LOOKING FOR SOMETHING?

Tag: Editorial

What are Your Stories? Share Them.

A couple of months ago, Dale Collins, the fleet services supervisor at Fairfax Water in Virginia, emailed me about four new crew trucks he had ordered. He and his team were proud of the final product – and of the nearly three-year process they went through to get the spec right.

Collins thought there might be a story to tell to UFP readers, but he wasn’t sure what that story would be or look like. He reached out to me anyway. And I’m glad he did.

That’s because I’m always on the hunt for real-world fleet stories that can inform, educate and inspire you to do more, be more and achieve more in your career.

When I received Collins’ email, I didn’t know what value his story would bring to our audience, but I wanted to explore it further.

We scheduled an initial 10-minute phone call. During the conversation, I was looking for lessons learned, new ideas and new strategies that would be applicable and useful to utility fleet professionals beyond Fairfax Water.

As Collins delved deeper into the three-year process to garner management support, get input on spec changes and make critical decisions, I stopped him. “We’ve got a story here,” I said.

Then we scheduled a full interview. The result is the fleet profile in this issue of UFP: “Fairfax Water: Overhauling Crew Truck Specs to Improve Safety and Productivity.”

I tell you this story because you’re most likely doing interesting things in your own fleet right now that you’re really proud of. But perhaps you haven’t thought about sharing your experiences beyond your organization.

If that’s the case, I want to encourage you to reach out to me, just as Collins did, and let me know what cool things you’re doing in your fleet.

You might not know if you really have a story, but that’s OK. Collins didn’t know either and contacted me anyway.

If you’ve been in fleet for any amount of time, you’ve amassed a wealth of stories that could bring value to your peers and position you as a leader in the industry.

So, what are your stories? Let’s talk.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

How to Get Buy-In on Your New Fleet Initiative

You’re planning to roll out a new telematics deployment or ask senior management for a bigger budget, expecting to encounter some resistance. How do you position your proposal to get buy-in from stakeholders?

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle offered insight into this topic with his work “The Art of Rhetoric,” which was published about 2,400 years ago. He introduced the three elements of influence that still serve as the foundation for effective leadership communications today.

The big takeaway from “The Art of Rhetoric” is that if you overlook any of the three elements when crafting and presenting your proposal, you’ll stack the odds against you being able to win over your audience.

What are those three elements?

1. Ethos
Aristotle uses this Greek term to refer to the character and credibility of the speaker – which is you.

Does your audience believe in you, trust that you have their best interests in mind and have the confidence that you know what you’re talking about? You can present the most compelling and smart proposal, but if stakeholders don’t trust or believe in you, they’ll dismiss your ideas before you even present them.

So, in the planning stages of your initiative, start early when it comes to involving stakeholders and building trust with them.  

2. Pathos
This term refers to the emotional disposition of the audience. In “The Art of Rhetoric,” Aristotle talks about how we look at things differently based on our emotions. Whether we’re fearful, angry, happy or hopeful, we see things differently and accept the same message differently depending on what emotional state we are in at the time.

Your job is to identify both the current emotional state your audience is likely to be in and the target emotional state you want to lead them to. Then build your proposal or presentation in a way that moves your audience from their current state (e.g., fear) to the target state (e.g., confidence or optimism).

3. Logos
This element pertains to the logical consistency of your proposal. After all, you can establish your credibility and make a powerful emotional connection with the audience, but if your proposal doesn’t make sense, you’ll lose all that momentum.

The objective is to construct your proposal in a way that’s clear, concise and compelling for your stakeholders to “get it” – so that they’ll be more inclined to buy into it.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Electric Outlook for the Work Truck Industry

My biggest takeaway from this year’s NTEA Work Truck Show? The industry appears to be headed toward an electric future. But a lot of work still needs to be done for that future to become a mainstream reality anytime soon.

Here’s what I mean: Electrification is building momentum because the cost of battery technology has been trending downward to the point where electrified trucks are becoming a more attractive and financially viable option for fleets to try.

According to Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance report, lithium-ion battery prices have fallen 73% per kilowatt-hour since 2010. That trend is expected to continue until EVs become cheaper to buy than their fossil-fuel-powered counterparts by 2025 to 2029.

As battery costs have dropped, this has allowed for more affordable power that extends the battery range between charges, making it comparable to the range of conventional-fueled vehicles – and thus more acceptable for more fleet applications.

That’s why we’re seeing a growing number of OEMs like Tesla, Freightliner, Mitsubishi Fuso and now Ford – with its recent $500 million investment in Rivian to produce an all-electric pickup truck – entering the fray.

But here’s the challenge: charging infrastructure. There’s not enough of it.

After all, what happens when you have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of vehicles that need to be charged – most of them at the same time – putting massive amounts of stress on the existing grid and infrastructure?

What will be the impact on the cost of electricity and thus the cost of “fueling”? Will there be any stability in pricing so that consumers and fleets can budget and plan?

There was a lot of talk at the 2019 Work Truck Show about the need for greater collaboration among fleets, regulators, automakers and utility companies to work toward a solution – to build out charging infrastructure that’s sufficient, stable and affordable enough to meet demand.

So, while the future of the work truck industry appears to be electric, the question is, when will that happen? Watch the developments in charging infrastructure. That will give you an accurate gauge as to when mainstream adoption will become possible.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Your Job Title Says ‘Fleet,’ But You’re Actually in Sales

Whatever position we’re in, we’re all selling something – an idea, a point of view or a proposal – whether we want to call it “sales” or not. That goes for fleet professionals as well.

In his book “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others,” best-selling author Daniel H. Pink put it like this: “Physicians sell patients on a remedy. Lawyers sell juries on a verdict. Teachers sell students on the value of paying attention in class. … Whatever our profession, we deliver presentations to fellow employees and make pitches to new clients. We try to convince the boss to loosen up a few dollars from the budget or the human resources department to add more vacation days.”

But far too many fleet managers believe a myth that’s putting their careers at risk: “My work should speak for itself.” The truth is that, even in fleet, perception is reality. And if you don’t intentionally shape the perception of senior leadership to match the reality of your work, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Think about it: Your fleet could be one of the top performers in the utility industry. But what if leadership doesn’t know what top performance should look like? All they see is that fleet costs keep going up. So, from their perspective, you must be bad at your job, right?

That’s why your long-term success in fleet hinges on your ability to sell yourself, your proposals, and your department’s performance to all stakeholders who have the resources and support you need to do your job right.

What does sales look like for fleet professionals? Check out this issue’s article “Budget Talks: Why Fleet Needs a Seat at the Table – And How You Can Earn It, in which we interviewed 30-year veteran fleet manager Chris Lindquist to help us dive deep into this topic.

The premise is that you can’t expect senior management to “get it” when it comes to fleet performance. That’s on the fleet manager. In the article, Lindquist offers four tips for how you can increase your influence on the discussions that impact your budget.

According to Lindquist: “You have to educate management by developing your models and business cases so that they understand that what the fleet department does actually dovetails with the company’s strategic objectives – that your fleet really does have an impact on the overall company dynamics, especially on the operational side where these budget dollars are being fought over.”

That’s the essence of sales in fleet. It’s not about obnoxiously tooting your own horn. It’s about the subtler arts of education, communication and demonstration to help all key decision-makers to “get it” – to shape the narrative that explains why your department should be entrusted with more dollars.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Respect

In a pre-show call for a fleet industry podcast, the interviewer asked me to talk about UFP and our audience to get insight into the range of topics we might discuss during the episode.

I shared what I’ve learned from speaking with many of you over the past four years. After I finished, the interviewer responded, “That’s amazing how much [utility fleet professionals] are responsible for and how much they must know compared to other types of fleets.”

He nailed it. Exactly.

As a fleet manager in the utility industry, there’s a high level of sophistication you bring to the job that’s not required in many other sectors. That’s because you have so much more on your plate than what you would deal with, say, managing an urban delivery or pharmaceutical sales fleet, where you may have a handful of vehicle types you’re working with – box trucks, pickups, vans and sedans.

But in the utility world, it’s a whole different realm. You’re managing road vehicles, trailers, off-road equipment and all-terrain vehicles. At some utility companies, even aviation assets, like helicopters and drones, are managed by the fleet department.

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

And you 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.

You’re also a talent evaluator, recruiter and coach who manages a maintenance shop of skilled technicians and provides them with the safest possible environment to work in.

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

And if you’re like many utility fleet professionals, you’re also leading the way in green fleet initiatives, such as with natural gas and electrification, bringing an even higher level of complexity to your job when it comes to equipment specs, procurement and maintenance.

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

Sean M. Lyden

Editor

Tesla’s Turmoil and the Future of Electrified Transportation

It has been a tumultuous 2018 for electric carmaker Tesla and its embattled CEO, Elon Musk.

Earlier this year, a handful of crashes involving Tesla vehicles increased scrutiny of the safety of their semi-autonomous Autopilot systems. Then there have been the ongoing manufacturing challenges causing lengthy and expensive delays in building the Model 3 – the mass-market electric car that Musk has banked Tesla’s future on. And Musk’s high-profile Twitter feuds with journalists, analysts and short-sellers have caused many in the industry to question his fitness to effectively lead a publicly traded company.

But whatever storm clouds may be hovering over the company today, Tesla has already made its mark, pushing the automotive industry toward what will likely be an all-electric future – no matter what happens to the company itself.

Think about it: Traditional automakers have been building electric vehicles for years, but Tesla has made EVs desirable. With the introduction of the Model S sedan in 2012, Tesla showed that EVs could be sleek, spacious and fast. And with hundreds of thousands of pre-orders for the lower-priced Model 3, Tesla demonstrated that it’s possible to create mass-market demand for EVs at a time of relatively low and stable fuel prices.

The major automakers are following suit with plans to introduce several new all-electric models in the next two to three years.

Tesla also has made electric vehicles practical with battery ranges that exceed 300 miles, pushing other automakers to do the same. After all, it was just a few years ago when the all-electric Nissan Leaf could travel only about 80 miles on a single charge. Today, Nissan has nearly doubled that range. And GM’s new Bolt offers a battery range of over 200 miles. But it took Tesla to show that there could be enough market demand for automakers to invest in the research and development of longer-range batteries.

So, what’s the future of Tesla? Will Musk remain at the helm? Will the company even exist five years from now? Who knows. But what I do know is that the state of electrified transportation would not be where it is today were it not for a relentless and visionary CEO who doesn’t hesitate to put all his chips on the table to change the industry – and the world.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Tap into the Power of Stories to Expand Your Influence

For a fleet manager, stories can be more than just entertaining anecdotes – they can be a powerful tool to motivate technicians, change employee behavior and garner senior management’s support.

But what exactly is storytelling in a utility fleet environment? How do you tell a good story, especially if you’ve never thought of yourself as a great communicator?

In an interview I conducted with Paul Smith, leadership trainer and author of the best-selling book “Lead with a Story,” Smith said that storytelling is “a way of getting your message across without making your audience feel defensive, so they will be more open to what you have to say.”

How do stories make the audience more open to your message?

“A story activates a different part of the brain, where instead of being critical and analyzing, they’re just listening to the story,” Smith said. “It creates that open frame of mind in people in a way that data alone cannot do.”

The idea is that you can use stories to influence people without wagging your finger at them or telling them what to do. Stories allow the listener to arrive at conclusions themselves, making them more receptive to you and more motivated to follow through on your message.

So, what does storytelling look like when you’re managing people in a utility fleet environment?

Suppose you’re rolling out an initiative that could bring significant changes to your organization – whether it’s rightsizing the fleet, deploying telematics or switching maintenance software systems. You’ll inevitably encounter employees who don’t want those changes to happen, doing everything they can to undermine your efforts.

That’s where stories come in.

For example, you could tell employees a story about another fleet that deployed telematics. At first, employees resisted the idea of Big Brother watching them. Then one of their drivers was involved in a vehicle crash and considered at fault for the incident. But the vehicle’s telematics data told a different story – what actually happened – that proved the employee’s actions didn’t cause the collision. And he was exonerated.

The story’s lesson: It’s natural to be wary of change. But the telematics rollout wasn’t about the company trying to be Big Brother. It was about building a safer and more efficient fleet. And telematics can be a powerful tool to help good drivers protect their safety – and their driving record.

Too often, managers bypass storytelling altogether, taking a heavy-handed approach. But if you really want to influence people, try telling a good story instead.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

The Need for Greater Collaboration Between Fleet and Safety

In April, our team at Utility Fleet Professional magazine launched the first-ever fleet track at the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo in Loveland, Colorado. The conference is the industry’s largest safety education event, produced by our sister publication, Incident Prevention magazine.

We covered a wide range of topics, from the imminent safety challenges of automated vehicle technologies, to fleet ergonomics that can reduce worker injury risks, to spec’ing aerial platforms with maximum safety in mind.

But my biggest takeaway from the conference?

It’s that there’s a growing need for fleet and safety professionals to communicate and collaborate with each other on a deeper level – to spec the safest vehicles possible within the real-world budget constraints that fleet departments must navigate.

Think about it. We’ve seen automated driver-assist systems deployed in cars over the past few years. But now we’re starting to see them being introduced in the commercial truck market as well, which could have significant implications for both the fleet and safety departments at utility companies.

For example, the 2018 Ford F-150 features an available Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection system and advanced adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality that uses radars and cameras to maintain a set distance behind a vehicle – and even follow that vehicle down to a complete stop.

This is cool safety technology, but it also makes the truck more expensive. And when fleet managers are given a mandate from senior management to do more with less money, how do they strike that delicate balance between vehicle safety and cost?

If a fleet decides to spec their trucks with driver-assist systems, what is the company’s policy regarding operation of that equipment? Now, that’s a question for the safety department. After all, if a driver gets annoyed with the beeps or vibration alerts on the truck’s lane-keeping system, for example, and decides to disable it, how is that issue addressed? If a crash occurs after the system was disabled, what does that mean for the company’s risk exposure?

And if there are specific driver policies governing the use of driver-assist systems, how can fleet assist the safety department to help ensure driver compliance with those policies? Perhaps fleet could place labels inside the cabs that clearly communicate the safety policy. And in some cases, fleet could install technology on the vehicle that would alert the company when a driver ignores a warning or disables the system.

Both safety and fleet professionals want to see lineworkers and equipment operators get home safe to their families. So, it makes sense that they should work closely together to build the safest fleet possible in a way that doesn’t break the budget.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Fleet’s Expanding Role in Making Sure Lineworkers Get Home Safely

Lineworkers truly are heroes in our industry – and in our communities. I’ve gotten to see this firsthand as a resident of Central Florida, which was hit hard by Hurricane Irma last fall, leaving many of us without power for over a week. So, you can imagine how heartening it was to see all the convoys of bucket trucks from out of state and Canada coming down to Florida, with lineworkers who had left their families to work around the clock to restore power to our area.

Now we’re seeing a massive mobilization effort by utilities across North America to help Puerto Rico, where many residents have been without power for several months since Hurricane Maria ravaged the island.

As fleet leaders, you play a big role in making these storm-response missions successful by ensuring that crews have the equipment they need to serve our local communities, often in harsh weather conditions, and return home safely to their families.

It’s this safety component that I want to zero in on in this letter. When your crews are performing storm-response work, how can you give them complete confidence that their fleet equipment is safe and up to the task? That begins with you making sure that you’re continually covering all your bases when it comes to fleet safety. And we’re here to help you do just that.

At Utility Fleet Professional, we’re dedicated to safe fleet operations. That’s why we’re partnering with the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo to offer an all-new fleet safety track in Loveland, Colorado, April 24-26, 2018.

The fleet safety track brings in utility fleet leaders, safety professionals and industry experts to talk about these topics:

  • Advanced Ergonomics: Spec’ing Truck Bodies & Equipment with Ergonomics & Economics in Mind
  • Autonomous Vehicles are Coming Sooner Than You Think: What You Need to Know to be Ready for the Safety Challenges They Will Bring
  • How Technology is Improving Tool Safety
  • Going into Autopilot: Is Technology Preventing or Causing Increases in Driver Incidents?
  • Aerial Platform Safety: How Florida Power & Light Uses Automatic Load-Sensing Technology to Reduce Risk
  • Spec’ing Aerial Equipment for Maximum Safety: Best Practices that Protect Your Workers
  • Eyes in the Skies: How You Can Use Drone Technology to Mitigate Utility Safety Risks

The bottom line is that fleet safety requires continuing education as new safety challenges emerge. So, if you’re interested in learning the latest trends and best practices to build a safer fleet – to ensure utility crews get safely home to their families each and every day – then consider joining us at the iP Utility Safety Conference in Loveland. For more information and to register, visit https://utilitysafetyconference.com/.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

How Will You Adapt?

Our story begins in 2009.

It was only eight years ago, but so much has happened since then.

At that time, we were in the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The idea of calling an Uber using your smartphone was still about a year away from happening. And a niche electric carmaker, Tesla, had just received a major cash infusion to pull the struggling company from the brink of bankruptcy.

That’s also when search engine giant Google launched its self-driving car project.

If you recall, at the time, the idea of robot cars still seemed like science fiction – a long way out in the future. And any work being done in this space was primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

That’s what makes Google’s foray into this space so remarkable. Here was this young private-sector company willing to put significant resources into what the firm has described as a “moon shot.” This bet on autonomous vehicles represented an unprecedented level of commitment by the private sector for an unproven, highly expensive technology.

But today that bet is starting to pay off with wide-ranging ramifications.

To date, Google’s self-driving car project – now branded as Waymo – has logged over 3 million autonomous miles. And that success has spurred on a lot of healthy competition, with traditional automakers and other Silicon Valley companies entering the race. Industry consensus is that we’ll start seeing at least Level 3 autonomous vehicles – where the human driver must still be ready to take back control when the system requests – legally hitting the market in 2021.

Let that sink in for a moment. That’s less than four years from now. 

And sure, there are still big hurdles and many questions – beyond the technology – that government, industry and citizens must answer before robots will rule the roads. But the U.S. and other world governments are actively working on developing legal frameworks to address societal concerns and give automakers the regulatory clarity they need to go all-in with autonomous vehicle production.

As a journalist who has covered the fleet industry for over a decade, I spend a lot of time talking with smart people about the intersection of technology and transportation. From what I’m hearing – and if the past year is any indication – we’re accelerating toward a self-driving world.

So, what’s your plan? How will you adapt to the big changes coming soon to our industry?

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Ancient Wisdom for Today’s Fleet Leaders

There’s a fable by the ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop, about the Sun and the Wind that offers a powerful lesson for today’s fleet leaders. It goes something like this.

As the Sun and the Wind were debating over who was the stronger force, the Sun noticed a traveler walking along the road below them, which gave him an idea for how to settle the matter once and for all.

He pointed to the traveler and offered this proposal to the Wind: “Whichever one of us can get that man to take off his jacket will be considered the stronger force.”

The Wind agreed and went first. But as he put his power on full display, something very interesting happened. While the Wind’s strength grew, so did the traveler’s resistance. Instead of getting him to take off his jacket, the Wind’s force caused the man to cling to his jacket even tighter, refusing to let it go, until eventually the Wind gave up.

Then it was the Sun’s turn. He emerged from behind the clouds and quietly focused his heat onto the man. At first, nothing appeared to be happening. But then a drop of sweat trickled down the man’s forehead. And then another and another, until the traveler was sweating profusely. A few seconds later, he willingly took off his coat.

So, what’s the lesson here for fleet? When it comes to working with people, subtle influence is more powerful than direct force.

Think about it. When you propose an initiative that could bring big changes to your organization – whether it’s rightsizing the fleet, deploying telematics or switching maintenance software systems – you inevitably encounter people who don’t want those changes to happen.

That’s because if stakeholders feel like changes are being forced upon them, they’ll respond like the traveler resisting the Wind, clinging tighter to their proverbial jackets, with their minds closed to any opportunities the changes could bring to them – and the organization. And they’ll do everything they can to undermine your efforts.

But when you involve stakeholders from the beginning of the process and, along the way, address their concerns about the uncertainty the changes could bring to their jobs and their lives, you’re leading like the Sun, using the “warmth” of influence to motivate people to work alongside you – not against you – to ensure your change initiative is a success.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

The Future of Utility Fleets is Here … Are You Ready?

As a utility fleet professional, you have to wear numerous hats – engineer, purchasing agent, manager, IT person, recruiter, counselor, accountant, salesperson – and are constantly bombarded with “fires” to put out, leaving you with little time to think about your future.

But as you read about and see the rapid change going on in the industry, you’re realizing that you need the time to start thinking about how to adapt. Emerging technologies like self-driving systems, the internet of things, connected vehicles, artificial intelligence and drones are already here and just beginning to make an impact on how fleets – and fleet professionals – do business, setting the stage for major industry disruption in the next three to five years.

And as more and more older fleet workers and technicians get ready for retirement, there’s a looming shortage of younger workers who are willing and qualified to fill the gap, raising the stakes for utility fleets as they compete for technical talent and expertise.

So, what if there was a three-day boot camp during which you could set aside everything else and focus your energy and attention on learning and thinking about the strategies, tactics and leadership tools that can help you successfully navigate the challenges ahead?

Now there is, and its name is Utility Fleet Conference 2017.

UFC 2017 is an intensive three-day fleet education event from October 2-4, 2017, produced by Utility Fleet Professional magazine (www.utilityfleetprofessional.com) and co-located at the International Construction & Utility Equipment Exposition (www.icuee.com) in Louisville, Ky.

If you’re a fleet professional working for an investor-owned utility, public utility, cooperative or utility contractor, UFC 2017 is designed specifically for you. That’s because it brings together leading minds from across North America for fleet-focused education and networking, where you can dive deep into the best practices, strategies and trends that address the unique needs and challenges of utility fleets, especially in today’s rapidly changing environment.

And since UFC 2017 is co-located with ICUEE, which attracts more than 17,000 attendees and 950-plus exhibitors, you gain access to an exclusive forum for checking out the latest equipment and meeting and learning from industry experts and peers who can help you take your fleet’s performance – and your career – to the next level.

If this conference interests you, visit www.utilityfleetconference.com to learn more and view the full agenda. And if you register before June 30, you’ll save $100.

Hope to see you in Louisville!

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Self-Driving Systems Present Opportunities and Challenges for Fleets Today, Not Just in the Future

In early February, I moderated a panel of OEM reps from Ford Motor Co. and Daimler Trucks North America on the topic of “Connectivity, Autonomy and the Future of Mobility in Fleet” at the Washington, D.C. Auto Show. As I reflected on our discussion, this was my biggest takeaway: The emergence of self-driving systems is not just a trend to watch in the next five to 10 years; there’s a lot going on right now that utility fleets should be thinking about.

For example, the new 2018 Ford F-150 pickup, expected to go on sale this fall, will feature an available Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Warning system and an advanced adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality that uses radars and cameras to maintain a set distance behind a vehicle – and even follow that vehicle down to a complete stop.

Then there’s the new 2018 Freightliner Class 8 Cascadia, set to release this summer, which offers a full suite of semiautonomous technologies, including adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation with automatic braking. But perhaps the most interesting system is the fourth-generation Intelligent Powertrain Management that’s available on models equipped with Detroit Diesel powertrains. It operates like a predictive cruise control system, using GPS connectivity that enables the truck to anticipate upcoming road terrain and automatically adjust transmission shifting, engine acceleration and braking in a way that maximizes fuel economy as the vehicle approaches each hill, climbs it and coasts on the other side.

The bottom line is that, on some level, autonomous vehicles are already here – from cars and light-duty pickups all the way up to Class 8 tractors. But I’m curious: How are these developments impacting your fleet operations today?

Now that more and more OEMs are offering semiautonomous systems as factory options, does this mean that you should automatically spec those technologies in the name of safety? Or, is the upfront cost to include those options still too steep for the budget?

What are your company’s policies when it comes to operating vehicles with self-driving capabilities? If a driver gets annoyed with the beeps or vibration alerts on the truck’s collision mitigation system and decides to disable it, how is that issue addressed? If a crash occurs after the system was disabled, what does that mean for your company’s risk exposure?

While fully self-driving vehicles are likely a decade away, now is the time to think through the opportunities and challenges of autonomy and develop best practices that help you navigate your fleet in this brave new self-driving world.

Share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with me at [email protected].

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Save the Date for Utility Fleet Conference 2017

As 2016 comes to a close, you’re likely evaluating possible fleet education programs for 2017 that can help you become more valuable in the industry – and indispensable to your employer. If that’s the case for you, then consider saving these dates on your calendar: October 2-4, 2017.

Why?

That’s when the second Utility Fleet Conference (UFC) will be held. Produced by our team at Utility Fleet Professional magazine, UFC 2017 is an intensive three-day fleet education event that will be co-located with the popular International Construction & Utility Equipment Exposition (ICUEE) at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.

Our objective is clear: to build UFC 2017 into a fleet education and networking event that you can’t experience anywhere else. We’re creating about a dozen 90-minute sessions that drill deep into the trends, best practices and success strategies specific to the unique challenges you face in utility fleet environments. You’ll learn not only from industry insiders and experts but also from your peers who understand – and have overcome – many of the in-the-trenches challenges you face on a day-to-day basis in your organization.

UFC 2017 will offer you an exclusive forum where you can ask tough questions, get candid answers and meet new people who can help you take your fleet’s performance and your career to the next level.

The inaugural Utility Fleet Conference was held at ICUEE in 2015, and we were amazed by the turnout and participation for a first-time event. The feedback we received made it a no-brainer for us to do it again at the next ICUEE in 2017. We learned so much from many of you who were pioneers with us at our first UFC. You were more than conference attendees; you were our partners who provided our team with valuable insights into what worked well and what we should change for future events. And we’ve taken your input to heart as we build UFC into an even more valuable investment of your time and money in 2017.

So, if you’re looking for a dynamic professional development event to help you expand your fleet knowledge – and your network – you’ve found it. Block out October 2-4, 2017, for the Utility Fleet Conference 2017 and stay tuned for new details and the opportunity to register in the coming weeks!

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Finding the Opportunity in Every Obstacle

A top mechanic suddenly quits when your shop is already overwhelmed with a huge backlog. Or, your upfitter falls several weeks behind schedule, delaying delivery of trucks that your customers needed yesterday.

As a fleet manager, you’re confronted with numerous obstacles that knock you off kilter, causing you to feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to best proceed. But what if you could grow your capacity to keep calm under pressure to find the best way to solve your problems?

That’s precisely what Ryan Holiday teaches in his best-selling book “The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” ($14.85, Amazon.com). The book draws from the ancient Greek philosophy of stoicism to show today’s leaders how to overcome adversity with greater perseverance and resilience.

Here are my three takeaways – with relevant quotes from Holiday – that I think can help you navigate the obstacles you face every day in fleet.

1. An event is not inherently good or bad – it’s how we perceive it that makes it so. “Where one person sees a crisis, another can see opportunity. Where one is blinded by success, another sees reality with ruthless objectivity. Where one loses control of emotions, another can remain calm. Desperation, despair, fear, powerlessness – these reactions are functions of our perceptions. You must realize: Nothing makes us feel this way; we choose to give in to such feelings.”

2. Don’t fear failure; learn from it. “When failure does come, ask: What went wrong here? What can be improved? What am I missing? This helps birth alternative ways of doing what needs to be done, ways that are often much better than what we started with. Failure puts you in corners you have to think your way out of. It is a source of breakthroughs.”

3. Within each obstacle is an opportunity, if we look for it. “It’s one thing to not be overwhelmed by obstacles, or discouraged or upset by them. This is something that few are able to do. But after you have controlled your emotions, and you can see objectively and stand steadily, the next step becomes possible: a mental flip, so you’re looking not at the obstacle but at the opportunity within it.”

Holiday’s bottom-line message: When you train yourself to see the opportunity in every obstacle, you gain the mindset you need to solve your biggest challenges – and become a more effective and valuable leader to your organization.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Do Automated Driving Technologies Promote High-Risk Behaviors?

On May 7, a Tesla Model S, with Autopilot engaged, slammed full-speed into a tractor-trailer that pulled out in front of it, killing the Tesla’s driver. The incident was billed as the first death caused by autonomous car technology and raised questions about whether the Tesla Autopilot – or any similar type of system, for that matter – is ready for prime time. This was a blow to an industry that has been touting self-driving cars as the answer to the over 33,000 people who die from motor vehicle crashes each year in the U.S.

Then, within days of initial reports, Reuters reported that there was a portable DVD player inside the vehicle playing a video at the moment of impact. The conclusion: Although the Tesla failed to “see” the truck, the driver didn’t see it either, presumably because he was distracted by watching a video.

This isn’t the only example of a Tesla driver pushing the limits of Autopilot. Despite the automaker’s warnings that Autopilot is not intended to be a fully autonomous system – and that the driver must be able to retake control of the vehicle at any time – there have been numerous YouTube videos posted by Model S owners, depicting them engaging in high-risk behaviors, including dozing off behind the wheel.

Could it be that an automated driving technology touted to save lives has actually created more opportunity for riskier behavior?

Perhaps. According to Art Liggio, president of Driving Dynamics Inc. (www.drivingdynamics.com), a Newark, Del.-based firm that provides driver safety training and fleet risk management expertise to organizations, the concept is called “risk compensation,” a theory that suggests people typically adjust their behavior in response to how they perceive a level of risk, often becoming less careful the more protected they feel.

“As the Tesla crash demonstrates, once drivers become dependent on ‘advanced’ systems, they often move to a higher risk category,” Liggio said.

Yet this isn’t just a Tesla or consumer issue. As automated driving technologies – such as adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance systems – become more mainstream, how will fleets grapple with the potential impact of risk compensation behaviors among their drivers?

I’m curious what you’re experiencing with this issue. Have you seen an increase in risky behaviors with drivers operating vehicles with advanced systems? If so, what is your organization doing to manage that risk and correct those behaviors? Or, is it a nonissue so far?

Let me know your thoughts at [email protected].

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Five Years In, UFP’s Mission Remains the Same: Bring Valuable Content to the Utility Fleet Community

This is our fifth-anniversary issue, and I’m grateful to be part of a dynamic team that’s so passionate about serving the utility industry.

From the beginning in 2011, we have dedicated ourselves to creating educational content that’s tailored to addressing the unique challenges you face in a utility fleet environment. And we refuse to settle. We understand that your world – and job – is constantly shifting, and you’re looking for information that can help you navigate that changing landscape.

That’s why, in 2014, we established an editorial advisory board of your peers – utility fleet professionals from Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable, PG&E, Nebraska Public Power District, Omaha Public Power District and Oklahoma Gas & Electric – to ensure our content remains relevant, accurate and valuable to you. Our board reviews virtually every article we produce and has been instrumental for me to test and “sanity check” story ideas to ensure we keep upping our game in serving you.

And in early 2015, we completely redesigned the magazine and website to make all our content as easy as possible to read, digest and apply to your business. Your time is valuable, so we strive to make the time you spend consuming our content well worth your investment.

Then last September, we produced the first-ever Utility Fleet Conference co-located at ICUEE in Louisville, Ky. This was a highly successful event – which many of you attended – with the aim of delivering education on best practices, real-world strategies and new ideas to help you grow as a utility fleet professional. And we’re set to do it again in October 2017 at ICUEE, so stay tuned for the details!

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you so that during the next five years we can grow with you and make UFP even more valuable to your career. Think of us as your personal research team, who can help you uncover viable answers to your most pressing fleet questions and challenges.

Email me your feedback, questions and story tips at [email protected]. Together we can build a publication and a community of fleet professionals and experts unrivaled in the industry.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

The Risk Management Challenge in a Self-Driving World

When you read the latest media coverage, you get the sense that when it comes to self-driving vehicles, it’s not a matter of if, but when. Yet, as autonomous vehicle systems get more and more market-ready, will our society be ready? And, on a more granular level, will we in the fleet industry be ready?

Take, for example, risk management. When a robotic vehicle is involved in a collision, who – or what – is responsible?

There’s a growing consensus around the idea that the automaker would assume liability. But what would happen if a sensor on your self-driving truck failed to detect a child darting behind the vehicle as it shifted in reverse, and the truck fatally struck that child?

Sure, you might have grounds to blame the OEM for the sensor malfunction, but it’s your utility’s logo on the truck. Now, your organization is dealing with a public relations firestorm for an incident – and a truck – your crews had no control over.

Or, what about the liability with upfitted trucks? It’s one thing when self-driving sensors are installed by a single car or truck manufacturer. But what about when a third-party upfitter mounts a body on a chassis? Would the upfitter be responsible for installing the cameras, sonar, radar and other sensors on the truck body and integrating them with the sensors on the chassis? If so, how does the industry ensure safety and quality control of the self-driving systems for both the chassis and body?

And who, ultimately, would be liable for an incident caused by a sensor malfunction on an upfitted truck? Would it be the chassis OEM, the upfitter or the sensor manufacturer?

Or, what if there’s a computer glitch? When a vehicle is driven by software, who would be allowed to work on it? And if persistent system glitches occur, causing a collision, who’s the responsible party – the vehicle OEM, the repair shop or the utility itself?

Yes, all trend lines seem to be pointing toward a self-driving future. But there are many questions – beyond the technology – that government, industry and citizens must answer before robots will rule the roads.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Ethics: The Biggest Hurdle for Self-Driving Vehicles

In October, thousands of Tesla Model S owners across the globe downloaded the Autopilot upgrade, launching the most advanced commercially available driver assistance technology to date. When engaged, Tesla’s Autopilot operates on the highway like cruise control on steroids, using cameras to keep the vehicle within lane markers, radar to maintain safe speed and distance from vehicles ahead, and sonar to sense when to safely change lanes.

And this is just a taste of what’s to come, as a growing number of automakers and technology giants – including Google, Apple and Uber – have entered the race to launch a fully autonomous vehicle by the end of this decade.

But as a machine takes on more and more of a human driver’s responsibility for decision-making – such as selecting the most optimal routes, deciding when to change lanes and determining when to safely pass another vehicle – how will it handle the moral and ethical dilemmas that humans face from time to time?

Consider this scenario: You’re riding in a self-driving car and approaching a busy intersection at 45 mph. With pedestrians congregating at the corner to your right, your car doesn’t detect a child on a bicycle attempting to dart across the street until it’s too late to stop. So, what does your vehicle decide to do?

It could veer to the left into oncoming traffic and avoid the child but instead crash head-on into a car carrying a family of four. It could lurch to the right but risk barreling into a group of eight pedestrians. Or it could hit the child.

What would the machine choose? How would it evaluate its options? And whatever it decided, who or what would be responsible for the consequences?

It’s hard enough as humans to make split-second moral decisions in times of crisis. But at least we have the power at that moment to choose with our conscience. Would we, as a society, be OK with the idea of being spectators inside machines that make life-and-death decisions on our behalf, without our consent?

Engineers are achieving quantum breakthroughs in artificial intelligence that will function as the “brain” for tomorrow’s fully autonomous vehicle. But will they figure out how to give a machine a soul?

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

The Power of Expectation in Leadership

In the 1960s, psychologist Robert Rosenthal and school principal Lenore Jacobson conducted an experiment at an elementary school in California. All students in grades one through six were given IQ tests. The researchers then identified the top 20 percent for each grade – those students who were to be considered the most gifted, with the greatest learning potential.

What the teachers did not know, however, is that those students in the top 20 percent were chosen at random, not by their actual scores.

And something very interesting happened. When all the students were retested eight months later, the randomly selected group scored significantly higher, with greater improvement compared to their peers.

How could that happen?

The prevailing theory is that a teacher with high expectations of a student pays closer attention when the child struggles, providing extra encouragement and help to ensure that child’s success.

And low expectations produce the opposite effect. The teacher doesn’t try as hard to motivate the student, thinking, “Well, he’s a poor student anyway. He’s hopeless.”

The takeaway here is that, as leaders, our expectation of others creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that can directly impact their performance.

For example, if we’re Gen Xers or baby boomers and expect that millennials are lazy or entitled – and we treat them that way – we’re more likely to see those younger workers fulfill our expectations by calling in sick more often or quitting altogether. And we think, “See, they just don’t have what it takes to succeed here!”

But what if we focused on the possibilities and unique advantages that millennials bring to the table? How much more willing would we be to try to understand millennials so we could maximize their potential?

That’s one of the thrusts behind “The Millennial Challenge: Attracting and Retaining Younger Workers in Utility Fleet Operations,” one of this issue’s feature articles. We demystify the generational stereotypes to help you better understand the way millennials think and to raise your expectations – and, ultimately, the performance achievements – of your younger workers.

By learning how to positively harness the power of expectation, you’ll radically transform your ability to connect with people across multiple generations and inspire them to achieve their highest potential. And isn’t that what leadership is all about?

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Introducing the All-New Utility Fleet Conference at ICUEE

Are you seeking to grow your fleet knowledge and skills to become more valuable to your employer? Looking to expand your influence with senior management to get more done for your fleet? Searching for new ideas about how to do more with less, whether it’s money, resources, time or all three?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, we at Utility Fleet Professional magazine have created a must-attend conference for you – the Utility Fleet Conference (UFC).

UFC is a new three-day educational event, scheduled to take place September 28-30, that drills down into best practices, strategies and trends that address the unique needs and challenges of utility fleets. Co-located with the popular International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition in Louisville, Ky., UFC offers an exclusive forum for you to exchange ideas with peers and industry experts, so that you come away with actionable tips to apply in your own fleet and career.

The conference kicks off with a dynamic opening keynote from Ken Sheridan, director of safety and technical training for Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities, titled “Applying a Culture of Safety to Your Fleet Operations,” followed by a series of utility fleet-focused seminars, networking lunches and panel discussions.

Our expert presenters and panelists will go deep on a wide range of topics, including equipment specification strategies, fleet technologies and trends, fleet maintenance best practices and leadership development.

Interested in learning more?

Check out the 2015 UFC brochure that was mailed with this issue of the magazine. Then visit the conference website at www.utilityfleetprofessional.com/conference, where you can find more details on the conference agenda and register to reserve your seat.

We’re excited for this privilege to build upon the value of our magazine’s content by taking utility fleet education to a more in-depth and personal level.

We look forward to seeing you and helping you grow at UFC!

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

New Design with Your Success in Mind

When you work in fleet operations in the utility industry, you’re under intense pressure to juggle multiple roles – and to do them all well. You’re expected to be an engineer (to spec vehicles for maximum uptime and efficiency), a chief negotiator (to drive the lowest acquisition costs), a financial analyst (to squeeze more profit from operations), an organizational psychologist (to boost driver morale and productivity) and a risk manager (to improve safety and minimize exposure).

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 seek to help you with through our redesign of Utility Fleet Professional magazine.

We understand that your time is precious and have structured the magazine accordingly, with shorter reads, insightful infographics and easier navigation. You’ll notice that we have added new departments, offering you more utility fleet news, advice and best practices in a more digestible format, so you can immediately apply all that you have learned.

In a sense, think of us at UFP as your research and education team. We save you time by pulling together the fleet management information and strategies you need to make your job more productive and less stressful.

So, what are the most pressing challenges impacting you and your fleet? Chances are, there are many others in the utility fleet community who are dealing with the same issues, and who could also benefit by learning practical tips and best practices from peers and industry experts. I encourage you to share your thoughts, challenges and concerns with me at [email protected]. The UFP staff strive to make your job easier by reaching out to the right experts, uncovering the best solutions and providing you with the most relevant, actionable information.

As your new editor of UFP, I am excited about where the magazine is headed and the opportunity to be a part of an amazing team. My passion is to ensure our content – both in print and online at www.utilityfleetprofessional.com – becomes indispensable to your success.

Sean M. Lyden
Editor

Getting Involved

Regulatory issues continue to dominate legislative agendas. In his annual regulatory and legislative update during this year’s Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, Pat O’Connor, legislative counsel for the NAFA Fleet Management Association, covered a range of topics for fleet executives to consider.

“Phase 2 greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards for work trucks are an opportunity to get involved,” O’Connor said. “That includes while EPA and NHTSA are drafting proposed rules, during the comment period and as Congress exercises its oversight authority. A notice of proposed rulemaking is now expected by March 2015, and a final rule should be in place by March 2016.

“As EPA sets GHG standards, it needs data for finer segmentation of the vocational vehicle market,” O’Connor continued. “There is a lack of data on segments where there is significant idle time, and how best to define categories of idle time on a time- or fuel-consumed basis.”

Another opportunity to offer input is in regard to new clean car and fuel standards issued by the EPA. Starting in 2017, the Tier 3 new vehicle emissions standards will lower the sulfur content of gasoline, considering the vehicle and its fuel as an integrated system. Tier 3 will reduce volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide tailpipe standards by 80 percent over today’s fleet, establish a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard and reduce fuel vapor emissions to zero level.

Safety is also on legislative agendas. “For example,” O’Connor reported, “the National Transportation Safety Board studied the safety record of single-unit trucks in an attempt to identify appropriate countermeasures for these vehicles. In response to the findings of the study, the NTSB made nine recommendations to NHTSA and four recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

“However,” O’Connor said, “while FMCSA has little credible data with respect to the safety performance of managed fleets that include single-unit trucks, in the future it will be exploring options for setting different regulatory requirements for medium- and heavy-duty trucks. One option mentioned was to make a distinction for mandated fleets in the federal motor vehicle safety regulations.”

On March 31 of this year, O’Connor also told EUFMC attendees, NHTSA issued a final rule that, by May 2018, all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds GVWR must be equipped with rear-visibility technology. Approved systems will expand the field of view to enable the driver to detect areas behind the vehicle in an effort to reduce deaths and injuries resulting from backing incidents. Manufacturers have petitioned to allow cameras as an option to the conventional side-view and rearview mirrors.

For utility fleets, according to O’Connor, getting involved in these issues can help avoid having technology forced upon them when new standards are implemented, and can help legislators and regulators consider incentives that will lead to true fuel-saving and safety solutions. By bringing data into the decision-making process, including information on diverse and unique vehicle duty cycles, fleets will also be better positioned to address life-cycle and capital budget challenges and serve as a more valuable resource to senior management.

“Public policy includes legislation, regulations, implementation and enforcement activity, and administrative actions,” O’Connor said. “Engagement by fleet managers can inform and influence public policy.”

Seth Skydel
Editor

Moving the Needle

Wherever we turn these days, it seems that CNG is one topic on everyone’s mind. At the 2014 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference held in June, for example, CNG was the subject of the first technical session, including a report by Nina Kisch, manager, fleet administration, transportation services at PG&E. Among the more than 3,300 on-road alternative-fueled and high-efficiency vehicles in the PG&E fleet, she reported, there are more than 720 natural gas units.

“CNG has a lower equivalent cost than gasoline or diesel, and lower carbon intensity than biodiesel, LNG, ultra-low-sulfur diesel, ethanol and reformulated gasoline,” Kisch reported. “CNG is also considered an alternative fuel under the Energy Policy Act of 1992. In addition, while the number of light-duty natural gas vehicles from OEMs are limited but growing, a wide variety of heavy-duty natural gas vehicles are available from manufacturers, and CNG conversions are readily available.

“While the current generation of equipment is much more reliable than first generation,” Kisch continued, “CNG vehicles aren’t available in large quantities, there are range limitations due to storage and density, and fuel storage space on the vehicle is an issue, so CNG often requires us to build a bigger, less fuel-efficient truck than diesel. There is also still a significant premium on purchases of $5,000 to $8,000 for light-duty models and $15,000 to $30,000 or more for a heavy-duty vehicle, depending on the size of the fuel system and technology, higher maintenance costs due to durability and parts availability, and in some cases a lack of qualified technicians and service centers.”

Werner J. Schweiger, Northeast Utilities president, electric distribution, delivered the keynote address at EUFMC, and CNG was also on his agenda. “The utility industry is addressing how efficiently it manages its energy portfolio,” he said, “and sustainability is a fleet issue as well. As a result, the debate about alternative fuels is a challenge in the Northeast Utilities fleet of more than 5,000 assets.

“Idling has become a significant issue,” Schweiger went on to explain. “Along with fostering a culture of more responsible operational practices, we also need to adopt technological solutions that promote environmental responsibility and enhance the image we portray in our communities.”

Increasingly in use at Northeast Utilities, Schweiger noted, are alternatives to gas and diesel vehicles and equipment. In particular, CNG-powered units are being added to the utility’s light-duty fleet. However, there does remain the challenge posed by a fuel supply infrastructure for natural gas vehicles.

“Fueling infrastructure is one of the largest limitations on CNG vehicle adoption,” Schweiger said. “With respect to the solution, expansion of more fill stations must be driven by a larger demand that has to come from more CNG-enabled fleets and more progress in cost-effective solutions among the choices available for CNG models. Other partners in finding a solution can be local, state and federal agencies that promote conversion of fleets to alternative fuels such as CNG through grants and other programs.”

Schweiger encourages dialogue among industry stakeholders. “Forums such as the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference are ideal for the collaboration that is needed to bridge the requirements of utilities with the gas industry and automotive vendors,” he stated.

“As an operations executive, I have always valued the role of fleet,” Schweiger continued. “While fleet was once viewed merely as a cost center, it is now a strategic asset as utilities work to effectively manage their fuel costs and to enhance a culture that is environmentally responsible. The theme of this conference – driving fleet value and performance – is timely as the industry continues to focus on fuel diversity, a challenge that will grow. The amount of progress you have already made is impressive, and the collaboration between fleet professionals and vendors has moved the needle with respect to the transportation needs of the utility industry.”

For more information about EUFMC, visit www.eufmc.com.

Seth Skydel
Editor

Growing Support

In his State of the Union address delivered earlier this year, President Obama, speaking about the important role natural gas has played in his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, urged Congress to support construction of natural gas fueling stations. NGVAmerica, an organization that represents more than 200 companies, environmental groups, and government organizations interested in the use of natural gas and biomethane as transportation fuels, was quick to applaud his remarks.

“We are pleased to hear the president encourage the use of clean and affordable domestically produced natural gas in our cars and trucks,” said Richard Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica. “The natural gas vehicle market is growing, but the support of Congress would help accelerate the transition to a transportation fuel that is clean, abundant and domestic.”

Kolodziej went on to point out ways Congress can help accelerate the development of a natural gas fueling infrastructure. On his list were reinstating natural gas fuel and infrastructure tax credits that recently expired. Congress, he added, can also accelerate the transition to natural gas by passing legislation to improve federal excise taxes on the sale of liquefied natural gas and the incremental cost of natural gas trucks.

While legislative issues are considered, fleet managers at the recent NTEA Green Truck Summit and Work Truck Show were able to test-drive a lineup of propane autogas vehicles at a dedicated ride and drive sponsored by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). Manufacturers and PERC experts also demonstrated the ease of refueling with propane autogas.

For the event, ROUSH CleanTech, a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier, General Motors, Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. in partnership with CleanFUEL USA, Isuzu Commercial Truck of America Inc., and Icom North America made Class 1 through 6 propane-autogas-fueled trucks and vans available for test drives.

In 2013, noted Michael Taylor, director of propane autogas at PERC, propane autogas sales reached an all-time high as OEMs produced record numbers of dedicated propane vehicles. “Fleet managers can find more state-of-the-art propane vehicles today than at any point in the history of the fuel,” he said.

Events like the PERC test drive can help utility fleet managers determine if propane autogas is a good fit for their operations. While support for natural gas vehicles is clearly on the rise, and manufacturers are ready to supply vehicles, it is up to our legislators to lend a helping hand as well.

Seth Skydel
Editor

How to Measure Performance

Informed, effective decisions are rooted in accurate data. That was precisely the goal behind a survey on Key Process Indicators (KPIs) conducted by the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference. At its 2013 gathering, EUFMC presented results of that survey, which was completed by more than 100 utility companies. The findings provide a helpful list of valuable KPIs:

Availability: Vehicle Downtime, Mean Time between Repair, Ratio of Time in Shop to Time in Service, and Total Hours Available are used to prioritize engineering focus, make decisions about overtime and staffing levels, and address service level commitments by identifying hiring needs as well as areas for outsourcing specific repairs and services.

Budget Compliance: YTD Budget and Spend Comparison, Capital Budget Compliance, and Actual vs. Budget Financial Reports are used to adjust business plans, spend rates and purchase plans, and for controlling expenses for overtime, outside services and staffing. This metric is viewed as a primary driver for overall fleet direction.

Cost Per Customer: Fleet Cost Per Retail Customer, Total Cost Per Internal Customer, and Fleet Cost Per Customer – External all help target improvement goals and more efficient purchasing for specific departments, as well as help reduce overall fleet size based on underutilization findings. Management decisions based on this KPI have led to new vehicle standards, increased utilization by right-sizing fleets and streamlined processes.

Fuel Consumption: Average MPG, Fuel Consumed Per 100 Mile/KM, and Fuel Usage Comparison measures are used for defining areas of focus for driver performance improvement, forecasting fuel costs and validating fuel purchasing programs, and making vehicle acquisition and technology decisions, including selection of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Mechanic Time: Indirect vs. Direct Labor Comparisons, Monthly Vehicles Worked On and Work Orders Completed, Technician Billable Hours, and Overtime Report tracking help prioritize work and identify slower times that can be used for employee training, determine staffing levels and fleet size by location, and perform cost analyses for specific activities.

PM Metrics: PM Completion Rate, Percent of Units Meeting PM Scheduled Deadlines, and PM Average Completion Rate help ensure preventive maintenance program compliance, align the workforce to support locations, develop plans to address overtime and outsourcing, and evaluate PM workload goals.

Safety: Miles Driven without a Controllable Vehicle Accident, Number of OSHA Incidents by Department, and Near Miss Reports are helping with purchasing decisions on type/brand of equipment, addressing workforce shortages, overtime and outsourcing activities, and with the focus on compliance.

Cost Per Mile: Average Total Cost Per Mile and Total Cost Per Mile by Unit Type are eliminating excess idle time and lowering acquisition costs. Operating Cost Per Mile/KM and Operating Cost Per Vehicle enable more effective cost management decisions.

Total Cost Per Unit: Monthly Expense Reports by Unit, Cost Per Unit, and Total Expense by Type of Unit (with a Ten Year Comparison) are helping evaluate operating costs for labor, materials, supplies/tools, outside services and internal shops, and introduce programs to reduce maintenance costs.

Utilization: Fleet Utilization, Projected Miles and Monthly Mileage by Department reports are optimizing fleet size.

Work Order Metrics: PM Mechanic Time vs. Repair Time, Preventive Maintenance, Corrective Work Percentage, and Repair and PM Turnaround Time tracking help focus on education and training, and making shift personnel and workload evaluations.

Across the board, these fleets reported that business decisions made as a result of focusing on measures that gauge the effectiveness of management strategies are an important part of raising performance standards. For more information about EUFMC, visit www.eufmc.com.

Seth Skydel
Editor

Green Gas Nozzle 300px

Are We Done With Diesel?

Considering all the activity surrounding alternative fuel vehicles and equipment, from natural gas to hybrids to all-electric models, it’s hard not to wonder if diesel fuel might someday become a thing of the past. Those thoughts were easily erased, however, if you attended the 2013 Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Washington, D.C., where new technology diesel advancements for trucks and passenger vehicles were showcased by the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF).

The ACT Expo (www.actexpo.com), according to its organizer, is North America’s largest alternative fuel and clean vehicle technology conference and exposition and the site of many displays of electric, hybrid, hydrogen, natural gas, propane autogas and renewable fuels. The DTF (www.dieselforum.org) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about diesel engines, fuel and technology.

According to the DTF, all indications are that diesel fuel is here to stay. Consider, for example, that more than 95 percent of all heavy-duty trucks and a majority of medium-duty trucks are diesel-powered. Today as well, the forum points out that most diesel engines can run on biodiesel blends with little modification as well as next-generation renewable diesel fuels, which are under development by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Biomass Program and by companies in the private sector.

More than 28 percent of all trucks registered in the U.S. are now equipped with advanced new technology clean diesel engines, according to data compiled by R.L. Polk & Co. for the DTF. The Polk data includes registration information on Class 3 through 8 trucks from 2007 through 2012 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“The fact that many trucks on U.S. roads today are equipped with new technology diesel engines with near zero emissions is significant for the environment,” said Allen Schaeffer, DTF executive director. “Emissions from today’s diesel trucks are near zero thanks to more efficient engines, more effective emissions control technology and the nationwide availability of ultralow sulfur diesel fuel.”

DTF points out that new clean diesel technology has reduced emissions from heavy-duty trucks by 99 percent for nitrogen oxides and 98 percent for particulate emissions, and that new ultralow sulfur diesel fuel has reduced sulfur emissions by 97 percent. In addition, new emissions control technology and ultralow sulfur diesel are benefiting many of the older diesel trucks built before 2007. “Through the use of retrofit upgrades, older diesel engines can improve their performance and reduce key emissions by as much as 90 percent,” Schaeffer said.

“What makes new diesel technology even more remarkable is that model year 2010 and later trucks are experiencing an average of 3 to 5 percent improvement in fuel economy,” Schaeffer continued. “Additionally, diesel also provides a unique technology platform suitable for expanded hybrid powertrains and lower-carbon renewable fuels, both of which are very viable strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the future.”

The new generation of clean diesel technology, ultralow sulfur diesel fuel, cleaner engines and advanced emissions control technology provides both environmental and economic benefits to the U.S.

To answer the question “Are we done with diesel?” with anything but a resounding “no” would be premature. Diesel remains a driving force behind the trucks that power utility fleets and continues to play a central role in the effort to reduce fuel consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

Seth Skydel
Editor

Record Pace

At press time, ICUEE 2013 is on track to set new records. Strong exhibitor demand is pushing exhibit space to capacity, attendee registrations continue to outpace the last two shows and a new education program lineup is attracting near-record sales.

“We certainly hope these positive ICUEE trends reflect a more sustained industry recovery,” said Dennis Slater, president of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the owner and producer of ICUEE.

ICUEE, known as The Demo Expo, brings electric, phone/cable, sewer/water, gas, general construction, landscaping and public works professionals together with experts from manufacturers and service providers to discuss and compare the latest product innovations and to operate equipment in job-like conditions.

More than 16,000 attendees are expected at the event where they will find 800+ exhibitors and more than 25 acres of indoor and outdoor exhibits and product demonstrations. New for 2013 is an indoor exhibitor demo stage where attendees will have opportunities for a firsthand look at new technologies.

Expanded, upgraded education programming at ICUEE 2013 will give attendees a more comprehensive understanding of key industry topics of interest. A record number of industry organizations are co-locating events and education sessions at ICUEE this year.

Included are the Association of Equipment Management Professionals Asset Management Symposium; the Fluid Power Conference, produced and managed by Hydraulics & Pneumatics, which will feature a full day of technical sessions highlighting basic fluid power and troubleshooting for utility vehicles; and the National Rural Water Association’s H2O-XPO for decision-makers and buyers in the water and wastewater industries.

Other educational events being held in conjunction with ICUEE this year include a CALSTART education conference focused on sustainable solutions for fleets and NAFA professional development programs on risk management for fleet managers. The National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators will host several exams and its new Service Truck Crane Operator Course and Certification program.

Additionally at ICUEE 2013, the North American Society for Trenchless Technology is co-locating its Cured-in-Place Pipe Good Practices course for trenchless professionals, Underground Construction Technology is holding educational programming relating to the underground construction and rehabilitation infrastructure, and the iP Utility Safety Conference & Expo, produced by UFP’s sister publication, Incident Prevention, will hold its education event for safety, training and operations professionals.

While industry professionals continue to view ICUEE as a valuable venue, as many as 16 industry groups have signed on as official supporting organizations. A full list of these organizations can be found at http://icuee.com/about/supportedby/orgs/.

ICUEE traces its roots to an Illinois farm in the summer of 1966 where Illinois Bell invited 12 trencher manufacturers to demonstrate equipment in the same field on the same day. The event was such a success that it was repeated in 1969 and 1972 as a three-day utility equipment show. By the late 1970s, ICUEE had become a biennial event.

Today, ICUEE is setting new attendance and participation records for its growing education programs and its equipment demonstrations that allow attendees to make effective competitive comparisons.

Seth Skydel
Editor

Sharing Ideas

Industry events are all about sharing information and ideas and this year’s Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (www.eufmc.com) was no exception. Held in June, the annual conference celebrated its 60th anniversary with a mix of networking opportunities and a host of technical sessions that focused on the latest utility fleet management techniques and technologies.

The keynote address at EUFMC this year was delivered by Greg Pruett, senior vice president of corporate affairs for PG&E Corp. and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. In his remarks, Pruett focused in large part on electric vehicles, a subject we continue to follow at UFP as well.

PG&E, which has a long history of incorporating efficient and sustainable transportation technologies, today has more than 3,400 alternative fuel models in its fleet. Included are electric, natural gas and hybrid vehicles. The company is also working with aerial device suppliers to develop and test plug-in battery-powered systems and is deploying extended-range electric trucks, plug-in hybrid material handlers and all-electric service body units. To support these new vehicles, PG&E has installed more than 80 electric vehicle charging stations.

“We have also worked to develop customized lease terms that take into account the life cycle of electric vehicles,” Pruett noted. “We believe that other utilities can take advantage of these opportunities as well. Collectively, when it comes to the electrification of transportation, the utility industry has an incredible opportunity to be a game changer across the U.S.”

Among the topics on the 2013 EUFMC agenda were electric PTOs, a regulatory update, safety, fuel, boom inspections and technology in fleet garages. In addition, roundtable sessions for fleet managers and suppliers covered common challenges and the sharing of best practices.

One presentation at EUFMC that attracted a lot of attention was a report regarding a recently concluded survey on key process indicators (KPI). Mike Allison, director at Duke Energy, provided an overview of results; full details will be available in the future.

The KPI Survey, conducted in April by Utilimarc, is the second annual survey commissioned by EUFMC. In 2012, the conference presented results of its PM Practices & Technician Training Survey. For 2013, the focus was on the measures fleets are using to gauge the effectiveness of their management strategies.

Included were metrics in place to monitor vehicle availability, such as downtime and mean time between repairs, budget compliance, costs, fuel consumption, mechanic time, preventive maintenance, safety and a number of other areas. In each case, survey respondents ranked individual KPIs in different categories and reported on how the metrics help make more effective business decisions.

A new idea introduced at EUFMC that also promotes the sharing of information was the recently unveiled MechanicsQA. Offered by FleetAnswers, the forum allows technicians to “reach out to other fleet mechanics at a job specific level to ask questions and provide answers” in a collaborative setting. The forum, which has been undergoing testing at fleets, will eventually include a searchable database and other capabilities. Access to the free forum is available at www.mechanicsqa.com.

“Fleet is the backbone of our industry,” Pruett told the more than 100 fleet professionals at EUFMC. “We cannot serve our customers without it and in many cases our fleet is the main contact our customers have with us. It’s essential that we field vehicles that are as safe, clean and reliable as the electricity we provide. Your role as leaders is not static. It is rapidly changing and increasingly important.”

For the 2013 EUFMC audience, that message was not a surprise. Founded in 1953, the association has been educating fleet professionals for six decades, proving that there is no better venue for sharing ideas and best practices.

Seth Skydel
Editor

A Better Idea

When Ron Schoon, executive manager, partnership development at National Renewable Energy Laboratory addressed attendees at the recent Green Truck Summit, his focus was on Clean Cities programs and initiatives and the ongoing activity aimed at identifying the value of clean fuels and technologies for commercial trucks. For example, he shared details on a national database of duty and drive cycles that will highlight how these technologies can be beneficial in real-world applications.

While that information will prove helpful to fleet managers considering alternative fuels, there is a missing piece of the puzzle, namely financial incentives that will help utilities and other companies cost justify these choices. Currently, while consumers can receive federal tax credits for the purchase of alternative fuel passenger cars, there are no federal incentives for the purchase of clean fuel trucks, buses or nonroad vehicles.

Incentives play a particularly important role in the early market for clean commercial vehicles because they are still produced in low volume and are more costly, noted CALSTART during a press event at The Work Truck Show 2013. But a commercial vehicle, it was noted, consumes much more fuel per day than a passenger car, so using clean technologies can cut more fuel use and reduce emissions to a larger extent on a per vehicle basis.

CALSTART’s remarks were made during the announcement that it has developed a white paper highlighting the emerging opportunity to create a regionally and state-supported national network of voucher-based incentives to speed clean commercial vehicles sales, even in the face of federal budget reductions. “Clean Tech Vouchers: An Effective Tool for All Regions” highlights the effectiveness of point-of-purchase vouchers as the best tools to spur sales of clean commercial vehicles.

Vouchers are different than standard incentives, CALSTART pointed out, in that they provide funding at the time of purchase, directly lowering the cost to the purchaser, and are simpler to request and process than grant funds or tax credits. A voucher, a point-of-sale reduction in price, the group noted, is far more helpful than a tax credit, particularly when it comes to fleet purchasing decisions.

The CALSTART paper also reports on a case study from California, the first state to test purchase vouchers for clean vehicles. It also describes how New York state, Maryland, Chicago and other regions nationwide have structured or will soon structure their own voucher programs. In addition to using state funds, some regions are also using existing federal transportation program dollars to support clean vehicle deployment.

“There is a good model now in place that regions can use,” said John Boesel, CALSTART president and CEO. “Given the lack of federal action, it is imperative that we encourage as many regions as possible to build out this clean vehicle support network for energy security, job growth and cleaner air. This report demonstrates the importance of state and regional action to spur the use of cleaner vehicles. In the absence of federal incentives for commercial vehicles, state and regional programs can keep the U.S. moving forward on clean tech and alternative fuel deployments.”

CALSTART recommends that vouchers be open to all clean fuels and technologies including natural gas, propane, hybrid, electric and other solutions. It is encouraging fleets and the industry to work with regions interested in speeding clean vehicle use to develop their own programs, and is available to help provide information on how to structure a voucher program.

By providing a financial incentive to fleets, a voucher program can give the deployment of alternative fuel technologies a much-needed boost.

Seth Skydel
Editor

What’s in a Name? – Part II

On this page in the last issue of Utility Fleet Professional, we asked what exactly constitutes telematics in the realm of fleet management. Our question was based on the widespread use of the term “telematics” to denote automated vehicle systems. We also promised to focus more closely on what fleet managers need to know.

It turns out we had some very valuable information at our fingertips. During the 2012 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (www.eufmc.com), two of the presentations in a session entitled “GPS/AVL – Looking for ROI” offered key insights.

Alan Riddle, director of transportation services, and David Guerrero, fleet asset manager at Southern California Edison, presented “SCE and Telematics” about the evaluation of this technology on vehicles operated by the SCE Transportation Services Department. The SCE Fleet Performance Management System, they noted, provided management with real-time data on fleet vehicles, which can be utilized for more effective decision-making in three key areas:
• Fleet utilization including managing fleet size, vehicle reassignment, reducing the number of rentals, creating vehicle pools for short-term use, making informed vehicle replacement decisions, assigning the right vehicles for the right job and tracking unauthorized vehicle use.
• Fleet maintenance including improved preventive and corrective maintenance, increased safety during vehicle operation, and identification of poor performing vehicles and vehicle tampering or misuse.
• Fleet efficiency including reduced fuel consumption, decreased nonproductive idle time, improved driver performance, increased fuel economy, decreased emissions, fuel cost tracking, optimal routing, maximized fuel tax credits and increased compliance.

Findings from SCE pilot testing indicated that if this system lowered indirect idling to under 10 percent, speeding to under 5 percent and underutilization to less than 10 percent, and mpg increased, SCE would realize a return on investment from telematics within three years. Additional benefits include improved public and employee safety, better job planning and routing, vehicle life extension, faster response times to an incident and enhanced storm resource management. Also included is resolution of customer complaints regarding driver behavior, less theft and fraud, fuel tax savings and improved environmental stewardship through fleet efficiencies.

Tim Taylor, customer success officer at Telogis Inc., was also on the panel. He began by detailing four levels of telematics systems:

Level 1: Traditional AVL/GPS indicates where the vehicle is located; if it is driving, idled or stopped; how fast it is moving; and if it is in the right place compared to the location of the work.

Level 2: Vehicle intelligence includes getting data about the vehicle and its key components; how the vehicle is performing; if it is being utilized effectively; and if maintenance performed is based on real hours and miles.

Level 3: Connected intelligence uses customizable scorecards, dashboards and benchmarking to monitor and manage safety; utilization for emergency response coordination; and for coaching driver behavior about idling, speeding and hard acceleration/braking.

Level 4: Integration, interoperability from the connection between mobile intelligence and other enterprise applications, creating improved visibility, unique metrics, interoperability/integration with vehicle telematics, maintenance applications, and ERP and HR, inventory, cost, work order and fuel management systems.

In Level 1, Taylor noted, ROI for telematics comes from fuel cost savings, reducing miles driven and maintenance costs, and improving fleet utilization by identifying underutilized vehicles, as well as reducing capital investment and operating costs and the number of safety incidents.

“Telematics initiatives are about the creation of intelligence via the connection of mobile assets to the needs of the enterprise; providing operational levers for measurable improvement in operations, costs and efficiencies; driver performance and safety; emergency response and visibility; asset utilization; and customer service and satisfaction,” Taylor concluded.

To answer our own question, we couldn’t have summed it up better.

Seth Skydel
Editor

What’s in a Name?

Originally, the term “telematics” was coined to describe the combination of telecommunication and information management systems. In fleet operations, the idea was that onboard systems could communicate with fleet management solutions to provide valuable data on vehicles and operations that would enhance processes and streamline maintenance and repair activities. This activity could take place across cellular- and satellite-based mobile communication platforms, and using new wireless handheld devices.

Over time, telematics has also been used to refer to many automated vehicle systems. One of the earliest examples was General Motors’ OnStar, which was among the first systems to combine GPS location capabilities with roadside assistance and remote diagnostics. On a growing number of trucks, including those used by utility fleets, telematics solutions can combine data from electronically controlled components, such as engines and transmissions with onboard communication technology.

In preparing for this issue of Utility Fleet Professional, we began asking ourselves what exactly constitutes telematics in the realm of fleet management. Our searches of several industry databases, for example, turned up a long list of systems that are associated with the term. Those include accident management systems, alarms/warning systems, audiovisual equipment, backing safety systems, backup alarms, collision warning systems, onboard computers, electronic obstacle detection, electronic safety devices, engine monitoring and controls, GPS tracking, ignition interlocks, mobile data terminals, rearview camera systems, vehicle monitoring systems, video safety systems and video surveillance equipment.

While we make plans to cover this growing area of interest in future issues – with a focus on what fleet managers need to know – we’re hoping to gain some valuable insight at the Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2012 conference (www.telematicsupdate.com/fleet/) scheduled to be held in Atlanta in mid-November.

The focus of the conference is “Fleet Telematics Geared for Mass Market: Utilize Data, Heightened Applications and Connectivity to Deliver ROI for Fleet Operators.” Topics on this year’s agenda include:
• Create Transparent and Seamless Fleet Operations: Understand the types of benchmarking – such as performance and energy – relevant to fleet operations to give context to data and visibility to fleet managers for operational efficiency.
• Establish OEM’s Priorities from a Fleet Perspective: Understand which additional data is being sent to the engine bus, such as rpm, odometer, fuel usage in real time, and flow indication to monitor myriad data streams and offer a comprehensive telematics solutions portfolio.
• Software as a Service (SaaS) – Prosper Through Cutting-Edge Business Models: Assess how to adopt a competitive pricing model that takes into account initial setup, usage parameters and opportunities to charge per transaction of data to gain optimum ROI.
• Embracing the 4G Future: Consider the 4G spectrum to integrate new fleet-centric services, such as real-time maps and driver behavior monitoring that will encourage heightened safety and promote fuel efficiency.

The commercial telematics industry has reached a key tipping point, according to conference organizer Telematics Update, which bills itself as “the reference point for automotive telematics, mobile and web industries.” Look for UFP to follow up on this increasingly important topic in the future.

Seth Skydel
Editor

Keeping Pace

Regulatory and legislative concerns can certainly take up a considerable amount of a fleet manager’s time and energy. During the 2012 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, nearly 100 fleet executives from about 60 investor-owned electric utilities, electric cooperatives and electrical contractors across the U.S. and Canada heard firsthand about the latest issues that could impact their operations.

Pat O’Connor of Kent & O’Connor, legislative counsel for NAFA Fleet Management Association, provided EUFMC attendees with a comprehensive update on a wide range of topics. Three in particular could impact technology on vehicles.

Distracted Driving
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has restricted the use of handheld mobile phones by drivers of commercial motor vehicles and the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended a prohibition on the use of handheld and hands-free cellular telephones by all commercial drivers while driving in commercial operations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed voluntary guidelines calling on auto manufacturers to integrate technology in cars that automatically disables built-in phone calling, texting and other distracting devices unless the vehicle is parked. This rule would apply to vehicles under 10,000 pounds GVWR and cover communications, entertainment, information gathering, and navigation devices or functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle. Approaches could include locking out electronic functions unless the vehicle is stopped and in park. At a later date, NHTSA will issue guidelines for mobile devices that are brought into the vehicle and address voice-activated controls.

OSHA is also addressing this subject by partnering with the DOT to focus on texting, including advising employers to prohibit any work policy or practice that requires or encourages workers to text while driving. When OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity, it will investigate and issue citations and penalties when necessary to end this practice.

Rear Vision
NHTSA is delaying a final rule until late this year that would expand the required field of view for all passenger cars, pickup trucks, minivans, buses and low-speed vehicles with a GVWR up to 10,000 pounds so drivers can see directly behind the vehicle when in reverse. NHTSA believes automobile manufacturers will install rear-mounted video cameras and in-vehicle displays to meet the proposed standard, but manufacturers have raised technical concerns.

Brake Throttle Override
A proposed regulation by NHTSA is intended to minimize the risk that drivers will lose control of their vehicles as a result of accelerator control system disconnections, accelerator pedal sticking or floor mat entrapment.

Other legislative and regulatory issues that utility fleet managers may want to monitor include those concerning hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, neighborhood electric, and natural gas vehicles and refueling properties, as well as biodiesel and ethanol blends. Regulations covering underground storage tanks are also undergoing review and updating.

The focus on regulatory and legislative issues at EUFMC was a direct result of the interest in that information among fleet managers. “EUFMC this year was the largest ever,” said Gerald Owens, senior vice president of Oncor Electric Delivery and the new EUFMC president. “The Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference continues to hold great interest for fleet managers because the subjects we address help them meet the challenges they face every day in their organizations.”

The 60th annual Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference will be held June 2-5, 2013, at the Williamsburg Lodge and Conference Center in Williamsburg, Va. For more information, visit www.eufmc.com.

Seth Skydel
Editor

Trending Now

Among the resources available to fleet managers in our industry are shows and conferences that offer unique opportunities to gather valuable information. These events are also a window into the most pressing concerns and topics of interest to fleets.

At The Work Truck Show 2012 in Indianapolis, a record-setting 10,408 attendees and 563 exhibitors provided just such an opportunity. Showcasing Class 1-8 trucks, chassis, bodies, components and accessories, more than 120 of the exhibiting companies launched at least 140 new products, including alternative fuel systems, which are featured elsewhere in this issue.

The Work Truck Show was also the site of the Green Truck Summit where technical experts, government officials, industry leaders and early adopter fleet managers came together to unveil recent developments in sustainable technologies and new commercial truck applications.

Also a record event with 772 attendees, The Work Truck Show event was coupled with a Green Truck Ride-and-Drive featuring 21 commercial vehicles that incorporate advances in hybrid technology and alternative fuel applications, including CNG, propane, battery-electric, extended-range electric, ultra-clean biodiesel, bi-fuel CNG, series and parallel electric hybrids, and hydraulic hybrids.

As we go to press we’re getting ready to attend the NAFA Institute & Expo where fleet professionals will be on hand to network and see the latest services and products available for their operations. They will also take part in more than 65 educational programs and hear from several key speakers.

Next up we’re attending the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (EUFMC), which continues to attract record numbers of fleet executives from investor-owned electric utilities, electric cooperatives and electrical contractors from across the U.S. and Canada, as well as representatives of equipment and service suppliers. The annual exhibition at EUFMC features more than 75 displays where fleet managers can meet with 250+ representatives from more than 95 manufacturers and service providers.

EUFMC is also a perfect example of how close cooperation between fleet managers and suppliers is mutually beneficial. The conference is an opportunity for manufacturers to share product ideas with customers, and for fleet managers to make their wishes and concerns known so better solutions can be developed. The sharing of best practices is also a hallmark of EUFMC, which includes roundtables where fleet representatives and suppliers can exchange information and discuss mutual concerns.

Staying in the loop can be a full-time task for today’s already busy fleet executives. Thanks to industry associations and their active members, however, it is that much easier to see what’s trending now, and to learn as much as possible in a short amount of time about the solutions available to address the industry’s most pressing needs.

Seth Skydel
Editor 

Keeping Up

The hardest part of putting together the Spring 2012 issue of Utility Fleet Professional was not finding enough material to fill the pages. The real challenge was determining what to include from the very large volume of information we had available.

If you’re attending The Work Truck Show, you’ll know exactly what I mean. On display at the annual event are the latest technologies from more than 550 exhibitors. Also featuring a large expo of products was the Hybrid, Electric and Advanced Truck Users Forum (HTUF) annual meeting this past fall.

We made room in this issue for coverage of developments reported to us about electric, propane, compressed natural gas and hybrid vehicles; reports from industry conferences on fleet management practices; and details of the latest shop and vehicle technologies being offered by the industry’s leading suppliers.

There were a couple of things we had to leave out, but only because they are developments that we will be learning much more about in the not-too-distant future and will most certainly cover extensively in upcoming issues.

Bright Automotive, for example, is ramping up for a 2014 launch of its IDEA plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The all-wheel-drive platform is the result of a 2010 strategic partnership with General Motors, which is providing engines and parts. Bright currently has several prototypes of its PHEV powertrain in the field.

We have also learned about a global effort that is leading toward the eventual introduction of Class 3-5 hybrid trucks by Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America (MFTA). At the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, MFTA’s parent company, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, a part of the Daimler Trucks Division of Daimler AG, unveiled the second-generation model of its light-duty Canter Eco Hybrid, which is reportedly 40 percent lighter than the original 2006 model and has shown 30 percent better fuel economy than diesel-powered models.

Todd Bloom, president and CEO of MFTA, explained that the hybrid technology is in place and the payback on an investment in these vehicles is verifiable. Now, he said, the goal is to address emissions and safety standards so the Canter Eco Hybrid can join MFTA’s line of Canter FE/FG Class 3 through 5 cabovers in the U.S.

We are also planning to follow developments as Toyota and Ford work together to develop hybrid trucks and SUVs that will be ready for market by the end of the decade. The two companies announced the plan in late summer of last year, noting that they will collaborate on product development for the future rear-wheel drive hybrid vehicles and help each other meet stringent U.S. fuel economy standards.

All things considered, there is plenty to read about in this issue and we hope you agree that we made wise choices about what to include. Looking ahead, we’ll be steadfastly following all the industry’s developments and giving you even more valuable information.

Seth Skydel
Editor

Accurate, Timely and Valuable

Meeting the Information Needs of the Utility Fleet Professional

More years ago than I care to remember, as a rookie editor at a trucking industry equipment and maintenance magazine, my role was summed up for me by a much more seasoned journalist. “Our job,” he said, “is to know the information needs of our readers intimately, and to be an accurate, timely and valuable resource for them as they work to improve the fleet operations at their companies.”

It is with that in mind that we proudly launch Utility Fleet Professional, a new magazine dedicated to meeting the unique information needs of utility fleet equipment and maintenance managers. Defined by a variety and complexity of equipment unmatched in any other type of vocational fleet, utility vehicle operations require highly dedicated professionals who can blend technical expertise with superior management skills, and in turn bring value to their companies.

Here at UFP we intend to help you achieve those goals by developing editorial content that addresses fleet, corporate and operations management, and fleet maintenance and purchasing issues. The editorial content of UFP will be focused on a number of key areas, including light- and medium-duty trucks, aerial and underground equipment, fuel management, truck bodies and chassis, vehicle accessories, work zone systems, construction equipment, and maintenance management and shop tools, to name just a few. We’ll also bring you the latest on environmental issues, industry news and regulatory developments that will impact your fleets.

In this first issue of UFP you will also find several stories about fleet managers who are describing the programs and practices that make their operations successful. These stories, we believe, are of the greatest value because they allow our readers to share problems and solutions, benefiting the entire industry.

Our team at UFP has a long track record in both the utility industry and in the realm of truck fleet management magazines. Combined we have more than 60 years of experience, and deep connections throughout the industry and with the suppliers you rely on for products and services.

We also hope to rely on you. Reach out to us with ideas, challenge us with questions, and we will do our very best to find the answers and solutions you need to effectively manage your fleets.

This year we will produce two print issues of UFP for two key industry events. The first, in June, will be issued at the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (EUFMC) in Williamsburg, Va. The second, in October, will be in print at the International Construction & Utility Equipment Exposition (ICUEE) in Louisville, Ky. Additional issues will be planned for 2012 and at all times you can find us at www.utilityfleetprofessional.com

The utility fleet industry has highly specialized information needs. As the only publication dedicated exclusively to utility fleet professionals, UFP will bring you relevant and useful information. We hope that you will quickly learn to count on us as “an accurate, timely and valuable resource.”

Seth Skydel
Editor

Utility Fleet Professional

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