Tag: Featured

Work Truck Week 2023 Heads Back to Indy

Work Truck Week – North America’s largest work truck event – returns to Indianapolis March 7-10. Education sessions run March 7-9; the exhibit hall will be open March 8-10; and the Ride & Drive is scheduled for March 8 and 9. Also part of Work Truck Week is the Green Truck Summit, which takes place March 7.

Produced by NTEA – The Association for the Work Truck Industry, this year’s Work Truck Week will feature extended exhibit hours, providing attendees additional time to check out the latest commercial vehicles, technology and equipment on display from 500 companies. According to NTEA, the New Exhibitor Pavilion, featuring 25 first-time exhibitors, will also return with an earlier start.   

The 2023 educational program includes a variety of targeted sessions during which industry experts and thought leaders will share strategies to help improve efficiency, implement best practices and grow operations. Concurrent sessions address market data and industry trends, vehicle engineering and compliance, government relations, advanced fuels and vehicle technology, workforce development and more.

NTEA has also added exclusive update sessions from five electric vehicle manufacturers to the Work Truck Week educational program. During the sessions, manufacturer representatives will cover important technical information about their vehicle chassis, designs and powertrains. The EV update sessions will be held March 9. Participating manufacturers are Cenntro Automotive Corp., Lion Electric, Lordstown Motors, VIA Motors Inc. and Xos Inc. Other OEM update sessions begin March 7 and run through March 9.

Back again for another year, attendees will have the opportunity to test drive nearly 20 vehicles at the Ride & Drive, including all-electric vans, trucks and unique new zero-emission vehicles, as well as internal combustion trucks. Ride & Drive also features new components and equipment to help boost performance, fuel economy, safety and efficiency.

At this year’s Green Truck Summit – designed to provide insights and resources to support the work truck industry’s drive toward greater sustainability, productivity and efficiency – Cummins Inc. president and CEO Jennifer Rumsey will deliver the keynote address. Her presentation will be followed by a full slate of sessions addressing the evolution of the commercial vehicle landscape as the shift toward zero emissions accelerates. John Davis, creator, host and executive producer of MotorWeek, returns as event emcee.

Robert Herjavec, an entrepreneur, author and star of the TV show “Shark Tank,” will be the keynote speaker at the NTEA Annual Meeting on March 9.

For full details about Work Truck Week 2023, visit www.worktruckweek.com.

The Latest Developments in the Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Truck Market

Fuel cells powered by hydrogen have become an attractive technology because hydrogen powers an electric motor – without plugging in, as you do with a battery-electric vehicle – and the only emission out of the tailpipe is water.

Big-name truck makers including Toyota, Kenworth and Navistar have entered the fray. And then there are new entrants like Nikola Motor Co. and Hyzon Motors.

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What’s New in Truck and Van Upfits for 2023?

As you evaluate your truck and van specs, where do you see the best opportunities for improvement?

Perhaps you could take weight out of the vehicle to reduce fuel costs or increase legal payload. Or upgrade your equipment to be more efficient and ergonomic, improving crew productivity and safety. Or electrify your onboard equipment to cut fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

Whatever your specific goals, here are seven new developments from truck and van equipment manufacturers to help you achieve them.

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The State of Fleet Maintenance in 2023

The outlook for fleet maintenance costs and shop operations in 2023 is again influenced by the state of the economy and the supply chain, as well as by the ongoing nationwide tech shortage. To help pinpoint the leading challenges the year ahead poses to utility fleet managers, UFP spoke with Chris Foster, manager of fleet management services for Holman (www.holman.com), one of North America’s largest providers of fleet management services.

Supply Chain Kinks
Starting out with the remaining kinks bedeviling the supply chain, Foster pointed out that while “the entire automotive supply chain has been severely disrupted the last several years, there’s certainly positive momentum. That comes particularly in terms of new vehicle production, and conditions continue to slowly improve. The key to the supply chain beginning to stabilize has been the OEMs’ ability to steadily increase production capacity.”

Still, the supply chain was severely restricted during the first two to three years of the pandemic, which has prevented most fleet operators from being able to order new units, he pointed out. “As a result, older vehicles had to remain in service much longer than originally anticipated and needed additional repairs, quickly creating a parts shortage. Add to that the long-standing labor shortage and you quickly see the perfect storm of disruptions this creates.

“Today, as a growing number of new vehicles roll off the assembly line, fleets are able to begin replacing these older, high-mileage units, and this is starting to help mitigate parts and labor shortages,” Foster continued. “There are certainly still gaps in the market and lingering challenges, but generally speaking, the supply chain is headed in the right direction and will likely continue to improve throughout 2023.”

Costs: Up or Down?
Turning to which types of maintenance and repair costs are likely to increase or decrease the most in 2023, Foster said that for the last year or so, “supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and inflationary pressures have pushed operating costs significantly higher. In some segments of the industry and certain geographic regions, costs spiked as much as 20%.

“Fortunately, we’re beginning to see the industry stabilize, and price increases are leveling off a bit,” he continued. “As we look ahead, we’re likely to see maintenance and repairs continue to increase slightly in certain areas. Tire prices is one area that comes to mind, but costs are unlikely to climb at the same rate as last year.”

Techs Still Wanted
As for the technician shortage that predates the pandemic and has been growing steadily, Foster stressed that “without question, there is a critical shortage of qualified technicians throughout North America.” He said that puts the onus on utility fleets to recruit, develop and retain technicians to support their in-house maintenance programs.

Foster also observed that hiring skilled technicians is “a competitive process, and keeping them long term is often just as difficult. It is critical that you view your technicians as an integral part of your business and make their satisfaction, training and retention a top priority. Additionally, most utility fleet operators should leverage strong partnerships with their fleet management provider and/or external vendors to help supplement their in-house program and mitigate the risk of prolonged downtime due to technician turnover.”

Jeff Sproat, director of Wheels Donlen’s Maintenance Contact Center, contends that the rising cost of everything from fuel to tires, as well as the impact of widespread parts delays and labor shortages on shop operations, makes a compelling case for being proactive about maintenance.

“The first step in proactive maintenance is to understand the specific needs of your business,” he advised in a 2022 blog post. “You must know what kind of equipment you have and how it operates in order to make informed decisions about when to service or replace a system or part. By focusing on prevention rather than reaction when something goes wrong, you’ll increase uptime while saving money.”

Here is a condensed version of Sproat’s top five tips for leveraging proactive maintenance practices:

1. Assess your fleet. Align vehicle maintenance schedules with OEM guidelines that correspond to how your vehicles are being used. Check the OEM’s schedule recommendations against your usage patterns (e.g., whether a vehicle is being driven more often than average, has a higher number of stops-and-goes than normal, or is driven farther distances each day). In each case, more frequent service intervals may be indicated. Also, evaluate how long you plan to keep your vehicles to determine if any post-100,000-mile services should be scheduled, such as a transmission or coolant flush, or re-evaluated based on OEM recommendations.

2. Follow OEM guidelines. Sticking to OEM guidelines is a good way to reduce costs and keep your fleet running smoothly, especially when it comes to such aspects as routine maintenance schedules and maintaining fluid levels and tire pressures.

3. Check your drivers’ compliance. Are drivers performing their scheduled maintenance? Does it comply with local regulations? Is it in line with your fleet policy? If you find your drivers are continually getting services performed late, this can lead to higher repair costs as vehicles age.

4. Keep maintenance schedules current. Ensure you have the latest version of your vehicles’ maintenance schedules and service information, in addition to receiving any updates issued by manufacturers. The last thing you want is for an emergency to arise when no one knows how to respond.

5. Plan for planning. Fleet maintenance is a task that requires planning. It is important to understand how much maintenance work your fleet needs and when that work must be done. To gain that understanding, set aside time every year to complete an audit of all vehicles in your fleet to build a schedule for minor and major repairs.

“Don’t wait for a problem to occur; work with your drivers to schedule regular maintenance appointments,” Sproat wrote. “This will enable you to address minor issues before they lead to larger ones that could cost thousands of dollars and delay business operations. Not only will this ensure better safety but also lower costs in the long run.”

About the Author: David Cullen is an award-winning journalist who specializes in covering the trucking industry. Based in Connecticut, he writes for several business publications.

6 Lessons Learned (So Far) on the Fast Track to an All-Electric Fleet

Ready or not, EVs are coming to your fleet.

Governments have mandated it. Automakers have committed to it. And recent federal legislation has earmarked billions of dollars for it.

But the colossal changes in vehicle design and “fueling” infrastructure will undoubtedly create numerous potholes on the road to electrification. Will there be enough models available to make the shift in time? Will charging times become faster and more practical? Will utility fleets be able to manage emergency response situations when there is no electricity?

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Spec’ing Truck-Mounted Air Compressors

Like most everything else that’s installed in the manufacturing and outfitting of a utility truck, there’s no one-size-fits-all choice when it comes to spec’ing a truck-mounted compressor to best meet the demands of a given application.

There’s a lot to think about, ranging from the compressor’s placement on the chassis to ensuring the correct flow rates. Insights for the following eight-point checklist to help fleet managers spec the right compressor are drawn from information from two leading air compressor manufacturers, Vanair (https://vanair.com) and VMAC (www.vmacair.com):

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Pitfalls to Avoid When Transitioning to a Fleet Management Information System

A fleet management information system (FMIS) is an essential back-office system designed to help fleet managers keep records and generate reports regarding the effective and efficient operation, maintenance, repair and replacement of their fleet assets.

But pulling and integrating data from a wide range of sources into a single system can be a daunting task. So, UFP recently asked industry veteran George Survant, currently vice president of fleet for Revolv Global Inc. (https://revolv.us), to share his expertise about how to smoothly transition to a new FMIS.

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‘The Checklist Manifesto’ for High-Performing Fleet Professionals

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

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

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

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4 Safety Tech Options to Consider for Aerial Devices and Digger Derricks

As you spec your next round of bucket trucks and digger derricks, what are some safety technologies that may not have been available for your previous orders but are now?

UFP spoke with Altec’s (www.altec.com) Michael Newman, digger derrick market manager, and Ryan Hulleman, aerial device market manager, to get their advice. They recommended considering the following four safety tech options.

But before we dive in, a quick disclaimer: Although Newman and Hulleman speak specifically about their company’s products, you can look for similar safety systems from other manufacturers. This article aims to build awareness about the latest developments in safety technologies that can save lives, reduce job site injuries and extend the life of your equipment.

1. Lanyard Detection System for Aerial Devices
A lanyard detection system reminds lineworkers to clip in before they work from the platform. Altec’s system is available in two configurations. One provides an audible alert if the lanyard is not attached. The other disables the upper controls in addition to issuing an audible warning.

Why consider a lanyard detection system?

“Job sites are busy,” Hulleman said. “Workers are thinking about what they just talked about in their pre-op meeting or have other things on their mind. And folks can sometimes forget to clip in. So, this solution helps prevent somebody from getting into that scenario where they want to operate the equipment safely, but, for whatever reason, they forget to clip in.”

2. Load Monitoring
A load-monitoring system helps prevent overload incidents, extend equipment life and determine what adjustments need to be made to vehicle specs.

Altec’s system is connected to the company’s telematics offering that sends wireless notifications to fleet owners when a platform or boom overload event occurs.

Hulleman said that Altec’s system issues both visual and audio alerts. The visual warning is a four-color light bar attached to the unit’s turntable that changes color based on the load.

What are the colors?

“The visual indicator has four colors: blue, green, yellow and red,” Hulleman said. “Those colors correspond to a certain percentage of the rated load capacity. If the light is green, you’re in a good position. As you approach the total rated load, that color will change from green to yellow. Once you reach the rated load and slightly exceed it, you’ll see the red indicator on the light bar come on and hear an intermittent chirping alarm. If for some reason you were to worsen the overload, the light would turn blue, and you would hear that chirping sound become a solid tone. That indicates to the operator that the condition has worsened.”

3. Telematics
Telematics is nothing new for trucks. But receiving alerts remotely on the performance of truck-mounted equipment, like aerials and derricks – that’s a more recent development.

“Altec Insights is a digital [telematics] product for our physical products. It takes the raw data our customers may see as noise and processes it into consumable, actionable information,” Newman said.

What’s an example?

“Consider digger derricks with hydraulic overload protection, or HOP – a backstop system to prevent excessive machine overload,” Newman said. “The telematics insights come in to help determine the severity of the overload. This way, we can provide our customers with appropriate recommendations or actions. Depending on this situation, we might recommend the operator re-perform their daily inspection. Or, if they had a severe overload event, that might require a technician to perform a more detailed inspection.”

Telematics can also provide insight into whether to make specification changes. “You can look at this data to help make better decisions on whether a certain region or user group needs a larger machine,” Newman said. “We know the infrastructure is getting taller and heavier. So, our customers have to respond.”

4. Outrigger-Deploying Steps at the Tailshelf for Digger Derricks
This is an option on Altec’s new DT85 model digger derrick. The system enables the steps at the tailshelf to deploy and retract as the outriggers are raised and lowered.

How is it relevant to safety?

“The steps at the tailshelf make ingress and egress to the back of the truck bed much easier and safer for the operator,” Newman said. “If they didn’t have this step at the tailshelf, the operator would have to walk around the outrigger to where there is a dedicated set of steps or a ladder on the side of the bed. So, when you’re working on the derrick and rotated off the back of the truck, the tailshelf steps allow the operator to cut their steps in half to get to the ground. While that doesn’t sound like much, you’ve cut your risk significantly when getting in and out of the riding seat. The fewer steps on the truck mean a lower risk for slip-and-fall accidents.”

Why is it important for the rear steps to deploy automatically?

“It means that nobody has to remember to set up the steps and put them away when the operator is done,” Newman said. “The steps stow automatically at a good departure angle, so you’re not having to worry about someone forgetting that they deployed the step and tearing it off when leaving the job site.”

Looking at Fleet Management Through a Legal Lens

Aggressive driver behaviors. Improper use of equipment. Distracted driving. These are just a few issues that increase a utility fleet’s risk of preventable accidents that can lead to multimillion-dollar payouts and ignite a public relations firestorm.

So, what can you do as a fleet manager to help protect drivers, the public and your company’s reputation?

UFP recently spoke with defense attorney John O. Radeck Jr., a partner at Charleston, South Carolina-based Hood Law Firm (www.hoodlaw.com), for his legal perspective on how fleet managers can improve safety and reduce risk exposure for their employers. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

UFP: What areas do you see where utilities have the most significant risk exposure with their fleets?

John O. Radeck Jr.: The biggest area is technology – the vast quantity of information that can be received through telematics. We see an unwillingness from many companies to fully engage with telematics proactively.

As a result, a lot of information can be weaponized from the plaintiff’s perspective; that’s easy for them to nitpick.

Fleets shouldn’t just be collecting telematics data. They should use that information to correct specific driver behaviors and improve safety. Instead, too many companies just let that data sit there as a vast ocean of information that becomes a vulnerability the plaintiffs could exploit.

What vulnerabilities would plaintiffs be looking to exploit with a fleet’s use – or lack of use – of telematics? 

The plaintiffs want to know, does the company use telematics data to enforce the safety policies they have in place? Or do they ignore that data?

One of the critical parts of the fleet manager’s job is to be able to look at that data, identify trends and problem areas, and then fix those issues.

What is that data telling you about the condition of the vehicle? What is it telling you about the driver’s habits? Whatever the case, the question is this: Is the company proactive in enforcing its policies? If your company is not doing that, and you have this telematics system just collecting data, that’s a vulnerable point for you.

There’s this philosophy that collecting data is a vulnerability in itself. What are your thoughts on that?

That’s old-school versus new-school thinking.

The old-school philosophy is the less information, the better. We don’t want to document things.

But that approach makes you vulnerable, especially with plaintiffs’ attorneys, who are much more aggressive nowadays. With the enormous payouts awarded, these attorneys are not worried about costs. They can get funding from third parties to push these cases.

And the last thing you want is your best defense at trial being, “We don’t have information on that.”

Instead, you want to build a good company story by providing the information. Otherwise, you’ll be painted as a bad company at trial.

Suppose a fleet decided not to include all available advanced driver assistance systems on a vehicle. And then that vehicle is involved in a crash that the missing technology might have prevented. Is the utility company exposed to risk for that decision?

That’s not a specific issue I’ve dealt with yet. But my initial reaction goes back to being proactive and aggressive about using all the safety measures you can.

Otherwise, you’re potentially adding another piece of the puzzle that the plaintiffs could weave into an entire patchwork quilt – a larger narrative that strengthens their case.

It’s the Reptile Theory [see www.lexisnexis.com/community/insights/legal/b/thought-leadership/posts/the-reptile-theory-a-game-changing-strategy-in-personal-injury-lawsuits for more] at work. The plaintiffs will say, “Look, you had a choice, and you chose the less safe option.” That will always win.

What if, say, the vehicle is fully equipped with the available safety systems, but the operator has disabled one or more of them? What’s the risk exposure to the employer?

That’s a significant risk. And I would say that falls within the realm of inflammatory conduct – where a driver has chosen to disable the system. Presumably, that would be against company policy.

The company could be on the hook because they chose to hire that individual. But it really boils down to whether there is a culture of safety.

In this case, the company chose to hire a person who thought it was OK to disable this equipment. So, my thought is this: Is there a policy on this issue from the company? What were the instructions from the company to this employee?

If there were no policy, that would be a dangerous fact for a potential nuclear verdict.

When it comes to distracted driving, what’s the vulnerability there?

When you look at the nuclear verdicts, the data shows that phones are involved in most of those cases. Cellphones are obviously an issue, whether it is a primary factor or not.

But there’s only so much a company can do. The key is establishing that the company has made efforts to curb distracted driving with its policy – and the individual chose to violate it.

What are your thoughts about camera systems on vehicles?

Outward-facing cameras can be helpful. But I’m not so sure how necessary inward-facing cameras are.

I have a case with cameras involved. This 18-wheeler was making a turn. The plaintiff had 10 seconds before he impacted the side of the 18-wheeler. The allegations were that the 18-wheeler pulled out in front of the plaintiff.

The plaintiff had 10 seconds to slow down and avoid the accident. Instead, he stayed in the lane and looked like he had never braked. So, in that situation, the cameras were beneficial because they provided us with a comparative negligence argument.

If you were to think of a checklist that every fleet manager should have in mind to help protect their company from a legal perspective, what would be on that list? 

In no particular order, I would consider these questions: Are you proactive in using telematics? Are you setting alerts and diving into the data to identify and address potential issues? Is your company enforcing its vehicle safety policies? What are you and the company doing today to build a culture of safety where management and employees are taking ownership of those policies?

It’s one thing to have a policy in place. But if it’s not enforced or people don’t take ownership in following it, that’s just as bad as not having a policy at all.

How Fleet Maintenance Can Advance Driver Safety 

Along with controlling the wide range of equipment costs that come with running a fleet, plus the need to maximize vehicle utilization and drivers’ time behind the wheel, every fleet maintenance program should be geared toward improving safety – to reduce operating costs and, above all, to decrease the risk exposure for fleet drivers and the motoring public.

Even a minor maintenance issue that is deferred or, worse, never noted on an inspection can snowball risk to your drivers and other motorists if left unresolved. Maintenance and safety clearly dovetail in the inspection and care given to a range of systems, starting with brakes, lights, tires, and wheels and axles, as well as electrical system components and any instances of physical damage.

“Committing to a consistent preventive maintenance schedule for all of your fleet’s equipment – tractors and trailers alike – not only maximizes uptime, but can help boost longevity, resale value, and even safety,” contends a blog post written by Carlos Mendiola, group director, finance, for Ryder’s Fleet Maintenance Solutions business unit.

Mendiola lays out PM tips in the post, including two that pack a solid safety punch: leveraging DVIR data and VMRS codes. “The DVIR is your canary in the coal mine,” he said. “Regularly review driver vehicle inspection reports or DVIRs and take action to fix things they note as being out of spec. If drivers see that you are taking their findings seriously, they are more likely to become diligent in their pre- and post-trip inspections. DVIRs also note issues that can lead to tractor-trailers failing roadside inspections too.”

Tapping the Codes
As for the vehicle maintenance reporting standards (VMRS), these codes were developed in 1970 by the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council to provide a single, concise coding convention for managing fleet assets and analyzing maintenance costs.

“VMRS codes are the ‘universal language’ of the truck and trailer maintenance and repair business,” Mendiola explained. “They define exactly what is wrong with a truck and what was done to repair it.” He said these codes become especially important if outside service providers are used for PM services as “they keep everyone on the same page.”

According to a blog post from Rand McNally, “A fleet safety program isn’t solely about monitoring your drivers. Knowing how to improve your fleet safety program also includes vehicle inspection and maintenance. Regular maintenance helps reduce the costs of unexpected breakdowns and helps prevent accidents caused by damaged parts.”

Each driver should follow an inspection procedure to ensure safe operating conditions, the company recommended. “Regular inspections that are documented and assessed to see if further maintenance is necessary help with early detection of defects or vehicle issues.” Neglecting regular maintenance and inspections can raise repair costs, put drivers at greater risk, and increase the likelihood of violations and fines.

Maintenance and inspections should be scheduled. Rand McNally suggests including oil and filter changes; inspections of belts, brakes, radiators and other critical components; and rotating tires. “Engines, transmissions, and drivetrains require more major work that should be performed when needed.”

Training and Education
Both maintenance managers and drivers should receive safety training. This training can be conducted in phases. For example, Rand McNally advises training your supervisors and core team first. Then they can train other staffers and the drivers. “Mandatory training programs help everyone understand safety policies and procedures. You can also hold regular meetings to discuss company rules, regulations, defensive and backing techniques, adverse weather, maintenance, accident reporting, emergency procedures, and other topics.”

One-on-one training is more hands-on, which is especially helpful when corrective actions need to be taken by a driver. According to Rand McNally, “It’s important to have a predetermined safety threshold and appropriate one-on-one conversations with those who drop below it. Conduct regular coaching sessions in groups and personalized sessions for drivers who go below the safety threshold. Have a standardized script for these instances to eliminate biases.”

Safety Guidance
According to guidance about how maintenance can positively impact safety published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, drivers should know how to properly maintain trucks – for their safety and the safety of others. “Employers should ensure that their drivers know that any vehicle malfunction, maintenance problem, or load securement issue must be addressed proactively to prevent crashes,” the agency stated.

Fleets should also “educate drivers about how to properly conduct pre- and post-trip inspections, record vehicle defects on DVIRs, and ensure that any defects which would hinder safe operation of the vehicle are repaired prior to operating the vehicle,” according to the FMCSA. In addition, fleets should train drivers on how to properly load commercial vehicles to prevent shifting of loads, spilling or dropping cargo, and overloading. Drivers’ questions about their role in maintenance efforts to boost safety should be answered, or “direct them to the information they need, including FMCSA’s websites.”

Consider this 360-degree view of safety, courtesy of a statistic from the Harvard Business Review: “Improving employee engagement is not simply about improving productivity … Specifically, high-turnover organizations report 25% lower turnover, and low-turnover organizations report 65% lower turnover. Engagement also improves quality of work and health … higher scoring business units report 48% fewer safety incidents.”

In short, engage your drivers with your maintenance and equipment experts as you train them and track, report and advance their safety performance – on the road and at the job site.

About the Author: David Cullen is an award-winning journalist who specializes in covering the trucking industry. Based in Connecticut, he writes for several business publications.

Con Edison: Fleet Safety Performance is a Collaborative Effort

A “close call” in late 2020 set things in motion to address a slip-and-fall hazard shortly after New York City’s energy provider, Con Edison, replaced 10 steel trailers with aluminum trailers.

“An employee was trying to secure a load on a very windy day. But the aluminum surface was wet and slick,” Richard Stewart, ConEd’s environmental, health and safety (EHS) manager, recalled. “When this incident was brought to our attention, we had to find a solution.”

In many types of organizations, you’ll see a lot of finger-pointing, blame-shifting and throwing people under the proverbial bus when things go wrong. But the utility industry has become known as a sector that promotes a collaborative culture, especially when solving problems that impact worker safety.

And ConEd’s experience provides a valuable behind-the-scenes view of what a collaborative culture looks like when confronting fleet safety challenges.

Why did ConEd switch from steel to aluminum trailers? What caused the increased slip-and-fall risk with the new aluminum units? How did the fleet, EHS and other departments work together to find a solution?

UFP spoke with Stewart and ConEd’s chief automotive engineer, Fortunato Gulino, to learn more about their story. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

UFP: What factors led ConEd to change from steel to aluminum trailers?

Fortunato Gulino: At ConEd, we have four pillars to product design, whether a vehicle or trailer. The pillars represent the automotive engineering group, the garage operations maintaining the assets, the safety group and the operator. All four of us get together in a committee meeting to collaborate, whether it’s about a new product, a redesign of an existing product, or just confirming that the old product and specification are acceptable.

In this case, the steel trailers were causing problems – rotting and corrosion to the point where we had to condemn some of our trailers. So, our initial thinking as a group was that aluminum trailers would be the best solution for the corrosion issues.

But the aluminum presented a tradeoff? 

Gulino: Yes. The tradeoff was the actual decking. The aluminum deck didn’t have the same anti-slip performance as the hardwood decking on the steel trailer. We learned about the issue shortly after the operators started using the new trailers.

What was the starting point for addressing the issue? 

Richard Stewart: We started with administrative measures to mitigate the initial concern. Things like: “Don’t do any cargo load securement in the rain or on a windy day. And let’s move the trailer to inside the distribution bay.”

But then another safety concern arose. We transport pad-mounted transformers on our trailers. And sufficient friction – in addition to proper strapping – is critical to prevent losing loads. Naturally, the last thing you want is to lose a load, like a pad-mounted transformer, on a busy New York street.

With all the safety concerns presented, we needed to do something to improve the anti-slip performance of these new trailers.

What did you do?

Stewart: We had already been engaged with a company called Form-A-Tread (https://form-a-tread.com) on other projects to address slip-and-fall concerns at our warehouses and other facilities at ConEd.

We’ve applied their anti-slip solution to various decline and incline ramp areas throughout the company. And it has proven to be robust in preventing these types of hazards. So, we approached that company to see what solution they could create for our aluminum trailers.

What was the process for developing the requirements for the anti-slip trailer solution?

Stewart: Some of the company’s anti-slip products are rigid, and others are flexible. We needed the flexibility to compensate for the bowing of the load on the trailers. And we needed a product that could handle the robust nature of what Con Edison does to trailers. We don’t transport one universal load. We transport everything on our trailers. So, we had to ensure it could stand up to rigorous use and maintain flexibility.

[The vendor] asked for the specs, which we got from Fortunato’s automotive engineering group. They wanted to know the trailer dimensions, material, weight, load and so forth. And they did the calculations on their end to determine what it would take to properly coat our trailers with a solution that would hold up for us with the bending and flexing and the various weather changes.

Once we had a solution we thought could work, we approached Fortunato’s automotive group and asked them if we would be permitted to proceed with it. That’s the first thing we must ask: “Will you permit us to do it if we can?”

Earlier, you mentioned that the anti-slip solution is a coating on the trailer. What type of coating is it? 

Stewart: It’s a two-part epoxy that’s very fast curing for the initial set, and then it requires an overnight cure – about eight hours.

Does the manufacturer install the coating, or is ConEd equipped to do it in-house?

Stewart: They did train us how to do it. However, with the high-profile nature of the project, we wanted to ensure that we got it right.

What advice do you both have for how fleet and safety can collaborate more effectively with each other and across other departments to improve overall safety performance? 

Gulino: The first thing is to develop strong relationships and have good communication between the departments.

The second thing is understanding that many things don’t go as planned. You try one thing thinking it’s going to fix a problem, only to find that it has caused another problem to appear. So just be prepared for any aftereffects from any solution.

Stewart: We’re a very safety-focused and collaborative company where we’re meeting consistently for discussions on safety. We think it’s essential to involve all the stakeholders and get everybody’s opinions to ensure we’ve covered all our bases.

The State of EV Wireless Charging

As utilities adopt electric vehicles for their fleets, they face a fundamental question: wired or wireless charging? The decision could have long-term effects on the success of EV adoption. Electric utilities will be consulting with their customers on the same question.

While EV plug-in charging stations are familiar sights thanks to Tesla, wireless charging is less well known. But it’s getting ready for its time in the spotlight.

Wireless charging simplifies EV operations. Just park over a charging pad and then drive on – no plugging or unplugging is required. Wireless or inductive charging uses a charging pad embedded in the pavement to create a magnetic field to a receiving charging plate installed on the underside of the vehicle.

Since 2019, Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) in Southern California has used a wireless inductive charging system from WAVE (https://waveipt.com) for its battery-electric fleet, the largest in the U.S. Transit lines are an ideal situation for wireless charging; the lines have predictable routes and stopping points, so the buses can be recharged throughout their duty cycle. AVTA buses charge about 10 to 15 minutes per stop on their daily 290 miles.

Rethinking Duty Cycles
Pilot projects like the AVTA example have led to insights that will help utilities understand the strategy and benefits behind wireless charging.

Planning a wireless charging network requires thinking about where the vehicles may stop during their duty cycle. If the vehicles can charge incrementally during the shift, they don’t have to be taken out of service to recharge, and they can carry smaller batteries to cover the required range.

“You can change the mentality of how to use wireless versus other kinds of charging where it becomes part of the duty cycle and is almost like a perpetual operation,” said Aaron Gillmore, CEO of WAVE.

In a test of wired and wireless charging in a 200-truck parcel delivery fleet, charging provider WiTricity (https://witricity.com) found that wireless charging could save up to 50% on the total cost of operations. Much of the difference was due to “opportunity charging,” where the vehicles were charged while stopped for operational reasons. Spreading out the charging demand flattened peak loads for significantly lower electric expenses.

Wireless chargers could be installed at substations or frequent work sites. A vehicle can recharge while parked, eliminating the need to plug in. Even if a vehicle stops on a charger for 10 minutes, wireless charging works automatically, so the full 10 minutes is spent charging. The operator doesn’t have to get out of the vehicle, plug in a charging cable or perhaps use an RFID card to authorize the charge.

The utility fleet could plan charging hubs or nodes throughout the service area where vehicles could stop for a quick charge and then keep running throughout the duty cycle. Fleet managers will know how many miles a truck will operate and where it’s likely to travel, so a truck could be routed over wireless charging pads. One option is a charging island, like a fueling island, where vehicles get serviced and charge simultaneously.

“The concept is that you can get quick charges throughout the day on a high-powered charger and are always able to operate,” Gillmore said. “It opens the door to thinking about the economics of it differently.”

Planning for a Plugless Future
Wireless charging simplifies the charging network because there doesn’t have to be a charging dispenser for every vehicle. Even for electric utilities, supplying large amounts of power to their depots can be an expensive and time-consuming infrastructure project. Electric utility customers electrifying their fleets will face similar issues.

“You end up with fewer chargers serving many more trucks every day,” Gillmore said.

Wireless charging could help manage battery life. EV batteries like to operate in the middle of the charging range; charging to 100% frequently can degrade the battery life just as much as letting the charge drop to near zero. Wireless charging is built on the concept of incremental charging to keep the battery level relatively flat or charge neutral. The vehicle can recharge the energy consumed since the previous charge in a brief stop.

Wireless charging reduces charging infrastructure requirements and can improve efficiency and safety as operators don’t have to leave the truck to plug anything in. WiTricity estimated operators spend 12 to 15 minutes per day using plug-in charging systems. Because the wireless system uses magnetism rather than electric current, there’s no chance of shocks or short circuits. The magnetic field utilized for power transfer is not affected by water, snow, mud or other environmental factors.

Which Comes First?
As light-duty electric trucks come to market from Ford, Rivian and others, medium-duty trucks are under development by several manufacturers. Specialized vehicles may take more time to come to market. Due to the complexity of utility vehicles with chassis configured for upfitting, it takes another level of engineering to integrate battery packs along with buckets and outriggers.

Wireless charging could influence EV designs of the future. If vehicles can be charged during their daily duty cycles by wireless chargers in commonly traveled locations, their batteries can be smaller. In comparison, a truck charged by wire at the utility depot must carry a battery with enough capacity for the shift. A smaller battery design means less weight for longer range and a lower acquisition cost.

To some extent, it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario. Gillmore noted that wireless charging for fleet vehicles would be widely available when more fleet EVs are capable of using it.

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.

Top Trends in Utility Fleet Maintenance

Inflation is impacting all areas of the utility fleet industry, with a profound impact on maintenance and operating expenses, according to Amanda Kazemba, senior consulting analyst, business intelligence and analytics, for Holman (www.holman.com).

“Overall, the cost to repair a vehicle is up approximately 20% as compared to 2020, and fleet operators should expect to see an additional 5 to 10% in 2023 as well – and potentially beyond,” she said.

Factor in the increased costs of raw materials, an ongoing labor shortage, repair facilities struggling with their own parts and labor shortages, the general lack of new vehicle inventory, and vehicles remaining in service longer than originally anticipated, and you have the perfect storm, she noted.

While costs are likely to increase as supply constraints continue through 2023, Steve Jastrow, vice president of consulting and analytics for Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com), said there is an opportunity for fleets to overhaul traditional practices to become more dynamic and implement more effective and efficient fleet management.

In recent interviews with UFP, Jastrow and Kazemba also offered the following insights on trends utility fleets can expect to see in the next year to two years.

Maintenance: More Important Than Ever
Utility fleets will want to stay close to their finance and operations teams, as costs will likely stay elevated and there may be an increase in vehicle unavailability, Jastrow advised.

“With the entire automotive supply chain severely disrupted and new vehicles still in short supply – a trend that will likely continue for the foreseeable future – taking care of the fleet vehicles you do have is more important than ever,” Kazemba said.

Keeping vehicles longer is also resulting in more frequent and costly repairs.

“Lead times will drive decisions on whether companies will want to replace vehicles or have maintenance work done to keep vehicles moving,” Jastrow said.

Impacts from the chip shortage and overall material shortages both domestic and abroad are leaving some replacement parts in short supply. The best action to avoid these impacts is to keep fleet vehicles maintained to avoid unexpected failures, he noted.

With that in mind, fleet operators must remain agile and adjust their maintenance strategy – and budget forecast – to account for this additional utilization during the costliest portion of a vehicle’s life cycle, Kazemba said.

“Reexamine your preventive maintenance strategy to better align with the reality that vehicles will be logging more miles, incurring additional wear and stretching their life cycle well beyond their original forecast,” she advised.

Using Data to Guide Decisions
According to Jastrow, fleets are going to become more dependent on data-driven decisions.

“Connected vehicles are here, and the insights can drive safety, fuel economy and maintenance improvements,” he said.

Leveraging maintenance data and analytics tools can help you better understand your fleet’s performance to identify trends and key performance indicators.

“This enhanced insight allows you to evolve your maintenance strategy from a traditional ‘break and fix’ model to a more proactive ‘predict and prevent’ methodology that further minimizes operating costs and downtime, allowing you to keep vehicles on the road longer,” Kazemba explained.

Shifting to Sustainability and Electrification
Shifting to greener operations is another trend that will continue in the coming years.

“Alternative fuel is now a focus in almost every conversation with fleet professionals as companies move to sustainable fleet practices and efforts to reduce their CO2 footprint,” Jastrow said.

He noted that sales of electric vehicles in the U.S. have reached a tipping point observed in other countries, indicating mass adoption is underway. “With corporate sustainability driving businesses to electrify their fleets, a pilot-first approach can inform longer-term decisions and enable a proper electrification scale.”

Larger EVs continue to come to market, providing more opportunities for fleets utilizing light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Confirmed through both OEM predictions and fleet data analysis, the cost to maintain EVs can be as much as 40% lower than their ICE counterparts, Jastrow continued.

However, the transition from ICE vehicles to EVs may take longer than fleets are thinking, so it is important that they begin exploring fleet electrification by mapping out their transition plans and setting up EV pilot projects. Hybrids can be a good steppingstone to EVs, Jastrow said.

In addition to EVs and hybrids, he noted that autonomous vehicle and fuel-cell electric vehicle growth is expected in the truck space.

“While a significantly higher cost to purchase, autonomous vehicles have lower fuel and maintenance costs. Fuel-cell electric vehicle (hydrogen vehicle) rebates and fuel credits are offered by states for infrastructure to support renewable hydrogen. However, keep in mind there is a shortage of fueling locations,” he noted.

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

10-Point Checklist for Spec’ing Strobe Lights for Utility Fleet Applications

Most vehicles in a utility fleet have strobe lights to protect workers and the public from a collision with a stationary vehicle. But with numerous strobe options to consider, how do you evaluate what will work best for your fleet?

UFP spoke with Nebraska Public Power District’s fleet superintendent, Rob Barbur, and fleet supervisor, TK Rayburn Jr., to get their advice. They shared these 10 points.

1. Configuration

How do you determine the optimal configuration for installing strobe lights?

It depends on the vehicle type. NPPD, for example, specs different strobe packages for pickups, SUVs, medium-duty trucks, aerial devices, digger derricks, crane trucks and off-road equipment. The primary difference in the packages is where the strobes are mounted on the vehicle.

“On a light-duty pickup, for instance, we mount four strobes on the back rack behind the cab and two strobes in the factory grille,” Barbur said. “But those same locations would not be available with a digger derrick or an aerial device. So, we may have to put the strobes in a poly box or mount them into the truck’s structure, like in the tailshelf.”

2. Vehicle

How do you decide which vehicles get strobes?

“It depends on their usage,” Rayburn said. “Almost everything we have will get strobes unless used for an office application or as a people hauler. But even in those applications, we would consider putting strobes on it if the vehicle might be used during emergencies.”

3. Environment

In what type of environment will the vehicles and equipment be used?

“If the vehicle operates in a brushy area with many tree branches and things of that nature, you should consider how you will guard the strobes, or they’ll get broken. You can purchase brush guards with strobes from the manufacturer,” Rayburn said.

4. Intensity

Strobes come in three classes. So, what’s the difference between the classes?

The difference is based on the strobes’ brightness and intensity. “Class 1 is primarily reserved for emergency and some utility vehicles. Class 2 is primarily for utility-type vehicles. And then Class 3 is more for, perhaps, a state truck picking up trash on the side of the road,” Barbur said.

5. Pattern

You can select the flash pattern you want on most strobes. But what pattern should you choose?

Barbur said that NPPD runs a random flash pattern. “One of the reasons for that is that it breaks up the monotony of a triple flash or quad flash. The unexpected flash keeps people alert to avoid a collision.”

6. Color

What are the considerations for selecting the strobe color?

“We run all amber lights,” Barbur said. “Your reds, blues and whites are reserved for emergency vehicles. But you will want to check your local statute for what you can run.”

7. Visibility

Are the lights visible from all sides of the vehicle?

“Visibility is critical,” Rayburn said. “The purpose of strobe lights is to protect the end user and the public. So, if you can’t see them, they’re not doing their job.”

But ensure the light is not where the operator will be blinded by it at night. “This is why we also have blackouts on the top of the rack-mounted strobes above the cab on our aerials – to protect the operator in the bucket,” Rayburn said.

What is a “blackout”?

“It’s a cover that goes over the strobe so the light does not shine up when the aerial device is in operation. The light only flashes out,” he said.

8. Size

Will the light fit where you want it?

“There are times we’d like to have that 6-inch oval light, but there’s not enough real estate on the truck to mount it. So, we have to adjust a little bit and go with a 4-inch round light,” Barbur said.

9. Availability

What components are available, especially when there’s still a semiconductor supply shortage?

“Right now, the decision between Class 1 and Class 2 strobes is really based on availability,” Barbur said. “If we can get the Class 1’s, we will get it. It’s generally what we do. But you take what you can get right now.”

10. Vendor

What should you look for in a strobe vendor?

“Find a vendor that deals with a strobe manufacturer that has been around for at least five to 10 years,” Barbur said. “If you’ve been to any trade shows, you’ll see many manufacturers, but you’ll rarely see the same ones twice. So, I would stick with a reputable manufacturer and distributor that’s been in the business and been around.”

Could Vehicle-to-Grid Technology Help Smooth the Transition to All-Electric?

All major automakers have gone all-in on an all-electric future. But can the U.S.’s aging grid handle the upcoming surge in demand for charging? And what about resiliency during power outages when you have less access to fossil-fueled generators?

Industry experts point to vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology as a potential solution to help address these concerns and smooth the transition to electrification.

By enabling electric vehicles with V2G capabilities, fleet managers can work with local utilities on demand response and position their EV fleets as a potential backup power source during outages.

Consider these stats:

  • One V2G-enabled Nissan LEAF can provide enough power for two days’ worth of household electricity, according to a recent report by the Electrification Coalition and SAFE (formerly Securing America’s Future Energy).
  • One electric school bus can store enough energy to power the equivalent of five operating rooms for more than eight hours, and a single operating room for 43 hours, according to that same report.
  • V2G could provide $1 billion in annual grid benefits in California alone if the state reaches its goal of 5 million EVs by 2030 and half of the EVs are V2G enabled, according to the Electric Power Research Institute.

What exactly is V2G? The California Joint Agencies Vehicle-Grid Integration Working Group defines V2G as two-way, bidirectional charging and discharging between EVs and the grid. Associated terms include vehicle-to-home (V2H) and vehicle-to-building (V2B), where the EV battery provides power directly to the property. In those cases, the power is “islanded” and not discharged back to the grid.

For simplicity and clarity, this article will use V2G as a catchall term to include V2H and V2B. And we’ll use V2G and “bidirectional charging” interchangeably.

So, what needs to change in EVs and charging stations to make them V2G-enabled? How could V2G improve resiliency in storm response situations? And what will drive mainstream adoption?

UFP recently spoke with Ladeene Freimuth, senior advisor, Grid Security Project at SAFE (https://secureenergy.org), and Katherine Stainken, vice president of policy at the Electrification Coalition (www.electrificationcoalition.org). We talked about the current state of V2G technology and what the future holds. Here is an edited version of our conversation.

UFP: What makes bidirectional charging happen? Does it initiate from the EV itself, or does it depend on the charger?

Katherine Stainken: It depends on where the power conversion and the smart functions occur, which can either be on the vehicle itself, built into the charging station or split between both.

UFP: What do you think will be more common? Will OEMs build more inverters for V2G? Or do you think the charging providers will take on more responsibility?

Stainken: We’ll likely see both happening, at least for now. That’s because it depends on the vehicle and battery size, particularly for the mobile power use case. For example, electric trucks with large batteries, like the Ford F-150 Lightning, offer the option of built-in bidirectional charging, perfect for use as a mobile power unit. But sedans would likely need the power conversion and smart functions built into the charging stations because the batteries on those vehicles are smaller, meaning you would rotate through those vehicles providing power more quickly, so it’s more cost effective to have the bidirectionality functions in the charging stations versus the added cost to each vehicle.

UFP: Is there a minimum charging level – such as Level 2 or Level 3 fast charging – for V2G?

Ladeene Freimuth: Bidirectional charging typically uses direct current charging or converts AC to DC for charging. An inverter also is required.

UFP: How would you envision V2G improving resiliency in storm response situations for utility fleets?

Stainken: Electric school buses have huge batteries that can provide significant backup power. Or it could be an electric concrete mixer or any big truck with large batteries. You could also generate power with a large fleet of electric sedans – say, a municipal fleet of 50 to 100 vehicles just sitting in the parking lot at the facility. You could set up a bank of V2G chargers on-site to send power back to the grid or direct to a building.

UFP: What do you think will drive mainstream adoption of V2G?

Freimuth: Greater awareness of the value and benefits that V2G can create will help. On the policy front, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the recently signed Inflation Reduction Act also should help drive adoption of electric vehicles and V2G. For instance, several programs in the BIL are intended to facilitate the wider and faster adoption of V2G, from the National EV Charging Initiative aimed at expanding charging infrastructure across major highway corridors and in underserved communities, including V2G, to Energy Department grid modernization or smart grid investment grants for which V2G technologies are eligible. The Inflation Reduction Act includes a tax credit for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, known as the Section 30C tax credit, which explicitly makes bidirectional charging equipment eligible for this credit. The IRA also contains credits for light-duty electric vehicles and for medium- and heavy-duty EVs.

Stainken: If California reaches its goal of 5 million EVs by 2030, and half of the EVs are V2G enabled, that could generate a potential $1 billion annual grid benefit. That’s significant money. And as more studies show these economic benefits, that will help drive more and more of the market towards V2G.

Also, in California, a comprehensive working group concluded that there were about 320 different use cases for bidirectional charging. So, it’s up to the state, the utilities commission and other stakeholders to prioritize which use cases to focus on.

We’re shifting towards 100% clean energy. But wind power is intermittent. And solar has peak times. So how do you store that energy for when you need it? Electric vehicles with V2G technology could serve as battery storage.

And there are different business models to consider that could drive adoption. For example, you could imagine that the electric school bus provider would get paid for supplying power back to the grid.

UFP: To clarify, you’re saying that V2G technology could create a potential revenue stream for EV owners who supply power back to the grid?

Freimuth: Yes, it is conceivable – depending on the vehicle ownership model and other factors – that V2G could create a potential revenue stream for the grid services provided by a vehicle.

UFP: I imagine a lack of universal technical standards for bidirectional charging hardware and software would hinder widespread adoption. How far away are we from having a uniform set of standards?

Freimuth: Efforts are under way to establish uniform technical standards so that there are not different sets of technical standards across the states.


What’s New in All-Terrain Utility Vehicles

All-terrain utility vehicles (ATUVs) enable utility crews to get work done in hard-to-reach areas where four-wheel-drive pickups and other vehicles cannot go. Some ATUV models haul people and heavy equipment across rugged and hilly terrain, while others offer amphibious capabilities to cross deep waters in flooded lowlands.

So, what’s new in the ATUV market to move your crews and equipment across any terrain, at any time, with maximum safety and productivity? Here are six developments to watch.

What’s New: 9-series rubber track carriers
Website: www.powerbully.com

PowerBully will introduce its new 9-series rubber track carriers to the North American market in March at CONEXPO-CON/AGG in Las Vegas. The 9-series includes two models: the 9C chassis for utility aerials and digger derricks (for distribution applications) and the 9D with a dump body.

Both the C and D models can haul up to 18,000 pounds on rough and steep terrain, with gradeability of up to 60% and a maximum travel speed of about 9 mph. Each model also offers telematics with remote diagnostics. That way, if the machine issues a trouble code in the field, PowerBully can assess the issue remotely and walk the operator through the next steps for getting it repaired as quickly as possible.

What’s New: Centaur XT amphibious vehicle
Website: https://argoxtv.com

ARGO’s new Centaur XT navigates open water and harsh terrain with configurations for carrying four, six or eight people.

Powered by a Doosan D18 diesel engine, the Centaur XT uses a hydraulic skid-steering system for maneuvering around – and over – huge boulders, steep ridges, fallen trees and deep ravines. The 71-inch tubeless ultra-low-pressure tires are self-inflating and adjustable for optimal traction in snow, water, sand and mud, and on hard surfaces.

What’s New: Updated Pro XD lineup
Website: https://commercial.polaris.com

Polaris Commercial, a division of Polaris Inc., has introduced its latest Pro XD lineup with new features to improve vehicle uptime, durability and safety.

The Pro XD Mid-Size model is available in two- to four-person configurations with a gas motor, 1,000-pound payload capacity, 500-pound box capacity and an adjustable top speed up to 40 mph.

The Full-Size model also offers two- to four-person configurations but with a choice of a gas or diesel motor. The total payload capacity is 1,900 pounds with the ability to haul up to 1,250 pounds in the box. The Full-Size model’s top speed is adjustable up to 40 mph for the gas model and 26 mph for the diesel.

Both models offer the optional new extended-life brake pads that can last up to two times longer than the standard pads. Dash-mounted USB ports are now standard on all Pro XD models for charging mobile devices on the job site. And a new battery-charging port makes it easier to plug in a trickle charger to keep the vehicle’s starting battery charged when sitting idle for a significant period or season.

What’s New: 9090-RR telehandler rubber track conversion system
Website: https://mattracks.co

The new Mattracks 9090-RR telehandler rubber track conversion system improves a vehicle’s stability and traction when hauling heavy equipment, such as aerial equipment, on harsh terrain. Each track corner offers over 1,500 square inches of ground contact and is rated to handle 12,500-pound static loads. The recommended maximum speed for the 9090-RR is 15 mph.

What’s New: RT7U compact utility crawler carrier with a Versalift VST-7500 aerial lift
Website: https://terramac.com

The all-new Terramac RT7U with the Versalift VST-7500 aerial lift offers a working height of 80 feet and 47 feet of horizontal reach. The RT7U compact carrier’s thick steel frame supports many large attachments. And the compact size means the machine doesn’t require a special transport permit for height or width when hauling it to a job site.

UTV International
What’s New: Kodiak K6 crawler carrier
Website: www.utvint.com

UTV International has unveiled its new Kodiak K6 crawler carrier powered by a Tier 4-compliant 134-horsepower turbocharged diesel engine.

“The most important part of the overhaul was making sure operators could get more track on the ground, regardless of terrain,” said Erik Paldy, technical sales engineer at UTV International. “It features steel bogey wheels with twin rocker arms, something not seen on similar tracked vehicles. This setup makes for a suspension with much better ground contact because the track can better contour to its terrain, thus lowering ground pressure and increasing accessibility to work sites.”

The Kodiak K6 is available with optional hot and cold weather packages; a backup camera; a two-way front plow; electric or hydraulic winches; an open or closed cab; and one- and two-person configurations.

Effective Strategies for Keeping Your Top Technicians

Just how bad is the current technician shortage? According to a 2021 report from the TechForce Foundation, there are five open automotive and diesel jobs for each new technician completing a post-secondary program. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that each year from now until 2030, the deficit in the number of diesel and automotive technicians will grow by more than 28,000. Even if you manage to hire a technician, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence says 41% of technicians who recently graduated from a training program will leave the industry within two years.

Professional Development
In the past, money was likely the main – and sometimes only – motivator that kept people at a job. And while utility fleets need to make sure their wages, benefits and incentive programs are on par with the market, being the highest payer is no longer a guarantee that you will retain your technicians, according to Nebraska Public Power District’s Matt Gilliland.

He explained that one key strategy for technician retention is “the professional development of the technicians to equip the individuals with the skills and experiences needed for upward mobility or more responsibility.” This includes things like offering certifications and training and even focusing on soft skills.

According to Randstad, a staffing agency, 86% of employees leave their jobs because of a lack of career development. Experts expect this situation to worsen because younger workers have higher expectations surrounding career development than their predecessors. When talking about career development and career paths, it is important that you not think of them as the same as the traditional notion of “climbing the company ladder.” A career path could consist of some lateral moves that will allow the employee to gain new skills.

Part of any career path is ongoing training. Gilliland said NPPD pays for all required training, both new and recurring. Other fleets are offering incentives to their technicians who complete training programs.

Quality of Life
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way people view work, and work-life balance has become more important. Unlike some other jobs, however, fleet technicians cannot do their work from home; they need to be in the shop to perform maintenance and repairs. But there are still things utility fleets can do to enhance the quality of life for their technicians.

Some of it is as basic as making sure their workspace is clean and safe. Also make sure that technicians have the latest tools and equipment they need to complete their tasks efficiently. Today’s younger workers expect to use technology as part of their jobs, so invest in technology tools that allow them to diagnose problems. Additionally, when it comes to tools, some fleets are eschewing the tradition that had technicians paying for their own; instead, they are now offering tool allowances or are outright paying for technician tools.

To address the quality-of-life issue, Gilliland said NPPD recently performed a full analysis of work orders, workdays and so forth. The company included its technicians in the analysis process. “A change to a four-day, 10-hour-per-day week resulted,” he said. “The customers, supervisors and the technicians are much happier, [and there was] no drop in service [levels].”

Communication is Key
Technician retention requires communication with those techs on an ongoing basis and including them in decisions that affect them. “We make sure our technicians have a voice in everything ranging from repair decisions to business unit operations,” Gilliland said.

About the Author: Denise L. Rondini is president of Rondini Communications, a company specializing in researching and writing for a variety of industries, including trucking, industrial pumps, manufacturing, technology and supply chain. Her clients include suppliers, leasing companies, publications, dealers, distributors and nonprofits.

5 Fleet Technology Trends to Watch for 2023

Electrification is the most significant fleet technology trend right now. Most major automakers and heavy-equipment manufacturers have made substantial investments to shift their entire product portfolios from internal combustion engines to electric within the next 10 to 15 years.

But what are some emerging technology trends that aren’t making headlines but could significantly impact your fleet operations?

I recently spoke with Shannon Keck and Lindsay Wood, product managers with fleet management services provider Wheels Donlen, to get their outlook. They pointed to these five trends to watch.

1. Mobile Payments
The physical fuel card is going digital. So, watch for more fueling and charging stations to upgrade their point-of-sale systems to accept smartphone-enabled mobile payments.

Why? Besides offering more convenience for drivers, mobile payments eliminate fraud from skimming devices, which thieves attach to a pump’s credit card reader to steal account information.

“The fraud risk is very high when putting any plastic piece in a card reader. So, going mobile makes that process more secure because you bypass the reader,” Wood said. “Mobile payment also adds an extra layer of security because it uses biometrics for the driver to access the payment app on their phone.”

When will mobile payments at public fueling and charging stations become mainstream for fleets?

“We’re likely about five years out from universal acceptance since mobile payment availability is brand-driven and merchant-driven,” Wood said. “The big oil brands are close to 100% across the board with mobile payments because they’re larger and can afford the investment. But there are thousands of smaller franchises and mom-and-pop stations out there that may decide not to invest in that technology. They may think the upgrade costs far outweigh the fraud risk. So, it’s a matter of [the smaller stations’] decision to make that investment or not.”

2. Driver Tracking
Look for an increasing shift in telematics from asset-only tracking to asset-and-driver tracking.

This capability is significant for utility fleets with many pool vehicles. After all, when drivers share vehicles, how do you track who was operating which vehicles and when?

“Many companies are using pool management software, key fobs or barcodes to identify the driver of the vehicle,” Keck said. “If you don’t know who the driver is in that vehicle, at what time, you’re going to see a bunch of events associated with an individual vehicle, but not be able to identify who was driving it.”

Is connecting the driver with the asset a new development?

“The technology itself is not new. But how it’s being used continues to evolve,” Keck said. “In the early days, telematics was more about tracking the asset and understanding the utilization of that asset. But we’re starting to see more integration for capturing more data on the individual drivers of those vehicles. This way, fleets can gain a much better understanding of driver behavior.”

3. Digital Plates
Updating large numbers of tags is getting much easier. At least that’s the promise of digital license plates.

“The big advantage of digital plates is having real-time registration data in front of you,” Wood said. “When you think about it, the vehicle is legal for 11 months out of the year. But it’s that little window of time around the tag’s expiration where you can get concerned. Did I renew them on time? You can update digital tags on the vehicle remotely and in real time. This way, you don’t have to wait for the updated registration cards to be mailed and placed in the appropriate vehicles.”

Reviver (https://reviver.com), a digital plate manufacturer and service provider, said that digital license plates are legal for sale to consumers and fleets in Arizona, California and Michigan. They’re also legal in Texas but only for commercial fleet vehicles.

According to Reviver, its system allows fleets to batch registration renewals in a single transaction. And its digital tags offer integrated telematics with real-time location monitoring, geofencing with alerts, and trip and mileage tracking. The company also said the plates can withstand high-impact collisions and exposure to temperatures between 40 degrees below zero and 176 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Keyless Entry
Watch for an increasing shift to keyless entry systems.

Why? “You’re not losing keys. You don’t have to manage the fleet pool program manually. And you’re able to associate the correct trips to the correct drivers,” Keck said.

How would the technology work?

“Rather than actively managing the keys through an office manager or key box hardware, you would use your mobile device with a code to access the vehicle. This can reduce the administrative support and cost needed to provide the drivers with access to the vehicle,” Keck said.

5. Video Telematics
As camera prices continue to fall, look for the rise of telematics and cameras being integrated within a single platform.

“Certain third-party telematics providers are doing this today. And we’re also seeing OEMs looking into how they can use the cameras already on the vehicle to start being able to integrate that information into their connected vehicle offering,” Keck said.

Is the Future of Tires Airless?

Like a lot of technology, airless tires have been two to three years away for the past 15 years. Since 1999, the major tire manufacturers have been developing tires that aren’t inflated with air. At least one of those tires, the Michelin Tweel, has been on the market for some off-road and construction equipment applications.

Ultimately, the goal of an airless tire is to remove the possibility of a flat tire. The common solution right now is a tire-wheel assembly that uses flexible spokes made of rubber and reinforced polyester resin to carry the load of the vehicle to the hub. The outer ring is capped with a rubber tread that can be replaced. The whole tire can be recycled at the end of its life. The airless tire replaces the traditional pneumatic tire and wheel assembly and can be bolted onto existing hubs.

So far, the main difficulty has been engineering a tire that can bear the load of a commercial vehicle and provide grip and durability at highway speeds. That’s why the first commercial offerings were for low-speed, off-road uses.

Michelin has brought its Tweel to market in 10- to 24-inch sizes for commercial lawn mowers, light construction equipment like skid steers, and other off-highway equipment. The tread on the Tweel will last up to three times as long as a pneumatic tire and can be retreaded multiple times.

The U.S. Army tested the Tweel on light tactical all-terrain vehicles during an encampment in the Amazon rainforest. The Army’s engineers valued puncture survivability because the airless tires can keep going for potentially hundreds of miles when compromised. Additionally, units wouldn’t have to carry spare tires, lightening the equipment load.

Michelin has also announced a program with General Motors to offer the Uptis, an updated Tweel design, on GM passenger vehicles in 2024. The air-free tires are being tested on electric vehicles like the MINI and Chevrolet Bolt.

“The vehicles and fleets of tomorrow – whether autonomous, all-electric, shared service or other applications – will demand near-zero maintenance from the tire to maximize their operating capabilities,” said Eric Vinesse, Michelin’s executive vice president, research and development, at the announcement of the GM partnership.

Future Plans
Bridgestone expects to commercialize its advanced air-free concept tire for commercial trucking within the next five years, according to Jon Kimpel, vice president of extended mobility solutions. The company is testing prototypes over hundreds of thousands of miles with specific customers to validate the engineering design and endurance of the concept.

“While air-free tires for passenger vehicles will come to the market eventually, we see more immediate value in bringing this solution to commercial fleets seeking better uptime, sustainability and driver safety,” he said.

The utility and vocational fleet environments are particularly demanding, Kimpel noted. “Any application that has high tire consumption from demanding road conditions and higher operating costs due to punctures and low tire pressure could benefit greatly from the enhanced durability and retreadability of air-free tires,” he said.

Goodyear has tested its airless tires on a Tesla Model 3, with positive results. And there’s a pilot test of the airless tires on driverless grocery delivery robots.

Pros and Cons
Manufacturers expect air-free tires to last longer than conventional tires inflated with high-pressure air. There won’t be a need to repair flat tires or monitor a tire with a slow leak. The airless tires are designed to be retreadable, helping to make them a more sustainable tire solution. Longer service life and the recyclable properties add to the sustainability benefits compared to rubber tires.

However, air-free tires will likely cost more and be heavier than standard tires. The tradeoffs may be worth it for fleets that measure total cost of ownership; there are significant savings to be had from less maintenance and downtime plus the ability to retread repeatedly.

The regulatory barriers may be as challenging as the engineering hurdles. For example, current regulations require manufacturers to note the recommended air pressure on the tire sidewall. With airless tires, that’s a moot point. Commercial launch of highway-capable airless tires may have to wait until the regulatory environment catches up with the technology.

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.

Crafting a Telematics RFP

Due to the significant financial investment, fleet managers sometimes make the mistake of basing a telematics purchasing decision on cost alone, according to Steven Berube, senior business development manager for Geotab (www.geotab.com).

“While choosing a low-cost provider may seem like an ideal choice at the time, fleet managers risk paying thousands in hidden costs associated with hardware failures or additional upgrades,” he said. “Hardware failures can result in costs associated with loss of vehicle visibility, installation fees for a replacement device and vehicle downtime. Overall, fleet managers should choose a reliable and relevant provider who helps meet their fleet goals today and in the future.”

Amin Amini, a director at Verizon Connect (www.verizonconnect.com), added, “If you’re not able to determine your return on investment in the first couple of months after the software has been installed, then something is definitely amiss, and you should discuss this with the provider you choose.”

Both Berube and Amini recently shared tips with UFP for putting together a well-thought-out telematics request for proposal (RFP) that can help reduce the stress and costs associated with switching or installing telematics devices.

Take Time to Plan
How long does it take to complete a telematics RFP? Berube encouraged fleet professionals to allow for nine to 12 months.

“The RFP must reflect the different inputs, ideas and concerns of the organization’s employees. One must consider how long it will take to realistically install new hardware or activate existing hardware if there is an OEM opportunity,” he explained.

Who should be involved in the RFP process? Include your fleet manager, IT team, operations lead, finance lead and any other people on your team who are closest to your fleet operations, Amini recommended.

He also suggested determining the fleet’s top two to three priorities.

“It’s important not to try and solve every issue or go too broad in your requirements,” Amini said. “Whether you’re focused on improving driver safety, saving money on fuel, or better serving your own end customers and improving efficiency, decide what those are before you start your RFP draft, and build your requirements and key performance indicators for the provider around those metrics and success measures.”

Once a primary plan is developed, Berube advised involving the organization’s legal, IT and security departments.

“The legal team should be engaged as early as possible as this will make the later stages of the RFP more seamless for all parties involved,” he said. “IT and security also play a pivotal role in the RFP process as they work to ensure that the data provided by the telematics provider can be integrated into other internal and external platforms, and the security of these platforms is properly vetted.”

Three Focus Areas
Security, the longevity of the product and the provider’s ability to support new technologies are three focus areas that utility fleet professionals should include in their telematics RFPs, according to Berube.

“With valuable data on the line, utility professionals should prioritize acquiring a telematics solution with a comprehensive security mechanism and process that meets the highest level of security standards,” he said.

The RFP should have a dedicated section that covers cybersecurity standards, testing, data security and database management.

Berube also noted that it’s important to understand the security of the hardware provided, including who manufactures it, who can distribute firmware updates, and the level of security used to encrypt data in the device before and during cellular transmissions.

What is the expected longevity of the company and its products? What different types of hardware are needed to support your specific fleet and equipment? For example, can the telematics provider support the adoption of different fleet models and sizes? Understanding this can help ensure the selection of a provider that meets the fleet’s needs both today and in the future, Berube said.

Utility fleet professionals should also have a good grasp of the telematics provider’s dedication to innovation and understanding long-term and future trends in the connected vehicle market, he continued.

For example, does the company support OEM telematics? How committed is the telematics company to supporting new vehicle types, such as electric vehicles? The fleet professional should consider the long-term role the telematics provider will play in supporting the fleet’s current and future needs.

According to Amini, fleet management software almost always requires a customized approach.

“We have in-depth conversations with customers to understand their individual needs and goals. The size of the fleet, the number of drivers, and key areas of focus and opportunity are essential elements to fielding a successful search for a fleet management software provider,” he said.

“For example, the customer might be looking to track productivity, increase driver safety, reduce fuel costs and have a better understanding of when maintenance is required,” Amini continued. “Or they might be looking to focus on only one of those areas. Having these conversations at the beginning of the RFP process will help each provider determine the best solutions and response for the specific needs of the customer.”

Fleet management software should also be scalable to meet your needs, simple to deploy, and provide dashboards and easy-to-decipher reports that give you key insights into what’s happening with your fleet from day one, Amini said.

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

Best Practices for Preventive Maintenance

No matter how you slice it, preventive maintenance is about paying now or paying more later. The real driver of vehicle cost efficiency, as well as safety impacts and even fuel economy, is leveraging PM inspections to deliver the biggest bang for your buck down the road.

Getting there requires applying best practices to track, schedule and complete PM inspections. Last but not least, gaining insights from the resulting data – to improve PM compliance, driver and technician performance, and fleet specs – can be its own rich reward.

By adhering to PM best practices, utility fleets can expect to gain improved vehicle reliability and reduced breakdowns for greater utilization; increased driver safety and job satisfaction; fewer violations, fines and liability risk; and higher resale values.

“For us, best practices for preventive maintenance are pretty simple. All completing and tracking of PM inspections is through our fleet management software,” said Jeff Schneider, manager of transportation for Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities. LG&E serves 333,000 natural gas and 429,000 electric customers in Louisville and 16 surrounding counties. KU serves 566,000 electric customers in 77 Kentucky counties and five counties in Virginia.

Scheduling Requests
“We haven’t quite mastered end-user scheduling through the software, but that’s next on our bucket list,” Schneider continued. “Our fleet software does trigger the upcoming need for a PM, and it lands on a ‘PM soon due’ report, which is run weekly. The shop supervisors open a multi-asset work order and each vehicle due is added to that PM work order list. The emailing and calling then begin for the scheduling. This is done at each garage throughout our service territory.

“Currently,” he explained, “the garage supervisors send the initial scheduling email to each department’s group leader. Generally, there are several PMs due for each department. If there’s no response, we follow up with a call to ensure contact has been made. If that doesn’t do the trick, the process is escalated up to the manager of the department by someone from transportation management.”

Schneider pointed out that this contact process “has been hampered by the change in work practices due to COVID. We’re seeing a lot of our vehicles reporting to the job from home. That makes the process of getting the vehicle to the shop/operational center a little more challenging.”

In terms of metrics used to trigger scheduled maintenance inspections at LG&E and KU, “it really depends on what class of vehicle and its operational use. We currently use time and miles on our light-duty vehicles, and time, miles and hours for our heavy-duty fleet. And we continue to redefine our triggers to match current manufacturer specifications,” Schneider said.

Reactionary vs. Preventive
If vehicles are only coming into the shop when they need something looked at or fixed, that’s not preventive maintenance. It’s reactionary maintenance, contends J.J. Keller (www.jjkeller.com), a leading provider of regulation-compliance products and services.

The problem with reactionary maintenance programs is that they are based on failure; you find out something has failed and then you fix it. Keller said this type of maintenance program is destined to lead where you don’t want to go: “to downtime and the resulting costs of idle equipment.”

The key distinction is that a PM program gets vehicles in for inspection and maintenance on a schedule and “repairs any items that are at, or even approaching, an established cutoff point. This allows you to make repairs on your schedule, prevent violations and accidents, and keep the vehicles rolling,” Keller pointed out.

In terms of why to pursue best practices for PM, consider Keller’s holistic view: “Preventive maintenance is also an attitude, a commitment. It means being constantly on the lookout for things that might go wrong. It means getting the best, most cost-effective equipment for the truck and then taking care of it.”

The result is saving money. “No one can argue with the bottom line,” Keller stated. “As PM takes hold, the standard of excellence for a maintenance shop changes from getting the fastest repairs to getting the fewest repairs.”

About the Author: David Cullen is an award-winning journalist who specializes in covering the trucking industry. Based in Connecticut, he writes for several business publications.


The First All-Electric Bucket Truck Hits the Road

Terex Utilities’ Joe Caywood digs into the details behind the company’s groundbreaking announcement.

In June, Terex Utilities introduced the first ever all-electric bucket truck at the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The truck combines Navistar’s International eMV electric chassis (33,000-pound GVWR) with the Terex Optima 55-foot aerial device and the HyPower SmartPTO system by Viatec.

Terex designed the truck for electric distribution line work in urban applications. It offers a 135-mile driving range and the ability to operate the bucket for a full workday on a single charge.

So, what’s the backstory? How was Terex able to bring this truck to market two years ahead of industry forecasts? How many EVs does the company plan to deliver this year? And what should fleet managers consider when ordering an electric bucket truck?

UFP spoke with Joe Caywood, director of marketing at Terex Utilities, to dig into some of the details. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

UFP: In Terex’s press announcement, you said this truck launch is two years ahead of industry projections. What made the shorter timeline possible?

Joe Caywood: We’ve had EVs on our product development roadmap for a while. But we were having to wait until the technology became available.

That changed last year when the pieces started to come together. That’s when we could get line of sight into what it would take to build the truck. And one critical piece was Navistar launching the International eMV electric truck chassis.

Once we saw that the chassis was available, the project gained momentum. We started working with Navistar and Viatec [for the boom power source] late last year. And that put us on the path to go to market with this truck much sooner than expected.

What do you forecast for deliveries this year?

Initial orders are in process with deliveries this year. We’re working with our customers to fine-tune our forecast for next year, but we project a significant increase in 2023 deliveries as utility companies implement aggressive electric fleet sustainability goals.

Let’s talk about spec’ing the initial units. Are the specs standard across the board?

For now, we’re focused on building the 55-foot distribution material-handling aerial device. One of the challenges with these trucks is the extra weight [from the batteries]. You don’t have as much available chassis payload to play with. So, we’re building the trucks with aluminum bodies and controlling the configuration.

Navistar is making enhancements to the chassis that will give us more payload to work with. So, as we go into next year, we’ll start to get some [payload] relief with a bigger, 14,000-pound front axle.

Another improvement we’re working on is single-point charging. The initial trucks have two charging ports – one each for the chassis and the electric boom.

When do you expect single-port charging to be available?

Around the second quarter of next year.

What is the backup power to lower the boom if the ePTO battery runs low?

Visual indicators alert the operator before the battery power gets too low. But we’ve gone about this in a couple of ways to reduce the likelihood of that happening.

First, we’ve increased the battery’s kilowatt rating. Take, for example, a 55-foot aerial device like we have on the EV. When we put it on a diesel chassis as a hybrid ePTO truck, we’ll go with a 14.4- or a 21-kilowatt system. But on all the EVs, we’re going with a 28.8-kilowatt system to power the boom. So, we’re oversizing the battery to give more capacity to ensure the operator can get through a day.

But say, for whatever reason, the operator uses all that energy. The EV chassis has a 12-volt battery like you would see in conventional diesel vehicles. We hook up our auxiliary let-down to the 12-volt system like you would any other aerial device. This way, if you were ever stuck in the air, you could use that auxiliary let-down to lower and stow the boom.

What is the typical charge time for the chassis and the boom?

For the chassis, Navistar recommends a 30- to 60- to 120-kilowatt Level 3 charger. So, the charge time will vary. With a 120-kilowatt charger, it would take about two hours for a full charge. The 60-kilowatt charger would be about a three-and-a-half-hour charge. And if you use the 30, you’d be approaching six or seven hours.

The SmartPTO system uses a Level 2 charger and takes about four hours.

So – depending on the charger – the chassis, plus the Viatec system, can recharge in about a two- to four-hour range.

What factors should fleet managers consider when ordering a truck like this?

There ends up being about three meetings. The first meeting is to discuss and explain what this truck is, the operation of it, the model and the weights. This is to give customers a good understanding of the vehicle.

The second meeting is a deep dive on the chassis. Navistar joins us to go through all the detail of range, recharging, and local service and support. We also do a deep dive on the SmartPTO.

And then the third meeting is an important meeting. It’s about infrastructure and garage recharging. We start talking about, “How should I set up my garages?” What’s the recommended size of the charger to use for the chassis? And based on that, what are the recharge times? We walk them through the charging and infrastructure required to support these trucks.

On what types of routes do utility fleets plan to use the electric bucket truck?

Customers are selecting the EVs for known routes in cities and not in rural areas. The other big thing we hear a lot of feedback on is, “We can’t take these [EVs] on storm response.” And we’re saying, “You’re exactly right. These are not storm response trucks at this time.”

But we reviewed our customers’ telematics data. And we had to look hard for any urban application with this class truck that traveled more than 90 miles.

So, that gave us confidence that a 135-mile range could work in many utility applications.

Flexibility and Safety Drive Utility Choices in Aerial Devices

When it comes to aerial devices, utilities heavily weigh ergonomics and the ability to accomplish the job when choosing equipment for their fleets. This, and options that provide the most flexible positioning of personnel, has influenced recent trends in equipment boom types and accessories for aerial devices.

Opting for Overcenter
Overcenter aerial devices are typically selected for the range of upper boom articulation they provide. This supports distribution work practices that take place on both sides of the pole. Overcenter aerial devices have a greater range of motion, better side reach – up to 5 feet more in some cases – and lower access to the ground in the overcenter position.

One example of an application where this is beneficial is when the lineworker needs to be able to reach the lines on the field side of the poles while remaining set up on the roadway. They can lay the boom out flat and swing under the lines, then raise the upper boom to reach the work. If the lineworker can get into the right position to do their work, not only is the job easier, but the worker can accomplish the tasks assigned without multiple setups as long as each task can be accomplished safely.

Reducing ergonomic risk when in the overcenter ground mount position allows the operator to lower the bucket close to or even onto the ground. Consider all the tools, including phase lifters, crimpers, hydraulic drills or chainsaws, and components that go into the bucket with personnel or that are installed on the material-handling jib. It is easier for the ground worker to hand off materials with the platform at the ground rather than lifting items over their shoulder or in the stowed position. Better ground access also makes it easier to clean out debris in the platform and aids personnel rescue.

Stacked Boom Sections
Overall height is almost always one of the first questions customers ask about a model because of the need to access tight areas, such as highway overpasses or through garage doors. In the past, the side-by-side boom configuration was the only option that offered low travel height. However, with the introduction of Terex’s Optima Series, the stacked boom configuration has become more widely accepted by utility customers. This configuration delivers low travel height plus other benefits.

The stacked boom configuration weighs less, on average, than side-by-side booms. This increases available chassis options as well as truck bed and storage space. Utilities often prefer to have more capacity for stocking the truck with supplies when serving a large geographic area with crews stationed a long distance from their warehouse centers.

Key Options
Two other pieces of optional equipment that are frequently selected by utilities – hydraulic extended jibs and 24-inch platform lifters – further support the goal of increasing versatility.

Material-handling jibs give the operator the flexibility to lift loads to the work zone. Top-mounted jibs offer the option of hydraulic articulation and extension. One trend among utilities is to select the type that allows extension under load. Roller assemblies above and below the jib allow this type of jib to extend and retract when loaded, if it is loaded within the rating.

The other type, the simplified/compact jib, provides infinite positioning through 120 degrees of articulation and a load radius of 0 to 65 inches. Hydraulic extension and repositioning are possible, but not while the jib is under load.

Finally, the addition of a 24-inch platform lifter enables the bucket to be extended independently from the boom. The device effectively adds 2 feet of working height to the unit without having to reposition the boom. Increased access to the work area potentially reduces the kind of twisting and straining that can cause ergonomic injuries.

Each utility may have different work conditions depending on the services they provide and their service area. Often, a utility’s safety department or standards committee plays an integral role in the specification of equipment. Understanding the unique factors that affect the work their employees do is central to evaluating and reducing risks to accomplish the tasks the crews are assigned. The environment and the tools used are a few of those influencing factors.

The selection of the equipment is best handled when the utility works together with their Terex account manager to evaluate the equipment and options available that best match the actual work to be accomplished, typical work site conditions and goals of the organization. Overcenter units provide greater range of motion and setup options, which is why they are popular with utilities. With the wide range of machines and options available, a fresh look at available equipment may pay dividends to the users.

About the Authors: Osvaldo Jimenez is a strategic account manager at Terex Utilities focused on investor-owned utilities. He has worked for the company for nearly eight years in sales, with previous experience in fleet operations and management in construction and tree-trimming services.

Ryan Kloos is a territory sales manager for Terex Utilities. He has been with the company for more than 16 years, working in customer design and sales application roles.

Image courtesy of Terex.

Think Like a Thief to Stop Catalytic Converter Theft

Two factors have contributed to the surge in catalytic converter thefts: the value of the materials in catalytic converters and the increased opportunity for thefts to occur.

The costs of three precious metals – platinum, palladium and rhodium – found inside catalytic converters have skyrocketed. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), on January 4, 2019, rhodium was valued at $2,300 per ounce. On April 25, 2022, that value had risen to $16,500 per ounce.

“Even before the pandemic, we were seeing an increase in thefts,” said Robert Passmore, department vice president of personal lines at the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

And according to Mike Joner, supervisor of fleet management services for Holman Inc., “Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, an increased number of fleet vehicles sat idle or were left unattended for extended periods as business volume waned. These idle, unattended units offered an easy target for catalytic converter thieves.”

David Glawe, president and CEO of the NICB, added, “As the value of the precious metals contained in the catalytic converters continues to increase, so do the number of thefts of these devices.” Given that the prices of these precious metals seem to be on the rise and the fact that some palladium comes from Russia, potentially limiting supplies, it is likely that thefts will continue.

Costly Repairs
It takes thieves only a few minutes and some basic tools to remove a catalytic converter, and they can quickly hit multiple vehicles in one parking lot without being detected.

Once a theft occurs, the fleet has no choice but to get the vehicle repaired. Repairs are costly, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 to get a vehicle fixed, plus expenses due to downtime at work, according to the NICB. Costs vary based on the type of catalytic converter, and some vehicles – especially those with high ground clearance – are more likely to be targeted because they provide easier access to the catalytic converter.

Following a theft, the vehicle must be taken out of service if for no other reason than it will be extremely loud without the converter. Not only that, but it is illegal to operate the vehicle with an open exhaust system. There could also be expenses beyond the cost of the catalytic converter itself. “You may have to repair or replace items such as brake lines, wiring harnesses, fuel lines, et cetera as well,” Joner explained.

Protecting Your Assets
The good news is that there are steps utility fleets can take to lessen the chance they will be victims of catalytic converter theft.

“If you are trying to protect your vehicles, you have to think like a thief,” Passmore suggested.

So, evaluate where you are parking your vehicles at night. Is the lot secure? Is it well-lit? Is it tough to get into? Does it have a fence around it? Are there cameras monitoring it?

In addition to securing the parking area, there are some devices available that make it more difficult for a thief to get to the catalytic converter, but those devices are not available for all vehicles. There are three common types of devices: a steel shield that goes over the converter, rebar cages, and stainless-steel cables that are welded from the converter to the vehicle’s frame. The purpose of these devices is to increase the time it takes for the thief to remove the catalytic converter. Theft protection devices include the CatStrap (www.catstrap.net) and the CatClamp (https://catclamp.com). If none of these products is suitable, the fleet can take its vehicles to a muffler shop and have rebar cages installed.

It is likely that catalytic converter theft will continue to be a problem, so fleet managers must do everything they can to make their assets less attractive to thieves.

About the Author: Denise L. Rondini is president of Rondini Communications, a company specializing in researching and writing for a variety of industries, including trucking, industrial pumps, manufacturing, technology and supply chain. Her clients include suppliers, leasing companies, publications, dealers, distributors and nonprofits.

Optimizing Your Shop Schedule

Like many managers, utility fleet professionals face conflicting priorities in managing people and fleet services. Budgets are under fire, so keeping a close eye on labor costs is a top priority. But trucks and other vehicles must be adequately maintained and ready to go to work.

It’s up to fleet managers to strike the right balance between managing operational costs and efficiencies and maintaining a high level of service and acceptable turnaround times.

In 2020, the City of Missoula, Montana’s Fleet Maintenance Division added several departments to its service group, resulting in 20% more vehicles to maintain as well as numerous pieces of small-engine equipment. Fleet Manager Scot Colwell presented his proposal to the city administration for additional staffing using the maintenance and repair unit (MRU) factor.

“Without staffing, we will need to cut support to all enterprise fund equipment and vehicles so that we can keep up with the demand of non-enterprise fund equipment and vehicle breakdowns and maintenance,” he said.

The MRU factor indexes a vehicle class’s maintenance and repair requirements compared to a base vehicle class, usually a passenger car. A heavy truck, which has more significant maintenance and repair needs than a passenger sedan, has a greater MRU factor. MRU factors by class are then multiplied by the number of vehicles in each class to produce the number of MRUs. For a mixed fleet, such as a local government fleet operation, these factors are combined for a total of the fleet’s MRUs, or vehicle equivalents. The mixed fleet size can be used to estimate technician and indirect staffing requirements for the fleet operation.

Colwell noted that the City of Missoula Fleet Maintenance Division delivers a 98% in-house repair rating, meaning that outside vendors do only 2% of the work.

Dakota County Management
In 2007, Dakota County, Minnesota, merged all fleet operations from 16 departments into one service organization, according to Fleet Manager Kevin L. Schlangen, CPFP, CAFM, CEM.

The combined organization manages nearly 700 pieces of equipment, including on-road and off-road vehicles and tools for all departments, such as parks and recreation and the county sheriff, as well as utilities and road maintenance.

The move consolidated 16 different service operations into one location and added mobile service trucks to take care of minor repairs in the field. Anything that can’t be handled in the field is transported back to the central shop.

The maintenance shop operates core hours of 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with shifts staggered to cover the start and end times. There’s an on-call number for users who need maintenance outside of those standard hours. As the preventive maintenance program has reduced the number and frequency of breakdowns, the need for emergency service has dropped dramatically. A tech gets paid to carry the on-call phone after hours and on weekends. Keeping the core hours to the day shift helps avoid the problems of finding people to cover later shifts.

Overtime is managed by adjusting on-call duty and other afterhours work like snow removal through the roster of employees. Those with the lowest amount of overtime in the previous pay period go to the top of the list for the next pay period. Workers don’t have to accept overtime – if one individual doesn’t accept the work, the offer goes to the next person on the list.

Monitoring Data
The Dakota County fleet is monitored via data collected at fuel islands and through credit cards if fuel is purchased elsewhere, plus telematics data from some vehicles. The system monitors usage and generates alerts for vehicles due for service. Preventive maintenance software is used to track schedules on equipment all the way down to weed trimmers and chainsaws.

Larger vehicles can be scheduled for different service levels, and the system generates check sheets for technicians to ensure the required service is completed within the allotted flat rate time. “Supervisors must monitor whether technicians are completing jobs within the flat rate time, and if not, figure out why it may be taking longer,” Schlangen said.

The rate may need to be adjusted depending on the vehicle, or the tech may require additional training to do the job more efficiently. Sometimes, flat rates don’t consider unique fleet equipment like extensive electronic gear in law enforcement vehicles.

Certain tasks, like preparing snow equipment for the next season, are done annually. The equipment is reconditioned and stored at the end of the snow season. “It should be ready to go back out when the time comes,” Schlangen said.

The user groups appreciate the consistent scheduling, and the only delays may be waiting for parts. The garage has kept a few older vehicles as loaner trucks rather than cycling them out of the fleet, so users can drop off and pick up vehicles for service and won’t need a ride.

Recruitment and Retention
At the time of the merger, the average tenure for techs was 30 years. Today, that’s the average age of the techs in the shop. Rebuilding the team after a spate of retirements meant thinking about recruiting and retention efforts.

To ensure a well-trained workforce, the county engages with local technical colleges to train and hire technicians. The techs are cross-trained on all vehicles, so there’s no need to wait for someone with specific experience to fill a role. And it’s easier for techs to schedule time off.

“We train and promote techs all the way up to supervisor positions, so there’s a career ladder among our staff,” Schlangen said. “If you’re not investing in your people, they will go somewhere else.”

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.

Latest Developments in All-Electric Utility Construction Machines

There’s a lot of media coverage around the rollout of new electric vehicle models. But there’s one EV category not grabbing headlines – yet it’s still critical to achieving a utility fleet’s sustainability goals: utility construction equipment.

All-electric machines eliminate emissions and allow crews to operate in noise-sensitive areas and outside of standard work hours. They offer operators a safer work environment with no exposure to diesel fumes.

So, what’s the latest in EV machines? Consider these new developments in three equipment categories – compact excavators, compact loaders and backhoes – that could help accelerate your fleet’s electrification efforts.


Compact Excavators

Volvo Construction Equipment
Model: EC18

Image courtesy of Volvo Construction Equipment

Overview: Volvo Construction Equipment announced in May that North American customers could begin reserving the 1.8-ton EC18 Electric compact excavator. The EC18 brings the Volvo CE electric lineup to five machines.

The EC18’s variable undercarriage retracts to fewer than 39 inches and expands to 53 inches. And the right frame corner, swing post and cylinder stay within the tracks’ width. This design reduces the risk of machine damage when working in confined spaces and alongside obstacles.

Fleet managers can track the machine’s real-time performance with Volvo’s Electric Machine Management Application. It provides remote status on battery level, charging, location and other important indicators.

Operating Time: Up to five hours.

Charging Time: The integrated onboard charger charges from zero to 100% in fewer than six hours. The company said that an optional off-board fast charger can charge up to 80% in under one hour.

Status: Reservations open. Deliveries begin in 2023.


CASE Construction Equipment
Model: CX15 EV

Image courtesy of CASE Construction Equipment

Overview: CASE Construction Equipment unveiled the CX15 EV electric mini excavator at the CNH Industrial Capital Markets Day event in February in Miami Beach, Florida.

The CX15 EV is a 2,900-pound mini excavator powered by a 16-kW electric motor. It features retractable tracks that shrink the machine’s width to about 31 inches for going through doors and working in tight spaces.

Operating Time: Up to eight hours.

Charging Time: CASE has not published the charging time for the machine’s 110/220-volt onboard charger. But the company said an external rapid charger can charge the machine within 90 minutes.

Status: Deliveries begin in 2023.


Bobcat Co.
Model: E32e

Image courtesy of Bobcat Co.

Overview: In May, Bobcat Co. unveiled its latest electric compact excavator: the E32e.

The 3.9-ton battery-powered excavator has a bucket digging force of 7,284 pound-feet and a drawbar pull of 7,815 pound-feet. It generates 5 psi of ground pressure and has a travel speed of up to 2.6 mph.

The E32e’s hydraulic pump has a flow capacity of 24.4 gallons per minute. Auxiliary flow is 16.8 gallons per minute at 2,987 psi. And the machine’s boom swing is 75 degrees left and 55 degrees right.

The E32e joins a growing lineup of Bobcat electric machines, including the E10e, its first electric compact excavator, announced in 2019, and its electric compact track loader, the T7X, unveiled earlier this year.

Bobcat plans to start delivering the E32e in July to Sunbelt Rentals locations where they will be available for rent.

Operating Time: Up to four hours of continuous operation. The company said the machine could work a full eight-hour day with intermittent use.

Charging Time: It takes eight hours to charge fully with a 240-volt outlet. The company has not published the charging time using an off-board fast charger.

Status: Deliveries begin July 2022.


JCB North America
Model: 19C-1E

Image courtesy of JCB North America

Overview: The JCB 19C-1E is the first machine in the new JCB E-TECH product lineup. JCB brought it to market in 2019, designing it for urban job sites, noise-sensitive environments and enclosed spaces.

The 19C-1E operates at just 86 decibels, quieter than some household appliances and significantly quieter than comparable diesel machines, allowing the operator to communicate easily with others on the work site, the company said.

To preserve battery charge, auto-idle reduces the engine speed when the machine is idle for a set time.

Operating Time: Up to five hours.

Charging Time: The 19C-1E offers three charging options: 110-volt, 10.5 hours charge time; 230-volt, five hours; and 415-volt, fewer than 2.5 hours.

Status: Production began in 2019.


Compact Loaders

Volvo Construction Equipment
Model: L20 Electric

Image courtesy of Volvo Construction Equipment

Overview: Volvo Construction Equipment introduced the L20 Electric compact loader in May.

The 9,921-pound machine features a 1.8-ton payload, a parallel-type linkage (Z-bar linkage optional) and a maximum dump height of 8 feet 2 inches. Volvo said the L20’s electric components reduce machine maintenance by 30%.

Additional features include an automatic park brake with hill-hold functionality and a range of customizable work modes. Rigid planetary axles with 100% differential locks increase traction and reduce tire wear, with an articulating-oscillating joint to enhance off-road capability and stability.

Operating Time: Up to six hours.

Charging Time: The onboard charger charges from zero to 100% in under six hours. The optional off-board fast charger can fully charge the L20 Electric in under two hours.

Status: Reservations open. Deliveries begin in 2023.


Bobcat Co.
Model: T7X

Image courtesy of Bobcat Co.

Overview: In January, the Bobcat T7X all-electric compact track loader debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The machine received two 2022 CES Innovation Awards in the “Vehicle Intelligence & Transportation” and “Smart Cities” categories.

Bobcat replaced the traditional hydraulic system with an electric drive system consisting of electric cylinders and electric drive motors. This means the machine operates on almost no fluids. In fact, the T7X uses less than 1 gallon of coolant compared to 57 gallons of fluid in its diesel-hydraulic equivalent model, the company said.

Bobcat will make the initial group of T7X electric compact track loaders available through Sunbelt Rentals later this year.

According to the Engineering News-Record, the initial T7X machines cost nearly three times that of a traditional model – at more than $200,000 each. But Joel Honeyman, Bobcat’s vice president of global innovation, said the price is likely to drop as the company expands its production of electric machines.

Operating Time: Up to four hours.

Charging Time: The charging time using the onboard charger is about 10 hours. The company has not published charging time using a fast charger.

Status: Deliveries begin July 2022.



CASE Construction Equipment
Model: 580 EV

Image courtesy of CASE Construction Equipment

Overview: CASE Construction Equipment unveiled “Project Zeus” – the all-electric CASE 580 EV backhoe loader – in 2020. It’s equipped with a 90-kWh lithium-ion battery to support an eight-hour workday in most applications.

The battery powers the drivetrain and hydraulic motors separately. This configuration generates hydraulic breakout forces equal to diesel-powered machines during simultaneous loader and drivetrain operation.

CASE estimates that the 580 EV can save fleets as much as 90% in annual vehicle service and maintenance costs. This number factors in eliminating diesel, engine oil and diesel exhaust fluid. It also accounts for the reduction in regular preventive and long-term engine maintenance – and the associated labor rates and time savings.

Operating Time: Up to eight hours.

Charging Time: It takes about eight hours to charge using a 220-volt connection. The company has not published charging time using a fast charger.

Status: Deliveries began in 2020.


John Deere
Model: 310 X-Tier E-Power Backhoe

Image courtesy of John Deere

Overview: John Deere introduced the 310 X-Tier E-Power electric excavator in 2021. The company said the machine will match the performance of its diesel-powered counterpart, the 310L backhoe loader.

The E-Power concept is still in its early stages with few details disclosed to date. Last year, the company announced a partnership with National Grid, a Northeast U.S. electric and natural gas utility, to test the machine.

Operating Time: Up to 10 hours.

Charging Time: The company has not announced charging times.

Status: Phase 2 testing begins this year.

Navigating the Surge in Fuel Costs

High fuel prices have made it increasingly difficult for fleet operations to keep costs low – especially utility fleets, whose essential services require daily travel to job sites.

According to Dan Remmert, senior manager of fleet services for Ameren Illinois, “Not only are fuel prices at record highs, but pretty much everything else it takes to maintain a fleet is affected by higher cost.”

Oklahoma Gas & Electric, which operates a total of 2,240 assets – 55% gasoline and 45% diesel – is facing similar challenges. The utility has a 65% utilization rate, and its vehicles are collectively driven 14.5 million miles a year. According to Paul Jefferson, senior manager of fleet services for OG&E, fuel budget forecasting has been one of the biggest challenges resulting from fuel cost increases.

So, is it even possible to maintain efficiency and cost-effectiveness during these challenging times? Remmert and Jefferson recently shared with UFP how they are handling the current conditions.

Cut Back Where You Can
At Ameren Illinois, a vehicle’s fuel charges are allocated to the operations group that the vehicle is assigned to. Since Q1, the fleet services group has communicated to operations the challenges they are facing and where they are estimating the impact will be at year-end.

“We send email and weekly updates to senior leadership. We also meet with them to share best practices on how to manage costs,” Remmert said.

He noted that the fleet is currently focused on idle reduction and eliminating excess equipment. “Both can lower fuel spend, but it does take an organization-wide effort. The culture in many fleets to idle is strong. In many cases, the truck is more than transportation – it is the office and lunchroom. That is where technology can help with HVAC systems that can operate without idling.”

Remmert continued, “If you explain why and offer some flexibility on cab comfort, you can achieve savings. We have been adding the optional cab climate with our ePTO aerial. This is a parallel HVAC system that can run on electric or some other alternative power source to heat and cool the cab without idling. We are piloting several other systems that will do the same on our non-aerial units.”

In addition, the fleet has a renewed focus on idling goals, including a new and improved idling dashboard to provide even better access to valuable data. Operations personnel are currently being trained to utilize the data.

OG&E has also been promoting the reduction of excessive engine idling plus improving driver behaviors. Jefferson said the business unit managers use telematics and report monthly on the scorecards.

Ameren Illinois is re-evaluating fleet usage after the pandemic. To maintain safety during the pandemic, many fleets enforced limits of one individual per truck, which increased the number of vehicles in use as well as the amount of fuel consumption. The utility also allowed more people to report from home to avoid contact. Now that the pandemic is winding down, the company said it needs to evaluate their options once again to make sure they are optimizing their fleet resources.

Fuel Up On-Site
OG&E hedged diesel fuel through the end of the year at $3.50 and has asked operators to fuel internally as much as possible. Corporate emails are sent out to encourage fueling on-site.

“We purchase fuel from the rack and dispense from our on-site tanks. The cost of fuel is cheaper than retail: 10 to 30 cents [per gallon] less expensive depending on load size and location,” according to Jefferson.

Additionally, OG&E developed a dashboard for fuel reporting to help promote internal fueling. The dashboard features internal and external fueling data by business unit. Separating the business units allows supervisors to see data for just their group.

Ameren Illinois also offers some on-site fueling in addition to retail. “Our in-house model is slightly cheaper, but our service area is large and only 25% of our operating centers still have on-site fuel,” Remmert said.

Other Alternatives
Other ways Ameren Illinois has been trying to minimize fuel expenses include going greener, although this does come with challenges.

“Most investor-owned utilities have ambitious goals for electrification. However, the industry is lagging in developing work trucks with the duty cycle needed in our industry. We have several half-ton pickups on order in the coming years. Supply chain challenges with most OEMs have delayed deliveries a little,” Remmert said.

And while some fleets were moving away from diesel engines in many light- and medium-duty vehicles due to the increased cost of ownership, today’s higher gasoline costs are eating into that savings.

“The gas engines still seem to be a value, but mpg is lower,” Remmert said.

Another strategy that has helped during this time is increasing scrutiny of fuel purchases through increased monitoring and management. Ameren’s fuel card provider allows for transaction limits and spend limits at the card level, as well as a rigorous fraud detection ability.

“We really haven’t limited where we purchase yet, but we are looking at things like higher-level discounts on preferred providers,” Remmert noted.

OG&E is testing an artificial intelligence program, which is basically a bulk fuel-buying robot.

“It’s too early to tell the results,” Jefferson said. “If it works, we will try it in the future. We just started testing it against our normal buyer to see if it performs better.”

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

All About GPS Tracking for Fleet Trailers

GPS-based electronic tracking systems first made inroads with over-the-road truck fleets to keep tabs on freight trailers as they’re hauled great distances and parked in far-off lots after cargo is offloaded.

But every application for this dynamic technology differs where trailers are concerned, which is why utility fleet professionals should dig into how available systems match up to their specific operations.

Steven Berube, senior business development manager, off-road vocational, for Geotab (www.geotab.com), said there are several reasons for electric utilities to consider deploying GPS technology on their trailers. “The first is to help solve a common but expensive accident. There are cases where a trailer will be left at a site and sometimes forgotten. With GPS technology, managers can quickly track down the location of their trailers and save time and money they otherwise would have spent manually tracking them down.

“The second reason is that GPS technology can help reduce the risk of lost or stolen goods and trailers,” Berube continued. “By leveraging GPS technology, fleet managers can quickly locate and follow their assets. For instance, if a trailer is stolen, GPS tracking can help locate the trailer for quick retrieval.”

Trailer Rightsizing
Another reason to deploy GPS technology, he said, is to figure out how many trailers the fleet truly needs. “Many fleets don’t realize that they are buying more trailers than they need. Using a GPS system, managers can better understand their trailer utilization, which allows them to make better-informed purchasing decisions.

“Lastly,” Berube pointed out, “a GPS system can help keep vehicles on the road and reduce maintenance costs. Fleets often use the mileage information from the tire gauge and the tractor to determine when a vehicle requires maintenance; a GPS system can provide a more accurate account of the trailer’s mileage.”

He added that if fleets want to “take it a step further,” integrating GPS with a telematics system can yield more detailed insights into the vehicle’s condition to better inform a comprehensive predictive maintenance program.

Tapping Data
“Modern asset and GPS tracking solutions help to increase operational efficiency and improve productivity and customer service while focusing on driver safety,” according to Erin Cave, director of product management for Verizon Connect (www.verizonconnect.com). She said that by implementing GPS tracking, fleet managers can “stay informed about a range of asset-related conditions, from temperature changes and door openings to vibrations or movement.

“Ideally,” Cave continued, “utilities want to have their assets and vehicles on one comprehensive fleet and asset management software platform. We work with customers to determine exactly what hardware and software configuration will work best for their schedules, teams, size of their fleet and other specifications.” She also noted, “You can still track assets even when they’re outside of the cellular network 4G/5G LTE range by choosing GPRS cellular network data.”

Cave pointed out there is “a range of different GPS vehicle trackers available, and they can collect different types of data. Some are powered by the vehicle itself while others use a battery. Some devices can easily be plugged into the vehicle, while others need professional installation under the dashboard.” She said that along with battery power, trackers can be run using 12V DC, 24V DC, 48V AC, 110V AC or 220V AC power.

Power Points
“Power units can be adjusted to whatever you want drawing from the trailer’s power supply, and non-powered trailers can have battery-powered units installed in a very inconspicuous location,” according to Mike Kollat, director of sales for HoloTrak (www.holotrak.com).

He said battery-powered devices are “extremely configurable” to conserve life. “Configurations are easily modified to ‘check in’ at adjustable intervals. The battery life of these types of trackers can last anywhere from one to 12 years. When you think of the life of a trailer, it can be on the road one day and then sitting in a yard for a few months. It can potentially go idle for years. But with battery-operated trackers, you will still have the visibility to the trailer when you need it.”

Kollat also recommended keeping in mind how the device is set up to report battery health back to the network. “If a trailer is checking back once a day for location purposes only, it should last over 10 years. If the GPS tracker is configured to monitor movement-based events, then battery life will drop to around three years. So, there are variables that play a role in battery life, and each tracker can be customized. Not all batteries will last the same amount of time. Also, ambient temperature plays a role in battery life as well.”

What’ll it cost? Verizon Connect’s Cave said that “the price will vary depending on the specific needs of the customer and will be based on the number of units, services needed, and if the customer will self-install or opt for professional installation.”

Geotab’s Berube said its’s difficult to “narrow in on a rough price as it is very wide-ranging. Prices would be dependent on what a fleet is looking to get out of its GPS unit. Comprehensive units that supply detailed insights might be more expensive than basic units, but in most cases, the cost savings of deploying a more comprehensive system, such as telematics, outweigh the initial cost.”

“Current costs for trailer trackers range from $75 for your basic tracker and up to $300 for more advanced trackers equipped with additional sensors,” HoloTrak’s Kollat advised. “We offer flexible month-to-month plans along with annual subscriptions. Adding additional auxiliary sensors and cameras will increase the equipment and subscription cost.”

About the Author: David Cullen is an award-winning journalist who specializes in covering the trucking industry. Based in Connecticut, he writes for several business publications.

Damage Control

Tracking collision damage limits vehicle downtime and repair costs.

The larger the fleet, the more complex the repair process and the higher the cost to fix body and frame damage. No one aims to bang up a bucket truck or other fleet equipment, but it does happen.

Once damage occurs and is properly reported, the repair process can begin. Obviously, significant cosmetic damage or damage that interferes with driving the vehicle or using it as a work platform must be dealt with as soon as possible. And while some fleets may back-burner minor dings and scrapes, others have policies that mandate no repair delays to keep on-road equipment looking tiptop.

Either way, the damage must be fixed at some point. But in the meantime, how do you track damage? That may include distinguishing between old and new damage. Which is which and were all incidents reported? On top of that, what do you do about drivers who don’t report damage?

To help answer those questions and smooth the repair process, here’s a look at best practices and tips gleaned from industry experts about how to stay on top of damage control.

Best Practices
Claims management has a significant impact on vehicle downtime, according to Trevose, Pennsylvania-based CEI (https://ceinetwork.com). The provider of accident management and fleet driver safety services stated that ensuring a solid workflow “from first notice of loss, vehicle estimate, appraisal, repair, and return to service has a significant impact on vehicle downtime” as well as driver productivity.

Another best practice to consider is training drivers to take photos of damage as soon as it’s spotted. Drivers should be instructed to take photos of all the damaged area(s) and the vehicle’s license plate, vehicle identification number and odometer reading.

According to Matt Gilliland, director of operations support for Nebraska Public Power District, any damage to an NPPD asset “is reported via our safety reporting and management system.” NPPD is a publicly owned utility and political subdivision of the State of Nebraska. Its service territory includes all or parts of 84 of the state’s 93 counties.

“We then log the damage report in our fleet data management system,” Gilliland continued. “Because some damage is not repaired, it is critical to sort out new from old damage. With each report, we can cross-reference previous reports and/or the fleet database.”

NPPD creates a workflow for the securement of the repair cost estimate, the decision to repair or not repair, and the repair process itself. In addition, the fleet’s external vendors assess and report damage as part of preventive maintenance.

Gilliland noted that drivers not reporting damage has not been an issue for the utility. “That’s due to the overall safety culture within NPPD,” he said. “We take and store photos of each new asset/build. We ask for pictures of damages in the reporting system. And we outsource most of our maintenance, so our inspection process requires vendors to report conditions, and we record those photos taken when assets are reassigned.”

Culture Counts
It’s helpful to create a culture that encourages drivers to take photos of damage, according to the HD Repair Forum (https://hdrepairforum.com). The organization brings the heavy-duty collision repair industry together for education and collaboration.

Some large fleets have their own repair facilities, others repair light damage and outsource larger damage, while still others outsource all repairs to a trusted facility. If you have a fleet that outsources repair work, the HD Repair Forum recommends reaching some sort of regular agreement with a trusted repair shop. “We even know of fleets that have their new vehicles shipped directly to their trusted shop for a quick inspection, to complete possible upgrades, and to log that truck in the system. That way, any future repairs add to the history of the truck.”

About the Author: David Cullen is an award-winning journalist who specializes in covering the trucking industry. Based in Connecticut, he writes for several business publications.

The Power of Body Repair
Holding off on body repairs will take its toll. In downtime, yes, but also in terms of safety concerns, higher costs, vehicle value and company image.

That’s per a blog post by Baltimore Freightliner-Western Star (www.baltimorefreightliner.com). Summarized below is the truck dealer’s take on why to stay on top of body/frame damage.

Good looks. Your fleet represents your operation out on the road. Body repair can keep your vehicles looking professional, which helps reflect a positive image for your company.

Safety matters. Ignoring larger body/frame damage can create a safety risk. A damaged frame may prevent a truck from hauling loads and could cause a serious accident. Damaged bumpers are often ignored, yet they can create more safety risks. Handle any safety concerns as soon as possible.

Top dollar. Eventually you may decide to sell some vehicles, whether to make room for new ones or to liquidate some assets. With those sales, ensure you’ll get your money’s worth by taking care of necessary body repairs so that your vehicles are in tiptop condition.

Time hurts. Putting off body repairs risks damage worsening over time, which can drive up repair costs. For example, a minor scratch can make a vehicle more susceptible to rust. It would be quick and easy to fix that right away. As rust grows, it becomes expensive and tricky to fix.

Will Hydrogen Electrify the Future of Heavy-Duty Trucks?

An industry executive says that hydrogen fuel-cell trucks – and the fueling infrastructure to support them – will become more practical and affordable in the not-so-distant future.

Most discussions around fleet electrification today focus on battery-electric vehicles. And for good reason. More EV models are becoming available, costs are getting closer in line with conventional vehicles, and charging infrastructure continues to expand.

But when it comes to electrifying the Class 8 truck segment, battery power remains impractical and insufficient to meet the performance and range requirements for most heavy-duty truck applications.

That’s where hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles come in. They’re also electric vehicles but offer longer-range capabilities for Class 8 trucks – in some cases, over 500 miles – at a significantly lower weight and with a much shorter “refueling” time than their battery-powered counterparts.

Yet the knock against fuel-cell trucks has been the exorbitant cost of both the vehicles and the fueling infrastructure to support them.

That’s changing, however, said Craig Knight, CEO at Hyzon Motors (www.hyzonmotors.com), a startup headquartered near Rochester, New York, that installs hydrogen fuel-cell systems and electric propulsion in existing truck brands.

The company delivered 87 trucks globally in 2021 and announced during the fourth-quarter earnings call that it expects to deliver 300 to 400 units by the end of this year. And it launched a pilot program in California in March, with Hyzon-equipped Freightliner Cascadias.

UFP recently spoke with Knight to get his outlook on the fuel-cell vehicle market. He pointed to the following five advantages he believes will position hydrogen fuel cells as the prominent power source in heavy-duty truck electrification in the not-so-distant future.

1. Lighter weight.

According to Knight, a fully fueled hydrogen-powered truck with about 500 miles of range is anywhere from 400 kilograms (881 pounds) to 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) heavier than a comparable conventional diesel truck. That’s a small percentage loss of cargo capacity for an 80,000-pound heavy-duty chassis.

But the weight of batteries required to achieve a similar range? That’s where the numbers get big.

“With the current state-of-the-art battery technology, you’re talking about an extra 5, 6 or even 7 metric tons,” Knight said.

That translates to about 11,000 to 15,000 pounds – a substantial jump.

“When the truck’s tare weight goes up by that much, every movement the truck makes is a lot less efficient. The fact of the matter is that if you’re going toward heavy vehicles, batteries are very inefficient because you’re carrying around all this extra weight,” Knight said.

2. Faster “fueling.”

It can take at least an hour or more to fully fast-charge today’s light-duty electric vehicles.

Now, imagine how much more time would be required to fully charge the much larger batteries in Class 8 trucks. Even if the charge time was only an hour, that’s still expensive downtime for a commercial truck that only makes money when the wheels are rolling.

What about hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles?

Knight said that the refueling time for hydrogen is similar to comparable diesel trucks.

3. Smaller infrastructure footprint.

Hydrogen refueling stations can support significantly more trucks per day than charging stations, Knight said.

He provided this frame of reference: “One piece of hydrogen infrastructure can make 50 or 100 trucks work every day, whereas one piece of electric truck infrastructure can make maybe half a dozen or 10 trucks work in a day – if you’re really lucky and plan very well. The electric vehicle infrastructure that’s out there is good for cars and a small battery. But it doesn’t work for 35 or 40 metric tons of combined vehicle mass.”

4. Greener “fuel” production.

Knight said that Hyzon is focused on producing hydrogen fuel from renewable sources – such as waste, renewable gases, solar and wind – in the local areas of the fleets the company serves.

This approach ensures the fuel’s sustainability, aligns hydrogen production capacity with local demand and drives down the high costs of transporting hydrogen.

5. Longer battery life.

The recyclability of electric vehicle battery packs remains a challenge. But fuel cells can help with that.

“A fuel-cell vehicle uses a lot less battery power,” Knight said. “And whether the truck is driving or sitting, the fuel cell preserves, protects and charges the battery. So, if you switched everything from battery electric to fuel-cell electric, we’d likely see a reduction in the number of batteries needed by eight to 10 times. That’s significant, and especially so as the supply constraints on rare earth minerals [such as nickel, cobalt and lithium used in batteries] continue to tighten.”

Knight envisions a future where hydrogen could become more than a niche fuel for electrifying the heavy-duty truck segment.

“We have this view in our business plan that, in the next three to four years, we’ll bring to market, for example, Class 3 type vehicles,” Knight said. “Right now, Class 8 drives the availability of hydrogen because it’s such a compelling use case. But that investment could bring hydrogen at scale to areas that have a lot of trucks, a lot of logistics activities, a lot of warehouses, a lot of fresh food deliveries, et cetera. And what does that do? That provides access to adjacent markets – like the lighter-class vehicles – that weren’t the low-hanging fruits for hydrogen on round one.”

The State of Electric Vehicle Order-to-Delivery Times

Despite manufacturers’ reassurances, vehicle delivery delays are expected.

In February, Ford began deliveries of its E-Transit EV van to fleet customers, one of the earliest of the highly anticipated commercial-grade battery-powered vehicles to have its orders fulfilled. It’s a bright spot in the electric vehicle market as fleet managers keep an eye on shifting EV delivery dates.

Some delays are out of the manufacturers’ control as the supply chain, including semiconductor manufacturers, struggles with its own set of challenges.

“The EV segment is in a similar situation to the rest of the industry, with the ongoing microchip shortage continuing to limit vehicle production and supply,” said Emily Graham, director of sustainability at Holman (www.holman.com). “That being said, as electric vehicles continue to become increasingly popular with both consumers and vocational fleet operators, many manufacturers are prioritizing the limited allocation of microchips available to the production of EV units.”

As Ford began deliveries of the E-Transit in February, the first 2,000 of the hotly anticipated Lightning Pro version of the F-150 rolled off the assembly line in late April, with a full rollout coming later this year.

“I don’t have a specific date available, but we’re still putting it out there as spring 2022, which we announced last May,” said Mark Poll, Ford Pro Charging manager.

To some extent, fleet orders compete with consumer demand for vehicles in short supply. Chevrolet has well over 140,000 reservations for the 2024 Silverado, including the WT (Work Truck) model. Deliveries are scheduled to start in spring 2023. In comparison, the standard Silverado sold more than half a million units in 2021.

GMC’s electric Hummer pickup and SUV, with more than 60,000 consumer reservations, won’t see deliveries before 2024.

Rivian has delayed deliveries of its R1T pickup until September, and the R1S SUV won’t see the light of day until sometime this fall.

The much-hyped Tesla truck does not seem to be gaining traction among fleet operators, and its delivery date is shrouded in mystery at this point. It’s still possible to place a reservation on the Tesla website, with no hint of a production schedule.

Medium-duty EVs are also on the way, but most are in pilot-project stages and not ready for wide-open order books.

Delays are Expected
Despite manufacturers’ reassurances, vehicle delivery delays are expected. Ford has stockpiled thousands of all types of vehicles awaiting semiconductors. Still, company representatives are publicly standing by the spring delivery time frame, but the definition of spring could be stretched by a few months. In online industry forums, fleet managers are talking about delivery dates in November 2022.

Nevertheless, commercial and governmental fleets are ordering EVs to add to their vehicle mix.

In February, officials in Round Rock, Texas, ordered 10 Ford Lightnings as part of the scheduled fleet replacement process. City officials said they expect delivery in six to 12 months. In the meantime, the city will complete the first phase of its charging infrastructure installation at municipal locations around the city.

In British Columbia, Canada, the city of Richmond ordered four Lightning EV trucks and three F-150 hybrid trucks. The city expects to take delivery of the Lightning trucks in the second quarter of 2022.

A number of police departments have adopted Tesla Model 3 and Model Y into their fleets, including New York City, Boulder, Colorado, and Spokane, Washington.

Duke Energy is going all in on EVs, pledging to convert 100% of its nearly 4,000 light-duty vehicles to electric and 50% of its approximately 6,000 medium-duty, heavy-duty and off-road vehicles to EVs, plug-in hybrids or other zero-carbon alternatives by 2030.

No Time to Waste
Even as fleet managers await deliveries, there’s no time to waste in developing a charging infrastructure plan. Ford and GM are offering turnkey and custom solutions that include charging systems and fleet analytics tools.

Software can boost battery performance through smart charging, pre-conditioning and remote monitoring. Companies will be able to track energy use and reimburse employees for home charging. Fleet telematics can help maximize vehicle efficiency and uptime. With 150-kW fast charging, the standard range Ford Lightning can recharge from 15% to 80% charge in 44 minutes, about the time of a typical lunch break, Poll said.

GM has tapped eTransEnergy, a Duke Energy company, to help GM fleet customers integrate EVs using the GM Ultium Charge 360 service. Through eTransEnergy, fleet operators can take advantage of infrastructure planning, smart charging technology, on-site solar energy generation, battery backup options and other aspects of EV fleet management.

The Ford Pro Charging system offers a similar program, including infrastructure assistance to help integrate charging hardware into fleet depots alongside charge management software. One new twist is the possibility of installing charging stations at employees’ homes for take-home vehicles.

“Some fleets are buying a few vehicles to try out in different parts of their business, and others are planning larger deployments and aggressive transitions to electric within their fleet,” Poll said.

Even if EV deliveries fall behind schedule, it’s critical to plan for the charging infrastructure to be ready before the vehicles arrive. It can take six to 12 months to go through the process of planning, designing, building and commissioning charging at a commercial facility, especially with large deployments. Electric utilities may also be advising their customers on EV integration at the same time as they are preparing for their own EV fleets.

“We advise fleets they can’t order the vehicles and then start thinking about charging; they need to plan them hand in hand,” Poll said. “And they need to have a plan ready for take-home fleets.”

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.

On the Road to Self-Driving Trucks

The trek to fully autonomous trucks is a journey in stages driven by partnerships – yet the pace of development is quicker than one might expect.

One of the only technological advancements in trucks that sparks as much interest as the rollout of electric vehicles is wondering when fully autonomous trucks will be available.

Your fleet may already be familiar with automated vehicles. At the lowest level of automation (see sidebar), a truck spec’d with adaptive cruise control is a stepping-stone to self-driving. At the high end will be trucks that can be autonomously operated in a limited manner and trucks that are entirely self-driving. Those entirely self-driving vehicles may not even need to have a cab.

Not surprisingly, the development of systems that can fully control trucks – ranging from pickups to Class 8 highway haulers – without human drivers is not a simple task. What is surprising is how far along global truck builders working in partnership with vehicle-automation firms have already come regarding autonomous trucks.

But surpassing engineering challenges is not the only obstacle to self-driving. There is also the need to overcome the public’s concern that self-driving trucks are not safe. That will take consumer education. Then there is the lobbying that will be needed to fund the appropriate infrastructure for autonomous vehicles, such as clear road markings and other, more complex requirements to ensure autonomous driving can take place in all weather conditions.

Still, there is impressive forward movement, thanks to industry suppliers and partners that are willing to invest time and money into this moonshot of a venture. There may be a future shakeout of competitors, but currently the marketplace is bustling with activity, including, in some cases, developers of baseline autonomous technology partnering with more than one traditional truck maker.

Engineers at Work

Here’s a rundown of some of the key truck developments on the self-driving front in the U.S.:

  • Daimler Truck is developing a scalable autonomous platform suited for SAE Level 4 (see sidebar) autonomous driving. The L4 platform is based on the Class 8 Freightliner. The OEM is partnered with autonomous vehicle software developers Torc Robotics and Waymo Via
  • Navistar is partnering with TuSimple, a self-driving tech firm, to co-develop an SAE Level 4 truck, which is targeted for production by 2024. The new Class 8 will be sold by Navistar dealers and operate on the TuSimple Autonomous Freight Network.
  • PACCAR, parent of Kenworth and Peterbilt, is teamed with Aurora Innovation, an autonomous tech company, and FedEx to launch a commercial pilot of autonomous linehaul trucks. The OEM said this is the “first collaboration of its kind between a truck manufacturer, an autonomous technology developer and a logistics provider.”
  • Aurora Innovation is working with platform partners, including PACCAR and Volvo, and with logistics partners like FedEx, UberFreight and U.S. Xpress, to prepare its “premium self-driving product,” dubbed Aurora Horizon.
  • Volvo Autonomous Solutions recently announced that it has reached the “next milestone” in their development of on-highway autonomous trucks in the U.S. A prototype of Volvo Trucks’ long-haul VNL model, integrated with the Aurora Driver system, was revealed in September.

Why and Where?

Arguably, the biggest questions surrounding the advent of driverless trucks are not when and how but why and where. Why are they needed and where will they operate? The answers differ sharply based on how trucks are used.

The most obvious application, and thereby the one being worked up first by heavy-truck makers, is the long-haul Class 8 tractor-trailer running Point A to Point B over interstates or other limited-access highways.

But medium-duty trucks and even pickups and vans that operate over regular routes could be candidates as well. Aside from fully autonomous vehicles with no allowance for an onboard driver, advanced but still partially autonomous trucks could have drivers take over at waypoints where infrastructure for self-driving ends, such as off an interstate ramp. This solution would also apply to large trucks, including Class 8 rigs.

On the other hand, vocational trucks that are more a platform to work from than a mere vehicle might only rise as high as SAE Level 4, meaning a truck would have a system that only drives under specific circumstances.

At this point, the bucket truck fits this example. There would be no need to fully automate the driving of one until robot lineworkers are deployed. And that’s a whole other discussion for another, faraway day.

About the Author: David Cullen is an award-winning journalist who specializes in covering the trucking industry. Based in Connecticut, he writes for several business publications.

Degrees of Automation 

Launched in 2014, the SAE Levels of Driving Automation provide a baseline set of terms for different degrees of vehicle automation, as follows:

  • Level 0: No driving automation.
  • Level 1: Driver Assistance. A vehicle with a single automated system for driver assistance, such as adaptive cruise control.
  • Level 2: Partial Driving Automation. A vehicle with advanced driver assistance systems that can control both steering and accelerating/decelerating. But a human in the driver’s seat can take control at any time.
  • Level 3: Conditional Driving Automation. A vehicle capable of making informed decisions itself, such as to accelerate, brake or steer, under limited circumstances. The driver must remain ready to take control if the system cannot execute the task.
  • Level 4: High Driving Automation. An autonomous system that only drives the vehicle under specific, limited circumstances.
  • Level 5: Full Driving Automation. Only the autonomous system drives the vehicle, under all conditions.

Source: www.sae.org/blog/sae-j3016-update

ANSI A92.2: 2022 Changes and Training Requirements

Here’s what owners and operators should know about upcoming updates to the standard.

Updates are coming to the ANSI A92.2 standard, titled “American National Standard for Vehicle-Mounted Elevating and Rotating Aerial Devices.” Your most common piece of powered equipment soon will have new or revised requirements for design, manufacturing, testing, training and operation. These new requirements go into effect in August of this year.

First, let’s cover some of the most notable changes, and then we’ll look at some often misunderstood training requirements.

Manufacturers must now consider the structural effects of operating on slopes up to the unit’s maximum allowable slope, not just at 5 degrees. This change follows the industry trend toward units capable of operating beyond the traditional 5-degree limit.

Along with higher unit slope capabilities come changes in stability testing requirements. Units must still be tested on a 5-degree slope in the direction of least stability. However, if the unit has allowable slope limits greater than 5 degrees, it must also be tested on its maximum allowable slope.

Controls for positioning the platform must have an unlocking or enabling device to prevent inadvertent movements.

ANSI has also added a requirement that the platform level must remain within 5 degrees of initial leveling while the boom structure is raised or lowered.

Synthetic rope must have an average breaking strength of at least five times the working load. This addition mirrors the requirement in A10.31, the ANSI standard for digger derricks.

Category C and D units with a conductive, articulating lower boom above rotation must have a chassis insulating system. This refers to the fiberglass section of the lower boom. Although not previously required, most if not all manufacturers have already installed them.

If a unit has upper controls with high electrical resistance, those controls shall be tested periodically at a one- to 12-month interval. This was previously a “should be tested” requirement.

The entity performing periodic electrical tests must document each test and provide a certified report to the owner upon request. ANSI A92.2 now contains a specific listing of reportable test details.

Manufacturers now have the option to provide one set of manuals in an electronic format. They must still provide at least one printed set along with the electronic copies.

Updated Ownership Requirements

Updating ownership records with the manufacturer is very important. This gives the manufacturer current contact information for sending equipment bulletins. Dealers and installers have a newly added responsibility to notify the manufacturer of the name and address of the new owner when a unit changes hands. A further requirement exists for dealers or installers to notify the new owner of their responsibilities under A92.2.

ANSI A92.2 now defines a “service entity” as a person or entity whose business is inspecting, testing, maintaining or repairing aerial devices or mobile units. This is significant because service entities also have requirements under the standard, including the responsibility to properly train maintenance personnel to repair and operate the equipment.

A major structural inspection shall be performed after the first 15 years of service, and every 10 years after that, or as directed by the manufacturer. This is a significant new requirement for owners. The major inspection must include a periodic inspection, level-surface stability testing, and a detailed inspection for structural deformations, broken members and cracked welds. Any damage must be repaired or replaced before returning the unit to service.

There has long been a requirement for operators to use appropriately rated and tested insulating devices when handling energized lines. It is a common misconception that fiberglass jibs are insulating. Unless jibs are rated and tested for the voltages involved, they must be considered conductive. For this reason, A92.2 requires the use of insulating devices – such as link sticks or insulating jib inserts – for this work. These devices provide protection from energizing the boom tip through the jib and winch rope.

In the upcoming revision, this requirement now falls on both the user and the operator. The user is the entity with custodial control of the unit, whether that’s an employer, dealer, installer, lessee, lessor or operator. Adding the user to this responsibility expands accountability beyond the operator for performing live-line conductor-handling tasks safely.

A primary purpose of ANSI A92.2 is to standardize industry safety requirements, so when purchasing any A92.2-compliant device, you have assurance that a basic standard of safety is designed into each unit. This ultimately protects the personal safety of everyone in contact with the unit.

Training Requirements

As manufacturers innovate new features, such as fall protection lanyard detection sensors and advanced boom load monitoring systems, operators need to know how those features work, what protections they may offer, and how to inspect and test them before use. Unfortunately, many operators use new equipment without proper training. Lack of operator familiarity with complex equipment leads to increased risk for everyone on the job site.

Nearly everyone in the utility industry knows that training is important, yet the vast majority of A92.2 equipment owners have no idea where the operator training requirements come from. Fortunately, that’s easy to answer.

First, OSHA. They require employers to properly train employees to recognize and avoid hazards. However, OSHA provides very little detail on what constitutes proper training for A92.2 aerial devices. By interpretation letter (see www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/1992-10-23-0), OSHA explained that they “use the ANSI requirements to help establish what the industry practice is in regard to operator qualifications.” Translation: Employers need to look to ANSI A92.2 for operator training requirements that comply with OSHA’s requirement to train. A92.2 defines operator training requirements and details what training topics to cover when training someone for the first time or when training someone on a new piece of equipment.

ANSI A92.2 lists two main training categories. The first is general training. All operators must receive general training, which includes classroom information about safety topics and hazards related to operating aerial devices. General training also requires an operator to demonstrate hands-on proficiency in actual operation under the direction of a qualified person. Although not specified, general training should be refreshed periodically, and a five-year cycle is consistent with other industry certifications.

Familiarization is the second training category. Operators must be familiarized with any unfamiliar units before operating them. A manufacturer’s in-service demonstration is not operator training. A typical in-service does not satisfy familiarization requirements and certainly does not fulfill the wider general training requirements.

Through proper familiarization, operators learn about the location of the manuals, purpose and function of all controls, safety devices and unit operating characteristics. Of course, this also includes learning about any new features. To complete their familiarization, operators must achieve proficiency through actual operation of the unit.

ANSI A92.2 also directs retraining if an accident or a near-miss occurs, or when a training need is observed. It would be appropriate to follow the general training requirements when retraining an operator since a qualified person must evaluate their proficiency in safe unit operation.

Here’s what owners and operators should know about upcoming updates to the standard. 

Simply put, general training is an “every operator, once” requirement and familiarization is an “every operator, specific units” requirement. OSHA expects to see documentation that both types of training occurred, and they will certainly expect the training program to meet the ANSI standard.

Filling the Training Gap

Many employers already have trainers on staff who handle new-hire and recurring training. As apprentices come in from formal, entry-level training programs, these in-house trainers may focus on teaching essential work methods and other qualification skills, leaving an unintentional gap in their basic operator training program. Assumption or ignorance fills this gap and creates eventual hazards for all involved.

Often, the void in basic operator training programs is only recognized when an accident occurs and the resulting investigation reveals that an untrained operator did not know or follow the manufacturer’s guidance for operating the equipment. There are industry training resources that can help fill the gap. Some manufacturers offer in-person general training and specific-unit online familiarization courses to get operators started on the right training path. Train-the-trainer courses can also assist employers in developing their own qualified person to direct in-house operator training.


Although ANSI A92.2 training requirements are the same industry-wide, each employer must craft a compliant solution that fits their needs. The manufacturer is a good resource to help build the solution since A92.2 requires manufacturers to develop and offer training materials that aid in operating the unit. If you have an Altec unit, you can visit www.altecsentry.com. Whether you’ve got questions about training or the A92.2 standard in general, feel free to contact the Altec Sentry training department to start the discussion.

About the Author: Phil Doud is the Sentry safety program manager for Altec. Reach him at [email protected].

All-Electric Medium-Duty Trucks Coming to SMUD this Summer

The new Class 5 trucks nudge the utility closer to its goal of zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District expects to take delivery of five new all-electric medium-duty trucks this summer that will offer an estimated range of 100 to 150 miles.

The vehicles will be built on the Z-19 model – a 19,500-pound-GVWR chassis – by Zeus Electric Chassis Inc. (https://zeuselectricchassis.com), a startup based in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

This purchase is part of SMUD’s goal of removing all carbon emissions from its entire power supply and fleet by 2030. As of press time, the utility had electrified 120 vehicles, or about 13% of its fleet of more than 900 units.

UFP recently spoke with Casey Fallon, director of purchasing, warehouse and fleet at SMUD, to give us a behind-the-scenes look into the factors he and his team considered when designing and ordering these vehicles. Here’s an edited version of the highlights from our conversation.

UFP: How did you decide which fleet applications to electrify with the Zeus trucks?

Casey Fallon: We considered any Ford F-550 in our fleet scheduled to be replaced. So, when we were writing the specification, we didn’t make concessions because it’s an electric vehicle. But we had to dial in the vehicle’s daily usage and whether it had a prescribed route and a planned amount of driving instead of it being a response vehicle or a 24-hour vehicle.

So, our spec [for the Zeus trucks] changed very little from our conventional diesel engine trucks with similar usage.

What is the incremental cost you factor into your numbers when you plan your electrification budget?

We spend about $10 million per year on our capital investment for replacements and some new vehicles, not including inflation. If you make the numbers simple over 10 years, that’s $100 million. So, when we initially did this plan over 10 years, we looked at the status quo as $100 million.

Then we looked at all of the different equipment that we would replace. We made our best estimate based on what was available from the market and worked with some of our friends in [research and development] and finance and treasury to come up with numbers for equivalent zero-emissions vehicles over 10 years.

We came up with $200 million. So, over 10 years, we’re looking at two times [the status-quo budget]. But a few things help reduce that number.

Over the 10-year period, we estimate around $20 million to $40 million in offsets from grant funding, and a fuel expense reduction of around $9 million to $10 million. There’s also a maintenance cost reduction of another $4 million.

So, the number we came up with was roughly an increase of $50 million on top of the original $100 million to align our fleet with SMUD’s 2030 zero-carbon plan.

When I presented this plan publicly, I said that this [budget] is based on what we know now. As we refresh our plan year over year, we expect that number to come down as the technology improves, we get additional financial offsets, and we continue to optimize. But this is a conservative estimate over a 10-year period.

How will the maintenance and repairs be handled for the Zeus trucks?

We’re still working that out. We’ll leverage Zeus during the warranty period. But we’re still discussing whether we’ll do maintenance and repairs in-house or through a dealer network after the warranty period. It’s still up in the air. We’d prefer to do the work on everything else in our fleet because we’re a full-service maintenance shop.

When do you expect the vehicles to be delivered?

One of the five trucks will be at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach in May. Then we’ll have a staggered delivery schedule until about the end of July.

We’re kind of relaxed with the schedule because Zeus is a startup, and these trucks are all new. We also have a pretty significant period where we will be doing our own road testing. And we may even work with a third party to do some road testing before we turn them over to operations.

How long will the road testing occur?

We’re thinking 90 days, just to be sure we run the vehicles through their paces and get them out on the road.

We’ll put the trucks in safe conditions and take our time to get to know them. There may be some things to work out regarding the programming of the technology on the vehicle. So, we want to take our time.

What type of training do you plan to provide to the operators?

We’re thinking about training in a couple of ways. One is that we’re thinking about the change management aspect. You’re switching the operator from a gas or diesel vehicle to electric. There’s a need for education to build awareness and familiarization with the new technology.

So, we’re taking a change management approach where we want to get everybody on board to become aware of what’s changing and what the technology is. That’s the big boulder to move initially.

Regarding training, when switching somebody from an internal combustion engine to an electric vehicle, range anxiety will likely be an issue. But we’ve been putting a lot of numbers together to show that, hey, on average, you’re not driving past this vehicle’s maximum range for a day.

The operators have been used to a Ford for the last 10 years, and now you’re putting them into this unknown variable for them. But I don’t think it will be too much of a change for them.

And the operation of the onboard equipment – the liftgates, dump bed and all that – will be very similar to what they’re already familiar with.

What is the backstory behind SMUD’s fleet electrification initiative?

We’re located in the capital city of California. So, we have an incredibly ambitious goal for the entire utility overall – zero emissions by 2030.

When we put our fleet electrification strategy together for our executive team and our new CEO [Paul Lau], we brought it to them and said, “We think we can get 50% of the way by 2030.”

We remember that conversation because there’s a great quote from our CEO. He said to us, “I like your thinking and your strategy, but we’ve got to go big or go home.”

It was time for us to go all-in and align with the 2030 plan.

So, what we had to do from there was challenge our initial assumptions and really figure out how to accelerate and get to that 100% goal by 2030.

We know it’s still a tall order, a very ambitious goal. But we’re going to give it our best shot.

Over the next three to five years, we’ll be focused on what’s available from the market. And then, beyond that, things are not really clear. But we’re banking on the idea that the technology will accelerate rapidly, including hydrogen fuel cells for our heavy-duty vehicles in the later years of the plan.

So, we’re going to do our best and hang on for the ride and see where all this goes.

Fleet Facts: Sacramento Municipal Utility District
Description: The nation’s sixth-largest, community-owned, not-for-profit electric service
Headquarters: Sacramento, California
Service area: 900 square miles
Total accounts served: 644,723
Employees: 2,179
Power from non-carbon-emitting resources: Over 60%
Fleet size: 917 total on-road, off-road and trailer assets
All-electric or hybrid vehicles: About 120 units

What’s New in Truck and Van Upfits in 2022?

Despite a lingering pandemic and a supply chain crisis, truck and van upfitters continue to bring new products to market that will help utility fleets cut costs, improve crew safety and productivity, and reduce carbon emissions.

So, what are some notable new products and design enhancements to keep your eye on in 2022? Here are eight developments.

XL Fleet Corp.
What’s New: Hybrid-electric upfit for Ram 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickup trucks
Website: https://xlfleet.com

XL Fleet Corp. now offers a hybrid-electric drive system for Ram 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickup trucks.

This XLH system for Ram represents the fourth OEM platform with which XL Fleet’s electrification systems are compatible. The other OEMs are Ford, General Motors and Isuzu fleet vehicles.

XLH is available for select Ram 2500/3500 models with a 6.4-liter V-8 engine. It features a high-efficiency lithium-ion battery, inverter, and electric traction motor to propel the vehicle forward during acceleration and capture energy through regenerative braking during deceleration.

The system requires no external power or charging infrastructure to operate, and all OEM factory warranties remain intact. It also includes XL Fleet’s standard three-year, 75,000-mile warranty, with available extended warranty options.

Stellar Industries
What’s New: 86 Series telescopic cranes
Website: www.stellarindustries.com

The new 86 Series telescopic cranes have an octagon-shaped boom design (versus the previous hexagon shape) that allows the cranes to maintain strength with a more compact boom tip to create an easier reach in tight work areas.

The 8621 Telescopic Crane offers a maximum horizontal reach of 21 feet and vertical lift of nearly 23 feet from its crane base, with an 8,600-pound lifting capacity. The 8630 Telescopic Crane has a maximum horizontal reach of 30 feet and vertical lift of over 31 feet from its crane base, also with an 8,600-pound lifting capacity.

Terex Utilities
What’s New: General 65 digger derrick for utility transmission applications; Extreme Duty Auger
Website: www.terex.com/utilities

Terex Utilities has introduced a new generation of the General 65 digger derrick for utility transmission applications, along with a new high-productivity auger tool.

The updated General 65 offers increased capacity ranges from 26% at high boom angles with X‐Boost to 80% at lower boom angles specifically below 0 degrees (subject to chassis and unit configuration due to stability). X-Boost adjusts hydraulic pressure to increase load-handling capability and enhance performance for lifting at high boom angles.

The company also recently introduced its Extreme Duty Auger designed for longer wear when used in hard soil mixed with rock and boulders. The auger’s hex hub is available in 2.5-inch, 2-5/8-inch and 3-inch sizes. The 1-inch flighting is solid welded to the stem and extends the full length of the stem to reduce bending.

Ranger Design
What’s New: Redesigned ladder rack product line
Website: https://rangerdesign.com

Ranger Design’s new ladder rack line includes the Max Rack Low-Roof, Cargo Rack, Clamp Rack and Combination Rack.

The Max Rack Low-Roof is a drop-down rack that requires only four hooks for easy installation.

And the Clamp Rack’s inside hooks help guide the ladder for safer and easier loading and unloading. The Clamp Rack’s throttle latch secures the ladder from the outside to avoid rungs, brackets and gussets. Its new design prevents metal-to-metal contact and reduces risk of splintering from fiberglass ladders.

Stellar Industries
What’s New: CDTpro control system with Range Finder technology
Website: www.stellarindustries.com

Stellar’s updated CDTpro control system with Range Finder technology offers a single-handed controller that delivers quick, smooth operation with finite control for precise placements of loads while allowing multiple functions to run simultaneously.

With the Range Finder, the operator can create a lift plan without needing to unstow the crane. It estimates distance and calculates crane capacities wherever the operator holds the control system.

The CDTpro feedback screens include the current load of the crane and distance to maximum capacity. The system also vibrates to alert the operator when they’re approaching maximum load capacity.

Maintainer Corp.
What’s New: Bolt Bins
Website: www.maintainer.com

Maintainer Corp. has expanded its line of service truck accessories to include the new Maintainer Bolt Bins. The Bolt Bins have a housing and shelves made of 0.090-inch aluminum, with bins made of composite material. The units are available in a standard 18.5-inch depth or optional 12.5-inch depth. Each standard-depth bin is rated for 25 pounds and comes with three aluminum removable dividers.

There are eight standard configurations in the introductory Bolt Bins lineup, but custom configurations up to eight bins wide and eight levels high are also available.

What’s New: Velocity R2
Website: www.utilimaster.com

Utilimaster has expanded its Velocity walk-in van lineup to include the R2, an under-10,000-pound-GVWR van built on the Ram ProMaster chassis.

The Velocity R2 will debut in Indianapolis at the NTEA Work Truck Show this March.

With the Velocity R2, there’s no need to walk outside to open the cargo door. Operators can push a button to open the interior bulkhead door, making it easier and safer to access the cargo area.

The van’s safety systems include a 360-degree camera with clear, wide views for backing up and avoiding potential hazards while driving or parking, and rear and front collision detection systems to protect the driver, pedestrians and other vehicles on the road.

Utilimaster can customize the R2’s interior shelving, cabinets, bins and partitions for utility service applications.

Terex Utilities
What’s New: HyPower SmartPTO for Hi-Ranger aerial devices and Commander digger derricks
Website: www.terex.com/utilities

Terex Utilities has introduced the HyPower SmartPTO for a variety of Hi-Ranger telescopic, overcenter and non-overcenter aerial devices, and Commander and General digger derricks.

The system reduces engine idling to increase fuel savings and reduce noise and air pollution. And it powers the primary unit, auxiliary functions, lights and optional integrated cab A/C using factory vents and controls.

The SmartPTO comes standard with a 14-kWh battery, which Terex said can get most utility crews through a normal workday. An optional 21-kWh battery is available for higher-use applications.

The SmartPTO warns operators to recharge the battery within about 5% of battery life. When the engine is powered, it automatically disengages the ePTO function for specific situations – such as storm restoration – where plug-in recharging is limited.

The State of the All-Electric Pickup Race

The state of the all-electric pickup race has changed considerably in just one year.

Last January, the Ohio-based startup Lordstown Motors was poised to take the inside lane to produce the first-ever all-electric pickup with its Endurance truck.

But then allegations of fraud in the spring and a subsequent Department of Justice investigation hammered the stock and led to the resignations of the CEO and other key leaders. The company is now on life support with dim prospects of ever producing a pickup. 

Meanwhile, Amazon-backed Rivian, another startup, became the first to market in September with its R1T all-electric pickup. And GM launched its Edition 1 model GMC Hummer EV in December.

Ford, which introduced the F-150 Lightning last May, expects to begin producing the electric pickup this spring. Chevrolet announced in January that its Silverado EV would launch next spring.

What about Tesla’s Cybertruck? Some new developments are impacting its target launch timeline.

Toyota recently announced its plan to build an electric pickup but has not offered details yet.

So, here’s a breakdown of the key contenders in the electric pickup race – as it stands today – to help you assess which vehicles might be available for and applicable to your fleet operations in the next few years.

Rivian R1T
Irvine, California-based Rivian was the first automaker out of the gate when its first R1T electric pickup truck, offering a range of about 300 miles, rolled off the assembly line in Normal, Illinois, on September 14, 2021.

The crew cab truck seats five and starts at $67,500, a steep price for most fleet applications. But production capacity is perhaps the company’s biggest barrier to widespread fleet adoption.

Rivian produced 1,050 vehicles in 2021, about 15% below the company’s 1,200-unit target. And according to reporting by Bloomberg, the company halted its production lines for about a week in early January to fix its manufacturing processes to ramp up to 200 units produced weekly, an increase from the current rate of 50.

But the 200 units per week number is about 1/10th of Ford’s production forecast to reach a 150,000-unit annual rate by next year for the F-150 Lightning.

The bottom line: Rivian might have the head start, but will it be able to hold off Ford and GM, which have much larger manufacturing capacities, stronger supply chains and greater economies of scale? 

R1T by the Numbers
Max Range: 314 miles (with a 400-plus-mile-range battery available in 2023)
Max Horsepower/Torque: 835 hp/908 lb.-ft. of torque
0 to 60 mph: 3 secs.
Max Payload: 1,760 lbs.
Max Towing: 11,000 lbs.
Pricing: $67,500 to $73,000 MSRP
Deliveries: Started September 2021

Ford F-150 Lightning
Expected to arrive this spring, the all-electric crew cab F-150 Lightning will be available in four trim levels: Pro (the work truck version with vinyl seats); XLT (mid-level trim with cloth seats); Lariat (up-level trim with leather heated and ventilated seats); and Platinum (high-end premium trim).

One option utility fleets will find interesting: an available onboard scale that uses sensors to estimate payload so that operators can know precisely how much weight they’re hauling. This is important because payload impacts range. And the onboard scale is integrated with Ford’s Intelligent Range system to provide operators an estimated range that’s as accurate as possible.

The Lightning’s starting price of $39,974 is more in line with most fleet budgets, but recent news reports state that some Ford dealers have been capitalizing on the strong demand by marking up the price by tens of thousands of dollars over MSRP.

The bottom line: On paper, Ford looks like a strong contender. The truck should start hitting the roads soon, and the company has a lot of the pieces in place – manufacturing capacity, supply chain and a vast service network – to accelerate to the lead in electric truck production and sales. But with such strong retail demand projected, how much will fleets have to pay? What will be the allocation for the fleet-spec Pro models?

Lightning by the Numbers
Max Range: 300 miles
Max Horsepower/Torque: 563 hp/775 lb.-ft. of torque
0 to 60 mph: 4 secs.
Max Payload: 2,000 lbs.
Max Towing: 10,000 lbs.
Pricing: $39,974 to $52,974 MSRP
Deliveries: This spring

GMC Hummer EV
The GMC Hummer EV pickups began rolling off the assembly line in December.

The first trucks are Edition 1 models priced at $110,295 MSRP and estimated to produce 1,000 horsepower and 11,500 pound-feet of torque.

A couple of notable features include 4-Wheel Steer with Crabwalk and Adaptive Air Suspension with Extract Mode. The 4-Wheel Steer feature allows the rear and front wheels to steer at the same angle at low speeds, enabling diagonal movement for greater maneuverability on rough terrain, while the Adaptive Air Suspension raises the suspension height by 6 inches to handle extreme off-road situations, such as clearing boulders and fording water. 

Lower-price models ($79,995 to $89,995) are targeted for deliveries in 2023 and 2024.

The bottom line: Hummer’s price and performance specs are overkill for most utility fleet applications. However, the truck’s off-road capabilities might make the Hummer EV an interesting pilot vehicle for a fleet looking to electrify part of its all-terrain utility vehicle segment; it could serve as a people-mover in areas that are hard to reach with conventional four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Hummer EV by the Numbers
Max Range: 329 miles
Max Horsepower/Torque: 1,000 hp/11,500 lb.-ft. of torque
0 to 60 mph: 3 secs.
Max Payload: 1,300 lbs.
Max Towing: 7,500 lbs.
Pricing: $79,995 to $110,295 MSRP
Deliveries: Started December 2021 (with Edition 1)

Chevrolet Silverado EV
In January, Chevrolet introduced the 2024 Silverado EV crew cab pickup that’s expected to offer 400 miles in range and produce up to 664 horsepower with 780 pound-feet of torque.

The truck is targeted to launch in spring 2023 as a work truck model with a starting MSRP of $39,900. A fully loaded RST First Edition model will debut with an MSRP of $105,000 in fall 2023.

GM said that customers will have the ability to spec the truck across various price ranges to build a truck that meets their capability and pricing requirements.

The bottom line: Chevy’s Silverado EV is a strong answer to the F-150 Lightning. It’s priced right for fleets while offering 100 more miles of maximum range than the Lightning.

But the truck’s targeted launch date is a year after Ford’s, giving the Lightning a significant head start, especially with prospective fleet customers. So, the critical question is, what is GM’s strategy to catch Ford? 

Silverado EV by the Numbers
Max Range: 400 miles
Max Horsepower/Torque: 664 hp/780 lb.-ft. of torque
0 to 60 mph: 4.5 secs.
Max Payload: 1,300 lbs.
Max Towing: 10,000 lbs.
Pricing: $39,900 to $105,000 MSRP
Deliveries: Spring 2023

Tesla Cybertruck
The Cybertruck was introduced in 2019 with great fanfare by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. At the time, it appeared that Tesla would be the prohibitive favorite in the electric pickup race.

After all, on paper, the Cybertruck looks unbeatable: up to 500 miles of electric range, a maximum payload – 3,500 pounds – that’s nearly double the competition’s, a maximum tow capacity of 14,000 pounds and a base price under $40,000.

Plus, deliveries were slated to begin in late 2021. But that didn’t happen.

In the most recent earnings call in January, Musk confirmed that 2022 wouldn’t be the year for the Cybertruck either. “If we were to introduce new vehicles, our total vehicle output will decrease,” he said. “We will not be introducing new vehicle models this year.”

Musk said that the Cybertruck won’t launch until 2023 at the earliest.

The bottom line: While other models mentioned in this article have either started deliveries or have firm targets in sight, the Cybertruck appears to be in limbo. And that puts it to the back of the pack – for now.

Cybertruck by the Numbers
Max Range: 500 miles
Horsepower/Torque: 800 hp/1,000 lb.-ft. of torque
0 to 60 mph: 2.9 secs.
Max Payload: 3,500 lbs.
Max Towing: 14,000 lbs.
Pricing: $39,900 to $69,900 MSRP
Deliveries: TBD 2023 (initially targeted for late 2021)

Top Trends to Watch in Fleet Technologies

As electric light-duty trucks and vans begin to be delivered to customers, fleet managers are keeping a close eye on emerging technologies that could reshape operations over the next year or two.

Battery-electric vehicles are some of the hottest tech to hit the market, especially for utilities that have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. But they’re in short supply, as are gas and diesel vehicles, due to the semiconductor shortages that have hampered vehicle production worldwide.

Another top trend is analyzing the billions of data points from connected vehicles to help guide not only fleet acquisition and rationalization but driver performance as well.

Electric Vehicles
The Rivian R1T is one of the first battery-electric pickups to go from prototype to production, with trucks hitting the streets late last year. The Ford F-150 Lightning is expected to roll off the assembly line this spring. The Tesla Cybertruck launch has been delayed, but don’t count Elon Musk out of the race just yet. And other manufacturers have announced or are already producing hybrid versions of pickups and SUVs to improve gas mileage and reduce environmental impact. Electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks are still a few years away from widespread availability.

Some fleet drivers could take home light-duty vehicles like a plug-in hybrid Prius or an F-150 Lightning pickup, but that could also present a challenge.

According to Jeremy Dewey, manager of EV operations for Holman Enterprises (www.holmanenterprises.com), a fleet management provider based in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, “You have to look at the infrastructure for charging – can the employee’s home accommodate the installation of a charging station?”

Dewey also said that overreliance on public charging infrastructure could be a dangerous and costly proposition as drivers may find it challenging to find a working charger where and when they need one.

The chip shortage won’t last forever, and when it eases, manufacturers will ramp up EV production, so it’s a good idea to prepare. Utilities should assess their EV readiness and replacement needs to support the company’s overall sustainability goals, said John Wuich, vice president of strategic consulting services for Donlen (www.donlen.com), a Bannockburn, Illinois-based fleet management company.

“Map out your charging infrastructure before your EVs hit the ground and keep an eye and an ear to federal tax credits and state and local rebates that may be available,” Wuich said.

Data Analytics
With a flood of data from fleet telematics, it’s easy to get caught in analysis paralysis. Fleet managers can track power-takeoff usage, unproductive idle time, route optimization, seat-belt usage and high-risk driving behavior, such as harsh braking and aggressive cornering.

It’s tempting to try to home in on the perfect solution for every problem, but that’s not realistic. Instead, Dewey recommended fleet managers use the data to make quick, actionable decisions.

“If you’re seeking perfection in the data, I would caution you against it; strive for ‘close enough’ and then work on incremental improvements from there,” he said.

Fleets need the right tools and analytics professionals to make the best use of the data they already have and will generate using EVs.

“The fact that most companies seem unable to identify an actual return on telematics investments or seem to use telematics as an asset tracker may be an indication that data is not being used to the full benefit,” Wuich said.

Fleet Utilization
Fleets can track assets to make actionable decisions to repair, replace or redeploy assets where needed. Assets that are overutilized tend to lead to higher maintenance costs. It may make sense to redeploy underutilized assets from elsewhere to reduce operational expenses. Given the rising costs in the used vehicle market, underutilized assets could be liquidated for a high return on value.

Fleets may also have surplus vehicles because their driver population has decreased due to the pandemic and other factors.

“With telematics, maintenance and other data, it’s a quick assessment to decide which vehicles to sell off and capitalize on that given the state of the U.S. vehicle market today,” Dewey said. “Suppose you have vehicles that are no longer necessary to support your business. In that case, there’s an opportunity to liquidate them for top dollar, money that can be reinvested into other areas of your business.”

Fleets are under pressure to commit to carbon emissions reduction and other sustainability measures in the coming years. It will take time to develop a strategy based on real-life data and a plan to adopt electric or alternative fuel vehicles to meet those goals. What once seemed like science fiction with EVs is rapidly becoming a reality.

“You have to start with a plan today because this is not an evolution, it’s a revolution,” Dewey said. “Identify your goals and determine the incremental steps it will take to achieve those goals over the next three, five, 10 years. Transitioning to EVs and hybrids won’t happen overnight, so it is best to plan for a gradual transition over the course of multiple vehicle life cycles.”

A utility’s ability to meet its goals is dependent on how well its fleet transitions from gas or diesel to EVs.

“The key will be good replacement forecast planning, so setting a goal now gives you a target at which to shoot as you plan your transition,” Wuich said.

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.


Prepare for the EV Transition
Industry experts recommend these steps to plan for your utility fleet’s transition to electric vehicles:

  • Set sustainability goals.
  • Assess current EV readiness.
  • Forecast replacement needs.
  • Understand EV availability.
  • Map availability to needs.
  • Assess total cost of ownership and carbon reduction relative to goals.
  • Map out charging infrastructure.

Upfitting Utility Service Vans with Maximum Safety in Mind

One of the most common mistakes fleet managers make when upfitting service vans is not leveraging their operators’ input on what works well – and what doesn’t – with the vehicles, according to Mark Stumne, director of truck services for Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com).

So, what better way to gain a clearer understanding of their safety needs than to watch them in action? That’s how Adrian Steel (www.adriansteel.com) – which offers cargo management solutions for commercial vehicles – kicks things off, according to Adam Gregory, the company’s sales engineering manager.

“Our process is to first engage the technician and watch him or her do the job,” he said. “Ask them how to make it better. They are experts in how and what they do, and it is important that [fleet managers] take the time to understand how it connects to the bigger picture.”

During the observation process, Gregory continued, “We take notice of all above-the-shoulder reaches and back strains, as well as the number of times the technician gets in and out of the vehicle. Anytime a technician is carrying a product unsafely, we consider this an opportunity to make their job safer.”

The upfitter then takes initiative by making recommendations for improvement – specifically, how the technician can carry that particular product safely and securely going forward. These opportunities for improvement are usually discussed at the beginning of the solution concept presentation.

Ladder racks are among the items to be especially cautious with. “Extension ladders weigh about 75 pounds, so safely loading and unloading the ladder on the ladder rack is a top priority,” said Katie Groves, national fleet sales manager for Adrian Steel.

Safe solutions should also be prioritized for HVAC work that may involve technicians carrying hazardous gases on their vehicles.

Stumne suggested providing operators with a load study to educate them on payload and guide them to safe loading and limitations of the asset.

For utility service vans, he said that typically, a bulkhead is added to most cargo van upfits to protect the driver from objects flying forward in the case of hard braking or an accident.

Set Realistic Time Frames
Lead times for assets to arrive are not static and will change depending on the type of asset, upfitting and transportation, Stumne said.

And according to Groves, the complexity of the upfit and job determines the amount of time needed to develop the right solution. “Discovery to concept to design to upfit installation could take anywhere from six months to two years. If it’s a ‘from the ground up’ design, this might take site visits and technician interviews to first see and understand what is happening in the field. Less complex or updating/adding features can often be done in less time,” she explained.

Uphold Quality Standards
Don’t skimp on quality when it comes to upfitting your service vans and other utility fleet vehicles. Make sure you are using certified professionals and adhering to industry guidelines for maximum safety.

Upfitters must always be aware of federal motor vehicle safety standards and guidelines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

To ensure correct installation, Stumne recommended utilizing upfitters who are certified installers of the components being used.

In addition, if the vehicle is an OEM incomplete vehicle (i.e., it has an incomplete vehicle document, or IVD), the upfitter must certify that the completed vehicle meets all federal motor vehicle safety standards and emission regulations, he said.

Groves said that Adrian Steel has gone through Rapid Entire Body Assessment training to better identify safety issues when on the job site with technicians. The assessment evaluates the risk of musculoskeletal disorders associated with specific job tasks.

“This also helps us in the design phase of the process to ensure our installers are safe while installing the upfit,” she noted.

Stay Up to Date
Safety starts with the vehicle and upfit specifications that will provide a safe and productive asset for the role in which it will be used, Stumne said.

And with vehicle and upfitting packages evolving year over year, replacing an asset that has been in operation for many years requires a careful review of the specifications.

“Replacement strategy is key to getting the most of the technology improvements that are available from the vehicle and component manufacturers. The older the asset being replaced, the greater the opportunity,” Stumne advised.

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

EV Decision-Making: Telematics to the Rescue

A utility fleet manager who is considering integrating electric vehicles into their operation faces a range of questions, including how telematics data will be tapped when running a mix of trucks powered by either internal combustion engines or electric drivetrains.

In other words, will it be difficult to blend the data streams from these two vehicle types to continue conducting a singular equipment analysis to gain overall fleet cost/performance insights? Or will the information gleaned from the two fleet segments have to be analyzed separately? Further, is analytical software sophisticated enough to present integrated data for the whole fleet as well as separated by power source?

Tracking brake cost and performance is just one example of this conundrum. If brake wear is less on EVs, thanks to regenerative braking, would the fleet have to analyze EV and ICE brake system separately?

In a recent interview with UFP, Chris Hough, vice president of maintenance design and engineering for Penske Truck Leasing (www.pensketruckleasing.com), offered his perspective. A nationwide truck lessor, Penske is a recognized hands-on leader of fleet electrification in the trucking industry.

Hurdles Ahead
“The integration of electric vehicles, like any other new technology, poses hurdles and challenges,” Hough explained. “New technologies require a different approach and methodologies for successful integration. Telematics and data are ever increasingly more crucial to operating a successful and efficient business.”

He said that Penske is “soundly aware” of the importance of operating an efficient business, and so it continues to make advancements in data collection. “We continue to leverage strong relationships with our OEM and telematics partners to improve the quality and accuracy of telematics data.”

Bearing down on how telematics will play out in a fleet containing EVs, Hough said that “measurements and criteria continue to be developed and vetted before they can be successfully blended with traditional ICE-powered vehicles, so the overall pool is not skewed adversely.”

He added that what makes that possible to begin with is that “every vehicle and transponder ID is mapped, and the data repository storing the data identifies the source vehicle clearly,” regardless of power source.

With that issue resolved, fleet managers might also consider tapping telematics data and analytical software to help them make the decision to go electric in the first place, as well as to help sell the idea to upper management and develop a strategic rollout plan.

Telematics Talks
Such was the case at New Brunswick Power Corp., the primary electric utility in the province of New Brunswick, Canada, as well as a supplier of electricity to other provinces and to New England states.

When NB Power sought to build a business case and strategy for the migration of light-duty vehicles to electric power, the scope of the project had to include several municipal governments and a strategic partner, the New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

The initiative, dubbed Shift Your Ride, evaluated the suitability of light-duty EVs and undertook a fleet review to help the different municipalities determine a business case for integrating EVs into their fleets.

NB Power needed to understand the benefits of potential cost savings on a per-vehicle basis and obtain realistic fleet-wide estimates on fuel consumption and reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Geotab (www.geotab.com), a provider of online fleet management systems and services, including data-driven electric vehicle suitability assessments (EVSAs).

Geotab describes its EVSA as a “blueprint for fleet electrification” as it analyzes a fleet’s unique driving profiles and patterns to identify those vehicles best suited for EV replacement. Recommendations also take into account EV availability in the local market, EV performance in extreme weather and financials related to procuring EVs. The goal is to arrive at a total cost of EV ownership, including the potential cost savings of switching to EVs.

In NB Power’s case, a series of assessments were performed for the utility and its municipal partners across New Brunswick.

Per Geotab, those EVSAs proved critical to the success of the initiative by providing:

  • A detailed account of vehicle usage on a day-to-day basis via remote data collection.
  • The capability of various EV models to service existing driving cycles.
  • The efficiency and operational cost savings of various EV models for the observed duty cycles.
  • The best assignment of available vehicle models to duty cycle requirements.
  • An accounting of the total cost, cost savings and return on investment per vehicle and for the total fleet.
  • A calculation of the total reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

All that critical information was captured by telematics devices that record and transmit vehicle driving behavior to sample vehicle fleet duty cycles accurately. Geotab explained that the collected data was “fed into a patented physics-based electric vehicle modeling software, which made it possible to evaluate the feasibility of electric vehicle adoption based on real-world driving data.”

Big Picture
Through the assessment process, NB Power determined there was potential for a 94% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and a fleet-wide savings of over $1 million CAD.

Highlights of the results included the following (*over a vehicle’s typical seven-year service life):

  • 94% of the vehicle duty cycles could be met by the charging time spans of best-matched EVs.
  • 91% of the vehicle range requirements could be met by best-matched EVs.
  • Potential 95% reduction in fuel consumption*.
  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 94% (2,123,710 kg of CO2)*.
  • Per vehicle savings estimate of $11,735 CAD*.
  • Potential fleet-wide savings estimate of $1,091,298 CAD*.

It could be said that fleet telematics and EV integration go hand in hand – before, during and long after the integration of EVs into a utility fleet.

About the Author: David Cullen is an award-winning journalist who specializes in covering the trucking industry. Based in Connecticut, he writes for several business publications.

Leadership Strategies: 6 Persuasion Principles to Win People Over

Dr. Robert Cialdini’s seminal work, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” first published in 1984, is a must-read for anyone in leadership – including fleet professionals – because your career success hinges on your ability to influence, persuade and win people over to your proposals and point of view.

Here’s an overview of Cialdini’s six persuasion principles and how you might apply them in fleet management situations.

1. Reciprocity

Key Quote: “Most of us find it highly disagreeable to be in a state of obligation. It weighs heavily on us and demands to be removed.”

With reciprocity, you create a sense of obligation in the other person to say yes to your request – to reciprocate the favor – because you first gave something to them.

For example, consider the dynamic with senior management when you talk about your budget needs for your department. After all, the fleet is often seen as a “necessary evil” cost center. And management might look at your department as an opportunity to cut costs – and your budget.

So, how can you improve your odds of not only preserving your budget but perhaps also increasing it?

Tap into what Cialdini calls the “rejection-and-retreat” technique of reciprocity in budget negotiations.

It goes something like this: Make a big (but not wholly unreasonable) request – greater than what you actually want. And when it’s rejected, fall back and make a concession for the amount you’re looking for. Cialdini states this approach works more effectively than simply asking for your target number upfront because it puts reciprocity to work on your behalf.

2. Commitment & Consistency

Key Quote: “Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and internal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.”

This persuasion principle aims to get a clear commitment from the other person, where they feel the inner pressure to do what they said they would do.

This is especially important when you assign tasks to employees. The idea is to get them to state their commitment.

One way of doing that is to ask, “Are you able to turn around these PMs by 2 p.m. Wednesday? Is that doable?”

When they agree, they’ve put themselves on record that they’ve made a commitment to that date and time and will work to remain consistent with their word.

And if you can get a commitment in writing, that’s even better. “Yet another reason that written commitments are so effective is that they require more work than verbal ones,” Cialdini said. “And the evidence is clear that the more effort that goes into commitment, the greater is its ability to influence the attitudes of the person who made it.”

3. Social Proof

Key Quote: “One means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.”

With social proof, you’re showing the other party they’re in good company by agreeing to your request, proposal or idea.

The idea here is to recognize the prevalence of the herd mentality – and tap into it.

“In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct,” Cialdini said.

So, how can you apply social proof in fleet?

Before rolling out a new and potentially controversial initiative (e.g., onboard cameras, telematics or vehicle sharing), collect success stories from other similar fleets. Learn what concerns their stakeholders raised and how they worked through those issues to create a win-win for everyone involved. Then share those stories when you present the case for adopting a similar initiative in your organization.

You can also build social proof by recruiting “employee-ambassadors” who will share their perspectives as champions of the change.

4. Liking

Key Quote: “As a rule, we prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like.”

It pays to have people like and respect you, no matter what business you’re in or what role you have.

They’re more likely to listen to you, do you a favor and have your back when you need their support the most.

So, be intentional about building relationships across the company’s various business units and departments. Those alliances will strengthen your influence to garner support to get big things done.

5. Authority

Key Quote: “Because their ‘authority’ positions speak of superior access to information and power, it makes great sense to comply with the wishes of properly constituted authors – [even] when it makes no sense at all.”

Cialdini’s principle of authority goes beyond your job title and who reports to you. It’s about being perceived as an authority – an expert in your domain – in the eyes of your peers, direct reports and senior management.

This gives your ideas and proposals more weight when you present them, making them more likely to be accepted.

How do you position and promote yourself as a trusted authority in your domain?

One thing you can do is to start sharing ideas, lessons learned and industry news on professional social media platforms like LinkedIn. This will help raise your profile to your network and the leaders in your company.

And your posts might get the attention of editors like me who are looking for interesting fleet managers to interview for articles in UFP.

6. Scarcity

Key Quote: “People seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. For instance, homeowners told how much money they could lose from inadequate insulation are more likely to insulate their homes than those told how much money they could save.”

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman labels this phenomenon as “losses loom larger than gains.”

In other words, we are more motivated to move away from pain than we are to move toward the possible gain.

So, whenever you’re proposing an idea that will cause a lot of change, your objective is to communicate how the organization has more to lose by sticking with the status quo than trying the new idea.

Smoothing the Technician Transition to EVs

Once a utility opts to add electric vehicles to its fleet, the fleet manager must determine not only which vehicles are best suited to the operation, but also how best to smooth the transition in terms of shop equipment and – most importantly – EV training for technicians.

Even before EVs rolled onto the scene, techs were getting harder to find and keep. Adding EVs means installing new shop equipment and charging infrastructure as well as upgrading technicians’ expertise to service the vehicles. To keep techs on board with these changes, the fleet manager must successfully communicate why EVs are being added and how receiving related service training can only boost their careers.

So, what can fleet managers start doing now to ease the transition to new shop equipment and added tech training? Chris Hough, Penske Truck Leasing’s vice president of maintenance design and engineering, recently offered his perspective. A nationwide truck lessor, Penske (www.pensketruckleasing.com) is a recognized hands-on leader of fleet electrification in the trucking industry.

 New and Foreign
“The key to smoothing the transition of fleet and technicians into electric truck technology is training,” Hough said. “Conceptually, the chassis and application of a commercial vehicle are the same. But the energy source and powertrain technologies are completely new and foreign to a traditional technician.

“Something as simple as refueling is entirely new [to most techs] and requires a different mindset and approach,” he continued. “Delivering training and a level of understanding to technicians and vehicle operators is crucial to driving success and uptime.”

Hough pointed out that “a great advantage of EV technology is its simplicity.” He said that with an electric drive, a vehicle has significantly fewer moving parts and fewer processes occurring – such as combustion, emission and aftertreatment chemistry – as well as fewer wear-and-tear items to maintain and repair.

“Less complexity should help reduce complexity of repairs and ease the life of technicians,” Hough said. At the same time, the need for less tooling and equipment, coupled with advanced logic incorporated into EVs, “should streamline technician training and bring them to a level of proficiency in less time.”

On the other hand, Hough advised that the technology powering EVs “does require a new approach for safety and OSHA requirements in a service facility.” When it comes to integrating EVs, he said, “A fleet operator/manager should begin to consider safety requirements, tooling, PPE and training – and begin to develop plans and procedures before the technology shows up at their doorstep.”

An example of what may be involved to fully train techs to work on EVs is the comprehensive EV technician training and certification program just launched by Kenworth Truck Co. (www.kenworth.com) to prepare Kenworth dealerships to service EVs.

To attain this initial EV certification, dealer techs must successfully complete a seven-course curriculum on service systems, electrical principles, electrical systems (two courses), cab and chassis electronics, electric vehicle systems and advanced electric diagnostics, according to Jim Walenczak, Kenworth’s assistant general manager for sales and marketing. Each course runs from two to four days and consists of both classroom and virtual training.

Testing the Waters
The term “integrating” often comes up when discussing fleet adoption of EVs. That’s because it will be a long time before any private or commercial fleet operator, regardless of vehicle application, will bring EVs into service in big batches. A large part of the reason for that is because existing truck OEMs and emerging EV truck builders are slowly ramping up production. The other key reason is that substantial investments are needed to install EV charging infrastructure and certain shop equipment, and to provide for tech and driver training.

Hence, the market is in test-the-water mode. Utility fleets already bringing in EVs tend to do so in ones, twos or threes. What’s more, these purchases are typically supported by government “green” grants. In return for helping fund EV and/or charging infrastructure purchases, these programs may collect real-world operating data on the fleet’s EVs to share with other potential adopters.

Two Trucks
A perfect example of this is Green Mountain Power’s addition of two electric trucks from Montreal-based manufacturer Lion Electric Co. (https://thelionelectric.com). Colchester, Vermont-based GMP is the largest electricity distributor in Vermont, serving over 70% of the market and nearly 270,000 residential and business customers.

This year, GMP will replace two operations trucks with two of Lion’s all-electric trucks. One will be a fully outfitted bucket truck for line crews and the other a Class 6 medium-duty truck with a stake body for use by electrical maintenance field crews. The two Lions represent a major step toward the goal of electrifying GMP’s field operations fleet.

“Transportation with fossil-fueled vehicles is the top source of carbon emissions in Vermont, and we’re proud to start the process of converting our line truck fleet to clean electric trucks,” said Mari McClure, GMP president and CEO.

The utility received a roughly $915,000 grant through the Volkswagen Clean Air Act settlement fund managed by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Data about the trucks’ use, performance, charging and carbon reduction will be gathered to help the state learn more about the opportunities electric trucks offer in reaching clean energy goals.

Along with providing for the pair of EVs, the grant will also enable the purchase of two bi-directional fast chargers for the trucks. These provide charging convenience, according to GMP, and the chargers’ two-way energy flow means that when the trucks are plugged in and not in use, the utility can tap into the stored energy in their batteries during peak energy use times on the grid. 

About the Author: David Cullen is an award-winning journalist who specializes in covering the trucking industry. Based in Connecticut, he writes for several business publications.

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