worn, illegible or damaged, or if they need to be replaced or moved.

If you aren’t already convinced, you are probably now asking, why do employees need to know about safety signs? There are a number of reasons and all of them are lab tested. Agencies like OSHA and MSHA know through experience that safety signs prevent incidents when they are part of a system of safety. Placing signs is only part of the job. A good safety program consists of several elements that link together to establish a safety culture. Employees who are trained on the purpose and function of safety signs are more likely to see and adhere to them. Training employees on the value and construction of signs gives them some ownership and awareness that signs are important and are not only to be followed but are to be maintained in a functional condition. Training on safety signs is not an all-day enterprise. But that short training makes the safety signs a tool in facilities safety when employees understand why they work and what they mean. Signs that an employer places in the environment are there to protect the public from hazards associated with the employer’s facilities. These are the signs warning of lakes, ditches, driveways, alligators, hidden drives, speed limits, trucks entering/exiting, energized equipment, radio-frequency energy and slow-moving vehicles.

The ANSI sign standards are tested to determine the effects on observers of viewing the signage and warning symbols. Those effective sign constructs are then categorized and standardized to keep signs consistent. When workers and the public see a safety sign, they are conditioned to react to the color and graphics. By “conditioned,” I mean that consistency in color, graphics and shape is immediately recognized as a warning because signs are consistent. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices provides the same consistency, so much so that no one really reads a stop sign. The size, shape and color automatically result in the driver slowing to a stop. This cognitive act was made clear a few years ago when an artist thought stop signs were boring, so he replaced numerous standard stop signs with artistic versions using different colors and graphics. The result was a flood of traffic accidents and jail for the artist who foolishly signed his artwork.

The ANSI safety sign standard specifies that a sign must have three panels bordered within the sign. The three components of effective signage are the signal word panel, the message panel and the symbol panel. The signal word is one word, such as “DANGER,” “WARNING” or “CAUTION.” The message is short, concise and describes the hazard, such as “High Voltage” or “Poison” or “Wild Animals.” The symbol panel is a second method to repeat the message for those who may not fully comprehend it. The symbols are researched using numerous groups of people of varying ages, levels of education, nationalities and culture groups to learn their responses to viewing the symbols. These three panels and the colored backgrounds make up the effectiveness of the sign. The colors for “DANGER” are white letters on a red background. For “WARNING,” they’re black letters on an orange background. “CAUTION” uses black letters on a yellow background, while “NOTICE” uses italicized white letters on a blue background. “SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS” are white letters on a green background.

The placement of signs is elective based on avenues of approach to the hazard and angles of view. Signs should be placed within view of an approaching person so that they can see the sign and react in time to avoid the hazard. Inside a facility where employees are trained to recognize signs, placement is simplified. Out in the public environment, unlike with the MUTCD, the size, number and location of signs are not specified. The owner must make an evaluation and consider the nature of the passing public and the level of hazard to decide where and how many signs are appropriate, keeping in mind that approaching persons must be able to see and react to the sign’s message in time to avoid the hazard.

Real-Life Examples
In the introduction to this article, I mentioned the cost of poor environmental signage. Here are a couple of real instances where the true value of safety signs was overlooked.

Case 1
A utility built a substation. The fence around the substation was 7 feet high with three strands of barbed wire at the top. The fence was also a minimum of 18 feet from the nearest structure in the substation. Outside the substation, a hedge ran parallel along the substation’s rear fence. The hedge was about 10 feet high and 12 feet from the fence. When the fence was erected, the crew installed “HIGH VOLTAGE” red-and-white warning signs every 30 feet along the 240-foot-long fence. About four months later, a local man with a history of burglary and theft convictions laid a wooden ladder against the barbed wire and easily scaled the fence. A short time later, while cutting the 4/0 ground from the substation power transformer, he got in series with a ground current and was electrocuted. A substation maintenance crew member found his body. According to the coroner, he had been in the substation three days.

Within 72 hours, the utility received a notice of claim and a negligence injury lawsuit based on the standards of care established in Section 11 of the National Electrical Safety Code and the codes referenced therein (the American National Standard for Environmental and Facility Safety Signs, ANSI Z535.1, .2, .3, .4 and .5). The suit was successful and hinged on one brief paragraph found in ANSI safety sign standard 8.2.2, “Determination of Safe Viewing Distance,” which reads, “Determination of safe viewing distance for the message panel text shall take into consideration a reasonable hazard avoidance reaction time.” It was argued by the utility that the ANSI standard only applied to workers. The jury disagreed – and they were right. The plaintiff’s case clearly showed that the ladder the victim used was placed almost equidistant between the two closest signs. The plaintiff also demonstrated that when emerging from the hedge used to conceal his unlawful entry for a criminal purpose, the local man could not see the face of the signs. That single argument was enough to result in a multimillion-dollar award to the family of the deceased.

This raises the question for the utility: Would training on sign placement and purpose have triggered a change in company policy? If the sign installers had recognized the placement issue, would the signs have been placed at 8-foot intervals and would that have prevented the incident? No one can argue intent or assumptions on the part of the deceased in this event. What is clearly true is that sign placement did not meet the intent of the standard of care.

Case 2
A highway engineering and construction firm leased an empty 3-acre lot as a base of operations. Highway equipment and materials were stored there. Residential housing was across the street from the lot. A neighborhood market down the street next to the construction lot was across the street from a residential street entrance.

One morning, an improperly loaded material truck caught the system neutral of a single-phase line that crossed the construction lot entrance. The impact broke the #4 copper primary, which fell clear of the neutral, landing on the crushed granite cover in the construction lot. The road crews said the wire was smoking some at first but then stopped. They decided to put up a sign. They used a 4×8 sheet of 5/8 plywood against a sawhorse. In orange fluorescent marking paint, they sprayed this warning on the plywood: “Don’t Touch the Wire.” They proceeded to return to their work area some 100 yards away and then called the power company to report the downed wire.

Fewer than 15 minutes later, a pedestrian from the residential area crossed the street into the construction lot, walking toward the market. She stepped on the downed wire and was electrocuted just as the utility troubleman was pulling up to the location. One of the two-man crew cut the wire with hot cutters and rubber gloves while the second began CPR on the pedestrian. The first man drove to the fuse and pulled it. Despite their efforts, the victim did not survive.

The family of the deceased sued the engineering firm and won. The ANSI sign standard was the basis of their negligence claim. The plaintiff agreed that the workers sought to minimize risk to the public. The plaintiff’s claim also showed that the sign was noncompliant with the ANSI standard in size, shape, color and message and thus could not be recognized by the victim. It was purely an accident that the wire was brought down, but the crew recognized there was a remaining hazard. That is why they put up the sign. Their efforts were honorable but fell short of the standard of care established by the ANSI standard. The crew should have stood by to warn approaching members of the public of the hazard, but instead they chose to erect a warning. That made sense to them because they knew the nature of the hazard. The message made sense to them because they clearly knew of the presence of the wire. The color made sense to them because that is the color that they use to write warnings on the ground where underground obstructions are known to exist. But the pedestrian had no foreknowledge or experience that would have caused her to recognize the hazard expressed by the crew member’s sign.

The ANSI sign standard shows that colors, hazard symbols and warning messages have a repeatable and predictive effect, informing observers that a hazard is present. Of course, such a sign was not available in this case, and a compliant sign could not have been constructed by the highway workers. However, basic knowledge of the function and purpose of signs should have compelled the workers to know their plywood composition was not effective or compliant when such a life-threatening hazard was present. A trained worker would have immediately rejected the crew-made sign idea and posted observers to keep the area clear.

Conclusion
By the way, remember the old white “DANGER” sign in a red oval on a black background? When research showed the value of the three-panel design in 1991, the new design was presented. The ANSI standard explained the rejection of the old red oval but allowed its use to provide time for the conversion. In 1998, the oval sign was removed from the standard and no longer considered compliant. You can still buy them even though they were removed from the ANSI standard. However, again, installing red-oval “DANGER” signs is no longer considered compliant. The bottom line here is that if you are a safety person and/or a policy writer, you need to know these consensus standards and employ their guidance in your own safety programs – both to better protect your workers and to protect your employer.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 24 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

Navigating Post-Pandemic Challenges

As we head into spring, the fleet industry is starting to get back to some sort of normalcy after what has felt like a two-year winter.

After skipping last year, the NTEA Work Truck Show is back in Indianapolis in March. And EUFMC returns to Williamsburg, Virginia, in June after a two-year hiatus.

But some pandemic effects appear likely to linger for the next several months and into next year.

For example, the supply chain crisis continues to cripple production for automakers, body manufacturers and upfitters. And that means you – and your business units – are having to wait much longer than usual for new parts and equipment to arrive.

Used vehicle prices are at historic highs, which is a great thing when you’re remarketing your equipment. But when it’s difficult to get comparable new equipment, you have to hold on to the older assets longer than you traditionally would, which increases maintenance costs.

And the inflationary pressures on steel, aluminum and other materials used in the work truck industry are driving up the costs of truck bodies and interiors.

So, how do you navigate the lingering post-pandemic challenges impacting your fleet operations?

Over the upcoming UFP issues this year, we’ll be speaking with your peers, industry experts and perhaps you – to glean insights, strategies and best practices for effective fleet management in a turbulent time like today.

After all, as a fleet professional in the utility industry, even in normal times, you’re under intense pressure to juggle multiple roles and do them all well. You’re expected to be the chief engineer, chief negotiator, financial analyst, organizational psychologist, risk management expert and public relations director for the department.

Yet there is only so much time in the day. When your attention is spread across various responsibilities, where do you find the time to gather the information you need to grow and excel in your work?

That’s what we at UFP seek to help you do – save you time as your go-to resource. And we’re always looking for new voices within our utility fleet professional community to share their stories, lessons learned and fresh ideas.

So, if you’re a fleet professional interested in speaking with us about what’s going on in your fleet, how your organization is handling the current post-COVID challenges, or new initiatives you’re implementing that you think could also help your peers, please reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor