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Tag: Fleet Maintenance

How Utility Fleets Use Telematics for Preventive and Predictive Maintenance

When utility fleets use telematics as intended, the benefits of the technology can be wide-ranging. Each asset, each mile driven and each minute spent idling generate data and insight that tell a story about the fleet.

And telematics data can be analyzed to determine not only what is currently happening with fleet assets, but also what could happen in the future. That’s why some utility fleets have begun to use the data for both preventive and predictive maintenance. However, where predictive maintenance is concerned, there are some operational hurdles to overcome.

At Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., telematics was implemented in heavy-duty vehicles in 2011 and in all light- and medium-duty vehicles in 2014 when the utility was acquired by Exelon Corp. Now, telematics is available on 1,289 vehicles and about 40 other assets, according to America Lesh, manager of fleet at BG&E.

Every three hours, Verizon provides the mileage, engine hours and GPS coordinates of all enabled BG&E vehicles and equipment. That data is uploaded to BG&E’s fleet management system.

Currently, according to Lesh, BG&E’s “maintenance cycles are relative and based on usage. This means that vehicles with higher utilization are serviced more frequently. Telematics allows us to perform maintenance on a specific asset, as needed, based on the usage [mileage and hours] instead of relying on time alone.”

Having the actual usage data has allowed BG&E to extend preventive maintenance cycles and avoid “performing unnecessary maintenance on underutilized vehicles,” Lesh said.

An added bonus is that the GPS information provided helps prevent the need to look for “trucks that are not at their expected parking location,” Lesh said.

PECO Energy Co., headquartered in Philadelphia, is relatively new to using telematics data for fleet maintenance purposes, according to D. Cooper Colbert Jr., manager of fleet operations for the utility. The fleet has 1,537 total units, ranging from light-duty service trucks to tractor-trailers. PECO installed telematics on all of its 1,247 on-road units in 2013 but has taken a slower approach to using the data generated to identify maintenance issues.

“Fleet services identified the five most troublesome fault codes and is monitoring proactively for additional diagnostic opportunities,” Colbert said. PECO collects data on engine hours, idle time, location, active fault codes and miles driven. In the future, Colbert believes that “adjusting preventive maintenance for vehicles based on engine hours/miles driven as opposed to time-based intervals will greatly enhance the PM process.”

An Imperfect System
Although telematics systems already generate the data to help a utility fleet move from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance, it is not necessarily a smooth transition.

In general, telematics has its own challenges, according to Lesh. Units that are unresponsive, due to issues such as telematics equipment that is offline or not connecting properly, require staff time in “identifying these units and troubleshooting the issue that causes them to become nonresponsive,” she said. That may include a cellphone dead spot, which causes the lost connection.

Another challenge is the cost of telematics, which is “an investment both financially and in personnel,” Lesh said. “The program requires resources to actively manage and set goals so that we can continue to see the value and benefit of telematics.”

Add in all the data generated in trying to anticipate an issue and, “with the amount of information available, sorting through the noise gets cumbersome and labor intensive,” Colbert said. “Understanding the commitment of resources to proactively contact a user, schedule the vehicle and fit the diagnostic appointment in with existing out-of-service repairs are all challenges that need to be overcome before an effective predictive maintenance program driven by telematics can be successful.”

Still, Colbert sees the potential, especially as telematics users more fully embrace preventive and predictive maintenance applications. “In a perfect world, [the ability to] proactively contact an operator that they will be having a diesel particulate filter or exhaust gas recirculation issue if they do not bring the vehicle in for service will minimize vehicle downtime and increase productivity,” he said.

About the Author: Sandy Smith is a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee.


5G Networks and Telematics
Sometime in 2020, 5G mobile networks will be broadly implemented, bringing with them a potential revolution in just how much vehicles communicate with each other and with other devices.

If you’re not sure what the effect of moving from 4G to 5G will be, you’re not alone. Consider the dramatic impact brought about by the switch from 3G to 4G networks. On 3G, phones were used primarily for calls and text messages, while 4G brought greater internet connectivity, such as the ability to stream movies.

Most experts believe 5G will provide even more connectivity. According to chipmaker Intel, 5G networks will be working with some 200 billion devices, including smart city sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) applications, as well as smartphones.

Aeris – an IoT solutions provider – predicts that telematics systems developers will take advantage of 5G to push forward more vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, making autonomous vehicles more likely. In the meantime, fleet tracking and other telematics solutions are expected to gain speed and reliability, plus they’ll provide more opportunities for insight.

Choosing the Right Vehicle Lift for the Job

Prior to purchasing a new vehicle lift, a fleet manager must understand exactly what is needed for their shop.

According to Steve Perlstein, sales and marketing manager for Mohawk Lifts (, fleet managers “need to do their homework in order to make an educated decision.”

So, what are some of the most important items to consider? UFP recently spoke to vehicle lift experts to find out.

Identify Your Needs
Maintenance is among the top factors fleet managers should think about before they buy, advised Doug Spiller, heavy-duty product manager for Rotary Lift (

“The best lifts will require minimal maintenance while offering years of safe, reliable service,” he said. “One of the first questions a fleet manager should ask themselves is, what vehicle maintenance am I going to perform, and will this lift help me do that faster, better and easier than I do it today?”

Contacting a vehicle lift distributor and local companies that perform similar maintenance services is a good starting point. Find out what those companies use to raise their vehicles, and don’t rely on a single style of lift for all of your maintenance work.

“Not all lifts have the same features and benefits. A mixed fleet – cars, trucks, work trucks, heavy-duty vehicles – needs lifts that offer different options and benefits,” Spiller said.

Seek Certified Quality
The only lifts fleet managers should consider purchasing are those that have been third-party tested and Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) certified to meet the current edition of ANSI/ALI ALCTV, which is the industry safety standard, advised Bob O’Gorman, president of the Automotive Lift Institute (  

“When you choose a certified lift, you can rest easy knowing that it has been tested to meet the industry safety and performance standards,” he said. “Plus, the International Building Code, which is the building code in use or adopted by all 50 states, requires that only certified lifts be installed.”

Beyond testing and certification, accessories such as lockable disconnect switches can contribute to added safety. An accessory must be certified for the lift on which it is being used, Spiller noted.

In addition, shops should seek lifts that offer the lowest total cost of ownership, not just a low purchase price.

“The costs of repairs and downtime from a cheap lift can more than outweigh any upfront price savings,” Spiller said.

Local and long-term service is something that is missed in many procurements.

“Purchasing a vehicle lift is a long-term investment, so choosing the right partner is important,” Spiller added. “Perhaps a manufacturer or brand offers an extended warranty or has more certified accessories.”

Watch Vehicle Weight
A lift is not going to be useful if it can’t properly raise the vehicles that need to be serviced. So, fleet managers should be sure to consider vehicle weight, weight distribution and where the manufacturer’s recommended lifting points are located.

“If a lift does not have the rated capacity to raise a particular vehicle or cannot reach the manufacturer’s recommended lifting points on that vehicle, it should not be used to service that vehicle,” Spiller said.

One of the most common mistakes Perlstein said he sees is overloading the four swing arms on a two-post lift, citing the Ford F-450 – one of the most popular trucks among utility fleets – as an example.

Regardless of which organization is operating it, it’s the same basic truck just about everywhere.

“It’s got the same toolbox full of thousands of pounds of tools. It often has a one-man bucket. That adds a lot of weight. People need to consider that because the same truck off the dealers only weighs about 9,000 pounds. By the time utility fleets are done equipping the truck, it likely weighs 12,000 to 16,000 pounds,” Perlstein said.

He explained that a two-post lift – the most common lift type – has four swing arms that are rated one-fourth of the total capacity of the lift. Using the previous example of a loaded Ford F-450 utility truck, say the truck only weighs 13,500 pounds. However, what should be considered is that the heavy rear axle weighs 9,500 pounds, while the lighter front axle weighs 4,000 pounds. Dividing the rear axle weight by the two rear swing arms means each arm should be rated at 4,750 pounds per arm. At 4,750 pounds per arm, the full rated capacity of the lift should be 19,000 pounds. Per all lift manufacturers and the Automotive Lift Institute, swing arms should never be overloaded.

Lastly, Perlstein noted, “One of the things we always suggest is finding out what the heavy end of the vehicle weighs.”

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.


Boosting Shop Productivity
The increase in technician productivity and efficiency is a significant benefit of installing and using vehicle lifts. The amount that productivity increases depends on the lift or lifts that are selected for the shop as well as the technicians’ ability to effectively use them.

“The type of lift shops choose should be conducive to the tasks it will be used for, and the particular brand and model of lift should be evaluated for user-friendliness, speed and useful features,” said Doug Spiller, heavy-duty product manager for Rotary Lift.

Steve Perlstein, sales and marketing manager for Mohawk Lifts, provided an example of using a lift with the company’s SpeedLane adapters.

A technician usually takes about five to 10 minutes to position each of the arms underneath the four corners of the vehicle. Instead, Perlstein described the benefit of using SpeedLane, a drive-on ramp for two-post lifts that doesn’t require positioning of the swing arms yet leaves the vehicle’s tires hanging free.  

“If you eliminate the five minutes of positioning the vehicle on the lift, getting the arms underneath, and I’m going to service four vehicles a day, that’s about 20 minutes a day … 100 minutes a week,” he said. “Now my shop just got much more productive.”

Mistakes to Avoid When Outsourcing Maintenance

Outsourcing preventive maintenance and unscheduled repairs on light-duty units can help utility fleets minimize downtime and focus on the more complex mission-critical and specialized equipment in their operations.

It’s easy to rent a car or pickup truck if a light-duty asset is in the shop or down for a long period of time, explained Paul Jefferson, fleet manager for OG&E Fleet Services in Oklahoma. “Bucket trucks, trenchers [and] line trucks are a little more difficult to rent. We have tools and materials on pieces of equipment like that, so we can do maintenance in-house and control the timeline of the work,” he said.  

Keeping services in-house rather than outsourcing them also can help to ensure that safety remains a top priority when working on these assets.

“The utility industry as a whole requires a very high level of safety training, and this education extends to the in-house technicians,” said Charlie Guthro, vice president of global strategic services for fleet management company ARI (

But if fleets determine they need to outsource some of their work, how do they make the most of it? UFP recently spoke with several industry experts who shared their tips, including mistakes to avoid.

Think Strategically
Organizations that explore outsourcing often are focused on near-term cost containment and cost reduction opportunities, according to Paul Lauria, president of Mercury Associates (, a fleet management consulting firm.

However, he pointed out, fleets also should be thinking strategically about outsourcing – for example, about the best mix of in-sourced and outsourced fleet maintenance repairs and activities to meet fleet users’ needs – and about the relationship between outsourcing and other fleet management activities.

“If a company’s primary objective in exploring outsourcing is to ascertain if they can save money, then it’s very important that the utility be able to quantify the avoidable cost of continuing to perform fleet management functions in-house with the same level of quality,” Lauria said. “Will outsourcing enable you to maintain your fleet for more or less than this amount, and how will it affect the operating units that rely on the fleet to fulfill their missions?”

Equally importantly, will outsourcing maintenance and repair work save money or improve vehicle reliability if the company has, say, a poor fleet replacement program?

“If a utility company has developed a big backlog of replacement needs, shifting responsibility for maintenance and repairs to a third party is not going to eliminate that backlog,” Lauria said. “What it may do, however, is force that company to face the fact that underspending on fleet replacement increases repair costs. Having a third party in the mix definitely makes it harder to sweep poor fleet management practices under the rug.”

Outsource on Your Terms
Another pitfall to avoid is blindly accepting a recommended contract and pricing structure from a vendor; these structures likely will be more beneficial to the supplier than the fleet.

Fleets must educate themselves on how to properly structure a contract for maintenance services, which will then influence the structure of the solicitation for proposals to provide those services.

“We’re strong proponents of performance-based contracts that have financial incentives built into the agreement to incentivize the service provider to meet or exceed certain performance standards and that penalize those providers if they fall short,” Lauria said.

OG&E’s Jefferson advised negotiating terms, such as door rates and labor rates, before sending any work to an outside vendor.

Communicate Expectations
Keeping the lines of communication open and staying informed are critical to maintaining a successful partnership with an outsourced vendor.

“Don’t let things get too bad before you communicate to the vendor that you have a problem,” Jefferson said. “We try to communicate our expectations upfront.”

According to Guthro, one of the most common mistakes fleets make is losing visibility of the cost and quality of outsourced maintenance work.

“Utility fleets should ensure they have the right level of data to effectively manage the quality and costs of external service providers,” he said. “Some fleets struggle to maintain oversight of vendors when repairs are outsourced frequently, taking for granted that the work is being properly completed and for a fair value. They need to define the data metrics that will help them oversee costs and identify potential repeat repairs from the same vendors.”

OG&E receives daily vendor updates in a spreadsheet format, which Jefferson said cuts down on phone calls and makes communication easier for everyone involved. The company also holds quarterly or annual meetings with vendors where the vendors are rated on sales, service, support, pricing and more.

“We can see from year to year from our point of view. Then, at the end of the meeting, we ask for their feedback,” Jefferson added.

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.


Do What Works for Your Fleet
Any organization that is considering outsourcing must first identify and understand their objectives. Paul Lauria, president of Mercury Associates, suggested asking these questions during the process:

  • Is outsourcing being considered in order to save money?
  • Will outsourcing improve performance of the operating units?
  • Will outsourcing create greater accountability?
  • Is outsourcing intended to more quickly and cost-effectively modernize fleet management practices by buying state-of-the-art capabilities, information systems and so forth versus trying to build those things in-house?

For most utility fleets, it is beneficial to maintain a balanced model of service delivery, but remember: There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

“As a fleet manager, you need to evaluate the unique characteristics of your fleet – including the geographic region in which you conduct business – to develop a tailored solution that puts you in the best position to operate a safe, cost-effective and reliable fleet,” said Charlie Guthro, vice president of global strategic services for ARI.

Strategies for Addressing the Looming Technician Shortage

With more baby boomers heading into retirement, industries that have benefited from these individuals’ decades of experience and expertise — including the utility fleet sector — are now left to hire and retain new talent.

That won’t be easy, according to Jennifer Maher, CEO and executive director of TechForce Foundation (, whose mission is to champion students to and through their education and into careers as professional technicians. “There has been a critical shortage of qualified technicians for at least 20 years, so as the rest of the baby boomers retire within the next 10 years, things can only worsen. A report that we published late last year indicated that for this year alone, the vehicle industry – auto, diesel and collision – needs more than 137,000 new-entrant technicians.”

But it’s not just the retirements that will make matters worse, Maher said. “There simply are not enough young people seeking a technician career by any means – formal or informal education and training – to fill the void. Our school systems in this country have either reduced or eliminated vocational training in favor of a four-year degree. In effect, they have abandoned working with your hands as a viable career path, which is absurd not only because of the tech shortage, but also because a tech career offers a solid, middle-class lifestyle.”

So, what can utility fleets do to address this problem – and what should they opt not to do?

“The worst thing utility fleet managers can do is take a wait-and-see attitude. When you don’t have enough qualified techs to service the fleet, no matter which one, there is going to be a loss in productivity and efficiency,” Maher said. “The entire industry – associations, manufacturers, service facilities, et cetera – has to come together to solve the problem. For the sake of the industry, even competitors will have to check their self-interests at the door.”

A Tough Task
It’s no surprise that fleets seek to hire experienced candidates to replace those employees who have retired or left the company for other reasons. But some losses make more of an impact than others, and replacing those workers typically isn’t easy. 

For example, John Adkisson, transportation manager for PPL Electric Utilities, said that it’s a major loss when employees who can work on hydraulic aerial devices or specialized equipment – and who can train others to do the same – leave the company. “We usually make sure techs come from technical schools or have a body of knowledge from prior job experience, but the hydraulic training is coming from in-house,” he said.

To address this issue, PPL hired a former hydraulic mechanic in October 2017 to serve as an in-house instructor and share his knowledge with others. “Eighty percent of his time is spent training; the rest is on actual maintenance. When there is an opportunity for the specialized hydraulic work, the less-seasoned techs use that time for on-the-job training,” Adkisson said.

Proactive Approach
Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) has taken a proactive approach to attracting prospective employees by working with several area technical colleges over the past four years to increase the pool of qualified candidates for its fleet. Initially, however, there wasn’t much interest from the students.

“A lot of these students going into vocational tech schools already have a preconceived notion of what they want to do when they leave,” explained Matt Gilliland, director of transportation and facilities for NPPD. “They go into it to work at Caterpillar or end up at Deere. When you hear ‘utility,’ it’s easy to automatically jump to the conclusion of line-type work rather than the fleet service.”

To spark greater interest, NPPD decided to bring fleet equipment into the schools and hold utility demonstration events. During these events, staff from the utility go into classrooms and provide 10- to 15-minute presentations about how the equipment operates, what they work on and some of the challenges they face.

“That builds excitement, and then we have the candidate pool,” Gilliland said.

NPPD employees also serve on the advisory boards of these colleges, which has allowed them to provide input on some of the curriculum and order of class schedules. That also presented the opportunity for an internship program. “Typically it starts with some shadowing, they get some familiarity,” Gilliland said. “We have the opportunity then to have a second person on board for jobs that require two people. Eventually, as they mature in the internship, they typically work on their own.”

NPPD offers one to two paid internships per year, ranging from 20 to 40 hours per week during its regular Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule. Hours are flexible to accommodate students’ class schedules. Gilliland said the program has worked out well, with students moving on to take positions with other utilities as well as vendors that service utilities.

For other fleets interested in implementing a similar program, Gilliland suggested contacting local tech schools to find out about their current internship programs, how they work, and whether they’re done on a semester or quarterly basis.

“Then just have an open dialogue about what you and the company want to get from that internship and what the school can provide, then jointly create that opportunity,” Gilliland 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.


Starting at the Grassroots Level
Whether a fleet will be able to adequately fill the roles of seasoned employees when they leave the company will depend on several factors. It’s helpful to have a plan in place and take advantage of available resources.

“If we’re going to solve the qualified technician shortage problem, we need to work at the grassroots level, offering tangible and relevant experiences to adolescents as they start to think about their careers,” said Jennifer Maher, CEO and executive director of TechForce Foundation.

Local community colleges and training schools are good places to begin recruiting candidates, in addition to hosting on-site job fairs where students and parents can gain a better understanding of what fleet businesses do and how they do it.

Maher also noted the Technology & Maintenance Council’s annual National Technician Skills Competition – also known as TMCSuperTech – which attracts contestants from all segments of the industry, many of whom have won state, regional and corporate skills championships.

“If a fleet manager wants to hire the techs with the most potential, these competitions provide ready-made opportunities to start a conversation with them,” Maher said.

TechForce recently unveiled its revamped website (, designed, built and managed by Autoshop Solutions. The new site includes the FutureTech Resource Hub, a one-stop-shop portal through which future technicians can find after-school programs, clubs, events, technical schools, scholarships and training that help develop their skills and pathway to the technician profession. Additionally, the site includes the new Industry Hub, through which industry recruiters, managers, working technicians and educators can find helpful resources to support and connect with future technicians.

Choosing a Lift with Safety in Mind

When selecting a new maintenance bay lift that’s safe for your fleet operation, there’s more to consider than the assets that will be lifted on it. It’s also essential to account for what will be under and above the lift – and how the weight will be distributed.

All too often, industry experts say, well-meaning fleet professionals and maintenance technicians choose a lift simply based on the weight of the largest vehicle or piece of equipment it will hold. But there’s more to the equation, and getting it wrong can have disastrous results.

First, noted George Survant, senior director of fleet relations for NTEA – The Association for the Work Truck Industry (, it’s important to remember that the base weight of an asset is one thing, but the weight of that asset when it’s on the lift, fully loaded, is another.

Here are seven additional considerations from Survant and Steve Perlstein, president of auto lift supplier Mohawk Lifts (, on choosing a lift with safety in mind.

  1. In terms of safety certification, Perlstein said “one and only one” matters: certification from the Automotive Lift Institute ( Take note: There is an ALI requirement that all options and accessories used on a lift must be certified; if they’re not, the lift’s certification is void. That can make some options worthless. “People really should be checking and verifying not only that options are available, but the options are adequately rated,” Perlstein said. 
  1. Proper sizing of a lift means knowing not just the overall weight of the largest vehicle it will hold, but also knowing the weight of that vehicle’s rear axle. “In the utility world, it’s only the back that matters,” Perlstein said.
  1. As trucks have gotten taller, Survant explained, “you need to make sure you have adequate headroom. If the lift could push the top of the truck through a low-hanging roof, and you have a new operator who is not familiar with that, they’ll give you a brand new skylight.”
  1. Ensure the lift is designed for the entire array of equipment it will hold, Survant said. Different assets may require different attachment points and configurations.
  1. If you’re thinking about potentially buying from a secondary market supplier, keep aftermarket support in mind. You don’t want to find yourself, years down the line, with a product you’ve bought from someone who is no longer in business – or one who has no relationship with the equipment manufacturer, Survant advised.
  1. Know the strength of the shop floor. Concrete can vary in thickness and strength, Survant said, “and that can be a problem if you put a new-generation lift in an older facility that perhaps wasn’t built for it.” Most new lifts have large feet to help distribute weight, “but it’s not impossible to find yourself in a set of circumstances the equipment wasn’t designed for,” he said.
  1. Training – both initial and ongoing – is critical. When was the last time your technicians were properly trained on safe use of a lift? Other types of training take place annually, Perlstein said, and it’s worth considering annual training for lifts, too. “God forbid something happen,” he said. “But if it does, at least you’ll have a paper trail to show that the technicians were trained. Our society has become so litigious, it’s what you now have to do.”

About the Author: Fiona Soltes is a longtime freelance writer based just outside Nashville, Tenn. Her regular clients represent a variety of sectors, including fleet, engineering, technology, logistics, business services, disaster preparedness and material handling. Prior to her freelance career, Soltes spent seven years as a staff writer for The Tennessean, a daily newspaper serving Nashville and the surrounding area.


Safe Lift Operation Should Be ‘Intuitive’
What’s the main thing fleet professional George Survant would advise looking for in a lift?

Primarily, he said, that its proper use would be “intuitive.”

“What you find, in some of the older units, is that they have safeguards, tricks you need to know to make them safe,” he said. “But those tricks aren’t always obvious to technicians.”

He told the story of a mechanic who had a vehicle roll right off the back of a lift; certain supports were supposed to be upright as opposed to flat, Survant said, and the mechanic put up the supports in the front, but not the ones in the rear. “So as soon as he got it off the ground, it tilted backwards,” Survant said.

For those upfitting a garage with a new-generation lift, he explained, “one of the single most important characteristics is that the correct operation of the device is easy to identify. … It needs to be built in such a way that the lift won’t operate if the lift safety features aren’t engaged.”

Thankfully, Survant said, “the industry has taken a few giant steps forward” in lift design, especially when it comes to safety. “Back when I started, you had to fiddle with things all the time. You had to keep all your documentation in hand. And you had to worry about hydraulics. Units are nowhere near that complex today, and are so well-built and designed.”

What’s Your Fleet’s Plan to Prepare for Winter Weather?

In some parts of the country, the leaves are already changing color and there’s a nip in the air. Fall is here and winter is not far behind, which means time is slipping away for utility fleet managers to winterize their fleet assets before truly cold weather sets in.

Forgive Tom Jansen, superintendent of fleet maintenance for Minnesota Power, for being nonchalant about the impending weather. Despite the harsh winter conditions in Minnesota – home of four of the country’s 15 coldest cities, according to USA Today Jansen’s fleet is prepared for whatever Mother Nature might throw at it. Cold? Bring it. Ice? Ready. Winter Storm Colbert, which The Weather Channel announced would be the third named storm of the coming season? He laughs.

For Jansen’s 600-unit fleet – which includes Class 3-8, off-road and mobile assets – winterizing isn’t contained to a few months of the year. “While there are activities performed just prior to winter to help the fleet stay operating effectively, we’ve found success with focusing on a good year-round preventive maintenance program, purchasing practices and operator training,” he said.

That means using oils and lubricants that are effective throughout the year, installing solar battery chargers on all new trailers and off-road equipment, and ensuring that equipment purchased has block heaters and battery disconnects. The result: a reduced winter preparation workload.

This type of preventive maintenance is a good practice for any utility fleet. According to Don Scare, senior consultant, commercial truck solutions for Element Fleet Management (, “Preventive maintenance covers a lot of the general checks that you do throughout the year, like batteries and belts.”

Meeting Seasonal Demands
Still, there are maintenance tasks that only make sense in the winter months. Scare and Jansen offer the following tips to help utilities ready their fleets to meet the demands of the season.

Diesel engines take more prep. All the diesel engines in Jansen’s fleet receive additives to help with winter weather, while some Minnesota Power service centers in the northernmost part of the state switch to a different type of diesel, a winter blend called #1 or 1-D. Scare said this also is a good time to “make sure that fuel tanks are clean of any condensation and water so that sumps in the bottom of the tanks are clean.” In addition, remind drivers to keep tanks full. “Condensation can build up with extreme up and down temperatures, and water freezes up,” Scare added.

Speaking of water, be sure to check equipment such as aerial devices and generators to ensure there is no water in the reservoir tanks or hydraulic oil tanks, Scare said. This also is an appropriate time to make sure that air tanks and air brakes are dry and serviced for the season.

Get back in good habits … During warmer weather, drivers and fleet maintenance staff get out of the habit of plugging in vehicles, Scare said. “Block heaters are very important, especially on diesel trucks,” he said. “Make it a habit to follow that process throughout the winter months, whether that is a mild or extreme winter.” Jansen said to make sure to test block heaters in advance to verify they’re working properly.

… And break a bad habit. Scare said fleets need to defeat the idea that the solution for diesel engines is to let them idle. “That’s a no-no with today’s technology,” he said. “The particulate filter starts to plug up when it idles for a long time, and it doesn’t have an opportunity to regenerate itself. That requires the vehicle to heat up and burn off that soot and ash.” For fleets that must leave a vehicle running to complete work, remind drivers to step up the RPMs.

Don’t forget the tires. Inspect tire chains before they are put on vehicles, Scare recommended. “Make sure all links are in place and ready for the vehicle, that they fit and drivers are instructed on proper usage.” And make sure drivers are reminded about proper tire inflation, which is particularly important as weather swings from warm to cold.

Develop and implement a year-round maintenance plan. That includes keeping in mind any summer-use-only vehicles that must be prepped for winter storage.

There is a lot to remember in order to properly prepare a utility fleet for the winter. Jansen suggested setting recurring PM schedules “to be based off the calendar. Oil changes are still performed as needed, but our system schedules the PM. While the workload is balanced throughout the year, equipment that is primarily stored outside or equipment that requires additional work to prep for winter is scheduled in the fall.”

Ultimately, he believes that winter preparation is something that occurs throughout the year with a goal of increasing equipment uptime and reducing reactive work in the winter.

About the Author: Sandy Smith is a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tenn.


Don’t Forget Another Important Part of Winterizing
Drivers have an important role to play when it comes to winterizing the fleet, but they shouldn’t neglect to prepare themselves for winter, too.

Don Scare, Element Fleet Management’s senior consultant, commercial truck solutions, suggested helping drivers prepare for conditions by making sure they have:

  • Personal wear to handle inclement weather.
  • Supplies, including water, in case they get stuck in the elements.
  • Fresh batteries in flashlights.
  • Tools that can help them get back on the road if they break down.

Getting the Most Out of Your Tires

As a utility fleet manager, you operate perhaps the most diversified vehicle fleet of any business, typically using all weight classes of trucks, from light- to heavy-duty, on the road and off, hauling aerial devices, digger derricks and a slew of other job-specific equipment on good pavement or through fields of debris.

Given these characteristics, getting the best value and performance from your tires may not be rocket science, but it does take planning, smart spec’ing and commitment to a maintenance program, according to tire manufacturers.

A fleet’s first step toward tire value is to determine its goals, said Bill Walmsley, product category manager with Michelin Americas Truck Tires ( What do you want in your tires? Durable, trouble-free service and long, even wear? Additional features? Regardless, selecting the best tire for the application is key. Walmsley suggested that fleets start by looking at the same tire size they currently have on their equipment by wheel position and then explore available options in that size to meet the specific conditions under which the equipment will operate. “This might entail specific load-carrying requirements, weather conditions or environmental issues, such as off-road products or tires which operate well in field or snow conditions,” he said.

Calibrating the balance between load and appropriate tire pressure is critical, but it also is easy since every tire manufacturer publishes load and inflation charts for their tires. The only way to make sure the calibrations are correct is to know the loads being carried and use the charts, Walmsley said.

“Tires are designed and optimized to carry a desired load at a specified pressure. Proper pressure for the maximum load being carried is very important. Underinflation and overinflation for the loads being carried will affect tire and casing life and performance,” Walmsley said.

Balance the Benefits
Utility fleets, like all fleets, ultimately are looking for tires that will help lower their operating costs, noted Brian Buckham, general manager of product marketing for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. ( Regardless of application and wheel position, it is important to achieve the right balance of performance benefits.

“In the past, when one benefit such as low rolling resistance in a particular type of tire was optimized, the other benefits of the ‘performance triangle’ – miles to removal and tear resistance – were reduced,” Buckham said. “This dynamic is much less prevalent these days.”

Additionally, fuel economy for vocational tires used to be sacrificed in favor of tread compounds that emphasized miles to removal and tear resistance. The combination of fuel economy regulations and customer requirements has changed those performance priorities, Buckham noted. “With the continual evolution in technology and tire design, engineers have made significant strides in maintaining all three performance properties,” he said. “As fuel-efficiency regulations continue to tighten, the need for tires that help deliver reduced rolling resistance and enhanced fuel economy will only grow. The goal of Goodyear’s research is to develop tires that help fleets reduce their fuel consumption with little to no effect on miles to removal and tear resistance.”

Select a tire that is best for your application needs while also offering good performance and durability that may meet multiple life needs for retreading. That’s the best measure of the overall cost of ownership and return on your tire investment.

“Consider value, not just cost,” Michelin’s Walmsley said. “A replacement tire that offers the best value is not necessarily the one with the lowest price.”

About the Author: Jim Galligan has been covering the commercial truck transportation sector for more than 30 years and has extensive experience covering the utility fleet market. In addition to writing and editing for magazines, his background also includes writing for daily newspapers, trade associations and corporations.


Tire Monitoring Programs Can Help Fleets
Commercial tire manufacturers have long offered services to help fleets monitor tire performance, but the addition of online programs appears to give fleet managers a faster, easier way to spot problems.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s Tire Trac program, for example, monitors tire installations, the performance of tires in the field or on the road, the reasons why tires were removed from service, tire inflation history and other key metrics, said Brian Buckham, general manager of product marketing for the tire manufacturer.

“Tire Trac also helps fleets identify tire maintenance opportunities, which can result in real savings,” he said.

Goodyear gathers the Tire Trac data through fleet surveys. Technicians perform on-site inspections to measure tire inflation levels, tread depths and other aspects of a tire’s condition, Buckham said. The captured information is used to create customized reports that show how a fleet’s tires are performing. The program lets utility and other fleets zero in on a specific tire or look at all of the tires across their operation. Fleets can compare cost per mile from location to location and identify systemic trends, Buckham added.


Put a Tire Maintenance Policy on Paper
A good, written policy specifying the maintenance practices a fleet wants followed is a must to get the maximum life out of their tires, said Bill Walmsley, product category manager with Michelin Americas Truck Tires.

A tire maintenance policy should be specific to the fleet’s vehicles, equipment, geography, distance traveled, loads carried, time on the road and other pertinent factors, Walmsley said. It also should cover the specifics of new replacement tires.

Key to this policy is the use of retreading. While retreading may be a given for most fleets, it’s still worth noting that all steer casings can be used for drive and trailer retreads, noted Walmsley. “A casing is fully capable of moving to either position depending on the casing’s age and condition,” he said. “Individual fleets need to determine load composition, winter travel and other sensitivities when determining their retread policy.”

As a rule, the number of times that a tire can be retreaded depends on the application. A steer tire can be retreaded into a drive axle or trailer axle tire; a drive axle tire can be retreaded into either a drive axle tire or trailer axle tire; and a trailer axle tire can be retreaded into another trailer axle tire.

Finally, a fleet’s maintenance policy also should include scrap analysis, Walmsley said.

What CK-4 and FA-4 Engine Oils Mean for Your Fleet

Manufacturers have stepped up their technology efforts to meet rigorous fuel-efficiency and emissions standards. In doing so, many next-generation engines will need higher-performing diesel engine oils to protect them. This requires changes in engine oil composition to withstand more heat without sacrificing engine protection.

A new generation of diesel engine oils was rolled out in December 2016. One of those oils is CK-4, a high-temperature, high-shear (HTHS) oil that can be used in both new and existing engines. It is available in the same viscosity grades and oil types currently being used in fleet operations.

According to the American Petroleum Institute (API), CK-4 can be used in high-speed, four-stroke-cycle diesel engines designed to meet 2017 model-year on-highway and Tier 4 non-road exhaust emission standards, as well as previous model-year diesel engines.

As much as possible, minimize exposure between new and old engine oils to ensure the benefits of CK-4 as well as continued OEM warranty support, advised Mark Betner, heavy-duty product line manager for CITGO (

A second oil type that debuted in December – FA-4 – has limited backward compatibility and is better suited for 2017 model-year engines and beyond. This “low-HTHS” oil is offered in lower viscosity grades and is not recommended for use with fuels having greater than 15 parts per million sulfur, according to API (

What Are the Benefits?
Benefits of the new CK-4 and FA-4 oils include increased fuel economy and lower emissions.

“Lower-viscosity engine oils will improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases over [previous] engine oils,” Betner said. “FA-4 engine oils in an FA-4-compliant engine will offer even greater fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases.”

In addition, “Today’s lighter weights can deliver the equivalent or even better wear protection than a CJ-4 15W-40 oil, along with significantly improved oil drain performance,” according to Len Badal, global Delo brand manager for Chevron Lubricants (

Betner agreed, noting the advanced technology of these two engine oils provides significant improvements in deposit control, shear stability and oil aeration control. “These engine oils will also have a 60 percent better oxidation resistance compared to API CJ-4, which aids in extended service intervals,” he explained.

Badal mentioned that off-road equipment would reap significant rewards from CK-4. “CK-4 oils deliver many benefits that directly address major issues with off-road equipment, including extended drain intervals, reduced engine wear and ability to extend rebuild intervals,” he said. “Off-highway equipment operators stand to gain a lot of benefits from the new API CK-4 oils, with a direct impact on reliability, productivity and profitability.”

Based on reduced fuel consumption, and extended oil drain and engine rebuild intervals, potential cost savings are expected.

Fleets surveyed by CITGO reported improved fuel efficiency after converting to its new API CK-4 oils, with improvement ranging from 1.6 to 3.2 percent after 50,000 miles.

What’s the Next Step?
Identify the units in your fleet that will be most impacted, and always check the owner’s manual for the proper lubricant recommendation.

One particular area of concern is for fleets comprised of various makes and models. Some automakers have indicated that neither one of the new engine oils should be used in certain vehicles at this time.

Nebraska Public Power District is one utility that has been proactively addressing that issue. Matt Gilliland, NPPD’s director of transportation and facilities, said he has been communicating with internal staff and servicing vendors to address the diversity of units in the organization’s fleet.

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.


OEM Specs for API CK-4 and FA-4 Oils
Major diesel engine and truck manufacturers recently provided their own OEM specifications that connect with the new API CK-4 and FA-4 categories for their new model GHG 2017 diesel engines, with several also citing backward compatibility as well as upgrades to support longer oil drain intervals. These initial specs are mainly focused on CK-4 but should include more FA-4 data in the future.

OEM Specs

Source: Len Badal/Chevron Lubricants

Best Practices for Winterizing Your Fleet

A 70-inch snowfall in Buffalo, N.Y. A polar vortex. An ice storm in the South. The last few winters certainly have been memorable, and this coming season looks to be more of the same. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center ( is forecasting below-normal temperatures for much of the U.S., with some locations experiencing more precipitation than average.

While this may be good news for skiers and those who like to build snowmen, it can wreak havoc for utility fleets – those pressed to keep services operating no matter the weather.

“When you’re in our business, the power has to be on 24/7,” said Michael Donahue, manager of transportation and construction equipment for Omaha Public Power District ( “The crews and vehicles and equipment have to be ready to respond for normal maintenance and when there is an emergency.”

Given that the average high temperature in Omaha, Neb., hovers around the freezing mark during the winter months, winterizing the utility’s fleet is a given. Historically, the OPPD fleet maintained its 1,000 licensed vehicles and 300 pieces of construction equipment by issuing preventive maintenance orders each September 1. “But what that did was put 1,000 PMs due on our list,” Donahue explained. Now the fleet garage incorporates winterization into the normal maintenance schedule. “It eases up on the guys in the shop and the crews, too,” he said.

In Nova Scotia, another region that is typically frozen during the winter, preparation is key – and it starts at the most basic levels.

“As we approach the winter season, an email is sent out to the line supervisors to check and make sure all outlets are working where trucks are to have their block heaters plugged into,” said Allan Bates, fleet garage supervisor at Nova Scotia Power ( Supervisors also are reminded to ensure adequate supplies of fuel conditioner and winter washer fluid are available, he said.

Keeping the fleet ready for response means block heaters are installed on all trucks and winter tires are changed out before they are worn down to 5/32 of an inch, Bates said. Block heaters keep the engine warm and lubricants flowing, and they are especially important for diesel trucks. Research performed by the University of Tennessee found that diesel engines are five times harder to start in zero-degree weather than in 80-degree temperatures.

Here are some other winterization tips from Bates, Donahue and equipment supplier McCann Industries (

Watch out for water, which can freeze in any number of a vehicle’s systems. This means checking washer fluid to ensure it is winter-rated – likely with a higher concentration of alcohol to prevent freezing. It also means changing fuel filters. Bates said Nova Scotia Power schedules that maintenance to occur every two months. A clogged fuel filter can cause moisture buildup. Condensation also can build up inside nearly empty fuel tanks, creating difficulties in starting.

Add fuel conditioner and ensure that it is appropriate for the type of fuel used. This is especially important for ultralow sulfur diesel. Fuel additive manufacturer Enertech Labs ( reports that this type of fuel gels at higher temperatures than other types of diesel and is prone to icing.

Check coolant and antifreeze and adjust frequently. Additionally, switch out wiper blades in favor of those designed for winter conditions.

Check tire inflation often. Tire manufacturer Goodyear ( notes that tire pressure drops 1-2 pounds for every 10-degree decline in temperature. Properly inflated tires also can help with slippery conditions. It is interesting to note that at OPPD, crews no longer carry tire chains. “They didn’t use them very often and when they would take them out, they would be rusty,” Donahue said. Now, storage is built into the utility’s parking facilities and crews can grab chains if they know they will need them.

Plug in block heaters during periods of normal operating temperatures. Block heaters do not provide heating – they maintain temperature.

About the Author: Sandy Smith is a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tenn.


3 Things You May Not Know About Winter Weather

1. While frostbite and hypothermia may be well-known wintertime threats, workers also can encounter other, less severe cold-weather injuries, according to the U.S. Army Public Health Center. Chilblain occurs when skin is exposed to cold or wet conditions. It can be as warm as 50 degrees Fahrenheit and happen in an hour or so. Immersion or trench foot occurs when tissue – especially in the feet – is exposed to cold, wet temperatures for 12 hours or more. Inactivity, wet or damp socks, or tightly laced boots that impair circulation all can speed up onset and severity.

2. More Americans die of causes related to winter weather exposure than to summer heat. The National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says about 2,000 Americans die of weather-related causes each year, and about two-thirds of those are due to exposure to cold. In Canada, about 108 people die annually from the cold, compared to 17 who succumb to heat-related ailments.

3. Canada ties Russia as the coldest nation on earth, with an average daily annual temperature of -5.6 degrees Celsius, according to “Canadian Geographic Biggest and Best of Canada: 1000 Facts & Figures.” That equates to about 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Factors to Consider When Making Outsourcing Decisions

Deciding whether to outsource maintenance and repair work or perform it in-house can be a daunting task for fleet managers. To gain some industry insight, UFP recently spoke with Holly Giffrow-Bos, fleet supervisor for East Central Energy (ECE), and Dan Remmert, manager of fleet services for Ameren Illinois Company (AIC), about what’s worked for their operations and what to consider if you’re leaning toward outsourcing part or all of your maintenance and repair work.

According to Giffrow-Bos, about 15 to 20 percent of ECE’s fleet jobs are outsourced. These typically include body work, warranty work and any kind of heavy-duty engine or transmission replacement work. The electric distribution cooperative, headquartered in Braham, Minn., has a fleet of approximately 180 units.

Due to the level of training and the resources required to perform body work, Giffrow-Bos said ECE “never got into it because of the expense of having that specially trained person and equipment.” The fleet also doesn’t have a lot of jobs that require body work.

In general, ECE handles all diagnostics, repairs and preventive maintenance in-house. This work, too, comes at a significant expense; each of the cooperative’s in-house technicians must be trained on all vehicle makes and models used by the fleet, as well as a range of different tasks.

“They have to know hydraulics to mechanical to electronics, hydraulic over electrical,” Giffrow-Bos said.

AIC – a Collinsville, Ill.-based utility with a fleet of approximately 3,300 assets – outsources about one-third of its fleet maintenance and repair work, according to Remmert. This includes some warranty and glass repair jobs, as well as high-tech tasks if AIC’s mechanics haven’t undergone the training needed to do the work. Location also factors into AIC’s outsourcing decisions. If the utility only has 20 vehicles in a small city, Remmert said, “it doesn’t really make sense to have a mechanic there.”

Technician and Facilities Considerations
For a fleet to keep any of its work in-house, fleet managers need to ensure they have enough qualified technicians to handle the work.

“You’ve got to have a solid training program,” Remmert said, and that includes ongoing training.

One reason ECE tries to keep its fleet repair and maintenance work in-house is because the cooperative is located in a rural area. “I’ll do a lot more training with the four technicians I have because we just don’t have many options out there within a short distance to do sublet work,” Giffrow-Bos said.

Every fleet that employs technicians also has to have a place for them to work, so consideration must be given to facilities when deciding whether or not to outsource work.

“For example, for CNG, you actually have to make sure that the building can handle the fire marshal regulations around natural gas or you have to search out vendors that have those abilities,” Remmert explained.

And for fleets thinking about building a facility, “that’s a long-term planning commitment,” he continued. “You have to get the building plot, you have to get the approvals – there are a lot of factors.”

So, for those fleets that simply don’t have the appropriate workspace, it may seem easier to partner with an outside vendor to get the work done. But keep in mind that it’s not always a one-stop shop. As Remmert noted, many vendors are specialized. If a vehicle needs two or three different repairs, it may have to be sent to two to three different shops before it can be driven again, which can sorely affect the vehicle’s uptime.

Downtime can still be a challenge even if a job is only being outsourced to one vendor, Remmert said. “A lot of times my truck is sitting there at a vendor because I’m not their most important customer. They won’t get to that truck until two weeks from now. We find that especially with some high-technology stuff. They may only have one mechanic trained on that component and he’s backlogged and I’m waiting.”

With an in-house program, a technician typically can respond right away in the event of an emergency, and the quality of work may exceed that of an outside vendor’s work.

“[Vendors] don’t always treat your vehicles as if they were their own, so you don’t get the quality of workmanship that you might get from somebody you employ,” Remmert said.

Controlling Costs
Today’s fleet managers are always keeping their eyes on the operation’s finances. If a fleet chooses to outsource, Giffrow-Bos said, that reduces overhead costs because fewer employees and less inventory will be needed.

However, contracting with a vendor often means giving up control in certain ways.

“If a job goes out to a vendor and you really don’t know the condition of that vehicle, you start relying heavily on that vendor,” Remmert explained. “I think you have better control with an in-house model. Also, you can control the parts cost. If the job goes to a small vendor, a lot of times I’m paying retail price for that parts cost, where if I had an in-house model, I’m buying at very strategically low prices because of sourcing bids I have with my major parts vendors. I have versatility.”

To put it simply, deciding whether or not to outsource some or all of your maintenance and repair work is a complex task. For most fleets, it’s about analyzing all of the important factors – including cost, quality and turnaround time – to find the balance that works best for the organization.

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.

Aftermarket vs. OEM Replacement Parts

Are you unsure whether to purchase aftermarket or OEM replacement parts for your fleet’s vehicles? Using a mix of both has proven to be an effective strategy for Ameren Illinois Company (AIC), Fairfax County Water Authority (Fairfax Water) and Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E), according to fleet representatives from the three utilities.

Safety, performance, availability and quality are among the factors that make OEM parts the best option for certain aspects of fleet operations.

“On critical components, it’s better to get the original equipment parts instead of taking a chance on questionable quality of the aftermarket materials,” explained Dale Collins, CAFM, fleet services supervisor for Virginia-based Fairfax Water, which maintains more than 400 fleet units. “Folks can easily replicate good-quality wiper blades, but not more sophisticated electronic parts.”

Several years ago Fairfax Water replaced the original brake pads on its heavy-payload pickup trucks with aftermarket pads that did not hold up well. The utility now relies on the durability of factory OEM brake parts that they have found to be superior to aftermarket products. Fairfax Water also depends on original equipment parts for engine management due to past performance issues with some of its construction equipment, and it uses OEM parts for auto body and crash repairs in critical areas of the vehicle in order to maintain “crashworthiness,” or the ability of a vehicle to protect occupants during an impact.

Similarly, AIC sticks with OEM parts when it comes to electronic and emission components and large component rebuilds such as engine transmissions. According to Dan Remmert, manager of fleet services for the Collinsville, Ill.-based utility, OEMs are usually quicker to implement upgrades on emission-related items than aftermarket parts manufacturers.

“With the OEMs, there appears to be less lag on new-model parts,” he said.

Aftermarket Appeal
OEM parts certainly meet various utility fleet needs, yet there are a number of reasons underlying the popularity of aftermarket parts. For one, these parts can help utility fleets save money.

According to Remmert, cost savings is the reason AIC turns to the aftermarket for its preventive maintenance parts, including filters, bulbs and even batteries. In terms of volume, more than 80 percent of the utility’s parts are aftermarket purchases.

Fairfax Water also depends on aftermarket suppliers for tune-up parts, filters, chassis parts, brake parts, wiper blades, bulbs/vehicle lighting and other items.

Beyond cost savings, the aftermarket can provide solutions when OEM parts fail to do the job.

“A few years back we had some pickups that had fuel gauge problems because of how the fuel sending unit was designed,” recalled Paul Jefferson, fleet manager for OG&E. “I read an article about how the aftermarket had already identified [the problem] and so we switched.” OG&E uses aftermarket parts mostly for brakes and suspension, filters, electrical tune-up parts, wipers and batteries, and sometimes for engine components for the pickups and sedans in its fleet of nearly 2,000 units.

Fairfax Water had an experience similar to OG&E’s. “Oftentimes the aftermarket tends to do a better job at re-engineering a weak area in an OEM part,” Collins said. “Years ago we went through a lot of belt tensioners. The bearing itself wasn’t sufficient to support the load, so the aftermarket responded and put in a more robust bearing, which solved a lot of the problems.”

Streamlining of vendors is another reason utility fleets turn to aftermarket parts. For example, in the past OG&E would buy aerial baskets from one manufacturer, digger derricks from another and small baskets from a third. The units would end up with different strobe lights, brake controllers, taillights and other components. Now the fleet minimizes the number of vendors it works with by sticking to one standardized part.

AIC also has increased its reliance on the aftermarket because of the utility’s desire to standardize and streamline its work with vendors.

“If all things are equal, I’m going to go with the aftermarket and get a bigger spend with one guy than some OEM and deal with so many more vendors,” Remmert said. “The desire is to do more with less.”

Remmert enjoys having a single source for sales support as well. “I deal with one guy and he can handle the whole territory,” he explained. “OEMs seem to be more independently owned, so you’ve got multiple contacts, if any sales support at all.”

Plus, AIC has been able to leverage the aftermarket’s non-catalog items. “We use a lot of widgets that typical suppliers wouldn’t stock,” Remmert said. “[Aftermarket parts suppliers] actually go out and find those parts. I haven’t had that kind of luck with an OEM.”

Warranty and Safety Considerations
Charlie Guthro, vice president of operations for ARI, one of the largest fleet management companies in the country, has some insight for utility fleets that are trying to make the choice between OEM and aftermarket parts.

“When faced with the decision of needing to replace a part, fleets should consider whether there is the potential to recover any of the cost under the terms of any existing warranties,” he said. “Generally, warranties are only available on OEM parts.”

Guthro also advised fleets to give ample consideration to the safety of aftermarket parts. “While aftermarket parts can often offer the greatest value, fleet managers should check to be sure the parts do not affect the safe operation of the vehicle or other upfit parts,” he said.

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

Data is Driving Utility Fleet Maintenance Decisions

Maintenance schedules based on “the way it’s always been done” are trending downward. Instead, more utility fleets are relying on the operational data they collect from onboard technologies to set maintenance intervals and equipment specs.

That’s the biggest trend today in fleet maintenance, according to Chris Shaffer, partner at Utilimarc (, a Minneapolis-based consulting and benchmarking firm. “[Utility fleets] are using actual engine hours or miles to trigger service.”

That collected operational data also is driving changes in equipment specs with the goal of reducing maintenance costs and improving utilization, Shaffer added.

“There is pressure to rightsize the fleet, and to do that successfully [fleet managers] have to spec the vehicle to improve utilization. They’re trying to be leaner, meaner, and that means they have to better spec the vehicle,” he said.

Sherry Pinion, director of fleet services for Cobb EMC, an electric cooperative in Marietta, Ga., said that was the idea behind some of the changes the fleet made to its specs.

“We’re trying to do a better job designing the vehicle for the job use,” she said.

“In the past, all of our trucks’ bed configurations were different,” explained Chris Hardy, Cobb’s fleet services coordinator. “We are standardizing our bed configuration, material quantity, even the material location in an effort to improve inventory tracking, worker efficiency, safety and weight distribution on each chassis,” all to improve utilization and reduce maintenance costs.

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. (IP&L) has been using telematics from Telogis ( for several years to improve truck specs and reduce the turnaround cycle on their trucks, said Les Gose, fleet maintenance manager.

“We’re trying to retire equipment before it becomes burdensome on our costs,” he said. Better spec’ing has meant reduced downtime and better utilization, which has enabled IP&L to reduce manpower by about 30 percent, Gose added.

Meeting Standards and Sharing Data
A current challenge facing utility fleets’ maintenance departments are the changes required to meet greenhouse gas emissions standards, said Charlie Guthro, vice president of North American fleet management for ARI (

“As OEMs adapt and change their engines to meet new regulations, operators continue to struggle to keep their vehicles on the road,” he said. “It can be a combination of maintenance requirements or operator education and awareness. As engines become smarter and more fuel-efficient, they become more complicated with increased [onboard diagnostic] warning lights and readings that drivers and maintenance technicians need to diagnose to keep vehicles on the road.”

The upside to this and certain other maintenance-related challenges is that, more and more, fleet maintenance departments don’t have to face them all on their own. There is now a growing trend among utilities to share operational and maintenance data gathered from onboard vehicle technologies between the two departments.

“Sharing information between them is very resourceful,” said John Davis, fleet management consultant for Dossier Systems (, a maintenance software provider headquartered in Burlington, N.J. “We’re seeing improved communications between the two because everyone is now looking at the same data. Having the [truck’s operational] information at their fingertips means better decisions, and that means saved money.”

Sharing that kind of data gives both the operations and maintenance departments a better understanding of how vehicle use affects maintenance, said Jeffrey Schneider, fleet manager for Louisville Gas and Electric Co. The company will be installing GPS and telematics systems in its fleet of more than 1,800 vehicles with the goal of reducing both operational and maintenance costs.

“We’re trying to bring maintenance and operational groups closer together to share more of the vehicle maintenance [data] with the operational side,” he said. “The addition of telematics will give our operational people a better idea of how the truck is used.”

About the Author: Jim Galligan has been covering the commercial truck transportation sector for more than 30 years and has extensive experience covering the utility fleet market. In addition to writing and editing for magazines, his background also includes writing for daily newspapers, trade associations and corporations.


Maintenance Infographics

Source: Utilimarc

Maintenance-related wages and work among utility and municipal fleets have not varied much from 2011 to 2014, the latest data available, according to Utilimarc. Data is based on annual surveys of 55 to 60 companies with approximately 150,000 collective units.

The mechanic’s average straight wage increased a total of about 6.5 percent from 2011 to 2014. As shown, the average billed hours and outsourced work dropped slightly from 2013 to 2014.

A total of 32 percent of utility companies pay mechanics between $33.57 and $36.59 an hour, while 70 percent of municipalities pay mechanics less than $33.56 an hour, according to 2014 data, Utilimarc said.

It’s notable that the average days between preventive maintenance intervals jumped 41 percent in 2013. Many utility and municipal fleets were able to buy new equipment beginning in 2013 after several years of spending freezes, which might account for the extended intervals. Similarly, the average days between unscheduled maintenance also increased from 2011 to 2014, perhaps reflecting the influx of new equipment into the fleets.

-Jim Galligan

3 Tips for Selecting Heavy-Duty Vehicle Lifts

For utility fleets that perform their own maintenance and repairs, heavy-duty vehicle lifts are an integral part of the process. So, when it comes time to purchase or lease a lift, it’s important that the decision is based on good research and a strong understanding of what kind of lift will work best in the fleet’s shop. Following are three tips in particular that fleet managers should consider when selecting heavy-duty vehicle lifts.

Tip 1: Invest in Safety
When buying or leasing a heavy-duty lift, one of the best ways to help ensure safety is to invest in certified equipment and options. “There is only one nationally recognized safety standard for lifts: ANSI/ALI ALCTV, administered by the Automotive Lift Institute,” said Steve Perlstein, sales and marketing manager for Mohawk Lifts (

To determine if a lift and/or lift option is certified, visit If you can’t find the lift or lift option you’re looking for in the directory, it is not certified for use.

Besides meeting the requirements of the standard, there are several other safety factors fleet managers should consider when selecting lifts. Look for lifts that are made of corrosion-resistant materials. A lift also should be constructed in such a way that, when it is installed in the work area, cords and other parts won’t act as trip hazards. Additionally, fleet managers should make certain that the lift they ultimately choose has the proper number of pistons to handle the weight of the fleet’s specific vehicle types. And don’t forget that easily accessible, free-standing controls give maintenance personnel an increased range of movement while on the job.

Tip 2: Focus on Efficiency
Labor comprises a significant percentage of a fleet’s maintenance budget. But fleet managers can significantly reduce costs through the efficiency of their equipment, including heavy-duty lifts.

“The type of lift used can dramatically increase shop efficiency and keep more vehicles on the street versus in the shop,” Perlstein said. In fact, he continued, the installation of a single vehicle lift can reduce costs within a fleet maintenance department by up to $100,000 or more in the first year alone, depending on use.

Kirk Dawson, vice president of heavy duty at Rotary Lift (, advises fleet managers to look for lift features that simplify setup, reduce downtime and enable the technician to quickly raise and lower the vehicle to save time during each job.

“Since labor is often a fleet’s second-largest equipment and maintenance expense, surpassed only by fuel costs, it is important to maximize the productivity of each technician,” he said.

Helpful lift features include:
• Universal adapters for inground lifts that can be easily adjusted for a variety of vehicles.
• Technology that helps to reduce setup time, such as wireless communications, intuitive controls and automatic steering systems for mobile column lifts.
• Pendant controls for inground lifts that simplify the vehicle spotting process.
• Fast-rise speeds that reduce the amount of time the technician has to wait before starting work.
• Automatic ramp chocks and single-point lock releases for four-post lifts, which make it easy to get the vehicle on and off the runways.

Tip 3: Factor in Cost While Ensuring Quality
Cost represents a critical factor when leasing or purchasing heavy-duty vehicle lifts for a fleet facility. But it’s not just the cost of the equipment that fleet managers need to consider. “In addition to buying the lift itself, you should also factor in costs for installation, user training and annual inspections,” said R.W. “Bob” O’Gorman, president of the Automotive Lift Institute (

Some lift manufacturers provide on-site lift-use training as well as safety-related videos on their company websites. And ALI offers “Lifting It Right” at, which simplifies the training process by covering all lift types in one convenient, Web-based course.

Perlstein has a final thought for fleet managers who are in the market for new vehicle lifts. “Consider the quality of the lift, where it was manufactured and how long it is going to last,” he said. “It is also important to evaluate the total cost of ownership, as lifts with a higher initial price but higher quality are worth it in order to avoid costly lift downtime. If the lift is down, the utility truck can’t be repaired.”

About the Author: Cheryl Knight has written for the fleet industry for more than 20 years. Her work has appeared in Automotive Fleet, Fleet Financials, Government Fleet and a number of other niche-market publications.


What Type of Lift is Right for Your Fleet?
When investing in a heavy-duty vehicle lift, fleet managers must address two key factors: space constraints in the shop and how the lift will be used.

“There are many types of heavy-duty vehicle lifts, so it is important that the fleet manager selects the right kind for the vehicles he or she will be servicing,” said R.W. “Bob” O’Gorman, president of the Automotive Lift Institute. “Each lift type also has its own installation needs, which can range from the addition of a simple electrical outlet to breaking concrete.”

Among the heavy-duty lifts in use today are mobile column lifts, parallelogram lifts and inground lifts. Mobile lift systems are typically popular with users who are looking for portability and flexibility, while parallelogram lifts require little to no setup. Inground lifts – which were the most widely used lift type until the 1980s, according to the ALI website – offer great space efficiency and excellent access to a vehicle’s undercarriage.

For more information about the variety of lifts available in the marketplace, as well as purchasing guidance, visit

In-House Vehicle Maintenance vs. Outsourcing: What’s Right for Your Fleet?

All utility fleet operations have to make one especially critical choice – whether to handle vehicle maintenance in-house, hire an outside vendor to take care of the work or use a mix of both. And it’s not an easy decision to make. There are many factors to consider, not to mention the wrong choice can lead to real problems such as increased vehicle downtime and higher operating costs.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter solution,” said Dave Fisher, a 28-year fleet industry veteran and fleet manager with PNM Resources, which includes subsidiaries Public Service Company of New Mexico and Texas-New Mexico Power. “Managers need to ask what the vehicles are worth. In-house maintenance can oftentimes provide far superior quality and less downtime, but outsourcing can cost less.”

Fisher oversees close to 1,300 utility vehicles: approximately 900 on-the-road vehicles and 400 trailers and pieces of equipment. Vehicles are used for anything from meter reading to transmission and distribution work, and include light-duty vehicles, medium-duty trucks with service bodies, small buckets and cranes, aerials and more. PNM’s vehicle maintenance program consists of both an in-house component for large trucks and big equipment and an outsource component for light-duty vehicles.

Factors to Consider
Cost is one of the most important factors for management to consider when determining whether to outsource maintenance or keep the work in-house. Often, outsourcing can provide a lower cost than in-house maintenance because there’s no need to invest in maintenance equipment, train personnel or stock and keep track of parts.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to do our light-duty preventive maintenance for 1-ton pickups and down because our internal labor rates can’t compete with what the industry offers,” Fisher explained. “We’re an $85-an-hour loaded labor rate, and that can’t compete with a $40 oil change at a dealer or Quick Lube.”

Even though cost is a driving factor in a utility fleet manager’s ultimate decision about how to handle vehicle maintenance, other criteria – like access to high-quality, well-trained personnel – can come into play. Fisher pointed out that the outsource-versus-in-house decision should take into account where vehicles operate as well as dealer network reliability.

“For some of our vehicles, we are limited in finding quality repairs for our aerial equipment in our dealership network, so we rely on our guys who are hydraulic certified,” he said. “I can’t find that expertise in the field, and it’s getting harder and harder to find.”

Another argument for keeping maintenance in-house is the ability of a utility to establish its own quality controls and generate quicker turnaround time.

However, outsourcing vehicle maintenance does offer other benefits in addition to potentially lower costs. For instance, with the time saved by not performing maintenance work, utilities can place greater focus on issues such as customer service. Additionally, fleets that outsource can benefit from expert advice provided by their maintenance vendors as well as vendor-supplied reports that document critical life-cycle metrics.

What’s Best for You?
At some point, a utility must choose whether to perform their own in-house vehicle maintenance, outsource the work or use a combination of both methods, depending on what’s best for the organization. Not all factors are equal, and as Fisher pointed out, one solution does not fit all.

For PNM, Fisher’s hybrid outsource/in-house approach has worked well. “On our light-duty preventive maintenance, I can trim close to $50,000 a year by outsourcing,” he said. “And for our heavy-duty trucks, I can save $350,000 to $400,000 per year by repairing them in-house.”

While Fisher has been “playing with” PNM’s preventive maintenance program for the past seven years, he continually monitors and assesses it.

“It’s a moving target,” he said. “And I’m getting ready to relook at our entire PM program again.”

About the Author: Cheryl Knight has written for the fleet industry for more than 20 years. Her work has appeared in Automotive Fleet, Fleet Financials, Government Fleet and a number of other niche-market publications.


The Importance of Benchmarking
For utility fleets, it can be quite difficult to decide how to handle vehicle maintenance. The use of benchmarking – which allows a utility fleet to compare its performance to that of other, similar organizations – is one way fleet managers can determine what best suits their unique needs.

By using a benchmarking program, fleet managers can measure their operational costs, technician wages and other data against data provided by utilities across the country that are similar in size and other criteria. This process of comparison allows fleet managers to identify the areas in which they are doing well and the areas in which improvements may need to be made. For instance, benchmarking can help utility fleet managers determine the cost-effectiveness of their current vehicle maintenance program and whether it would be worthwhile to make any program modifications.

Preventive Maintenance and the Electric Vehicle

In an effort to reduce fuel costs, extend replacement cycles and lower greenhouse gas emissions, an increasing number of utility fleets now operate electric vehicles (EVs). In fact, in November 2014, the White House and Edison Electric Institute announced that more than 70 U.S. electric utility companies have plans to devote at least 5 percent of their fleet acquisition budgets to buying plug-in EVs and related technology. Their investments will total approximately $50 million each year.

With fewer moving parts and less reliance on oil to lubricate and help cool the engine parts that do move, EVs represent a sound investment, over time, for many utility fleets. In addition to lower fuel costs and fewer emissions, others benefits of operating EVs include reduced noise levels, exportable power and lower total cost of ownership.

“While you pay more for a plug-in, the overall cost of ownership is significantly lower,” said David Meisel, senior director of transportation and aviation services at Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), explaining that payback for the company’s fleet usually ranges from two to seven years. “For our bucket trucks, we’re looking at paybacks in 24 to 30 months. Some of our light-duty applications pay back in five years or less. And some of our pickup trucks see payback in seven years.”

All Maintenance Programs Are Not Equal
By developing an effective preventive maintenance plan and sticking to it, companies can expect longer life for the EVs in their fleets. This means fleet managers do not have to replace vehicles as often, generating even more savings when added to the decreased costs of operating EVs. In addition to a great return on investment, companies that operate EVs can lower their environmental footprints as well.

But should maintenance schedules for EVs be the same as their gas and diesel counterparts, and how can you adequately protect and ensure the long life of your EV fleet?

The PG&E fleet operates about 1,400 EVs out of a total fleet of 14,000. The fleet’s EVs range from Chevy Volts to Ford Fusions to GMC Sierras, among many others. According to Meisel, the key to an effective EV maintenance program is to recognize that all EVs are not equal – they are application specific. So, maintenance schedules must be unique for EVs.

“If fleet managers don’t treat them differently, they are missing out on a big opportunity,” Meisel explained. “If they run the same preventive maintenance program for EVs as their other vehicles, they are leaving a tremendous amount of money on the table and forgoing the benefits of electrification.”

Preventive Maintenance Best Practices for Utility EVs
Unlike traditional internal combustion vehicles, EVs rely on electricity to power the various systems that make them go. But because EVs still use some moving parts, effective maintenance can help keep them in proper working order. This means that, in addition to any lubricants and other fluids associated with traditional vehicle maintenance, fleet managers should also design schedules centered on maintaining the vital electric components of an EV’s drivetrain. And of course, fleet managers should follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for best results.

Training mechanics also is critical to the preventive maintenance process, not only to keep parts properly maintained, but to ensure the safety of all personnel. “The voltage on these vehicles can kill. It’s very important that those who work on them are specially trained,” Meisel said. “We train all our mechanics on high-voltage EV systems because safety is first and foremost.”

As far as set maintenance schedules for EVs, in PG&E’s case the EV components essentially are worry-free, with a few more connections to look at and possible wear on lines. And according to Meisel, fleet management has drastically extended its preventive maintenance in many areas, including oil changes and brake work. “The maintenance intervals are significantly longer because of the durability of the systems,” he said.

Meisel pointed out that it is best practice to adhere to regular preventive maintenance schedules even though EVs do not require as much maintenance as their gas and diesel counterparts. “For our electric vehicles, we are finding that we can drastically extend our preventive maintenance. For instance, for some vehicles we do oil changes only once per year; for others, every 15 years. Not because they need it, but because it’s time.”

PG&E’s fleet management is also finding that EVs used in urban areas are seeing brakes lasting two to three times longer, thanks to regenerative braking. “Our maintenance work on our brakes has dropped drastically,” Meisel explained.

He summed up PG&E’s experience with EV maintenance by stating, “Our experience is that EVs are extremely bulletproof from a maintenance perspective.”

About the Author: Cheryl Knight has written for the fleet industry for more than 20 years. Her work has appeared in Automotive Fleet, Fleet Financials, Government Fleet and a number of other niche-market publications.


Learn More
In June 2014, Edison Electric Institute published “Transportation Electrification: Utility Fleets Leading the Charge,” which provides a wealth of information about the benefits of electrification, vehicle technology, total cost of ownership and much more. A copy of the white paper can be found at

How to Maximize the Tire Life of Medium-Duty Trucks

Because every fleet is different, what you spend on tires is going to be unique for your operation. One thing is certain, however: No matter what your operation, tires are going to make a significant contribution to your cost of doing business. Because of that fact, it’s important for fleet professionals to do everything possible to minimize the cost of every 32nd of an inch of tread rubber they purchase.

Spec Tires Designed for Long Life
Although radials dominate the tire market in every commercial application, there are still some fleets using bias-ply designs. It’s not the original price that should be considered when buying tires; what’s important is the total cost per mile the product delivers before it’s scrapped. And a radial will win that contest every time.

There is less rolling resistance and heat generated as a radial rolls down the road because of its steel-supported tread and casing. This results in better fuel economy, longer casing life and lower cost per lifetime mile than bias-ply designs. Radials also offer bonuses of better road handling, improved driver comfort and less downtime.

Maintain Optimal Air Pressure at All Times
After any tire is put into operation, ongoing maintenance is required to maximize its service life, and air pressure is the most critical tire maintenance factor. Operating with an underinflated tire will cause heat buildup in the casing, leading to shortened casing life, irregular tread wear and possible sudden tire destruction. These possibilities make it imperative to perform regular pressure checks. Air will migrate through the walls of every tire, causing them to lose pressure over time. Lost air must be regularly replaced.

Inflation pressures should be checked with calibrated tire gauges – not tire billies – at least weekly and definitely before any long trips. Check pressures when tires are cold; early morning is normally a good time. Even a short trip will cause heat buildup and a pressure increase. Remember, never bleed air from a hot tire.

When tire inflation pressures are being checked, it’s also a perfect time to inspect those same tires. If a regular pressure check finds that a tire has lost 4 psi, look for something that could have caused such a loss – valve leakage, tread penetration or rim damage, for example. You should consider any tire to be flat if it is found to be 20 percent below its desirable air pressure, and it should be removed from service as should any tire with a bulge, crack or cut.

Ensure Timely Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance Intervals
While both underinflation and overinflation can cause rapid tread wear, most tire wear problems can be traced to the vehicle’s condition. Alignment refers to more than steering axle geometry. Total vehicle alignment also addresses the tracking of all axles on the vehicle to include any trailer axles. The Technology & Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations ( has established recognized standards for vehicle alignments in its Recommended Practice 642.

Regular vehicle alignment checks included in a preventive maintenance program will help to minimize tire costs and help control fuel consumption. Consider including vehicle alignment checks:
• Upon delivery of new vehicles.
• At a vehicle’s first maintenance check.
• When new steer tires or front-end components are installed.
• When tire wear suggests a problem.

Tires are expensive for any fleet, but attention to both tire and vehicle maintenance will not only help in minimizing your tire cost per mile, it will also help to increase your fuel economy.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.

Effective Preventive Maintenance Programs

A tool is anything used as a means of accomplishing a task or purpose. That being the case, few experienced fleet managers would argue with the idea that a good preventive maintenance (PM) program – properly performed and in a timely manner – is one of the best tools any shop can make available to its maintenance technicians.

If a fleet has an effective PM program, its vehicles likely will spend less time in the shop and experience far fewer road breakdowns. Additionally, its trucks will typically have longer service lives and greater disposal values than those of a shop that looks upon PM as a burdensome activity. The program will also save the fleet money.

If a good PM program will save money, can you conclude that performing more of this type of maintenance will save even more money? Definitely not. Like too much of anything, too much PM will not provide better results than a PM program optimized for your fleet.

Every vehicle comes with an OEM-recommended PM program, but if it’s built around oil change intervals as many programs are, does it take into account the changes in lubricant products currently available to you? “My belief has always been that we have plenty of life available in the oil,” said Darry Stuart, president and CEO of DWS Fleet Management Services ( “However, we still need to do a good PM inspection so the vehicle can get to the next PM without a problem under operating conditions that are normal for that vehicle.”

Extending service intervals may be allowed under certain situations, but when considering extending intervals, operators should have an effective oil analysis program in place. It is also a good idea to include a dry service in the schedule between wet services to identify worn or damaged components before they fail on the road, causing unnecessary expense and downtime. Always keep in mind that extending service intervals requires close monitoring and may impact overall life-cycle performance.

“I don’t like the term ‘extended drain intervals,’” Stuart said. “I believe it’s really optimizing the life of the lubricant. Years ago, we had to deal with oil that simply wasn’t capable of doing the job delivered by today’s products. Today we have lubricants that can perform very effectively beyond engine manufacturers’ recommendations.”

Yesterday’s oils needed to be changed at intervals that worked well with desirable PM inspection periods, so the industry built PM programs around the quality of engine oil. Even then, however, many aggressive fleet managers in line-haul operations would stretch oil change intervals. “If we want to operate in an environmentally friendly manner, we need to use the oil for as long as we can,” Stuart said. “I’m included in those who believe that oil never really wears out. It’s the additive package that dwindles over time.”

If you’re interested in optimizing your PM intervals to save money, don’t stop at your road equipment. Utility fleets generally have many powered units in addition to trucks and automobiles. These need the same kind of attention as road equipment. The most cost-effective PM programs are the result of hard work aimed at having all service scheduled. Unscheduled downtime is very expensive.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.

15 Tips for Improving Your Inventory Control

For some, the term “inventory control” may seem more like an oxymoron than a management practice. If you feel like your inventory is anything but controllable, here are 15 tips to help you better manage the process, thereby creating added success and profitability for your fleet.

Tip 1: Implement and Enforce an Inventory Control System
Every parts operation needs an inventory control system of some sort, which should incorporate the following key elements:
• It must warn parts personnel far in advance that a part is being depleted from stock.
• It must list a part’s historical purchase price so that if the price changes, the
manager will be able look into the issue and ascertain whether this change is a price increase or due to incorrect billing.
• It should list vendors that offer the best prices.
• It should give past usage rates so that the manager can determine proper inventory
• It should require as little writing as possible, particularly by mechanics.

Tip 2: Know Your True Total Demand
Total demand is a complete record of all filled orders and actual parts delivered to customers regardless of the source. In addition to filled orders, a complete and total record of all lost sales – those sales that never occurred due to lack of inventory – must be kept.

A total demand record helps to reveal the changing and flexible nature of the marketplace and aids you in stocking the right parts in the right quantities at the right time.

Tip 3: Define Your Economic Order Quantity
The economic order quantity equation helps define the optimum inventory order amounts by factoring in the cost and demand of that inventory. Your goal should be to make as few orders as possible while also maintaining the proper inventory.

The cost of writing a purchase order and of paying the bill varies between approximately $35 and $50 per transaction. Considering this high cost, a target minimum of $500 of inventory per month should be purchased from each vendor. Placing an order for a smaller amount of merchandise creates a disproportionate and uneconomical clerical expense. If only a small amount of stock is ordered each month, good prices for those items will not offset the cost of paperwork.

Tip 4: Reduce Your Carrying Costs
The carrying costs of inventory can be between 30 and 40 percent of the total inventory value. You should have an ongoing strategy for reducing the costs of:
• Rent or proportionate building depreciation; building maintenance and repair; utilities; and labor costs for janitorial staff and security guards.
• Inventory storage and material-handling equipment.
• Taxes.
• Insurance.
• Inventory personnel salary and benefits.
• Damaged and nonreturnable parts, pilferage, warranty claim time and returning parts.
• Lack of return on inventory and control investments that might otherwise produce income.

Tip 5: Establish a Formal Warranty Program
Each premature component failure due to a supplier vendor providing poor workmanship, poor materials, and/or any latent defects should be flagged by fleet management and inspected by the vendor. Once inspected, the vendor can make a decision about the fleet’s claims about the component. The vendor should provide a monthly inspection that includes an agreed-upon settlement and a credit to the fleet. These parts failures have costs, and it is important that you set your ceiling for recovery at 5 percent of the dollars spent with that vendor. Should reclamation be more than 5 percent, begin exploring alternative vendor solutions.

Tip 6: Start with Big-Ticket Inventory Items
In evaluating big-ticket items or items with an aggregate targeted shelf inventory value of at least $5,000, limit your inventory to the amount needed for a 90-day period. If these items can be purchased locally within one or two days, it may not be necessary to stock them at all, especially if the repair requires one or several days of preparation work before the part is needed.

Make sure you weigh the cost of keeping big-ticket items in stock against the cost of customer out-of-service times. You may find that limited out-of-service times are more economically sound than maintaining inventory of relatively expensive items.

Tip 7: Invest in Your Brain Power
If a large inventory is your only solution to create a high level of vehicle availability, you will be hard-pressed to find ways to reduce inventory costs. The reality is that you must be consistently vigilant at keeping your inventory as lean as possible. The more you learn about the parts inventory business model, best principles and practices, successful analysis and applied corrective strategies, the better you will be at effectively planning a successful inventory strategy.

Tip 8: Don’t Confuse Price with Cost
Too often, price and cost are used interchangeably and in error. Price is what you pay in dollars to acquire a product or service. Cost takes into consideration all the factors that add up to return on investment. Ease of installation, frequency of service, labor required and safety are only a few of the considerations in determining cost. In essence, if you are to justify the high initial price of a product, you will have to do so based on cost. Make sure you analyze and understand all of the costs of your operations prior to beginning any inventory strategy.

Tip 9: Require Vendor Guarantee of On-Time Delivery
Don’t resort to expensive stockpiling of key materials in order to avoid inventory shortfalls
caused by late delivery of parts by suppliers. Instead, put the burden of responsibility for
prompt delivery on suppliers – where it belongs. One way to do this is to guarantee the vendor a minimum monthly purchase in exchange for the vendor promising both on-time delivery as well as a penalty payment if you have to purchase materials on the spot market to fill a gap when a delivery is late. The penalty payment should be equal to the cost you expended to obtain the materials.

Tip 10: Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
When mounting an effort against waste in inventory handling, a manager should first consider the company’s purchasing policies and past experience with parts suppliers. Are the prices the lowest possible? If lower prices can be negotiated elsewhere based on volume, will service and delivery remain acceptable? It is futile to negotiate with no idea of realistic costs or possible price reductions. Therefore, purchasing guidelines must be established early in negotiations by someone familiar with parts-pricing discounts.

Tip 11: Brand Loyalty Doesn’t Pay
Negotiations should not be brought to a standstill by a fleet manager’s insistence on one
and only one brand of a part. In virtually every area, there are competitive lines available. This
can be a negotiation advantage. For example, if one line is not available at a jobber price – which is usually between the MSRP and warehouse distributor price – perhaps a competitive brand would be. Flexibility in this aspect can be profitable.

Tip 12: Don’t Overlook the Small-Ticket Items
Bolts, nuts and other similarly sized shop supplies constitute an often-neglected expense that can be significantly reduced. A common mistake on the part of managers is thinking that nuts and bolts are small-ticket items. In fact, such supplies will generally account for around 8 percent of the total parts bill each month. Much of this expense is waste attributable to poor purchasing habits. For instance, if you purchase these expendables from a salesperson who offers free bolt bins and other inducements to buy, you might be paying two to five times more than you should for these supplies. Even though they may be easy to overlook, it’s important to be aware of the cost of these materials.

Tip 13: Do Your Pricing Homework
If you don’t have an ongoing method for checking parts prices, you’ll have a hard time creating inventory efficiency. You should always have the latest price sheets from all the vendors with whom you do business.

As merchandise is received and volume changes, the prices on several items should be spot-checked to make certain the proper discounts are in effect. Without this monitoring, you will miss pricing and discount mistakes made by the vendor. To reduce any confusion over agreed-upon pricing, deal with one designated representative from each vendor whenever possible.

Tip 14: Plan Ahead for Hard-to-Get Parts
Availability of hard-to-get parts can obviously present problems, but longer delivery times shouldn’t necessarily preclude the use of a particular vendor. For instance, a part might be available locally at a cost of 20 percent greater than an out-of-town vendor would charge. If the part is ordered from the local vendor, delivery would require only a few days while the other supplier would need two weeks to deliver the part. However, given the substantial cost savings, it would be better to use the out-of-town vendor and simply stock an extra two weeks’ supply of the part.

Tip 15: Keep the Old Inventory Cycle Going
Simply put, old inventory needs to be removed from the parts room. A formal inventory should be taken every six months. Items that have not been used in those six months should be taken off the shelves, assuming that a system of cycle counting – frequent, random sampling of inventory line items – is not being used.

About the Author: John Dolce is a fleet facility and maintenance specialist employed by Wendel Companies, an architectural and engineering firm. He is an active consultant, instructor and fleet manager with more than 40 years of experience in the public and private sectors. Dolce has written three fleet-related textbooks and teaches fleet management courses at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Train for Efficiency

Today’s trucks and automobiles have hundreds of programmable features that can be used to customize these vehicles for a fleet, and today’s technicians need to understand how to program these parameters as well as how to utilize the many diagnostic modes in modern vehicles. Since technological change is one of the few constants in our industry, such demands make ongoing training critical to keep technicians efficient.

Darry Stuart, president and CEO of DWS Fleet Management Services (, echoed such sentiments. “Ongoing training for technicians is critical,” he said. “The advent of electronics has made the truck a very sophisticated machine. While it incorporates sophisticated control systems, it contains even more sophisticated diagnostic systems, which have taken a good portion of the guesswork out of troubleshooting. As a result, fleet technicians need regular training to keep up with these changes.”

Most employees – and certainly those with a desire to succeed – seek as much training as possible so they can better perform their jobs, qualify for monetary rewards and elevate their positions. And knowledgeable fleet professionals understand that staff training will help their companies gain operational efficiencies. On the other hand, it’s important to understand that you may have someone who is satisfied with what he or she is doing and really doesn’t want to progress. You may have to find a place for such a person if you want to keep him or her on your staff.

New Hires
When fleets need to make additions to their shop staff, most fleet professionals prefer to hire technicians with some practical experience, but all too often such personnel are not available. While trade schools are a source of young people who have been exposed to some of the basics, vocational school graduates generally still need a good amount of support before they’re ready to handle assignments on their own.

New hires, without a few years of practical experience, are usually assigned tasks such as cleaning parts, fueling and lubricating vehicles, and driving vehicles into and out of the shop. Beginners are then promoted as they gain knowledge and experience and as vacancies become available. These workers advance to increasingly difficult jobs as they prove their ability and competence. During this time they are often assigned to work under a more senior technician on engines and other systems such as brakes, transmissions and electrical systems.

Sometimes, however, fleet managers are faced with a lack of ample training time for new hires, or simply do not set aside the appropriate amount of time. “The most important activity in any shop is preventive maintenance,” Stuart said, “but it seems very difficult for a fleet manager to take a new technician, sit him down in the break room and let him review the fleet’s PM procedures, which, of course, should be available for review. A new hire, even one with experience, should have two or three hours every day for at least a week to go through established procedures. Too often, a new technician is put to work immediately.”

Determine Training Needs
Stuart suggests you practice management by walking around the shop floor. If you establish an atmosphere of open communication, technicians won’t hesitate to tell you their problems and potential training needs as you wander by. In your wanderings, you can also check scrapped components to see if they really need to be replaced.

Vehicle OEMs and major component manufacturers can supply you with standard repair times for many of their products. Compare these times with those needed in your shop for particular jobs and you might find that you need an evening in the break room with pizza and vendor training for your staff. If you require staff members to attend these types of sessions, be sure they are on the clock.

Our industry is fortunate to have suppliers who consider aftermarket training as part of their cost of doing business. Most have personnel in the field who can conduct training at fleet locations to ensure their products continue to perform satisfactorily, but it’s up to you to make sure that what’s being presented is in line with your policies. Remember, vendors want to sell parts; fleets want to avoid buying parts unnecessarily.

What’s the best training for shop technicians? “Some classroom training is fine, but training by an older mentor is best,” Stuart said. “Too often, though, a mentor simply shows the trainee how to do something, and the young tech never gets a chance to put his hands on the work. The mentor should do some awareness training, then let the young man do the work using the five-minute rule. If you can’t figure what’s wrong or need help after five minutes, ask the question.”

Whether it’s to familiarize technicians with new technology or to reduce the purchases of high-cost maintenance items, ongoing training is a necessity. You’re going to part with some money to get that training, but if you’ve done your homework and scheduled the proper training, the money will likely come back to you in improved efficiency, making it an investment – not an expense.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.

Using Benchmarks to Improve Fleet Operations

A benchmark is something that can be used to judge the quality or level of other, similar things. As such, a benchmark is a very nice thing for a fleet professional to have when some difficult questions are being asked. Are we competitive? When should we replace our equipment? Exactly how many technicians do we need to effectively maintain our equipment?

Those are three questions that Chris Shaffer, one of the founding partners of Utilimarc (, believes fleet managers should be answering at least annually. His company analyzes fleet data and, using its proprietary analytic software, generates a number of management tools. Benchmarks are one of those tools.

If you’re going to compare your performance with supplied benchmark data, keep in mind that it’s essential to compare apples to apples. “We have found that it’s very important to benchmark like vehicles doing like work in like applications,” Shaffer said. “If you consider, for example, a heavy-duty bucket truck, it’s important to compare yours with trucks in other fleets that have exactly the same kind of truck doing exactly the same kind of work.”

Michael Riemer, vice president of products and channel marketing at Decisiv Inc. (, echoed the importance of benchmarking on a regular basis. “It can greatly help improve the performance of maintenance operations and generate greater returns on investment in assets and personnel,” he said. “Regularly scheduled benchmarking enables fleets and their service providers to compare their performance with competitors and best-in-class performers. This analysis can help fleets better prioritize and measure key maintenance initiatives.”

Both Utilimarc and Decisiv represent fleets totaling more than 300,000 vehicles. As a result, both are capable of generating meaningful data that fleet professionals can use to benchmark their operations. There are, however, other opportunities available that enable fleets to generate yardsticks against which their performance can be compared.

One Fleet Association’s Approach
One example of other benchmarking opportunities comes from Frank Castro, transportation manager for the Snohomish County Public Utility District based in Everett, Wash. The utility’s fleet consists of light pickup trucks, Class 8 vehicles and everything in between. Castro participates in a regional professional group – the Northwest Electric Utility Fleet Managers Association (NEUFMA) – which represents 5,000-plus vehicles throughout Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

Regarding the organization’s benchmarking activities, Castro said, “If you’re just looking at your own fleet, how do you really know if you’re doing a good job unless you can compare against another organization? Maybe the best scenario would be to compare against a much larger organization.”

NEUFMA members realized that they already had the much larger organization they needed in the form of their association, which meets quarterly but has more frequent contact through email. As a result, they decided to generate a list of fleet-related issues that all members were asked to respond to at their meetings. The idea was to have a discussion about the various topics, giving members the opportunity to ask how some fleet managers were getting better numbers than others might be getting.

According to Castro, “If nothing else, we were hoping to get some help answering the question: Are we doing well or are we doing poorly? When we find a fleet that’s doing something better than we are, we talk about what they’re doing differently to see if their procedures would work in our fleets.”

Approximately 25 percent of the association’s members regularly contribute information about the various topics scheduled for discussion, but, as it turns out, that’s often enough. “In reality, everybody loves the information, but not everybody is willing to spend the time to prepare a report for the meeting,” Castro said. “Fleets who do not participate are still able to reap the benefits of our benchmarking discussions. It’s all open discussion. If they’re at the meeting, they can hear what’s going on. We also send out summaries of our discussions to the entire membership.”

The association also encourages regular email contact among its members. As a result, if anyone is having a particular issue, he or she can send out a question to the entire membership for input. Castro believes NEUFMA’s benchmarking studies provide added value to the members of the association.

A Benchmarking Caveat
While benchmarks can be valuable tools, they can also plague fleet professionals. Consider the possibility of a fleet professional having a benchmark imposed on him not by an experienced individual who understands what it means to maintain a fleet of utility vehicles, but by a middle manager who lacks the practical knowledge it takes to actually keep equipment operating and ready for service.

As Decisiv’s Riemer put it, “The ability to ensure the right information is captured [and understood] as part of the core service and repair process is the foundation for good benchmarking.”

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.

Latest Developments in Self-Inflating Tires

What if tires could inflate themselves and maintain optimal pressure at all times, with no human intervention required? How much of an impact could that make on fuel efficiency, tire life cycle, driver safety and a fleet’s bottom line?

New self-inflating tire technologies being developed today may provide a glimpse into future possibilities.

Cost of (Improper) Inflation
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a tire that’s underinflated by just 10 pounds per square inch (psi) can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 1 percent per tire.

That’s because an underinflated tire, as it flexes, creates greater friction with the road surface, requiring more energy – or fuel – for the vehicle to overcome the added resistance.

This friction also causes heat to build up in the tire, leading to accelerated deterioration and increased risk of blowout. A report by the Technology & Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations on tire pressure monitoring and inflation maintenance states that tires operating constantly at 20 percent below appropriate pressure levels could increase the wear of the tread by 25 percent.

The challenge is that many fleets don’t do a great job of keeping up with tire pressure on a regular basis, with more than half of truck tires on the road operating outside of their target pressure range, according to research by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

This is important because tires left on their own, just by natural diffusion, will leak about 2 psi per month. Then there’s the issue of pressure fluctuations resulting from extreme climate temperatures that impact tire performance and longevity. So, it can be difficult and often impractical for fleet managers and drivers to manually keep up with tire pressures all the time.

Self-Contained, Self-Inflating System
One solution under development is Goodyear’s Air Maintenance Technology (AMT), a self-maintaining tire inflation system that enables tires to remain inflated at the optimum pressure without the need for any external pumps or electronics. All components of the system, including the miniaturized pump, are fully contained within the tire.

The project was unveiled in 2011 and has been aided by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office. The grant money funds research, development and demonstration of the AMT system for commercial truck tires.

How does AMT work?

“AMT has an internal regulator that senses when the tire inflation pressure has dropped below a specified level,” explained John Kotanides Jr., project manager at Goodyear ( in the Akron, Ohio-based Global Innovations Group. “Once the system senses the pressure drop, the regulator opens to allow air to flow into a pumping tube. And as the tire rolls down the road, under the load of the vehicle, the deflection of the tire will flatten that pumping tube, pushing puffs of air back into the tire through the inlet valve. The air flows into the tire cavity and continues to fill the tire as it rolls down the road until the regulator senses that the specified tire pressure has been met and then shuts the system off, until it senses another pressure drop.”

Kotanides said that the company expects to begin piloting AMT on commercial trucks by the end of 2014, but he could not comment on pricing and when the system will be available for sale.

What fleet applications will benefit from AMT?

“Right now, our focus is on the long-haul Class 8 tractor-trailer setup. But we think this type of system could work on almost any tire that has inflation and that travels down the road under a load,” Kotanides said.

Bolt-On Hub System
Another solution to the problem of underinflated tires is Halo, which was launched earlier this year by Burlingame, Calif., startup Aperia Technologies (

Halo is mounted outside the tire, onto a truck’s axle hub, and is designed to use a wheel’s rotation to maintain optimal tire pressure in dual and wide-based tires on the drive and trailer axles of trucks, tractors, trailers and buses.

“Halo operates on a similar principle to a self-winding watch,” said Josh Carter, chief executive officer and co-founder of Aperia. “It uses a wheel’s rotational motion to pump and maintain optimal tire pressure and therefore does not require any connection to a compressor.”

This is an important distinction because using compressors to power self-inflating tires increases complexity – and cost – and could add weight to a level that negates the fuel economy savings generated by maintaining proper tire pressure in the first place.

Carter said that Halo, which bolts on to the hub on each side of an axle, weighs about 5 pounds per unit and requires fewer than 10 minutes to install by a service technician, without expensive tools.

Since the system is mounted on the axle hub and not integrated into the tire itself, each Halo unit can be remounted for use with multiple sets of tires for up to 500,000 miles or 10 years, the company said.

This bolt-on approach also gives fleet managers flexibility in tire choices, Carter said. “Fleets have a lot of loyalty with a tire manufacturer and they get into a groove with a tire program. With Halo, they can use whichever tire manufacturer they want.”

Carter said that Aperia’s first Halo production run was allocated quickly after launching in March, and the company is currently taking orders for the next round of production. List price is $299 per unit.

Will this system be made available for applications besides long-haul trucking, such as utility fleets?

“Right now our focus is on Class 7 to 8 trucks, primarily those used in long-haul applications because of the payback time frame those fleets can expect from cost savings driven by improved fuel economy,” Carter said. “But we have received a lot of interest for tailoring the system for a wider range of truck sizes and applications. And we have plans in place to conduct a pilot program for the utility market later this year.”

The Bottom Line
Since tire inflation is a critical factor to reducing fuel consumption and overall fleet operational costs, it’s likely that some form of self-inflating tire technology will gain widespread market acceptance. But when? And will the systems of the future look more like Goodyear’s AMT that is integrated within each tire or Aperia’s Halo that is bolted on to the axle hub outside the tire? Or will there be a new, even more effective approach to solving this problem? Keep your eye on this space.

About the Author: Sean M. Lyden is a nationally recognized journalist and feature writer for a wide range of automotive and trucking trade publications, covering fleet management strategies, light- and medium-duty trucks, truck bodies and equipment, and green fuel technologies. He blogs at Strategy + Writing (

Managing Warranty Recovery

Even though warranty coverage is automatically included with each new vehicle and replacement part bought for your fleet, nearly every fleet professional fights with suppliers for more. It’s also a lot like accident insurance policies; good warranty coverage is nice to have, but it’s something that no one looks forward to using.

Like it or not, part of every dollar you spend on a new truck or replacement part goes to pay for warranty. Doesn’t it make sense to maximize the return you’re getting on those dollars? To do that, you need to have a warranty recovery system in place to be in a position to recover all the warranty money that’s coming to you.

“Warranty recovery is worth about a penny a mile over the life of a truck, so it is a vital part of controlling costs,” said Darry Stuart, president and CEO of DWS Fleet Management Services ( “Too often, however, fleets lack an organized procedure to store failed parts. There needs to be a specific location for failed parts and a procedure to mark and identify the parts. That way, if a manufacturer calls for one of those parts, shop personnel can go directly to where it can be found.”

Sources of Warranty
Warranty is readily available from several sources. All new vehicles come with standard warranty packages provided by manufacturers, generally through their dealer networks. In addition to these standard packages, some fleet managers are able to obtain supplementary coverage from truck manufacturers based on the size of the order and the fleet professionals’ negotiating skills.

In some instances, manufacturers will approve reimbursement for repairs after the standard warranty expires; these have become known as policy adjustments. If you need to repair a vehicle, and you believe the repair should be covered by the vehicle or component manufacturer, don’t hesitate to ask for reimbursement under a policy adjustment.

Another widely available source of potential warranty reimbursement is the additional coverage available to fleets when a new vehicle is purchased. This can come from two sources: major component suppliers and extended warranties offered for sale by truck builders. The former, which normally comes at no extra charge, commonly covers major drivetrain components. Most knowledgeable fleet managers, however, do not consider the purchase of extended warranties, the latter source of additional coverage, to be a good business decision.

An additional source of warranty reimbursement comes from aftermarket parts suppliers, many of whom offer warranty coverage on their products. This is where most fleets struggle to make the claims necessary to successfully maximize their warranty recovery. When many fleets in the industry were using three years as their trade cycle, new truck warranties dominated in importance. Now, however, with trade cycles extending five and even seven years, more replacement parts are being used that are not covered by new truck warranties. The successful management of an effective warranty recovery program is an important opportunity for a fleet to recover dollars.

Recovery Management
While most fleets have some kind of program to track warranty, only those that have a formal program – and properly manage it – are successful. “Many people claim they collect warranty, but I find most don’t have an established procedure to track it. So they really don’t have a handle on it,” Stuart said.

Management’s challenge is to make sure technicians know what opportunities exist for warranty recovery. When analyzing why warranty reimbursement has been lost, too many fleet professionals find it was because they hadn’t done a satisfactory job communicating to the people in the field what was needed from them to properly file for warranty. When a problem is encountered with a warrantable transaction, try to identify who was missing necessary information and what that information was, and then figure out how to eliminate such errors from recurring.

Maintenance management software can help. The most effective software modules are designed specifically to help fleets maximize warranty recovery. “The software should help the fleet know that the repair about to be done is warrantable,” said Dave Walters, technical sales manager for TMW Systems (, a provider of enterprise software to transportation and logistics companies. “If you can have that information in front of you early in the process, it may influence how you make that repair and where you get that repair done. Our software will identify and bring to the forefront potential warranty claims.”

“It’s always possible to discover warranty information after a repair has been completed or the information makes it into the fleet’s maintenance system, but that’s an after-the-fact, reactive approach,” said Michael Riemer, vice president of products and channel marketing at Decisiv Inc. ( “When information about warranties becomes available to fleets and service providers at the beginning of the process, it saves time and lets fleet managers know upfront what will and won’t be covered. Some fleets estimate 30 percent savings from warranty recapture using the Decisiv platform. With the right technology, those are valuable opportunities for warranty recapture that won’t be missed.”

Decisiv’s cloud-based Service Relationship Management (SRM) software enables fleets to manage, monitor, and report on service and repair events independent of asset type or service provider. The SRM platform, which integrates with many maintenance management systems, makes warranty information available in real time as soon as a vehicle identification number is entered.

Value Received
What’s a good warranty recovery system worth? Consider a fleet with a six- or seven-year trade cycle. In that fleet, there will be a broad range of vehicle ages, and therefore a range of warranty needs. “For vehicle ages of 1 through 3 years, we see a warranty recovery of about 10 percent of the amount spent on maintenance annually,” Walters said. “In years 3 and beyond, we see a 4 to 5 percent return from a combination of extended warranties and aftermarket parts warranty.”

Clearly, there are some significant dollars available for fleets that are willing to correctly set up a warranty recovery system. Remember, you pay for warranty every time you purchase a new truck or replacement part. Make sure you’re getting an acceptable return on that investment.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.

Road Map

For the fleet management team at the District of Columbia Water & Sewer Authority, the goal is clear. “We are in a position of public trust,” said Tim Fitzgerald, fleet director at DC Water – Department of Fleet Management. “We are also a revenue-generating utility. While our management gives us the freedom to do a lot of innovative things, we are held to high standards internally and by our customers. In the end, we have to be able to measure and prove the success of our efforts.”

Responsible for approximately 600 vehicles and 1,200 pieces of equipment, the DC Water – Department of Fleet Management oversees the specification, purchasing, maintenance, and replacement of a wide range of cars and trucks, from light-duty vans and pickups to medium-duty units equipped to handle water and sewer system work.

The DC Water fleet operation consists of two shop locations in the greater Washington, D.C., area, one for mostly small equipment and the other for servicing heavy equipment and light- and medium-duty trucks. The management team under Fitzgerald’s direction includes:
• Anthony Lancaster – Supervisor, Fleet Maintenance
• Frank Torcisi – Fleet Analyst Acquisition/Disposal
• Larry Thomas – Quality Assurance Technician
• Lauvern Williams – Executive Assistant
• Tiffani Bing – Data Analyst
• Catreaune Bellinger – Mobile Support Technician

Tighter Control
“DC Water’s service area continues to grow,” Fitzgerald said, “so we have to routinely fit units to the operation, and adopt technology that is seamless to implement and use. With the fleet expanding in order to meet the increasing demand for a range of business critical operations, we are continually exploring opportunities to streamline operations, better manage business processes and gain tighter control over expenses.

“We had concluded that a new, robust and automated approach to data management was necessary to ensure that our growing fleet is operating as efficiently as possible,” Fitzgerald continued. “The first item on our list was to address the method we were using to manage fleet processes and associated data. Essentially, we realized that it’s hard to manage what you can’t measure, and that the system we were relying on to store vital fleet information was incapable of reporting on the data it held.”

With a legacy system that was adding little value and producing few benefits, DC Water – Department of Fleet Management embarked on a process of reviewing proposals and attending demonstrations from major suppliers of fleet management systems. Ultimately, it selected a solution that Fitzgerald said “supported the short- and long-term vision and directives of the organization, especially those relating to supporting and streamlining existing business processes, had an ability to provide accurate, real-time information, and automatically measured and reported on specific key performance indicators so the fleet department could make informed decisions relating to a range of processes from acquisition through disposal.”

DC Water’s choice in fleet management software was FleetWave from Chevin Fleet Solutions, which was rolled out across the organization in August 2012. Today, the software is enabling data-based decisions about equipment and maintenance.

“While many factors influence purchasing and specification decisions, such as OEM ratings, customization and configuration, ease of and intended use, departmental needs, budget considerations, environmental friendliness and technology scalability,” Fitzgerald stated, “we now have essential access to data on life-cycle costs and total cost of ownership, and we better understand preventive and predictive maintenance needs. It all leads to an understanding of true costs, and in turn a faster return on investment.”

Intelligent Process
DC Water also works closely with its vehicle and equipment suppliers, and shares information with them to help make better, more informed choices. “We meet with manufacturers and we take part in development teams for evaluating products, such as the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition,” Fitzgerald related. “We also take cues from other similar fleet operations around the country and share information locally with the D.C. Department of Public Works. In an intelligent acquisition process, it is imperative that information be shared and utilized.”

For meeting fleet maintenance and repair needs, DC Water has partnered with G4S Integrated Services, an on-site contractor that supplies everything from technicians and management staff to parts dedicated exclusively to the utility fleet’s operation. “We are accountable to our internal customers, so we continuously challenge ourselves and G4S to get to the right answers expeditiously,” Fitzgerald said. “Through this partnership, we have implemented a systematic approach to planning maintenance based on type of resources, experience, predictive needs and knowledge sharing.”

Behind much of that activity, according to Fitzgerald, is the FleetWave system, which at DC Water has been uniquely configured to consist of a range of modules. For example, the Maintenance module automatically schedules repair and maintenance tasks for vehicles; flags looming compliance details such as pending, due or past-due inspections; and automatically emails detailed, in-depth reports. There is also a Vehicle Orders module, which is used to automate and streamline the management of equipment procurement and specification processes, while providing complete audit capabilities.

DC Water also uses FleetWave’s Motor Pool module, which provides a direct means for employees of the authority to access and reserve vehicles by logging into an online portal. “The system allocates only available, appropriately maintained and fully inspected vehicles that are available,” Fitzgerald explained. “That removes the need for the fleet department to deal with reservations without reducing our control of the motor pool.”

Other FleetWave uses at DC Water include an Accident Management module that assists in recording and managing details relating to damaged vehicles, including repairs, insurance claims processing, driver training and compliance oversight. Additionally, an integrated Drivers module stores all driver-related information, such as training course completion and any historical involvement in accidents. “With it, we not only have a centralized tool set to manage driver activities,” Fitzgerald said. “The Drivers module also enables us to assess trends relating to driver behavior and ensure compliance with internal policies and legislation.”

Managing Details
For Fitzgerald, one of the most valuable benefits of FleetWave is its ability to automatically track and measure key performance indicators. “KPIs provide the insight we need for smart decision-making,” he stated. “Access to accurate, real-time information and performance measures using a simple dashboard has provided our organization with invaluable knowledge that helps us to better understand our total cost of ownership.

“We’re a more efficient operation today and we’re not done improving,” Fitzgerald said. “We have reduced turnaround times for service by 30 percent and downtime by 20 percent. We’ve also noticed improvements in technician productivity. All of these contribute to cost savings and a better return on investment for DC Water.”

About DC Water: The District of Columbia Water & Sewer Authority provides water and wastewater services in an area of approximately 725 square miles for the more than 600,000 residents, 17.8 million annual visitors and 700,000 people who are employed in the District of Columbia.

DC Water maintains and operates 1,300 miles of water pipes, four pumping stations, five reservoirs, three water towers, 36,000 valves and more than 9,000 fire hydrants. The organization also provides wholesale wastewater treatment services to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, and Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia.

About the Author: Seth Skydel has more than 28 years of truck- and automotive-related publication experience. In his career, he has held editorial roles at numerous national business-to-business publications focusing on fleet and transportation management, vehicle and information technology, and industry trends and issues.

Struggles and Strategies

To some, spare vehicles are presumed to be extra units that, for the most part, sit idle and therefore have no real cost associated with them. For the unfortunate fleet managers and end users who believe this, they will inevitably find out how inaccurate they are.

A vehicle deteriorates when it sits idle for too long, and spare units kept at an end user’s location are usually idle more of the time than if they are shared with other departments. When it comes time for these vehicles to be put to work, they typically have deteriorated from lack of use – regardless of whether they are stored inside or outside – and are not functional unless serviced to avoid breakdowns. Deterioration can come in the form of rust, corrosion, component cannibalization, lack of preventive maintenance and dead batteries due to parasitic drain from new technology.

So, why would someone keep spare vehicles, particularly when many units that have been replaced with new vehicles are auctioned off, traded in or scrapped? The logic behind keeping spares is that the fleet will have properly configured extra vehicles in the event that they are needed, providing convenience and an alternative to renting units that may be costly and not fully meet the fleet’s needs.

This logic, however, is faulty. If these units were truly capable of functioning as required, why were they replaced instead of having their lives extended? Once vehicles exceed their life cycles, maintenance costs increase, making old units more costly than new ones to own and operate. If a unit has been replaced, it should be removed from service because it does not support reliability, safety or cost-efficiency.

It’s crucial for fleet needs to be reviewed on an annual basis. This assessment gives fleet personnel the opportunity to define and refine the mix of their motor pool as well as determine what units should be removed from the mix due to lack of use. These units typically should not be replaced because if they are not being used, they are not needed. At the same time, if there is an underutilized vehicle in the mix that still has some economic life left, it can replace a unit in the same vocational class that is higher in cost, and that more costly unit can be removed from the fleet inventory.

A Spare Solution
As previously stated, keeping spare units at an end user’s location can result in them being idle more often. This is not the only end user-related obstacle fleet managers run into when addressing spare vehicles.

The reality is that sometimes vehicle replacement programs have politically and culturally powerful end users at the top of the pecking order. Their influence and authority allow them to bend or even break rules that were put in place to keep the fleet running in a cost-effective manner.

As fleet managers, we support these end users who, due to their power and perceptions, still want spare vehicles even though they are idle and costly. In the face of their choices, our vehicle support personnel can only do their best to provide operating and cost information, furnish return-on-investment analyses, and support end users’ work methods in the most fiscally responsible way possible.

It is worth the time spent to educate yourself, your staff and end users about arguably the best use of true spare vehicles (not those units that have been replaced by newer, better vehicles) – making them part of the fleet’s central motor pool. The motor pool usually consists of a number of reliable light-duty and vocational units that are put into service when other, more frequently used vehicles are in need of maintenance or repair, or during peak service times when the workload is greater than usual.

Adding these reliable spare units to the pool has multiple benefits. First, since they are being added to the rotation, they will not sit idle and continue to deteriorate. This leads to lower costs of operation and ownership, as well as greater safety and reliability. Second, fleets will potentially spend less on rental units if they have more vehicles in the central motor pool. And third, if it appears they are no longer needed after three to six months, units can and should be removed from service and cost-effectively disposed of.

It is a good idea for all companies with fleets to take the time to create a written policy that details why and how the company rotates vehicles in a central motor pool, and why and how units should be removed from the fleet. The policy should be signed by the company’s chief operating officer and published for all departments to review and follow.

Changing Times, Changing Technology
Times are changing, and it’s to a fleet’s advantage to adapt to new technology and adopt the most recent best practices, including how to handle spare vehicles. Due to global competition, a vehicle manufactured today is designed to last longer and achieve more miles than one produced 20 to 25 years ago.

The lives of top maintenance and repair components – among others, tires, brakes, steering, air conditioning, starters, alternators, drivelines, engines and transmissions – have also been extended due to better technology. In turn, they are more reliable for greater periods of time in their application-specific environments. Today’s vehicle warranties are also better and longer than in the past, which is further proof the vehicle components are more reliable and last longer.

On top of all that, vehicle maintenance technicians, mechanics and related workers are more highly trained now than ever before. Their input to management continues to improve fleet best practices every day, and we’re seeing repairs we have never seen in the past. For example, it was previously unheard of to replace a vehicle’s hydraulic brake line because the brake lines used to outlive the vehicle. Now, vehicle life cycles are much longer, so many components need to be replaced or have their lives extended, which also extends the cost of the unit beyond its original purchase price.

Today’s fleet service personnel are also highly aware that young vehicles require different services than older vehicles. Mounted equipment needs are different from chassis to chassis and application to application, and usage keeps spares more reliable for longer periods of time and better controls costs.

In summary, spare units should be removed from fleets if at all possible, but if an end user insists on keeping spares, adding them to a central motor pool is the best way to prevent them from becoming idle and unduly costly. The bottom line is that chief executives, fleet personnel, and all departments need to communicate and work together to establish spare vehicle guidelines that best meet everyone’s needs.

About the Author: John Dolce is a fleet facility and maintenance specialist employed by Wendel Companies, an architectural and engineering firm. He is an active consultant, instructor and fleet manager with more than 40 years of experience in the public and private sector. Dolce has written three fleet-related textbooks and teaches fleet management courses at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses. He can be contacted at [email protected].

Cooling System Maintenance Considerations for Fleet Managers

Automotive engineers have made great strides in recent years in their attempts to increase the efficiency of engines. Their efforts, unfortunately, cause them to butt heads with various principles of physics. As good as they are, today’s gasoline engines are usually less than one-third efficient. Diesels do a bit better with efficiencies running generally just over a third. With the exception of post-combustion heat recovery systems, that leaves approximately two-thirds of the heat energy either going out the tailpipe or being handled by the cooling system.

Thermodynamics says that any heat engine will run more efficiently as its operating temperature increases, but, of course, there’s a limit since parts will start to melt. Engines are designed to operate efficiently within a relatively narrow heat range. Too cool means less power output. Too hot means overheating problems. Keeping the operating temperature in that narrow heat range is the job of the cooling system.

Producing an efficient cooling system is the job of automotive design engineers. Keeping the system operating efficiently is the job of a fleet’s maintenance department.

Ethylene glycol, propylene glycol or long-life/extended-life coolant should be used in cooling systems year-round as the glycol provides both freeze and boil-over protection. It also provides a stable environment for gaskets and hoses, which might leak if only water is used as a coolant. Antifreeze products offered by reputable manufacturers will comply with applicable ASTM standards and should be used only with distilled water in a blend of between 40 percent and 60 percent. A 50 percent blend is ideal.

Coolant containing too high a concentration of antifreeze can cause silicate dropout and water pump leakage. A study of water pump failures by Cummins ( found an overconcentration of antifreeze in 78 percent of the pumps they examined.

Because magnesium and calcium found in most tap water can cause scaling on internal cooling system components, tap water should not be used in cooling systems. In addition, sulfates in tap water can corrode these parts. Distilled water should always be used when filling a cooling system to help avoid these problems.

Engineers at Baldwin Filters ( outline the various functions required of an engine coolant:
• Removes heat
• Lubricates components such as water pumps
• Provides freeze protection
• Prevents scale and sludge formation
• Protects against corrosion

The first three can be handled by a simple mix of a low-silicate antifreeze and distilled water. Supplemental coolant additives (SCAs) must be introduced to the system to prevent scale and sludge formation and to provide corrosion protection. SCAs typically contain inhibitors designed to prevent generalized corrosion and cavitation erosion, and they keep hard water scale from depositing on engine surfaces and use buffers to reduce the acidity of the coolant.

Fleets need an effective preventive maintenance program to keep the cooling system clean. Because this can be labor intensive, it’s too often not done. All commercial trucks should be equipped with coolant filters, and fleet managers should strongly consider working with cleaning filters that are used for a relatively short time instead of normal coolant filters. Manufacturers have developed spin-on cleaner/filter cartridges that chemically clean the system while the truck is used in normal operations. These units are left on the truck for a few weeks. After that, the coolant is checked with test strips to ensure that dissolved solids are within OEM-recommended levels. The cleaner/filter contains the chemistry needed to clean a cooling system as well as what’s needed to protect it against further corrosion.

Check for Leaks
In many cases a small coolant leak might not be noticed because of the high temperatures under the hood during operation. The leaked coolant simply evaporates as the truck travels down the road. The result could be an automatic shutdown.

The best way to check a cooling system for small leaks is to pressurize it before making an inspection. Too often, fleets that pressurize cooling systems on a regular basis only pressurize to cap pressure. System pressures up to 18 psi should be used.

Arctic Fox ( makes a tool called a Coolant Dam Pressure Tester that uses shop air to quickly pressurize systems up to 18 psi. After pressurizing the system, the technician lets the truck sit for a while and then looks for problems. After checking for leaks, he or she can use the same test unit to check the cap.

High-quality silicone coolant hoses and heater hoses are found on most commercial trucks today, yet cold water leaks are still a problem faced by the trucking industry. To obtain good sealing at the coolant hose connection, the entire system – stem, hose and clamp – must be considered. Constant tension or spring-loaded clamps generally seal better than constant diameter screw clamps, especially for sealing in low temperatures. These generally work better because they contract as the material in the hose wall thermally contracts and loses resilience.

Cooling systems require maintenance on a regular basis. Antifreeze needs additives. Systems need to be cleaned and checked for leaks. When cooling systems are working properly, most engine problems can be avoided.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.

Towing Vehicles Over Snow and Ice

Now that fall has turned into winter and snow threatens to ice over roads and deliver countless traffic jams and detours, what would normally be a four-hour job at a remote site will likely be transformed into a backcountry expedition. As we gear up our fleet for the wintertime, we need to remind ourselves and our drivers about the driving and trailering hazards that snow- and ice-covered roads create. Breakdowns and accidents may not be entirely avoidable, but some potentially disastrous situations can be prevented even before leaving the shop.

Pre-Trip Inspections
Pre-trip inspections are a must for all work-related driving and trailering. In addition to inspecting all of the critical components of a tow vehicle and trailer before embarking, following are a few more common points that are often overlooked:

Tire Inflation
Most everyone will reiterate how important proper tire inflation is, but when was the last time anyone put a gauge on those tires? Every 10-degree drop in temperature will reduce your tire pressure by approximately 1-2 psi. Check tire pressure often because even a small psi drop can significantly compromise tire traction and dependability, especially over snow and ice.

Hitch Capacity
Ensure the capacity of the trailer hitch is properly rated for the trailer you are about to tow. Don’t assume that because it’s on the trailer, it’s the right capacity. You also might want to consider installing a weight distribution hitch. These hitches greatly improve towing capacity, brake performance and general stability in winter driving conditions.

Survival Gear
A vehicle breakdown in a remote area can quickly escalate from an uncomfortable situation to a potentially dangerous one if no heat is available. A fully stocked survival kit should be stored in any vehicle traveling off road or to remote locations. If you don’t have a survival kit, here are a few critical supplies that all vehicles should have:
• Ignition sources: Always have multiple sources of ignition – such as lighters, strikers or matches – in the event that you need to build a fire nearby to warm up.
• Emergency space blankets: Taping up space blankets in the cab of a broken down truck can raise the inside temperature from below freezing to 70 degrees in minutes.

These are critical supplies that are too inexpensive to overlook. A few space blankets and boxes of matches can cost less than $10 and save your life if you become stranded in the wintertime.

Trailer Loading
Ensuring the center of gravity (CG) is properly placed on the trailer is crucial for trailer towing. A load that is out of CG from front to back will lead to dangerous vertical loading and unloading at the hitch point and possibly to a loss of front axle brake performance. Placing the load CG too far to the rear also can lead to dynamic instability of the trailer and cause it to fishtail side to side. It is extremely important to avoid this when the traction coefficient of the tires is compromised due to snow and ice on the road.

Another important point to keep in mind is that safety regulations require that all cargo control equipment used is to be inspected prior to each and every use. Do your straps have any cuts or tears in the area that will be used for securing the load? Are the straps protected against sharp edges? Are securement chains free of any damaged links? Even after securing the load and driving a few miles, especially when off road, it may be necessary to stop and check the tension on the securement chains or straps since it is possible that they have loosened.

Stopping Options
Do each of your vehicles and trailers have antilock braking systems (ABS)? Even with an ABS, a driver still has to understand how to provide driving inputs that allow the ABS to work most effectively. Since the ABS only assists in decelerating, the speed at which you are traveling, as well as the steering inputs that you provide, may hinder how quickly the ABS can help bring you to a stop.

Stopping in a Turn
When attempting to stop in a turn, should you straighten the wheel and apply the brakes even though you might be steering off the road? You have more traction and would stop faster by straightening the wheels, but is there a ditch or is the road on flat ground where it may be safe to drive off straight? It would be much safer to go straight into the ditch and much easier to tow the vehicle out of the ditch after going in straight as opposed to going in sideways.

Another option is to continue in the turn and apply the brake at the same time to try to stay on the road. Doing this may keep you on the road, but you also have the least amount of traction and face the consequence of sliding sideways and possibly off the road.

The key factor here is understanding when you have committed to going off the road. Many untrained drivers don’t think they are going off the road until their tires have crossed over the white line, which can be a deadly mistake. A trained driver will understand that if they make a mistake, such as approaching the turn too fast, they actually committed to going off the road well before they hit the ditch. Understanding this point a split second earlier can allow you to make a better decision of the two bad choices that you now have. Putting it another way, you could ask yourself, “Do I want to end up in the ditch?” or “Do I want to end up in the ditch sideways and possibly roll over?”

Descending Steep Grades
Steep grades can pose some of the most dangerous driving conditions in winter. Stopping distances can be exponentially larger when traction is reduced by snow and ice and momentum is increased due to the weight of a trailer. Starting a decline too fast can put you in the same situation as approaching a turn too fast – you may have committed to going off the road well before you realize it.

There are no absolute safe driving procedures to follow when driving on snow and ice. Every road, every patch of ice, every vehicle and every tire is different. It is important to train drivers about how to utilize the vehicle-trailer combination to properly perform in the conditions in which they are expected to drive. While you may think that you have acceptable traction at one point, conditions can quickly change and that traction may not be there when it is needed. The most important thing you can do is understand the conditions that surround you and drive in a manner that allows you to safely react if something does start to go wrong.

About the Authors: Nick Bassarab is Safety One Training International’s operations manager and a lead trainer for the company’s ice driving and trailering classes. Safety One, based in Littleton, Colo., also offers training classes on snowcat operations and winter survival, tower climbing and rescue, and other critical safety subjects. Learn more at

Carl Maxey is the president and general manager of Maxey Manufacturing and Trailer Sales in Fort Collins, Colo. He also is a former president of the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers and a lead trainer for Safety One’s ice driving and trailering classes.

Alternative Fuel Options for Fleets

Fleet fueling today is primarily done using gasoline and diesel fuels, which are derived from crude oil and emit carbon dioxide as a byproduct of combustion. For every gallon of gasoline burned, 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted into the air. Diesel emits 22 pounds of carbon dioxide, and propane, the third-most popular world fuel, generates 13 pounds of carbon dioxide. Methane – the primary component of compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) – generates a little less than propane, approximately 12 pounds per gallon equivalent.

Until recently, CNG, LNG and propane were more expensive than gasoline and diesel. However, shale gas reserves from the Marcellus, Bakken and Eagle Ford deposits – along with new extraction and fracturing methods – have given the U.S. and Canada the world’s largest natural gas reserves, making the cost of natural gas half the cost of diesel fuel. With this benefit, we can develop strategies to build the cost-effective infrastructure necessary to economically deliver to end users the methane fuels, including CNG and LNG, that will allow us to reduce our dependency on petroleum-based fuels as well as reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.

Conversion Costs and Other Considerations
Converting one diesel engine to use natural gas will cost an estimated $20,000 to $30,000. With lower fuel costs than a gasoline or diesel engine, the financial investment can be recovered in two to three years or 175,000 miles.

The added costs are a product of the spark plug ignition and related vehicle fuel storage and delivery systems necessary to upfit the vehicle’s diesel engine so it burns methane fuel. The emissions systems on EPA-compliant diesel engines (i.e., diesel oxidation catalyst, diesel particulate filter and related system components) are not needed when using methane fuel. However, the exhaust gas recirculation system will be retained and the CNG and LNG engine will comply with the 2002, 2007 and 2010 EPA environmental standards.

Dimethyl ether, a variation of methane, provides a fuel for the diesel engine that does not require a spark plug ignition. Large-capacity truck engines can be fitted with high-pressure direct injection, which uses a small amount of diesel fuel to increase the combustion temperature so the methane will fire in a compression ignition cycle – no spark plug needed. At the present time, smaller diesel engines, in order to be converted to methane (CNG) use, need spark plug systems to operate. LNG currently is a better application for long-haul, heavy-duty Class 8 tractors and vocational trucks.

Off-road diesel-powered units require Tier 4 systems, and buses and trucks require diesel oxidation catalysts and diesel particulate filters. Methane systems eliminate the need for these components and their costs because methane fuel burns cleaner and does not need the exhaust filtration to remain EPA compliant.

When considering a conversion, also think about working with a manufacturer that can supply you with a new alternative fuel vehicle for warranty coverage purposes. It is not desirable for you to convert your present gasoline or diesel engine to an alternative fuel vehicle if you want to preserve your warranty. Additionally, you want to be sure that the conversion is efficient and your expected life cycle is kept intact.

Choosing a Fuel Option
What is necessary to decide on infrastructure to support your alternative fuel choice? If methane gas is available in the street at your facility, you can plan on the installation of a CNG fueling station. Street pressure is around 250+/- psi, and you need to have a compressor plus cooling and filter equipment to bring the methane up to 3600 psi to dispense it into your CNG-equipped vehicle. Dispensing does not require any specialized fueler protective equipment. An estimated cost for a CNG station for a 50-vehicle transit bus and/or vocational truck fleet is $2 million to $3 million. The cost for a 100- to 150-vehicle transit bus and/or vocational truck fleet is an estimated $3 million to $5 million.

LNG or propane is an alternative if you do not have methane in the street. Special dispensing equipment is necessary for LNG since storage temperature is around -270 degrees Fahrenheit, and asbestos gloves and an asbestos apron along with a face mask also are needed due to the low temperature. This protective equipment is required for the protection of the fueler in case of a leak. If you are interested in using propane, do your research to see if it can be trucked into your facility.

Some simple alternative fuel options are biodiesel and ethanol. Biodiesel is a quantity of used or virgin vegetable oil. The desired vehicle and engine manufacturer-approved mix is 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent diesel fuel. For ethanol, the desired mix is 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. More than 10 percent ethanol is corrosive and requires stainless steel components. These alternatives can easily be included in our present infrastructure, but do not reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

Vehicles choosing CNG and LNG are restricted in their range of travel because of the lack of infrastructure. These fuels are best used in vehicles and equipment that start from and return to their original domiciles. The same is true with electric vehicles; their travel range is restricted based on charging station availability, plus the batteries are not durable, are very expensive and need greater capacity.

Another decision is whether to engineer vehicles and equipment for a dedicated fuel or to equip them with a dual fuel application, which allows a greater range of operation. Dedicated fuel units offer more economical and green control to management to maximize their strategic and tactical goals and objectives, recovering their conversion costs sooner. Units with centralized fueling keep operating activities simple, offering greater control of unit performance, route dedication, training, maintenance and repairs, and maximum availability for maximum utilization.

Maintenance and Repairs
CNG, LNG and propane vehicles and equipment need regular maintenance and also will need repairs from time to time. Vehicles and equipment usually are serviced in facilities such as garages. Other than biodiesel and ethanol, alternative fuels require facility safety upgrades and modifications to protect the service professionals and support staff who diagnose, maintain and repair alternative fuel vehicles and equipment.

Garages in the southern region of the U.S. have the option of servicing vehicles outside under covered work bays, which allows venting of methane, propane, and hydrogen fumes and vapors. Due to the climate, garages in the northern region of North America don’t have this option. Even if you can work outside, it is much better to service vehicles and equipment indoors because it provides a controlled climate, as well as greater safety and a more productive environment for the service personnel. It’s important to remember, however, that working on CNG, LNG, electric, hybrid and propane vehicles and equipment requires the measurement and ventilation of their fumes and vapors.

Regulatory agencies and insurance companies identify codes that need to be adhered to in the construction of alternative fuel-friendly garages. The fire department is king in these circumstances. Consider the following example of methane leakage. Since the flammable range of methane is 5 percent to 15 percent methane and 85 percent to 95 percent air, fire departments and the National Fire Protection Association recommend that 20 percent of the lower flammability limit be measured for staff protection. The lower flammability limit of methane is 5 percent, so 20 percent of the lower flammability limit is 1 percent methane to be measured. The facility must be equipped with explosion-proof fans to be energized when the lower flammability limit is reached. Similar measurements of electric vehicle batteries’ hydrogen emissions, hybrid batteries, hydrogen from fuel cells and propane all fall under regulatory agency supervision for facility and personnel safety and are integral parts of alternative fuel technology and implementation into your fleet.

Fire drills should be held at the garage on a regular basis. If you have gasoline and diesel vehicles, all windows, doors and exhaust equipment must be closed to smother the fire by withholding oxygen. The alternative fuel strategy is to open all doors and windows to release the fumes. These different strategies require staff training to ensure employees know the difference between audio and visual strobe configuration alarms and warning system alerts. Proper training will enable staff to act appropriately during an emergency, including safely exiting the facility and reporting to the correct gathering stations for attendance purposes.

Recent Popularity
Why are alternative fuels now getting so much attention? North America wants to reduce its dependence on foreign fuels and petroleum products. With the world demanding more fuels through foreign oil, competition for a controlled supply increases prices and restricts demands, resulting in the potential for a down economy. Additionally, greater use of oil increases pollution in the form of hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

Alternative fuels like CNG, LNG and propane offer cost-effective, greener alternatives. And due to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in large shale fields located in the U.S. and Canada, natural gas volumes recently have dramatically increased. With this increased volume, prices have dropped so that the diesel gallon equivalent of natural gas has become available at less than half the cost of diesel fuel. As such, there is potential to significantly reduce our vehicle and equipment fuel costs and rapidly stimulate the economy by replacing diesel fuel with natural gas and even producing diesel fuel from natural gas.

CNG, LNG and propane are great alternative fuel options that can supplement and replace our immediate and future needs for gasoline and diesel fuel. LNG offers greater heat content and is more suited for over-the-road Class 8 tractor-trailers and vocational trucks. CNG is better suited for Class 1-7 diesel units, and propane fits Class 1-7 gasoline vehicles. These fuel choices are limited only by the construction of fuel stations; in order to realize their full potential, the country must create infrastructure to allow greater access to alternative fuels.

The availability of methane via North American shale deposits and the hydraulic fracturing process has put the region in a position to use CNG, LNG and propane as productive, cost-effective alternative fuels. Each of us needs to do our homework to see what is best for our specific needs. Analyze the cost of alternative fuels, look at the payback time frame, and make the decision that is best for your shops and your business as a whole.

About the Author: John Dolce is a fleet facility and maintenance specialist employed by Wendel Companies, an architectural and engineering firm. He is an active consultant, instructor and fleet manager with more than 40 years of experience in the public and private sector. Dolce has written three fleet-related textbooks and teaches fleet management courses at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses.

Changing Attitudes

It turns out that “Getting to the Next Level of Safety Performance,” Bob McCall’s presentation at the 2013 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (EUFMC), was just the high-level view. On the ground at Duke Energy, where McCall serves as general manager of fleet services, a team of fleet management professionals is putting in place a series of initiatives aimed at posting a record of zero incidents, injuries and accidents.

“We’re doing exciting things this year,” McCall said. “And common to all our efforts is fostering a culture where everyone is recognizing failures and raising expectations, and is accountable and involved. That’s often the hardest thing to do with any program, but if we don’t, maintaining the status quo would lead to worse performance.”

Mike Allison, design and technical services director of Duke Energy Fleet Services, said there has been an overall and positive change in philosophy among the company’s nearly 340-member fleet services team. “Today, a lot of the conversation is about how to be safe and how to keep others safe,” he related. “Everyone is willing to participate and that is reflected in the quality of work as well.”

In the beginning, Allison noted, it was important to measure views of safety in Duke shops. “We needed to know how our technicians saw things, not just management’s view,” he said. “It was a simple exercise in communication.”

Formal Approach
To formalize the process, Duke Energy Fleet Services management chartered a project team to analyze technician work tasks, identify ergonomic risk factors and develop effective mitigation strategies. The team was comprised of supervisors and technicians from the company’s Carolinas and Midwest operations, health and safety professionals, and an ergonomist. The project covered five phases: data review, task identification, field observations/data collection, analysis and solution development.

During the data review phase, information was obtained from incident reports and other sources. The experience of the fleet management personnel and technicians was tapped during the task identification phase to gain detailed information about job functions. This knowledge was used to develop a list of common work tasks with high-risk potential, followed by a field observations/data collection phase, during which scientific measurements became the focus of the team.

In the project’s analysis phase, each work task was evaluated using established ergonomic methods, including simple lifting and lowering tasks and others involving high forces and/or awkward postures. The project team then designed a process for ranking hazards associated with work tasks that would be used to assist Fleet Services management in prioritizing control efforts.

The most serious hazards identified for technicians involved servicing a particular valve, performing a heavy-duty brake job, aerial truck preventive maintenance and light-duty truck PM performed outdoors. In addition to the results for the individual processes, several hazards were identified; these included high levels of vibration from the use of power tools, contact stresses from kneeling, standing for long periods on hard surfaces and poor lighting.

Developing Solutions
“We developed solutions for most of the ergonomic hazards,” said Patrick Rozanski, one of four regional directors for garage operations at Duke Energy who serves as director, fleet services-Midwest. “Those included making purchases for creepers to help reduce stress when a technician has to work in an awkward position, portable head-mounted lights, kneepads and padded kneeling mats, and anti-vibration gloves for prolonged use of power and impact tools. We also implemented the use of power tools such as wrenches and grease guns where tasks are repetitious and made suggestions for changes to the design of aerial trucks and other equipment.

“Getting technicians involved in identifying ways to make their jobs safer and showing everyone the company is willing to spend time and money on programs and tools that impact safety go a long way toward changing attitudes and gaining commitment,” Rozanski stated. “We’ve seen the results in the lower number of incidents we have and in how much the new equipment is used.”

Rozanski went on to relate how another seemingly simple initiative is helping identify and eliminate potential problems in Duke shops. “We have a 10-minute walk-around in every shop every morning to find and mitigate hazards,” he explained. “We observe and look for things that can cause an accident, like cluttered areas, and unsecured ladders and air lines, that we can address by improving our housekeeping practices. It’s about getting into a pattern of seeing and addressing hazards before they cause an injury.”

Another way that Duke Energy Fleet Services is proactively addressing shop safety is through a technician training initiative for both new and veteran employees. The program, McCall noted, is especially important as the company incorporates operations associated with its 2012 merger with Progress Energy. “We can’t assume, whether it’s new hires, transferred employees or veterans, that everyone knows what to do in our shops,” he said. “We have to ensure that knowledge is being transferred correctly.”

No Shortcuts
Charged with overseeing that training initiative is Chris Jolly, director, fleet services, who, with the help of subject matter experts, has developed and implemented policy orientation programs emphasizing shop safety. “Data shows that if you have a well-educated workforce and a continuing training program, your employees will not take shortcuts,” he said. “Instead, they will always strive to use the best and safest work practices.”

Duke Energy’s fleet services team is taking a similar approach when it comes to equipment, Allison noted. “We’ve established standards teams of managers, users and other departments in each region,” he explained. “Their input is invaluable and it keeps open the lines of communications to identify root causes of hazards, whether it’s equipment specifications, operator practices, or inspection- and maintenance-related items.

“We can’t emphasize enough the importance of having everyone take responsibility on how to improve,” Allison continued. “That’s how our culture is changing. We’re able to move forward with safer work practices and safer facilities because everyone understands safety initiatives and equipment standards don’t take away from productivity and the ability to do quality work. Instead, they bring value.”

From his vantage point, McCall said all of these activities are about “stepping up your leadership style and raising everyone’s standards and expectations. How many more accidents do you need to see, hear about, read about and investigate?” he asked the EUFMC audience earlier this year. “If you are tired of injuries, and the type of attitudes that go with that thinking, then change the culture and the expectations of what is needed from each member of the team. Engage people who believe in helping move that process forward.”

About Duke Energy: Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at

About the Author: Seth Skydel has more than 27 years of truck- and automotive-related publication experience. In his career, he has held editorial roles at numerous national business-to-business publications focusing on fleet and transportation management, vehicle and information technology, and industry trends and issues.

Shop Safety and Efficiency

Safety is a high priority of professional fleet managers. Fleets are known to spec their operating equipment to be the safest possible for the work they will be doing, and they train their operators to always work with safety in mind. In addition to safety, efficiency also is an important aspect of operations in well-run maintenance shops.

“Since labor accounts for about 60 percent of a fleet’s vehicle service and repair budget, it makes sense that anything a fleet can do to maximize technician efficiency will result in a bottom-line savings,” said Doug Spiller, heavy-duty product manager for Rotary Lift ( “The biggest factors affecting technician productivity are access to vehicle components and room to work efficiently. Vehicle lifts provide more convenient, comfortable access to every serviceable part on a truck, enabling technicians to perform more work in less time. In fact, productivity studies conducted by fleets have found that installing a single vehicle lift in the shop can reduce labor overhead by $100,000 or more.”

According to Ken Atha, OSHA’s regional administrator in the West, “Workers in the automotive industry are exposed to crushing hazards from automotive lifts when servicing vehicles. These risks can be limited by properly maintaining automotive lifts and providing workers with effective training regarding inspection and use of lifts.”

“Safety starts at the top,” said R.W. “Bob” O’Gorman, president of the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI). “It begins with buying the right lift. Responsible managers know to only buy lifts that wear the gold label demonstrating that they have been third-party tested and certified to meet the ANSI safety and performance standard for lifts, ANSI/ALI ALCTV-2011.”

Lift Training and Inspection
After purchasing a lift, O’Gorman continued, “Next is training. It is very important that all technicians receive training on the proper use and maintenance of the lifts installed in the shop.”

Recognizing the need for such training, the National Conference of State Fleet Administrators recently asked Steve Perlstein, president of Mohawk Lifts, to prepare and present a webinar on vehicle lift safety. In his presentation, Perlstein pointed out that OSHA requires vehicle lifts to undergo annual inspections completed by experienced lift inspectors and that anyone using such equipment must receive training on an annual basis.

“Proper vehicle lift certification, installation and inspection have come under increased scrutiny in recent years by OSHA and other local, state, provincial, and federal health and safety officers,” O’Gorman said. “This has resulted in an increase in shops looking for qualified automotive lift inspectors.” Certified inspectors can be contacted through the ALI website (

All reputable lift manufacturers provide training on the proper use of their products when new equipment is installed in a fleet’s shop, and training also is available on their websites. Mohawk Lifts’ website (, for example, has several videos that include safety information about their lifts as well as information about other safety-related items available through the company.

With regard to management responsibilities relative to OSHA regulations, be aware that you won’t get a free pass because you don’t know about the regulations. Management has the responsibility to know the regulations and to follow them. As Perlstein noted in his webinar, there are two important standards fleet managers need to understand. The first is that lifts must be inspected annually by a qualified automotive lift inspector. The second is that the technicians who work on the lifts must be trained each year on how to safely and properly use them. Such training time must be documented by the fleet.

Research Product Specifications
While a vehicle lift offers a great opportunity to increase shop efficiency, it also opens up the fleet to liability for any injuries incurred by employees if the installed lift does not meet performance or manufacturing standards for the application.

According to ALI, purchasers of lifts often are confused by claims made by sellers. Such claims are sometimes made in good faith by inexperienced salespeople, but other times they may be made intentionally to confuse a potential purchaser and obtain an order for equipment that may not actually meet the purchaser’s requirements. Every lift in your shops should have an ALI/ETI certification label affixed to it, which will offer the assurance that the lift in question meets the current national safety standards.

Certification indicates that a third-party organization has determined that a manufacturer has the ability to produce a product that complies with a specific set of standards. Certified products undergo periodic re-evaluation and are required to be produced within the requirements of a documented quality program. The program is audited quarterly, regardless of the production facility’s location, to ensure continued compliance with the applicable standards.

“All lifts are not created equal,” Spiller said. “The best all-around lift for heavy-duty vehicle maintenance remains the modular in-ground lift. In-ground lifts have been the top choice of heavy-duty maintenance operations for more than 80 years because they provide the best access to maintenance items on a vehicle in the most ergonomic, space-efficient way.”

A lower price doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting a lift for less. Too often it means you’re getting less lift. You want a lift that delivers the lowest total cost of ownership. The most expensive lift you can buy is one that is out of service.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.

Replace, Rebuild or Repair?

How do you complete an economic analysis to cost-effectively determine whether to replace, rebuild, repair, sell or scrap vehicles and equipment? How do you ensure that your choice is the right one made at the right time, and that it supports your fleet’s tactical and strategic operating plans?

To start, you must assure yourself that your fleet’s vehicles and equipment being considered for replacement are fully utilized. If they’re not, instead of replacing them, think about reducing them from the fleet inventory and renting the units as needed. You can measure your fleet operation by laying out figures of activity-based costing to evaluate the facts, which will give you a picture of your fleet’s productivity and profitability.

Let’s look at an example of activity-based costing. The chart below shows the eight-year cumulative costs of an $18,500 light vehicle. The seven lines of the chart reflect the following:
• Line 1: Principal of $18,500 spread (depreciated) over five years.
• Line 2: Interest of 5 percent for the full principal in Year 1 and 5 percent interest for each year thereafter.
• Line 3: Annual parts and labor costs.
• Line 4: Estimated annual fuel costs.
• Line 5: Total costs of lines 1-4 divided by 15,000 miles for each year.
• Line 6: Resale value of the vehicle.
• Line 7: The resale value of each year divided into the maintenance cost.


Note that the numbers in parentheses over Line 3 are the cumulative maintenance costs for each year. The first line of penciled-in numbers under Line 7 is the cumulative average of the maintenance cost divided by the resale value. The second penciled-in line is the average increase in maintenance cost divided by the resale value. This information turned out to be meaningless.

Time for Replacement
According to the industry best practice, it’s time to replace a vehicle or piece of equipment when the total maintenance cost of the unit being evaluated equals the total original purchase price. It’s also important to consider the unit’s reliability. For instance, in Year 8 the cumulative maintenance cost is $14,210, the maintenance cost is $6,200 and the vehicle’s residual value is $2,716. This vehicle is not reliable in its eighth year because it is often down for maintenance, plus it’s not available for use while it is being repaired. A low utilization rate costs your fleet an excessive amount of money.

It is desirable to give yourself enough time to be proactive in deciding when to replace a unit. You need time to propose its replacement and fund it with capital dollars to be accepted for your coming year, or fund it with operating dollars to rebuild it. If the unit is not needed, you need time to sell or scrap it.

Rebuilding is cost effective if you can spend half the cost of a new unit and get two-thirds to three-quarters the life of a new unit. For example, the $18,500 light vehicle’s cost-effective life cycle appears to be seven years, and it should be replaced at the end of its seventh year. If we were to consider a rebuild, half the cost of a new $21,000 vehicle would be $10,500, and its rebuilt expected life span would be five to six years.

In my experience, when a vehicle’s repair cost reaches 30 percent of its residual value, that gives you time to evaluate the vehicle to decide whether you want to replace, rebuild, repair, sell or scrap it. Costs for each alternative would be provided to management, and the capital and operating budgets should also be summarized. While a vehicle maintenance management information system would be very helpful with this, it’s not mandatory. You could set up a spreadsheet to start with and migrate to a management information system at a later date.

Vehicle Condition
Now, let’s deal with the condition of the vehicle. In this type of situation, it’s best to use numbers as descriptors instead of words so meanings are interpreted the same way by each person who reviews them.

Using a digital camera, take pictures of the fleet vehicles, capturing all four sides – front, rear, left side and right side. Next, assign numbers 1 through 5 to rate the vehicle’s condition. Five would be an excellent rating, 4 would be a very good rating and so on. Then, after you’ve made number assignments, identify components to rate, including the chassis, body, brakes and engine. Rate component sections so that each, added together, totals 100. This will allow you to rate the unit with 100 as the top score. Numbers lower than 100 indicate deficiencies for each vehicle.


After rating each unit, prioritize each one being considered for replacement, rebuild or continued repair. The worst units should be prioritized first. Determine the capital and operating funding that fits your strategic company plan, as well as the tactical funding needed to support service levels for efficient availability and productive and reliable utilizations. If you watch duty and life cycles annually, some units, whose maintenance costs are at a starting point of 30 percent of their residual value, may be able to have their life extended because of good maintenance and operating methods.

The ultimate goal is to come up with an acceptable average age for all classes of your vehicles so you can monitor the entire fleet. Watch and pay attention to everything and measure what’s meaningful to support timely, proactive, cost-effective corrective actions.

About the Author: John Dolce is a fleet facility and maintenance specialist employed by Wendel Companies, an architectural and engineering firm. He is an active consultant, instructor and fleet manager with more than 40 years of experience in the public and private sector. Dolce has written three fleet-related textbooks and teaches fleet management courses at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses.

Tire Expenses: Manage to Minimize

Effective management of tire costs is more important now than ever and will continue to grow in importance, but if you are not able to accurately measure what your fleet spends on tires, there is no way you will be able to manage those expenses. Unfortunately, many fleets have not initiated a comprehensive tire management program, nor do they accurately know the expense they incur for tires.

“At the end of the day, it is cost per 1/32nd of tread wear per mile, but most people do not have that information,” said Darry Stuart, president and CEO of DWS Fleet Management Services ( “The best way to accurately account for tires is to use a good computerized system and charge tires by 32nds as they go on and credit tires the 32nds when they come off. Also, most fleets include the cost of tires in the cost of a new truck, therefore failing to include those tires when they are calculating their tire cost per mile.”

Programs that do this kind of accounting are available and have been designed to interact seamlessly with most computerized maintenance management systems. Services are also available through tire vendors who will input fleet tire data, then store and analyze it. Goodyear (, for example, recently launched a next-generation version of its TVTrack program that is designed to do exactly what needs to be done if fleet tire costs are to be managed. It is available through the company’s dealer network and will accept and analyze cradle-to-grave financial information about any brand of tire.

Retread tires deserve to be included in all commercial fleet tire programs. Many fleets operating Class 3 through 6 vehicles already use retreads, and due to economic pressures over the last few years, there has been a growing interest in the use of these products among fleets not using them. “There has definitely been an increased interest in using retreads,” said Guy Walenga, director of engineering for commercial products at Bridgestone Firestone ( “You could say people have found religion. They have been looking for any place where they can save some money. Many fleets that never considered retreading before have taken another look at the use of retreads because it is such a good way to influence the overall cost per mile.”

Fleet managers need to realize there is no definite age limit on the life of a tire carcass. Steel body plies and steel-belted commercial tires are designed to be retreaded. Every casing that goes into a reputable retread shop will be inspected visually and with a nondestructive testing system that will find any nail holes invisible to the naked eye. They are also put through X-ray tests to find ply separations.

“Because each tire casing goes through this extended inspection process, there is no time frame that would limit the casing for retreading,” Walenga said. “A retreader is liable for the quality and performance of his product. As a result, he’s not going to put a dime of unnecessary expense into a tire that isn’t going to retread and perform for his customer. He does all of his testing before he buffs the tire.”

The high cost of tires has caused an increased interest in recapping in heavy-duty fleets that had not taken advantage of this proven technology. Fleets that regularly use recapped tires are looking to get another cap or two on their casings. Many fleet managers recapped a casing only until it was about 5 years old, and then sold it instead of capping it again.

That strategy is changing. “Some years ago, most fleet managers would take a casing out of service after about five years,” Stuart said. “That increased to six years and now, in many cases, is at seven years and in some cases eight years. The strategy has been working well, but the applications those older casings go into need to be managed. If the tire is going to be used in a low-mileage trailer application, 40,000 or 50,000 miles a year, it will very likely offer you no problems. Capping technology has also improved, helping to make this strategy possible.”

Ryder System ( has a policy of not going down to the legal limit for its over-the-road units. “The DOT legal is 2/32, but we target 4/32, which gives us a little bit of room to plan the replacement,” said Scott Perry, Ryder’s vice president of supply management. “We recognize the importance of the casing and not wearing the tread package too thin. Our customers are on full-service leases so they will bring their trucks into our service facilities on a regular basis, and our goal is to perform as much of the required maintenance on our leased vehicles at our facilities as possible. As a result, we have multiple touch points throughout the year. Because of that, we can predict when the tires will need to be removed from the vehicle.” Consequently, it’s a scheduled procedure and not a road call.

Air Pressure
Inflation pressure is always the most important factor of tire maintenance relative to tire costs. Correct inflation will help to maximize a casing’s retreadability while minimizing wear and the tire’s negative contribution to fuel economy rolling resistance. “If you don’t have the right air pressure, you’re giving up tread mileage, giving up casing durability and you’re giving up fuel economy,” Walenga said. “A casing can be destroyed if it is run at the wrong air pressure.”

Tires will always be an expensive commodity for fleets, so it makes sense to do everything you can to control costs. Maximize the life of every casing, and when a tire comes out of service, make sure you know why. Use retreads. Keep tires aired to the correct pressure. If you’re not doing this, you’re wasting money.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.

Up and Running

Who gets utility trucks that have been immobilized by tire problems up and running again so utility response crews can resume their important work of restoring gas, electricity and other services following severe weather incidents?

In many cases, the unsung heroes in this process are tire dealers whose service technicians rush to downed utility trucks to repair – and in some instances, replace – tires that have been damaged by storm-generated debris and other items strewn across roads and highways.

The key piece is connecting these tire dealers to utility service trucks whose drivers want to get back on the road. This is where Goodyear’s new Storm Priority program enters the picture.

A Top Priority
The Goodyear Storm Priority program was created to make utility truck tire service a top priority because we know that when severe weather strikes, there is no time to waste. Every minute counts, not just for affected citizens who have lost access to critical utilities, but also for the utility companies that send trucks to storm-ravaged areas.

Goodyear Storm Priority takes the hassle out of tire dealer technician deployment. To access the service during and after power outages and other emergency situations – or while their trucks are on the way to and from power restoration efforts – utility fleets simply call a dedicated line: 1-855-STORMHQ. Also, as we know, utility trucks can experience tire-related issues while traveling outside of their home markets; Goodyear Storm Priority can assist trucks in this situation, too.

Calls that come in through the 1-855-STORMHQ number are considered high-priority and are immediately routed to the 24/7 Goodyear Solution Center, where trained tire professionals capture vital information, including the location of the caller’s downed truck. The agents who staff the Goodyear Solution Center are more than voices on the other end of the phone – they receive intensive tire training, are familiar with vehicles and tire applications, and understand the seriousness of the situation.

After collecting the necessary information, the Solution Center professionals will locate and dispatch a service technician from the nearest participating Goodyear commercial truck tire dealer to the incapacitated utility truck’s exact location. The technician will assess the truck’s tire condition and render the tire service in order to remedy the issue.

The size and scope of Goodyear’s service network – more than 2,200 locations across North America – mean that a servicing dealer is never too far away, another advantage for fleets that travel great distances to assist with power restoration. Deploying trucks from your base of operation in Pennsylvania to a hurricane-impacted section of Florida? You’ll have coverage.

Utility fleets of all sizes and configurations can access Goodyear Storm Priority at no cost by dialing 1-855-STORMHQ.

Package Deal
At Goodyear, there’s more to service than simply repairing a tire and then sending a truck on its way. We’ve developed a comprehensive suite of products, services and profitability tools to help fleets – including those in the utility industry – lower their total cost of operations. We refer to this as Goodyear’s Total Package Solution, and our Goodyear-FleetHQ program is a big part of that.

Since its inception, Goodyear-FleetHQ, of which the 24/7 Goodyear Solution Center is an important component, has put more than 750,000 trucks of all types and classifications back on the road.

Emergency road service is just one piece of this holistic approach. In the fleet management business, knowledge is power. The better the data at its fingertips, the more efficiently a fleet can manage its assets, including the tires on its trucks. To give fleets access to as much information about their tires as possible, Goodyear-FleetHQ offers Tire Trac, a dynamic online tool that monitors the performance of a fleet’s tires, as well as the fleet’s service history – collecting, documenting and presenting key data in an easy-to-access format.

Through Tire Trac, utility fleets can zero in on an individual tire, or review the performance of their tires throughout their entire operation. This gives fleets the ability to compare cost-per-mile in different regions, and even identify issues that need to be corrected. Tire Trac also enables fleets to see details related to individual roadside service calls, including cost.

In addition, it gives fleets visibility into roll-time, the amount of time between the moment a truck driver calls Goodyear-FleetHQ and the moment his or her truck returns to service. Roll-time is the No. 1 critical area identified by fleets, and Goodyear-FleetHQ offers the best roll-time in the trucking industry: on average, just two hours and 11 minutes.

Tire Trac lets fleets see the details of their tire and service purchases as well. They can benchmark their spending against the last couple of months, or even years, and run reports by tire type, size and location.

It’s crucial for utility fleets to leverage as much information as possible so they can be even better prepared to respond to severe weather incidents and other emergency situations. In light of the unpredictable weather that many parts of North America have experienced, optimal preparedness makes good sense, and will help utility crews carry out their vital work, which impacts so many people’s lives.

About the Author: Jose Martinez is the business and digital solutions manager for Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems.

Valuable Insight

For the Facilities & Transportation Fleet team at Indianapolis Power & Light Co., the key to productivity and efficiency is not just the programs and technologies that have been put in place. Equally important and absolutely essential, they note, is to ingrain a process of organizational efficiency throughout the culture of the operation.

Keith Dunkel, team leader and fleet manager, Kim Garner, fleet administration, and Les Gose, fleet maintenance at IPL, all point to the successful implementation of the 5S methodology within the fleet maintenance operation. This workplace organization methodology, based on five Japanese words all beginning with the letter “S” when translated into English (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain), has benefited the fleet’s maintenance shops through improved organization of work spaces.

“A primary focus was on the efficient and effective storage of work tools and supplies, maintaining the work area and these items, and sustaining the new order,” Dunkel said. “The decision-making process usually comes from a dialogue about standardization, which builds understanding among employees of how their work should be done.”

At IPL, the 5S methodology has brought a new cultural mindset to shop floor efficiency and safety within the fleet maintenance operation. “It’s a process that builds collaboration among employees and management specific to work design and flow,” Dunkel stated. “In addition to improving shop safety by reducing hazards, it has also provided structure within the shop environment to identify and reduce waste.”

Today, IPL crew leaders, technicians and management personnel use the 5S methodology to effectively run shop operations. A weekly safety walk, for example, is used to identify housekeeping issues, such as defective lighting or other concerns, based on a comprehensive checklist of items specific to the operation and environment.

Organized Approach
An organized approach is also in place in other areas of the IPL fleet and maintenance operation. “Three years ago,” explained Gose, “we brought in NAPA to manage our parts system. NAPA now operates our parts room as a private store, staffed 16 hours per day. The facility exclusively serves the IPL fleet, handles paperwork for our business with a local tire vendor, and as an added convenience, IPL employees can make purchases for personal use.

“With this arrangement,” Gose continued, “we are ensured competitive pricing within a consigned parts format. This has given us access to a substantial inventory without tying up financial resources for owned inventory.”

Gose also explained that IPL and NAPA are working closely together to ensure that the parts supplier is prepared to provide the wide variety of standard and specialized items needed for utility vehicles. “Our initiative is to ensure that NAPA understands our needs,” he said. “We do not want to wait for parts that we should have in stock and we expect NAPA to adjust the consignment inventory as our specs change.

“We have established and track metrics specifically to the NAPA operation,” Gose continued. “Those target wait times, fill rates and inventory location accuracy. We believe these to be core competencies for parts management and are integral to the productivity of our technicians.”

The IPL fleet is serviced in two locations, Dunkel noted. “At our main hub in Indianapolis we house about 80 percent of the fleet of 422 vehicles,” he related. “At a satellite facility we handle the other 20 percent. About 80 percent of the fleet is used in operations across our 528-square-mile service territory and the rest is allocated to our three generating plants.”

Meeting Needs
The composition of IPL’s fleet is designed to meet the needs of field operations that maintain 835 circuit miles of transmission lines and approximately 12,668 circuit miles of distribution lines, as well as 144 substations. A total of 88 heavy-duty units account for 20 percent of the fleet, another 92 are medium-duty models and the balance consists of 242 light-duty vehicles.

Primary makes represented in the IPL fleet include International heavy-duty, Freightliner and Ford medium-duty, and Chevrolet and Ford light-duty models. IPL’s alternative fuel vehicles are primarily within the light-duty segment of the fleet and use E85 from a central fueling station.

Vehicle types at IPL are varied for line, substation maintenance and construction needs, Dunkel pointed out. Aerial units supplied mainly by Altec include 45-foot models for trouble trucks, 55-foot models for line truck material handlers, 85-foot high reach noninsulated and 125-foot insulated units, and there are 42-foot material handlers and articulating squirt booms.

Also in operation at IPL are digger derricks, light-duty cranes, cable pullers and rodders. Truck types include step and hi-cube vans, 3/4-ton vans, and 1/4-, 1/2-, 3/4- and 1-ton pickups. The fleet also has sedans, minivans and SUVs, and the maintenance staff services and repairs support equipment such as easement rigs, backyard buckets, tensioners, wire reel trailers, forklifts, backhoes and small excavators.

“We have established replacement cycles based on vehicle size and use,” Garner said. “Light-duty models are in service for five years or 60,000 miles, trouble trucks are replaced after seven years and line trucks see 10 years of service in our fleet.

“For remarketing our retired heavy-duty trucks, and some nonroad equipment, we have been using the services of J.J. Kane Auctioneers,” Garner related. “We were working with a local auction company, but Altec brought J.J. Kane to our attention because of their specialization in selling construction utility equipment.

“They know the markets where we can get the best resale value for our trucks,” Garner added. “Overall, it’s been a very smooth and effective process. We have maximized our recovery dollars using the J.J. Kane process.”

Software is also in place to help specify and manage the IPL fleet, Gose noted. For example, there’s Diamond Logic Builder at International Trucks’ Body Builder Resource Center, as well as the CFAW fleet maintenance management solution and E.J. Ward automated fuel management software and reporting tools.

In the shop, Gose reported, technicians are trained on a regular basis and have multiple diagnostic tools at their disposal. Included are the Rotunda (IDS) service tool for Ford vehicles, Mentor, Pegasus, INSITE (Cummins) and Tech II diagnostic equipment, and the ServiceMaxx diagnostic and programming tool for Navistar MaxxForce engines.

Accelerated Implementation
“In 2010, we started using the Telogis Fleet management solution for vehicle telematics,” Dunkel said. “Initially, we phased in 50 trucks, but once we experienced the wealth of the data available, we accelerated our implementation plan.

“By the end of the first year we had over 300 vehicles on the system,” Dunkel continued. “The telematics solution reports GPS location data, engine performance, idle, PTO and battery time, and odometer readings, along with hard braking and acceleration information.

“Now that we have over two full years of baseline data from vehicle electronics systems over the Telogis solution, we’re taking it to the next level,” Dunkel added. “We have completed the next step [Enterprise Level] using the system’s InSight Alerts function to develop driver scorecards and a [key performance indicators] Dashboard.

“With these capabilities,” Dunkel stated, “our field operation teams use the system to enhance productivity by determining arrival and departure times at job sites. In the fleet department, we will be able to model scenarios that will show us the impact on costs of reducing idle time and get alerts to mechanical conditions previewing potential costly breakdowns and repairs.”

IPL’s management team, Dunkel added, has given strong support for this investment in vehicle telematics. “This technology has provided new and valuable insights into how our trucks are used,” he said, “giving us opportunities to lower operating costs, improve driving behaviors and better manage our assets.”

About IPL: Indianapolis Power & Light Co. provides retail electric service to more than 470,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in Indianapolis, as well as portions of other central Indiana communities surrounding Marion County. During its long history, IPL has supplied its customers with some of the lowest-cost, most reliable power in the country. Its parent company, AES Corp., provides affordable, sustainable energy to 25 countries through a diverse portfolio of distribution and generation businesses.

About the Author: Seth Skydel has more than 27 years of truck- and automotive-related publication experience. In his career, he has held editorial roles at numerous national business-to-business publications focusing on fleet and transportation management, vehicle and information technology, and industry trends and issues.

Changing Brakes

A primary concern of every fleet professional is the safe operation and stopping ability of the vehicles in his fleet. A truck’s ability to stop, of course, depends on the condition and quality of its braking system, particularly its brakes’ friction material. The friction material used in truck brakes has changed a great deal over the last few decades and continues to change. As an integral part of the braking system, friction material must be chosen to provide the stopping power necessary in a truck’s specific application. This is especially true for commercial vehicles since any given truck model may be put into a wide range of applications. Light-duty vehicles, however, may well benefit from the use of other-than-normal friction material. Consider, for example, police cruisers that may be used in high-speed pursuits with heavy braking demands.

Replacing Asbestos
Years ago, asbestos friction material was commonly used in vehicle braking systems – commercial trucks in particular – because of its ability to withstand the high operating temperatures that could be generated in stopping a heavy vehicle. Indeed, temperatures more than 2,000 F created a substantial fire hazard. The health hazards of asbestos, however, have all but eliminated its use in friction materials intended for vehicle applications. Although domestic manufacturers claim that asbestos materials are no longer used in friction products, foreign manufacturers of aftermarket brake parts have no requirement to stop distributing asbestos friction material. OSHA regulates the amount of asbestos dust that is present in vehicle repair facilities, which is where potential problems are found.

Ceramic or non-asbestos organic friction materials were developed to replace asbestos-based products in specific applications. These materials typically exhibit low friction and/or unacceptable wear rates at high temperatures and are very useful in light-duty applications, but are not suitable in many commercial and most heavy-duty operations.

Semi-metallic material was developed, along with ceramic material, to replace asbestos. In comparing the two, Kevin Judge, sales manager of national accounts at Fras-le (, a major manufacturer of semi-metallic and ceramic friction material, said, “Semi-metallic material is a bit more aggressive, but can be more noisy than ceramic material. The performance, however, of semi-metallic material makes it a desirable product for use in trucks as well as automobiles used in applications that need high-performance braking performance. It has become the standard for use by the trucking industry.”

More Changes Coming
As a result of environmental concerns, two states have passed legislation that nearly eliminates the use of copper, in addition to several other materials, in friction material. Three years ago, both California and Washington passed laws mandating that friction material used in brakes contain no more than 0.5 percent of copper by weight. While various portions of the laws take effect at different times, they have spurred the industry to develop compliant materials that will deliver satisfactory stopping performance. “As an industry, we are being challenged in going copper-free after 2019,” Judge said.

Not surprisingly, these laws put additional financial burdens on manufacturers and distributors. They may well be enough to cause some suppliers to leave the business, resulting in fewer product choices for fleets.

Brake Repairs
While fleet managers seek a long service life from brakes, they also know that brake pads and blocks will wear out and need to be replaced. Be sure to do your homework before you go to market. “Fleet managers should be prepared to accurately describe their fleet’s applications when they go to market to purchase replacement brake pads or brake linings,” Judge said. “Terrain is important. The hills of Pittsburgh require different material than the flatlands in Des Moines. They should be aware of the load that they’re carrying. Is it a constant load? Is going to be variable? Is it going to be loaded off and on? Will the application be stop-and-go, or will it be over-the-road? This is the kind of information that brake service technicians need to know before they can make good recommendations regarding friction material.”

If you plan on making a change in friction material of replacement pads or liners, test the material before making a purchase. It’s not unreasonable for a fleet manager to request sample material for his own tests. Judge said that he often gets asked for samples. Tim Bauer, director for undercarriage products at Meritor Aftermarket (, concurs. “Always test the friction material you’re considering purchasing,” he said. “Look at long-term replacement [cost versus price]. Be wary of container loads of low-price friction. Do they meet safety standards like FMVSS 121? What kind of warranty is offered? Who will back you up in the case of a failure or other problems?”

Bauer also urges that you never replace or service a component on one wheel end only; always do both wheel ends. This is especially true for work on front axles. In addition, if hardware comes packaged with replacement brake pads or linings, use it. “Don’t forget your hardware works just as hard as the linings,” Judge said.

Anytime a technician pulls a wheel, have him measure the thickness of the pad or lining as well as the run-out of the rotor or drum. Have him inspect the hoses to make sure they’re not worn or frayed, and ask him to check all the hardware to ensure it’s in good shape.

Because friction material is just one piece of a very important system comprised of parts designed to work together, when it comes time to replace it due to wear, it should be replaced with material that is as close to original as is possible or with material that you have tested to ensure satisfactory operation in your application.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.

Modernizing Your Shop: Solution Implementation

In the last issue of Utility Fleet Professional, we looked at what factors affect productivity in your current shop, how to calculate space and technician needs, and the options available to you once you determine you want to upgrade your existing shop or build a new facility. Now it’s time to explore the design and implementation process. This article will cover everything you need to know, from the different project phases to site selection considerations to the solicitation of bids and beyond.

Project Inception
Considerations at the inception of the project for either an expansion or build alternative should encompass the following:
• The goal is to reduce costs, increase safety and improve productivity.
• The cost to rehabilitate the present facility is only $125 per square foot.
• The equipment cost is 30-35 percent of the facility cost.
• The ratio of vehicles per square foot of facility.
• Circulation with inside versus outside storage.
• A new facility costs roughly $200 per square foot, plus an equipment cost at 33 percent of the square footage estimate, which is approximately $65 per square foot or an estimated $265 per square foot total.
• Twelve feet of mortar equals 18 feet of steel equals 30 feet of outside height or 26-28 feet of inside height.
• Allow for electrical, water, steel, mortar and a 10-foot concrete apron around the facility.
• Follow Wicks Law regarding the on-site supervision of the general contractor. Wicks Law states that federal funding for local projects requires a general contractor to oversee all costs as the project progresses to prohibit unnecessary change orders that needlessly increase costs.

Project Sequence
Most renovation projects typically follow this type of sequence:
• Pre-design, which includes gathering input from the fleet manager, architect and designer.
• Schematic design (six months).
• Design development (12 months).
• Contract documents development (six months).
• Request for bids, receipt of quotes and award of contract (six months).
• Design build, which takes approximately 24 months and is a combination of the preceding three line items.
• Wicks Law for construction management of federally funded projects requires an extra level of project management to supervise the general contractor. This is done to ensure that government policies and procedures are followed.
• Site progress, which includes developing a schedule and retainage.
• Involve prime contractors and subcontractors, and hold coordination meetings.
• Wrap-up, warranty, facility use program and move-in.
• Testing followed by final payment.
• On-site, turnkey and warranty management.
• Liquidated damages for latent defects.

Shop Design Sequence
The pre-design stage is a line sketch of the desired layout including items such as general sizing, stockroom, shop administration offices, lighting, plumbing, electrical, water, air, supplies, work areas, lockers, support areas, washrooms, and welding and cleaning areas. The occupant and construction management firm architect will rough out footprint processes, topography and compatibilities. This process can take up to six months with timing, what-ifs, changes, and the learning curve of the customer and architect. The most knowledgeable party is the customer who fits into the facility; the architect suggests, but the customer is both accountable and responsible.

The following must be considered in the pre-design stage:
• Pre-design of the site including site selection, site short list and cost considerations.
• Input from fleet managers, administrative personnel, shop personnel and drivers.
• Clerical needs including equipment and work flow.
• Work methods and changes.
• Design layout: architect versus client versus consultant.
• Drawing drafts of the present building that include scale, access and inside versus outside.
• Revisions to the present building including limits, codes to follow, and required permits and fees.
• Meetings:
o Bid preparation, solicitation of bids, and evaluation of bids and bidders.
o Awards: schedule start and track progress.
• Construction site progress:
o Penalties for on-site progress.
o Coordination meetings.
o Changes.
• Completion, warranty, retainage and date of return for evaluation.

Site Selection
Site selection involves consideration of the following:
• Cost to prepare the site.
• Demolition of the site; full and/or partial liability for contaminated sites.
• Site inspection; estimated renovation or rehabilitation required.
• Environmental issues, drainage considerations and wildlife protection.
• Mileage variations to the new facility and cost adjustment.
• Facility growth for five years, 10 years and beyond.
• Alternative fuel use to offset capital outlay.
• Utility access for water, electric and gas.
• Traffic flow.

Layout Alternatives
The following are layout alternatives:
• Stock room access.
• Floor drains: slope.
• Lights: natural and artificial.
• 110-, 220- and 440-volt outlets.
• Ventilation and skylights.
• Concrete finish.
• Water and air lines: freezing.
• Epoxy: hardening.
• Storage: light and heavy.
• Seal and color of concrete.
• Fans for heat and ventilation.
• Compressed air.
• Heavy-duty: workbench, light and air.
• Roof-mounted equipment.
• Drawers: rollout and slide-out.
• Roof integrity: ladders.
• Floor access versus overhead access.
• Floor bolting and painting.
• Oil, air, water and electrical disposal.
• Welding, gas and electric.
• Three-quarter- to half-inch: psi range.
• Posts and doors.
• Antifreeze: new and recycled.
• Brakes and drums.
• Silicon: permanent extended life.
• Cranes: overhead versus jib.
• Recovered oil: antifreeze.
• Waste storage.
• Hazardous versus residual versus commercial wastes.
• Primary, secondary and tertiary storage of hazardous material wastes.
• Line painting: safety.
• Vehicle exhaust system.
• Corner guards.
• Exhaust temperature.
• Convex mirrors.
• Electric fuse box index.
• Mark piping: color code fluid lines.
• Downspout: cast versus aluminum.
• Fifty candlepower at floor level.
• Continuous floor drain: inside diameter.
• Concrete aprons.
• Shop drains: oil water separator.
• Battery room.

Schematic Design
The next step is a schematic design phase during which a layout is drawn to scale, incorporating the customer’s wants and needs and fitting in equipment, HVAC, electrical and plumbing, plus general construction specifications and upgrade of pre-design ideas into acceptable reality. The architect brings experience to the following areas:
• Considerations of present work flow space.
• Whether to leave or transfer present equipment.
• Drafting a new, site-specific layout and defining dimensions.
• Identifying equipment.
• Stating the location of equipment.
• Proposing the fit of equipment in the location.
• Drafting dimensions for electric and fluid needs.
• Brainstorming meetings.

Schematic design issues include the following:
• The new facility is site specific.
• This will alter the present footprint and practices.
• Receptiveness of the occupant to the new layout.
• The cost of change from present practices to new practices.
• The cost per square foot of the new facility for budget purposes.
• Project start date.
• Present date.
• Budget changes.
• Build date.

Design Development
The next stage is design development, which is a solicitations document phase. The architectural drawings are priced from the schematic design phase, and the funding needed is dedicated to this project. If the funding is inadequate, the schematic design phase must be altered to fit the funding, which must include inflation because it will take two to four years to solicit, award, and initiate the project and accommodate the changes.

Retainage – when the general contractor, prime subcontractors and subcontractors are paid, minus a percentage that will be held for warranty resolution – must be defined at this point. What are the amounts, terms and conditions? Target retainage is 15 percent, negotiable to 5 percent. Payment times are six months from the date of occupancy, and any changes have a six-month warranty extension tied to the finish date of that change.

The following elements are included in the design development:
• Drawing submissions and review; traffic and work flow; as-built and final drawings.
• Unique issues:
o Work methods.
o Utilities.
o Communication and time clocks.
o Data processing.
o Security.
• Administration, shop, offices and parking:
o Access for pedestrians and vehicle flow.
o Numbering, odd and even parking spaces.
• Tools and equipment, electric, water and effluent.
• Shop needs:
o Rebuild, repair or preventive maintenance.
o Painting.
o Bodywork.
o Washing.
o Cleaning.

Strategies and Expectations
• Follow Wicks Law with a construction management plan.
• Provide construction management of the general contractor, prime contractors and subcontractors.
• Consider design build versus design and build by one or many architects and engineering firms.
• Company management of the architect and builder.
• Bid preparation, solicitation, evaluation and award.
• Start date, work schedule and coordination meetings.
• Meetings for site selection, design, schedule and site remediation as to its footprint.
• Payment and change orders, threshold limits and penalties.
• Warranty and retainage, training and manuals.

Management Expectations
• Construction progress updates, pictures and videos.
• Script: outline, lesson plan and library of videos.
• Facility maintenance schedule and tasks.
• Application-specific manuals for parts and service.
• Warranty and latent defects and liquidated damages.
• Extended warranty, replacement warranties and double extensions.

Equipment Program
A good equipment program involves consideration of the following:
• Specifications and cut sheet.
• Power: location and work flow.
• Delivery, setup and training.
• Acceptance and payment.
• Warranty and 5 percent estimated retainage.
• Liquidated damages for latent defects.
• Videos:
o One thousand dollars per minute, finished product and multiple choices.
o Tripod, script, outline and lesson plan.
o Equipment vendor instructor.
• Move-in:
o Parts, supplies and materials first (weekend one).
o Skeleton staff (weekday).
o Maintenance and repair staff and their tools (weekend two).
o Transition from one weekend to another weekend.
• A person on-site to manage the warranty-poor materials, poor workmanship and design defects.

A critical issue is that the customer who occupies the finished facility expects a turnkey environment. An experienced architectural and engineering firm will provide a professionally qualified employee to be on-site to manage the 5 percent retainage. This person will sit with the customer, teach him or her how the facility is designed to work, and walk him or her through that process. This costs one person’s salary for six to 18 months depending on the complexity and sophistication of the facility and the equipment installed.

Design development is the time during which specifications are developed for the facility and its equipment for solicitation. These specifications must be a combination of functional and technical details and should include training needs, service, parts and supply books, CDs organized in a standard format with a defined warranty for latent defects (i.e., design defects not readily recognizable), and installation expectations with liquidated damage (late installs) documentation for penalties.

Solicitation of Bids and Award
The solicitation phase details all phases so that subcontractors, prime contractors, general contractors and construction management firms can delineate their costs while being aware of specific time and quality issues.

The design documents convey expectations in every detail so that bid prices can be compared, with the best bid being the lowest bid that addresses all issues. Should the award be split, portions can be divided accurately and a valid comparative analysis can be made.

The next phase is to solicit the contract documents for a request for proposal, where the terms and conditions are reviewed with bidders and suggestions are taken and evaluated to make the documents more accessible to more bidders. This increases competition, which leads to more competitive pricing and better responses. With the bid proposal reviewed and updated as deemed appropriate, now a request for quote can be issued. It is important to solicit as many local job site firms as possible, noting start dates of each phase and technological assignments so that one phase is completed and another can begin. Should a phase be extended unnecessarily, it will force other start times to change. In turn, this will cause schedule delays, delay the project completion date and result in a delay for the new occupant to move into the new facility.

Once the bids are received, compared, analyzed and awarded, bonds are posted along with an agreed-upon completion date.

The principals of the project are named, and the construction site is set up with temporary quarters, phones, faxes, telecommunications, personal computers, networks, offices, files, security and information published to enable all principals to communicate.

Construction Begins
Weekly meetings on the job site are scheduled; the meeting format is agreed upon; a numbered day ledger is opened; daily notes are entered; the schedule is posted; meetings are taped and noted; and the meeting minutes are circulated with timetables established, variances noted, and windows targeted and measured.

On-site progress is monitored by weekly photos from four standard locations. Videotapes are made weekly and dated for historical reference. If it is a public project, appropriate notifications are provided to funding agencies of regular meeting schedules with progress reports and change orders. Contractor changes due to nonperformance are discussed, adjusted, and resolved to keep the project on schedule and to hold costs to estimates.

Most governmental projects have regulatory requirements to communicate project progress to the different agencies that fund prorated projects (e.g., 75 percent federal, 10 percent state and 15 percent city). Each entity would contribute, at predetermined times, percentages of the total funding of the monies to pay the contracted firms. A time and completion plan is defined to direct this process.

For example, Wicks Law states that a construction management firm must monitor the progress of the general contractor, prime contractors and subcontractors; facilitate changes to keep the integrity of the program on time and uphold the quality of work; and be responsible to the funding agencies to inform them of progress and corrective actions taken to keep the project on time and at the estimated cost. This must be done on a regular basis at a minimum of monthly or targeted quarterly intervals so that payments are received on expected due dates.

During the on-site construction phase, inspectors monitor the progress in the on-site job ledger and discuss issues weekly with the prime contractors and subcontractors.

When the project is completed, a walk-through is scheduled with the general contractor, prime contractors and subcontractors. The walk-through is videotaped and a punch list is developed. Also, a written summary is drafted for tracking fixes with reference to compliance for penalty and payment validation.

Move-In Program
Around the time when closure is evident from the punch list, a move-in program is started with the client. The move-in process is defined, sequenced and prioritized, with shelving, furniture, phones, and equipment in place and tested. A temporary certificate of occupancy is obtained. A person from the construction management firm is assigned to coordinate the move, supervise the start-up, and work out the glitches and bugs with the management of the retainage so that the transition is smooth and a comfort level is established and maintained.

The occupant needs support in the day-to-day operations of the facility, in familiarity with the as-built drawings, and in problem-solving or troubleshooting of equipment problems. The on-site representative of the construction management firm is familiar with the general contractor, prime contractors and subcontractors. He or she can facilitate any problem-solving and troubleshooting with the principals, or the retainage can be used to hire other firms to correct the problems.

The on-site person’s salary and expenses could be funded from retainage. When funding runs out in 18 months, that person would leave because the momentum of the new facility would be up to speed and would meet the design and functional expectations.

Each piece of equipment should have a manual that is standardized in a common format that complements a video of the equipment operations and training, with three sets of each. One set should be kept on-site for day-to-day use, one set should be maintained in the corporate library to copy in case the on-site copy is in use or missing, and one set should be stored off-site for reference and as a copy resource.

Client Involvement
In order for the project to be successful, close interaction is required by the design team from the construction management firm, the design firm and the occupants of the new facility.

The new facility, aside from site specifics and the design complement of topography footprint, should be built around the client-occupant if the client will manage his facility for five to 10 years upon its completion. Designs and work flows are flexible and should fit the client’s needs or perceived needs.

Depending on his or her experience, the architect has a perspective that is limited because he or she does not have experience working in this or any other similar facility. Given a set of circumstances and limitations, the architect can provide alternatives based on his or her experience.

The client will use the facility day after day, so he or she will need to move seamlessly into the new facility and show increased productivity because of the features and benefits the new facility will offer.

Day to day there are three perspectives we need to acknowledge:
• The way one person sees it (the architect/engineer).
• The way another sees it (the occupant).
• The way it really is (general contractor and/or construction management firm).

It is the general contractor and construction management firm’s responsibility to see that the architect, engineer and occupant see what it is in the same way.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. You need experience and savvy to do it. If you’ve never done this before, the architect and engineer bring experience and savvy for your consideration. They understand and are attuned to help you get the facility you need to increase productivity and improve your safety experience.

About the Author: John Dolce is a fleet facility and maintenance specialist employed by Wendel Companies, an architectural and engineering firm. He is an active consultant, instructor and fleet manager with more than 40 years of experience in the public and private sector. Dolce has written three fleet-related textbooks and teaches fleet management courses at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses.

More Than a Fill-Up

Fuel is simply too expensive to ignore. It has been the No. 1 equipment-related cost item for years in most operations. For some fleets it has surpassed the cost of labor and become a fleet’s leading expense item. Combine this with costs associated with environmental regulations pertaining to fuel storage facilities, and it’s easy to see that management attention is highly desirable for any operation that has its own fueling facilities.

Outsourcing the Job
You can probably do the job completely in-house, but that’s a bit like doing your own taxes. You’re more than likely going to miss something, something that might cost you a lot of money because you might never know you missed it until it’s too late. Like the availability of tax consultants, there are people who offer services that provide greater control, with less effort and better results for environmental compliance than what one is likely to accomplish alone.

Veeder-Root is one such company. Gilbarco Veeder-Root Fuel Management Services and Solutions is described as a Web-enabled system that provides management control for environmental compliance and equipment uptime. “Our fuel management services program is targeted at the monitoring and management of fuel,” said Kent Reid, the company’s vice president of strategic development.

The program helps limit compliance risk while providing fuel supply system uptime through continuous monitoring and real-time analysis of data transmitted wirelessly for remote diagnosis and resolution of any problems. The company’s experienced specialists oversee data from state-of-the-art infrastructure that is remotely monitoring tens of thousands of sites around the world today.

“We have two levels regarding compliance,” Reid said. “Many of the requirements of federal regulations concerning underground fuel storage tanks can be met with the installation of an automatic tank gauge. This is a device that monitors the entire fuel supply system at a location. A basic service is to monitor the data from such systems, archive it and report it to the customer so that he can be assured he is in compliance. We, of course, provide guidance or warnings when compliance tests have not been completed successfully.”

Additional Options
There are also a number of alarms that can be generated by an automatic tank gauge system. If an alarm were to occur, Reid said, “At the customer’s option, we can simply provide notification that an alarm has occurred via email or text so that the customer can manage the situation and take care of the problem. Or we will manage those alarms for him, in which case we will provide troubleshooting, dispatch and then whatever action is necessary to make sure any problems are solved as quickly as possible.”

In conjunction with its Gilbarco and Gasboy brands, the company has the ability to connect directly with fuel pumps using electronic meter registers that read customer ID cards and bring that information into the system to report on vehicle mileage and fuel consumption. Such registers can be installed on mobile fueling equipment for on-site fueling and management control. More information is available at and

Go Green
Veeder-Root is not the only company offering wireless fueling data capture and analysis. E.J. Ward has a proven automated fuel management solution that integrates both hardware and software. The company has also developed a program designed to help fleets reduce their carbon footprints. Called Go Green, this program provides fleets with the resources needed to manage their green fleet initiatives through advance reporting, improved driver behavior and proactive maintenance scheduling, according to the company.

The Ward Go Green program includes equipment to track and monitor vehicle idling through which idling can be minimized. It also supports proactive preventive maintenance and notifies customers when vehicles are scheduled for or need maintenance. The Ward Go Green program includes technology capable of tracking driver behavior as well, which gives the fleet information necessary to determine if training is needed to improve driving habits.

The company has a team of green fleet specialists who are available to work with fleets interested in developing a customized solution to improve their vehicles’ environmental and operating performance. More information about the Go Green program and Ward’s automated fuel management solutions is available by visiting

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.

Modernizing Your Shop: Productivity, Space and Technician Considerations

In order to keep up with the evolution of your fleet, it may be time to analyze the layout of your current shop to determine if you need to upgrade the facility or design and build a new facility.

To give you an idea of what happens when an organization doesn’t keep up with the evolution of its fleet, let’s review an example of a facility that operated when horses pulled wagons. The horses lived in barns. When the horseless carriage was introduced and there was no longer a need for the horses, they were sold and the barns were used to store, maintain and repair the horseless carriages. As the horseless carriage became more advanced, more were added to the fleet and the barn was modified to meet the needs of the carriages. The increase in the size of the vehicles forced the carriages to be stored outside so that maintenance, service and repair could take place inside the barn.

Lights and equipment such as jacks, lifts, drill presses, welding tools, gantry cranes, parts and supply areas, tire service areas, pits, wash areas and battery rooms were added. This addition process eventually converted the barn into a garage without physically replacing the barn. While it wasn’t an ideal situation, everyone made do. In this case, the symptom was treated, but the root cause was not addressed.

As the fleet increased in size, more staff members were hired. The space, however, stayed about the same. Two people worked on one vehicle in one bay, which was big enough to hold half the vehicle, but the other half extended outside. An unanticipated factor – weather – thus affected productivity. If it rained, the workers got wet and took significantly more time to perform the task at hand. If the weather turned cold, the door was propped open, the heater kept running and the heat escaped the building.

Built for Productivity
In contrast, let’s look at an example of a medical surgery facility that was designed and built for its specific purpose – efficiency and medical excellence. There is one operating room and multiple patients who are waiting to get procedures.

In this scenario, if a patient needs hip surgery, the surgeon speaks with the patient, diagnoses the problem at the office, determines the time it will take to complete the procedure and secures an operating room for a fixed period of time. Using a 10-hour time frame as an example, the surgeon, knowing a hip replacement takes approximately two hours, will schedule five patients for that period of time. Some patients will take 1.5 hours and some will take 2.5 hours.

After 10 hours and five procedures, with backup staff in the operating room to cover breaks and emergencies, this becomes a very efficient process. The operating room has all the tools, space and supplies for all staff members to be productive because it was designed this way before it was built.

In the case of the barn, servicing vehicles is less efficient in that space because – while there is the potential for numerous vehicles to be in the facility at the same time – it was originally built to house horses, not vehicles.

What Impacts Productivity?
With proper space allocation, a garage can offer both the potential of a reduced carbon footprint and the opportunity for increased productivity. Creating the garage is a once-in-a-lifetime event that demands experienced planning. Because almost every act is sequenced for efficiency and productivity, a fleet business requires order and discipline. Tools, supplies, equipment, fluids, monitors and support services must be laid out to efficiently maintain the fleet.

Due to funding limitations and other priorities, organizations often make do with existing facilities, outdated equipment and inefficient worker footprints, which can negatively affect productivity and result in energy loss. Space limitations and unscheduled work, in particular, can impact productivity.

Scheduled work, on the other hand, is easier to manage. When a vehicle is brought into a shop for a preventive maintenance inspection, the technician knows how much time the process will take – it has been performed many times and is sequenced with the technician’s activity. Mechanics are trained in this process, and since all the necessary resources are available, all inspections can be assigned to a bay for scheduled work in a predictable time frame.

When you consider the job requirements of a staff of technicians, there are more than 500 types of tasks they may be responsible for. Some of these tasks are done repetitively, including work on brakes, radiators and water pumps, wheel removal and replacement, and air/oil filter changes. These tasks, however, make up only 30 percent of total maintenance work, meaning just 30 percent of work hours can predictably be assigned to work bays. That means 70 percent of the remaining work is unpredictable and requires more space per job.

What is the impact of unscheduled work? Let’s say a technician brings a vehicle into the shop that has been identified by a driver as having noise in the engine and a lack of power. If the technician diagnoses the number five cylinder as the problem, removes the piston and finds the wrist pin is also defective, a delay occurs. Since the shop does not stock wrist pins or fit pistons, the work on this part will have to be sent out. This causes the bay to be tied up until the parts come in and the technician installs them. What do the technicians assigned to this bay do while waiting for the part? They should be put to work in another bay. Theoretically, each unscheduled technician needs one-and-a-half bays assigned to him or her to be productive. Doubling up people in a bay can lead to delays and is unproductive.

Calculating Space and Technician Needs
How, then, are space needs calculated? Since space is a capital issue, having too little space can be just as bad as having too much space. This expense has to be prioritized and a three- to five-year return on investment – or more – has to be justified.

Let’s assume that a fleet workload was 20,000 hours in the last 12 months. As the fleet gets older or grows, the work increases 10 percent per year with a limited replacement program. Of the 20,000 hours, 2,000 were completed outside the shop while responding to road calls, breakdowns and tire changes, leaving 18,000 hours for shop work. Based on that information, how much space is needed? If the shop is open eight hours per day, five days per week, 52 weeks per year on one shift, that is 2,080 hours per year, per bay available on one shift. The 18,000 hours divided by 2,080 hours in bay availability equals 8.65 bays on one shift, which means that nine bays are needed at a bare minimum for vehicle service. For 20,000 hours with one shift, 9.62 or 10 bays are needed at a minimum. If you have multiple shifts, this requirement could be broken down to five bays on two shifts or four bays on three shifts.

How many technicians are needed? If one technician works five days a week, eight hours per day for 52 weeks, that would equal 2,080 payroll hours. In addition, technicians are also paid for 280 hours when they are not at work, as follows:
• Three weeks for vacation (120 hours).
• Two weeks for holidays (80 hours).
• One week for training (40 hours).
• One week for illness (40 hours).

This brings the total working hours down to 1,800. If you factor in time for washing up and coffee breaks, this adds up to 225 hours. If another 275 hours are added for diagnostic, cleaning, parts retrieval and toolbox time, working hours now total a net of 1,300 hours per available technician.

If you divide the 20,000 hours (the 12-month workload) by 1,300 (the hours per technician), this equals 15.38 technicians. Let’s presume the .38 is used in overtime or vendor work and that 15 technicians are needed for the 12-month period. If you factor in 10 percent inflation for the aging of the vehicles, that equals 22,000 hours. Divide that by 1,300 for a total of 16.92, or 17 technicians that will be needed for the next year.

If the average of scheduled work is 30 percent and the unscheduled work average is 70 percent, the number of bays needed is calculated below:
• 17 technicians x 30% = 5 technicians who need 1 bay each for a total of 5 bays.
• 17 technicians x 70% = 12 technicians who need 1.5 bays each for a total of 18 bays.

This shows that 23 bays are needed for one shift, 12 bays are needed for a two-shift operation and eight bays are needed for a three-shift operation.

If this is a nine-bay shop and there is only one shift working, 14 bays need to be added. If it is a two-shift schedule, three more bays need to be added, the work needs to be sent to vendors or the staff needs to be reduced to fit the nine bays. Three shifts would work. In most cases, until space is expanded, productivity is being choked.

Keep in mind that there are reasonable solutions to these problems, but they first need to be identified. A logical process must be followed when determining whether to expand or reduce the size of the present shop, relocate to another facility or build a new shop.

Consider Your Options
What are the costs of upgrading an existing building compared to building a new facility? Which is more cost-effective?

Consider the impact of a no-build or existing building upgrade option at $125 per square foot. In addition to the square-foot cost, facility and shop equipment costs will add an estimated 30 percent to the total no-build estimated cost. These total costs for upgrading should be compared to the total costs to build a new replacement facility.

Next, consider designing and building a new garage with the proper number of work bays – which are typically 20 feet wide and 50 feet long – and a parts support area that is 20 percent of the total work space for a light-duty fleet, with 33 percent of the total work space allotted for a heavy-duty fleet, including offices, locker rooms, showers, toilets, a lunch area and other support services. The square-foot cost of a new facility is estimated to be $200 per square foot plus the cost of equipment such as lifts, lathes, benches, cranes, storage shelves and optional equipment. These costs will add an estimated 30 percent to the total new-build estimated cost. Note that some items can be disassembled from the old building and reassembled in the new facility depending on their age, condition and project life cycle.

A service provider may want to consider the option of building a shared facility that is equally accessible to other fleet maintenance providers. This option can significantly reduce funding requirements.

Environmental upgrades add cost to the new building option, and you will also need to consider the layout of the new site in terms of parking, traffic flow, and bay and support area configurations.

In addition, organizations need to determine if they can work in the present facility while upgrading or if they will need to relocate to a temporary facility. This is determined by the present operation and the type of equipment being used. Shuttle time from domicile to route assignments should be considered as well.

With the construction cost calculated and its features and benefits evaluated, a comparison of the new alternative can be made to the no-build alternative, and a choice can be made: rebuild the present facility, replace it with a new facility, partially rebuild the present facility or do nothing. With the do-nothing approach, the present facility is used as is, work not handled cost-effectively can be outsourced, and/or part of the workload can be relocated to another smaller facility closer to the domiciled vehicle location.

Unless you choose the do-nothing approach, the next step is implementing the chosen solution. Be sure to pick up the next issue of Utility Fleet Professional for an in-depth look at the implementation process.

About the Author: John Dolce is a fleet facility and maintenance specialist employed by Wendel Companies, an architectural and engineering firm. He is an active consultant, instructor and fleet manager with more than 40 years of experience in the public and private sector. Dolce has written three fleet-related textbooks and teaches fleet management courses at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses.

Controlling Costs with Fuel Cards

Whether a gallon of fuel costs $4, $2 or somewhere in between, it’s most likely going to represent your largest equipment-related expense. Because of that, it only makes sense to do everything possible to control what is charged against fuel in your fleet. In times past, drivers, who would need to purchase fuel before returning to a controlled distribution location, were often given cash and told to bring in receipts to cover what was spent. Who could tell how many truck stop lunches were included in those receipts? Thankfully, those days are pretty much gone.

Leading the Way
Today, the use of fuel cards is a leading way for fleets of any size to control fuel costs. These work like charge cards for drivers, but limit transactions and report exactly what the charge is for, how much is charged and when the charge occurs. When a fleet enters into an agreement with a fuel card company, fleet management can decide exactly what can be purchased with the card. It can be limited to fuel only; include some maintenance items or a specific dollar amount for food or personal items on a daily or weekly basis; or even provide for an emergency cash advance. As Darry Stuart, president and CEO of DWS Fleet Management Services (, put it, “The use of a fuel card offers fleet management the ability to control any expense charged against that card. You can pretty much decide ahead of time just how many hot dogs a driver can charge for lunch.”

For example, WEX Inc. ( – the company formerly known as Wright Express that has been in the fuel card business for 30 years and continues to be a leader in the industry with almost 7 million of its cards being used by more than 350,000 business customers – offers a range of controls. One, which the company refers to as a hard control, may prohibit the purchase of fuel anytime on a Saturday or the purchase of any groceries. A soft control does not prevent a particular transaction, but it does trigger a real-time alert to notify the fleet manager of activity outside the stated policy. For instance, it would be unusual for a driver to need to fuel a vehicle three times in one day; however, there may be extenuating circumstances. The fleet manager would likely want to be notified of these transactions, but may not want to prevent them. “These exception-based controls allow customers to manage more efficiently,” said Bernie Kavanagh, WEX vice president of corporate payment solutions.

“What a driver can purchase with a WEX card will be set by the company’s fueling policy,” Kavanagh explained. “We have a product-type control through which we restrict what a driver can purchase. A manager can decide if a driver can purchase only fuel or have the ability to purchase other automotive fluids like DEF, oil, wiper fluid, etc., but not groceries or any heavy maintenance since the fleet probably has a maintenance program in place. The card allows the purchase of whatever the manager decides. Anything else will be declined.”

Fuel card companies normally capture transaction data in real time and make it available to fleet managers via secure websites. Summary reports are, of course, also available per a customer’s request. Such reports can be supplied via fax or online, and can include the card number, the vehicle unit number and its odometer reading, the driver’s name, the time and location where the purchase was made, and the price and amount of fuel purchased.

Fuel Card Savings
Some fuel cards come with a price discount at stations within their networks. These often take the form of the price indicated on the pump minus an agreed-upon amount or the price the fueling station pays for the fuel plus a small additional amount.

Such cards, however, commonly have a relatively restricted network, being accepted by as little as a few thousand locations compared to cards that charge pump price. WEX customers, for example, pay pump price, but know its drivers’ cards are accepted almost universally and that it will still receive any discounts it might have negotiated with fuel suppliers.

While fleets generally report that fuel cards offer an operating expense savings, it’s obviously important to understand what costs you will incur by using the service. Some card companies charge no transaction fees while others charge monthly fees. Some charge for reports; others don’t. If you’re considering the use of fuel cards, make sure you know about any fees you will incur and that your expected savings will cover them.

All fuel cards are not the same as some offer features more useful for particular operations. For example, some cards – in particular those intended for use by over-the-road operators – allow for cash advances for emergency purposes. Others are designed for local fleets that fuel from private facilities as well as retail locations, which is common for both utility and government operations.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Company. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.

HTUF Report

Held in mid-September in Charlotte, N.C., the 11th Annual High-Efficiency Truck Users Forum served again as an educational and networking event for manufacturers, suppliers, fleets and government officials interested in learning the latest about high-efficiency truck technology.

HTUF has been very successful in helping launch the first production of hybrid trucks and is credited with reducing product development time by up to two years. When the conference was first held, no major truck manufacturer was offering electric or hybrid trucks. Today, there are more than 30 different electric, hybrid electric, hydraulic hybrid and workplace hybrid trucks available.

At this year’s conference, three federal government and private industry representatives took center stage. Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change, discussed policy initiatives to create clean energy jobs, tackle climate change and reduce dependence on oil.

Also on the HTUF agenda was Dr. Dane Boysen, program director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, who addressed technology research and development initiatives that ARPA-e is funding and how they are accelerating advanced technology market penetration. ARPA-e has made investments in advanced batteries, electric motors and lightweight materials that could enable fleets to dramatically reduce reliance on oil over the next decade. HTUF also featured David Mohler, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Duke Energy, who covered the increasing connections between vehicles, the grid and saving energy.

“We are very pleased to have secured key leading officials from the federal government and industry at HTUF,” said John Boesel, CALSTART president and CEO. “Clean energy jobs and reducing our dependence on oil are core elements of the president’s energy policy, and the Pentagon continues to focus on energy efficiency as a critical component of the nation’s energy security.

“Beyond conventional clean diesel engines, there are now at least five different advanced propulsion systems for commercial and military trucks,” Boesel continued. “At this year’s conference, fleets learned how each of these new drivetrains can be applied and utilized. Never before have there been such opportunities to cost-effectively transition away from dependence on the highly volatile and unstable world oil market.” Visit

Odyne Systems Showcases Plug-In Hybrid Systems
Odyne Systems LLC, a manufacturer of hybrid systems for medium- and heavy-duty work trucks, displayed its hybrid propulsion system on a Ford F-750 chassis at HTUF. Odyne plug-in hybrid systems are designed to interface with a wide variety of truck-mounted equipment. Driven through the Allison 3000 RDS transmission, the system uses a Remy electric motor in parallel with the existing drivetrain to provide launch assist and regenerative braking. At the job site, the Johnson Controls’ lithium-ion battery packs power work site applications. Visit

Kenworth Delivers with T440 CNG Truck
Kenworth Truck Co. showcased a Kenworth T440 compressed natural gas (CNG) tractor during HTUF. The T440 CNG is equipped with an 8.9-liter Cummins Westport ISL G engine and a six-speed Allison 3000 HS transmission. The model is available as a straight truck or tractor in a gross vehicle weight ranging from a heavy Class 7 vehicle at 33,000 pounds to a light Class 8 at 68,000 pounds. The ISL G engine uses a maintenance-free, three-way catalyst. Rated at 320 HP and 1,000 pounds per feet of torque, the engine’s torque curve closely matches that of its diesel counterparts. Visit

The Electrification Coalition, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit group of business leaders committed to promoting policies and actions that facilitate the deployment of electric vehicles on a mass scale, has issued the following report on the electrification of the Pacific Gas & Electric fleet.

In 2011, the Pacific Gas & Electric vehicle fleet racked up 114 million miles of travel, many of them logged servicing lines and other equipment that deliver power to customers. As a critical service provider, PG&E must purchase vehicles capable of supporting its mission in low-probability, high-impact situations like severe unplanned power outages. In these scenarios, vehicles must sometimes travel great distances across the company’s service territory and then operate buckets and other repair equipment once on site. In fact, even routine service calls can vary greatly by distance, necessitating flexibility and putting a premium on range and refueling.

Because its vehicles have a low level of route predictability, PG&E is pursuing an acquisition strategy that prioritizes plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and electric work-site idle management systems (EWIMS), which are plug-in vehicles whose batteries provide power for a range of job site functions, but do not move the wheels. PG&E’s fleet of PHEVs is generally spread throughout its passenger cars and pickup trucks. The passenger cars are typically pool vehicles used by employees for work-related travel. These vehicles tend to travel only short distances. The pickup trucks are primarily work trucks, but are also driven by job site supervisors and foremen. PG&E’s EWIMS are Class 6 trucks and are a mix of bucket trucks and material handlers.

In addition to extended range, PG&E’s emerging fleet of PHEV pickup trucks provides the company with an additional strategic benefit. A typical PHEV relies largely on its onboard battery for power over a given mileage range. When the battery is depleted to specific level, the vehicle then relies on an onboard gasoline-powered generator to provide power to the battery, operating essentially as a gasoline-electric hybrid. PG&E has recently begun deploying a handful of retrofitted PHEV pickup trucks manufactured by companies like Orem, Utah-based VIA Motors. These vehicles currently feature between 15 and 100 kW of exportable power, and there is potential to increase that number. When these vehicles are on a job site, their onboard generator can bypass the battery and export electricity to a different destination like power tools or even a transformer.

Work site management technology is a logical fit for the duty cycle associated with PG&E’s Class 6 bucket trucks. These vehicles, which are typically located at a job site for six to eight hours per day, often consume more diesel fuel idling than driving. This is because work site repair functions – operation of the bucket and associated equipment – normally require the truck to be running, using its engine as a generator. It’s an inefficient use of fuel, but has historically been the only option. Today’s EWIMS technology utilizes an onboard battery to power job site equipment, allowing the engine to be turned off and saving fuel. The battery can be recharged by plugging into the grid or by a secondary onboard alternator that provides electricity to the battery while the vehicle is driving. The savings associated with the technology are substantial: In 2011 alone, PG&E saved more than $700,000 on fuel across its fleet of 178 EWIMS work trucks manufactured by Birmingham, Ala.-based Altec.

Finally, as an electric utility, PG&E arguably has an elevated level of interest in understanding plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) and working to support their commercialization. By the end of 2012, the company will own a total of 400 PEVs, ranking it solidly among the top three U.S. commercial fleets in terms of PEV ownership. Perhaps more interestingly, PG&E’s current fleet of PEVs have been sourced from seven different original equipment manufacturers.

A number of factors were taken into consideration as PG&E explored the possibility of adding PEVs to its fleet. The vehicles carry a great deal of promise due to a number of economic, regulatory and environmental benefits, but there are also a number of important challenges. PG&E offered insight into its decision-making process by ranking various factors and discussing their rationale around each one in detail.

Total Cost of Ownership: A vehicle’s total cost of ownership (TCO) – its upfront capital costs combined with operating costs over a specific number of years or miles traveled – is a standard tool for comparing the economics of various technologies. However, while TCO may provide a useful starting point for comparison in the abstract, a vehicle’s purchase price is a more pressing real-world consideration for many fleet operators, PG&E included. This is particularly the case when it comes to purchasing new technologies like PEVs. Any assessment of TCO will necessarily be based on a series of assumptions about performance, some of which may ultimately be less precise for the first generation of a given technology. This type of uncertainty ultimately increases the level of risk placed on the fleet customer. Utilities like PG&E can be particularly capital constrained, in the sense that budgets are often set several years in advance through regulatory filings. Therefore, the higher capital cost of PEV purchases either has to be justified to the regulator – and ultimately the rate payer – or it has to displace other spending. If a plug-in vehicle carries a cost premium of 25 percent, it means a utility with a fixed budget can only purchase four PEVs for the same cost as five traditional vehicles, leaving one vehicle in need of replacement in the field. This attrition represents an operational risk that no utility would likely take on. Therefore, in evaluating the size and timing of its PEV purchases, PG&E is mostly focused on the impact these acquisitions will have on capital budgets. Whether a fleet manager purchases or leases a vehicle, there is a monthly payment associated with it. For PEVs, this payment is currently higher than the payment for a comparable traditional vehicle. If the net of this capital premium less operational savings (reduced fuel expenditures) results in a higher total monthly outlay, it becomes hard to justify. There is intense competition for capital within PG&E, and the higher payment associated with a PEV purchase is capital that is unavailable to be spent on other projects – or booked as profit.

Access to Competitive Financing: Increasingly, fleet customers are looking to commercial financing entities to help manage the capital cost challenge of PEVs. Of course, financing is not a magic wand that can make something inherently expensive become cheap. So what PG&E is particularly interested in is managing the cost structure of PEV purchases as opposed to managing the actual cost of the vehicles. Actual vehicle costs will decline over time due to some combination of manufacturing scale and technological improvements, but the cost structure – that is, the way customers deal with the price premium on PEVs – could potentially be addressed in the near term. One possible avenue to cost management through competitive financing is an extended term on vehicle useful life. For example, PG&E currently finances its purchases of pickup trucks in line with industry common practice, which typically assumes a six- or seven-year vehicle life. However, publicly available data confirms that the age of the average light-duty truck on the road in the United States has increased every year since 2000 and now stands at more than 10 years. By extending the vehicle useful life assumed in standard financing packages for these trucks by three years, the cost premium would be spread out over a greater term, giving fleet customers more capital flexibility and encouraging more PEV purchases. It’s a challenging proposition for an unproven technology, but it’s one way PG&E is working to manage cost.

Operational Benefits: Another option for managing costs is to make sure you are capturing all the benefits. Generally speaking, in terms of performance, utilities get graded on two things: the number of service outages and the duration of those outages. In measuring the number of outages, there is essentially no discrimination between an outage that affects 10 customers and one that affects 10,000 customers. Moreover, regulators do not discriminate between outages that are unplanned and those that are planned. While unplanned outages arising from weather and other unexpected events account for some of PG&E’s service calls, planned outages to repair lines and upgrade transformers account for a substantial portion of total outages. While VIA Motors’ PHEV pickup trucks currently allow for just 15 kW of exportable power, the company is working to increase that capacity to 50 kW. In larger applications, like a retrofitted Ford F-450 from Electric Vehicles International, PG&E believes it is already possible to get close to 100 kW. Altec’s Class 6 EWIMS truck currently features 3 kW of exportable power. Considering that the power needs of the average home in California today are roughly 5 kilowatts, the possibilities for providing backup power to homes – even whole neighborhoods – during outages could be significant. Put another way, the largest portion of neighborhood transformers in the PG&E service territory are fewer than 100 kW (125 kVA). While reliably exporting this kind of power is still a speculative prospect at this point, PG&E believes it is possible to get there in the near term. If accomplished, it’s a technological milestone that would fundamentally change the utility business, allowing companies like PG&E to virtually eliminate planned outages arising from transformer maintenance and upgrades. In a business built around service reliability, this kind of operational advantage could be a game changer for improving customer relations and strengthening utilities’ standing with regulators.

Vehicle Maintenance Savings: PG&E is realizing real savings on maintenance costs for its fleet of PEVs. Conventional wisdom suggests that the savings on maintenance compared to traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles will be greatest for battery electric vehicles (EVs). This is because the EV drivetrain has the fewest moving parts relative to internal combustion engine vehicles. PHEVs, which retain the use of an engine and fueling system, still require oil and other fuel changes as well as general engine maintenance. Nonetheless, PG&E reports that spending on these maintenance items for its fleet of Chevy Volt PHEVs is lower than spending on comparable ICE models. PG&E attributes the savings to the relatively high portion of electric miles driven by its Chevy Volts, which have an all-electric range of 30 to 40 miles. Employees’ average trip in San Francisco, where the bulk of PG&E’s Volts are located, is just 11 miles. Two notable categories of maintenance savings being captured by PG&E are reduced spending on brake pads and tires for vehicles in San Francisco. The city’s hilly terrain takes a toll on vehicle brakes, which the company estimates it replaces every six months for traditional ICE vehicles. However, initial experience suggests that the brake pads on PG&E’s fleet of Chevy Volt PHEVs will last as long as two years between replacements under the same conditions due to regenerative braking. By essentially running the vehicle’s electric motor in reverse, regenerative braking slows the Volt as soon as the driver lets off the accelerator, converting this kinetic energy into electricity that helps recharge the battery. During actual braking, the regenerative system augments the conventional braking system, a process that offsets friction that wears on the pads. At the same time, it appears that this process is also reducing wear on tires that occurs normally during harder stopping, leading to less frequent tire replacement.

Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure: By focusing on PHEVs and EWIMS work trucks, PG&E’s vehicle electrification strategy fundamentally avoids reliance on public charging infrastructure. However, charging infrastructure located at a vehicle’s overnight parking location is still of high importance for recharging the battery after a typical day’s use. In some cases, PEVs are driven home by employees. But in other cases – such as pool vehicles – a number of units are parked at a central facility. In these cases, PG&E reports that that the cost of installing charging infrastructure can be a significant challenge. In 2011, PG&E installed 35 charging stations for pool vehicles at its downtown San Francisco headquarters. The units were installed in an underground secure parking facility. The hardware cost for individual chargers was extremely manageable at approximately $800 per unit. However, construction costs for running power into the underground facility from the street above are estimated to have been roughly $350,000 – more than 90 percent of the total project cost. PG&E reports that the necessary additional wiring ran only 350 feet, placing the cost at $1,000 per foot. The lesson as always is that cracking concrete for charging infrastructure installation is likely to be expensive in most cases. This is especially true when facilities are being retrofit, particularly in high-cost urban areas. Where companies or government agencies have the opportunity to incorporate charging infrastructure into new construction, costs can be dramatically reduced and better managed.

Sam Ori, director of policy at the Electrification Coalition, recently sat down with Dave Meisel, director of transportation services at PG&E, to get a firsthand understanding of how the company’s electrification strategy is playing out in a real-world project. What follows are highlights from the discussion.

You often talk about the unexpected benefits of PEVs for your broader business. How do EWIMS fit into that?
One of the biggest things that we have seen with our EWIMS is the noise reduction. On our traditional bucket trucks, everything is PTO-driven. A mechanical shaft from the engine runs a pump and that’s what moves the bucket. So to operate the bucket, you have to have the truck running, and it makes a lot of noise. But in residential areas of San Francisco, there are noise restrictions in place that essentially make it impossible for us to do routine work using conventional trucks between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. That’s no longer an issue with an electric bucket because it’s silent. The engine is off. It’s expanded the workday by 100 percent – from 12 hours to 24 hours. In the past, if a PG&E crew was doing new construction and it got to be 7 p.m., they had to stop. It didn’t matter if there were just two hours of work to go. They had to stop, take the whole site down – which could take about an hour – go home for the night and then come back again in the morning. At that point, they had set everything back up again – which takes another hour – do two hours of work and then take it down again. With an EWIMS bucket truck, they can just work the additional two hours on the first day and be done, avoiding unnecessary time spent getting to and from the job as well as costly setup and takedown hours. The customer is happier and we’re more efficient.

How have the drivers reacted?
I’ll go back to the noise. In the utility business, you often work in pairs. One crew member is up in the bucket and the other is at the ground level. With a traditional bucket, the crew has to communicate over the noise of a running vehicle, which can really be a challenge. But in the case of an EWIMS truck, the engine is off and it’s quiet, so communication is much, much easier. Drivers absolutely love that. I would also add that, especially in our business, an enhanced level of communication actually puts our employees in a much safer situation. When a crew member in the bucket is talking to his colleague on the ground, he is trying to get a handle on critical information that has a material impact on job safety. Making it easier to communicate and have a higher level of confidence in information has been a huge hit with our employees. That enhanced feeling of safety is something that happens every time you go to work. Without question there are other benefits. The work crews certainly appreciate not having to be around the tailpipe emissions of a traditional diesel vehicle idling on a job site over a period of several hours. And the abatement of those emissions is also good for urban air quality. That’s a significant plus for us as a corporation.

The EWIMS technology is really a perfectly customized solution. How did you get there?
The drivers of these vehicles are some of our most highly skilled personnel. They are generally our first responders. What that means operationally is that they do a lot of tickets in a single day – lots of shorter stops to deal with pressing issues. They are at an individual site for an average of maybe two hours. They make a fix and move on to the next job. We wanted a system that would work off the battery and be capable of plugging in to the grid, but that couldn’t be the only way the battery recharged. So we developed the secondary alternator that recharges the battery as the vehicle moves from job to job. We also made sure that the battery was big enough to cover all of the work that would be done in a normal day without running the vehicle at any job site. To get there I would say we worked hand in hand with Altec. They have about 70 percent of the U.S. market for bucket trucks, so they understand our business and have a commitment to customer solutions. Our vehicle design and engineering team at PG&E had an idea for an electric bucket system that we felt would save us money and provide a whole range of operational efficiencies. We sketched out our idea in principle, took it to Altec and six months later the first vehicle rolled off the production line. It has worked out really well.

People often talk about the economics of these technologies in broad generalities. What can you say about your experience?
I can tell you that we are getting about a two-and-a-half-year payback on our Class 6 EWIMS trucks. We make business decisions to make money, plain and simple. So we wouldn’t be doing this if it didn’t work for the company. To me, it all goes back to lining up the right technology with the right application. People think electrification has to be about the propulsion system only. But that isn’t where we are using the most fuel in this particular application. Electrify where it makes sense to electrify. The fleet industry uses PTO shafts in a variety of applications, by the way: dump trucks, refrigerated trucks and more. They’re all shaft-driven, and today they all use a diesel engine to power that shaft. That function could be powered by a battery in all these applications.

I know you spend a lot of time thinking about ways to be creative in terms of integrating these technologies into your business model. What have you learned from your EWIMS deployment?
When we first started looking at these vehicles, we were thinking about them in terms of payback period. So we did a standard analysis comparing current technology costs and fuel consumption to the cost of the new technology and projected fuel savings. But what we have learned is that the operating savings, improved relationship with our customers, the extended work day and the safety improvements dwarf the fuel savings. What we also learned is that, frankly, there is a lot that we as an industry can’t measure when evaluating these technologies with a standard approach to ROI or payback period. So PG&E treats each application as a unique situation and evaluates it individually. Let me also say that the economic impact of these vehicles extends beyond just PG&E. We just had the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new facility here in Dixon, Calif., where Altec will be expanding its production capacity for these and other advanced vehicles. That’s 150 direct manufacturing jobs in the United States. And when you think about the multiplier for manufacturing jobs, which I think is about five times or six times, you are looking at almost 1,000 new jobs for the local community. That has an impact. Visit

“There has been no significant change in light-duty vehicles as a percentage of utility fleets,” said Tom Nimmo, a partner with the industry benchmarking firm Utilimarc. “However, we have seen changes within certain light-duty vehicle classes, including an increase in hybrids as a percentage of the fleet. Hybrid data also shows improved mpg and improved operating costs.”

Speaking at the 2012 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (, Nimmo covered trends, using 2009, 2010 and 2011 data, at a select group of 41 utilities that field approximately 90,000 utility-specific vehicles. In 2012, the entire Utilimarc database, comprised of state, county, city, utility and private fleets, will track more than 300,000 vehicles. Visit

Earlier this year, the Raleigh (N.C.) Police Department installed mobile power idle reduction systems in 29 police vehicles. The project was funded by an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. Since being installed, the systems have saved Raleigh more than 3,000 gallons of fuel, cut emissions of 59,326 pounds of CO2 and reduced engine use by 107,032 miles. The police department now projects an annual fuel savings from the systems of $63,000.

The Energy Xtreme mobile power idle reduction system is a smart power management device that provides power, without engine engagement, to vehicles with demanding electrical needs. In Raleigh, the system allows police cruiser electrical systems, including lights, onboard cameras, computers and radios, to operate without having to idle the vehicle’s engine for at least four continuous hours. The system automatically recharges while the vehicle is being driven. Visit


Eaton Supports California Hybrid Incentives
The California Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) is getting a boost from Eaton Corporation ( Designed to assist California-based fleets with the purchase of low-emission, fuel-efficient medium- and heavy-duty hybrid vehicles, HVIP aims to help speed the introduction of hybrid trucks with financial incentives ranging from $10,000 to $45,000 for eligible vehicles.

“The Hybrid Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project offsets about half of the incremental cost of eligible hybrid vehicles,” said Gerard Devito, engineering director, Eaton hybrid power systems. “The program strongly benefits the public and commercial truck industry by helping interested fleets save money while delivering more sustainable transportation. We applaud the state of California for its pioneering work and many investments to promote and support the use of hybrid vehicles and other clean technology vehicles.”

About 87 truck and bus chassis configurations from a variety of vehicle manufacturers that are equipped with Eaton hybrid systems are eligible for the incentives. Under HVIP, incentives are preset for each qualified vehicle. Eaton hybrid power systems have collectively accumulated more than 300 million miles of service. More than 6,000 of Eaton’s hybrid systems are in use today on trucks and buses. Visit

A Commitment to Action as part of the Clinton Global Initiative America designed to spur adoption of hybrid electric technology in fleets has been announced by ALTe Powertrain Technologies. The developer of a range-extended plug-in electric hybrid powertrain for light commercial fleet vehicles has pledged to develop a first-of-its-kind electric vehicle fleet purchasing system, under which fleet customers can consolidate the entire electric vehicle decision-making process in one web-based interface.

The new website,, will connect corporate and government vehicle purchasers with electric vehicle stakeholders, including utilities, charging station providers and finance companies, and notify customers of available incentives while offering the benefits of group-rate purchases and simplifying the order-to-delivery process.

“Our commitment to the CGI community is to help solve the greatest roadblocks to commercial adoption of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles: eliminating the lack of affordability and simplifying the EV and charging station order fulfillment process,” said ALTe chief executive John Thomas. “We intend to take a crowdsourcing approach to generate a new industry buying platform that helps fleets better transition to a cleaner operation, offer financial benefits to customers and grow new jobs for the future of America.”

As an electric powertrain systems provider, ALTe will offer certified full-sized pickups and vans that have been retrofitted with electric or plug-in hybrid powertrains. Designed to replace a V-8 internal combustion engine powertrain, the system’s patented technology improves fuel economy, the company said. Visit

Tire and Retread Programs

Tires are valuable and costly assets. An effective tire maintenance program can result in reduced tire costs. Some of the best resources for utility fleets are available from suppliers.

Bridgestone Americas
Bridgestone Commercial Solutions Fleet Management Services can personalize a tire program to address specific tire management issues. Fleet analysis and inventory reports, tire and equipment inspection programs, out-of-service tire analysis and nonretreadable tire reports are all included.

Fleet analyzer reports offered by Bridgestone Bandag are available using diagnostic software that provides accurate, customized reports on in-service tire inspections, out-of-service tire analysis, performance tracking and vehicle inspections. Fleet inventory reports give a view of tire inventory across the Bridgestone Bandag network to help improve tire management and reduce costs.

Also available from Bridgestone is an in-service tire inspection that provides a snapshot of the current condition of tires and wheels in a fleet. Tread depth, air pressure, tire conditions and observed issues with wheels are covered in the on-site assessment. The manufacturer also offers courses developed by its Truck Tires Learning Center specifically for fleet technicians, covering proper nail hole repairs and advanced tire analysis. Additional fleet services may be available from local dealers, including mounted wheel service, wheel and rim refinishing, and yard checks. Visit

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Goodyear fleetHQ provides custom service, product solutions, detailed reporting and tire evaluation tools. It consolidates information from road service histories that can be accessed online. Tools available to help evaluate tire costs and optimize tire programs include TVTrack for tracking performance of specific tires linked to vehicle parameters. Tire Value Calc uses actual fleet performance data, as well as tire and retread price records, to find out how tire, retread and rotation changes can impact operating costs.

The fleetHQ Solution Center provides emergency roadside service with a roll time goal of two hours or less. The center offers access to more than 2,000 service locations nationwide. Visit

Michelin Americas Truck Tires
The Michelin Advantage Program includes competitive pricing on Michelin truck tires, retreads and services. Also offered is Michelin ONCall emergency road service.

Business tools included in the Michelin Advantage Program are available on a member website where fleets can check pricing, order tires, manage accounts and view invoices. Training, technical documents, maintenance techniques and webcasts to help improve tire performance are also available. Visit

Hidden Treasure
A tire scrap pile can be a gold mine of information. Going through a scrap pile and looking at tires can help find ways to adjust tire choices or maintenance practices.

All truck tire manufacturers agree that effectively analyzing scrap tires can lead to improvements in tire life and lower costs. They also universally point to the “Radial Tire Conditions Analysis Guide” published by the Technology & Maintenance Council as one of the best resources for fleets.

The TMC guide is reviewed and updated by manufacturers every three years. Included are technical details about various tire failure conditions and their causes, along with photos of commonly seen wear and failure conditions and recommended steps to resolve issues.

TMC also offers the “Radial Tire & Disc Wheel Service Manual,” which is a compendium of recommended practices associated with tires and wheel ends. It addresses critical service procedures for radial tires and disc wheels used on medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles. Visit

Environmentally Friendly Oils & Lubricants

For fleets interested in using alternatives to petroleum-based lubricants, biodegradable, nontoxic, ecologically friendly products for vehicles and equipment are available. These bio-based solutions offer excellent performance in a variety of applications and can be used as a replacement for conventional petroleum oils.

AMERIgreen offers its line of lubricants for vehicles and a wide array of tools and equipment exposed to demanding environments. The company’s lubricants combine highly stable vegetable base oils with unique additive technologies to create products that provide excellent thermal and oxidative stability, according to AMERIgreen, while delivering anti-wear and anti-corrosion protection. Visit for more.

Hydro Safe Inc. offers hydraulic oils, lubricants and gear oils, among other products, that use vegetable-based oils as base fluids. The Hydro Safe line, according to the company, exhibits excellent thermal and oxidative properties, and improved performance characteristics over mineral-based oils, including low volatility, high flash points, lubricity, biodegradability and low toxicity. The high viscosity index of the products allows for operations in winter and summer without the need for fluid changes or equipment modifications. Visit for more.

Hybrid Service
A new partnership between XL Hybrids and Henley Transmission Services, the largest franchise holder of AAMCO automotive service centers, has certified AAMCO technicians to install and service the manufacturer’s hybrid electric powertrains for Class 1-3 commercial vehicles.

The XL Hybrids’ powertrain technology is available for Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cargo and passenger vans. The company is also expanding its product line to include other makes and models, including Chevrolet and Ford vans and pickup trucks. Designed for aftermarket installation, the XL Hybrids’ powertrain installation takes fewer than four hours without modifying or removing the OEM engine or transmission. AAMCO service center technicians will also be trained to provide warranty service and maintenance on the hybrid vehicles. Visit and for more.

Lift Safety
Heavy-duty vehicle lift manufacturer Stertil-Koni USA Inc. is emphasizing the importance of product certification by the Automotive Lift Institute combined with a regular program of scheduled maintenance and annual lift inspections to ensure maximum performance and operational safety.

“The ALI Gold Label, indicating product certification, is fundamental to ensuring the highest quality standards in the lift industry,” said Dr. Jean DellAmore, president of Stertil-Koni USA. “ALI does not issue conditional or partial certifications. It assures the customer that a particular lift model is in electrical and mechanical compliance with established and agreed-upon standards.”

Stertil-Koni also stresses that heavy-duty vehicle lifts should be serviced regularly in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. “Safety is paramount and routine servicing is the way to go,” DellAmore added. “We also support ALI’s recommendation that vehicle lifts be inspected at least once per year, or more frequently if specified.”

Stertil-Koni lift products include mobile, two-post, four-post, in-ground, parallelogram, half-scissors, and the axle-engaging, in-ground, scissor-style heavy-duty hydraulic lift configuration. Visit for more.

Ditch Witch Parts Now Interactive
Detailed information about Ditch Witch parts is now more readily accessible in the parts section of the company’s website. Redesigned for easy navigation and updated with new photos and information about digging system components, electronic guidance and locating equipment, vacuum excavation system components, drill pipe and replacement parts, the section features an interactive tool selector that helps users quickly and easily identify types of Ditch Witch tools. The parts section also has a tab to access and download Ditch Witch parts catalogs. Visit for more.

Green Shops

Nicor Gas
Nicor Gas, headquartered in Naperville, Ill., is one of the nation’s largest gas distribution companies. Owned by Nicor Inc., a holding company, Nicor Gas serves 2 million customers in a service territory that encompasses most of the northern third of Illinois, excluding Chicago.

“We look at environmental compliance as an opportunity for continuous improvement,” said Jeff Price, manager, fleet operations at Nicor Gas. “We are always seeking out best practices and applying them whenever feasible. For example, as shop equipment becomes dated, we look at the environmental benefits as well as the functionality of replacement technologies.”

Servicing approximately 2,000 units, Nicor’s fleet management department operates five large maintenance facilities and seven satellite shops throughout northern Illinois. The department has a total staff of 57, including 47 hourly employees who are directly involved in maintenance operations, and eight management personnel.

Price related that Nicor Gas has constructed a new maintenance facility that opened in December 2009 and that the utility is building another new shop that was scheduled for completion by the end of 2011. “In these locations,” he said, “we have several environmentally friendly features, and our goal is to have the structures certified as energy efficient. To achieve that, among other things, we have included prism sunroofs, high-efficiency fluorescent lighting, radiant floor heating and variable speed exhaust systems in the design. We are also moving away from chemical solvent tanks to hot water alternatives, and we’re using recycled glycol products, and are considering a similar program for our base engine oil products to the extent one is available.

“When it comes to ensuring compliance with environmental regulations,” Price continued, “our environmental, health and safety department does an excellent job inspecting our sites. We also stay abreast of changes through our alliances with vendors, associations and best practice seminars. If a change is identified, we take steps to handle these in a timely, efficient and economical manner.”

One way that Nicor Gas is meeting the challenge of addressing changes in and ensuring compliance with environmental regulations is through annual compliance training, monthly formal updates and refreshers in the form of tailgate meetings. “We take the training of our employees seriously and will continue to do so,” Price stated. “Occasionally, we look to outside sources to keep our techniques fresh and up to date.”

Price goes on to say that there is no single challenge when it comes to environmental compliance and initiatives in shop operations. “It’s more like managing the changing landscape and seeing that best practices are followed correctly,” he concluded. “We also try to follow the examples set in our communities. Many of our shop locations are in forward-thinking areas, and we want to be a good partner to these municipalities. It is our neighborhood, too, and it is the right thing to do.”

Central Hudson Gas & Electric
Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, a regulated transmission and distribution utility headquartered in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., serves approximately 376,000 residential and business customer locations in eight counties of New York’s Mid-Hudson River Valley. Its 2,600-square-mile electricity and natural gas service territory extends from the suburbs of metropolitan New York City north to the state capital in Albany.

“We are constantly working to be sure we are complying with all environmental regulations,” said John McCormack, transportation foreman at Central Hudson Gas & Electric. “At the forefront of that effort is the annual hazcom training for our maintenance staff and instructional training for new employees on the use of equipment designed to help us protect the environment.”

The environmental compliance training that McCormack describes is now taking place at Central Hudson Gas & Electric’s six repair facilities. Included in the fleet’s maintenance operation is one main truck garage where all major inspections and repairs on trucks, buckets, diggers, backhoes and tractors are performed. There are also five district garages for major work and maintenance on light-duty vehicles. All of the facilities handle repairs on vehicles that are driven in and make road calls for breakdowns.

“We’re especially focused on managing the waste stream at our facilities,” McCormack stated. “Our shops no longer have any floor drains to allow anything to go into a storm drain. In addition, we’re making sure that engine and hydraulic oils, antifreeze, and used filters and tires are all being disposed of properly. We use only qualified contractors to handle that removal, and all of our vendors are registered and comply with all environmental regulations.”

Central Hudson Gas & Electric’s shops are equipped to properly and safely handle waste materials. In the truck garage there is a 500-gallon waste tank with an evacuation system to empty portable oil drain buggies and pans. The tank has an automatic alarm and shutoff to alert the staff when it is nearly full, and it will not accept oil when it is full. In the district garages there are 275-gallon waste oil tanks, which are now being converted to double wall models, and 55-gallon barrels for used filters and antifreeze.

“There are clearly benefits to all of our environmental compliance initiatives,” McCormack concluded. “A safer environment is better for our company, our employees and the communities we serve.”

Editor’s Note: Case studies on these pages have been supplied by FleetAnswers, a membership-driven Intelligent Fleet Community that connects fleet managers with industry peers, and provides tools to help improve operations, industry-specific benchmark data, and information on current trends and issues. For more case studies and other resources, visit

Diagnostics Information
Mitchell 1, a Snap-on company, and Noregon Systems, a vehicle communications solutions supplier, announced an agreement to develop an interface between Mitchell 1’s and Noregon’s JPRO Commercial Fleet Products. The new interface will enable Noregon to capture and pass a vehicle identification number (VIN) and diagnostic trouble code (DTC) into Mitchell 1’s application. According to the companies, instantaneously delivering DTC-specific diagnostic and repair information to service personnel will shorten the time between an initial diagnosis and a completed repair, reducing downtime for service.

Mitchell 1’s Web-based application uses DTCs to gather information required to fix a problem. Seven tabs presented in the Repair-Connect program contain details specific to the reported DTC, such as component location, connector views, removal and installation, wiring diagrams and specifications. The new interface will enable Noregon to capture and pass a VIN and DTC into Mitchell 1’s and retrieve related service information, including a description of the trouble code, wiring diagrams, component connector views, electrical component locations, testing, removal and installation procedures, and specifications.

Noregon’s JPRO Commercial Fleet Products are PC- and adapter-based in-shop diagnostic solutions. JPRO works with engine, transmission and braking systems. The diagnostics software displays vehicle faults, and allows the user to record data for playback; view and chart engine parameters; print reports; and launch OEM software and troubleshooting guides. In addition to Class 7 and 8 vehicles, Noregon offers JPRO Commercial Fleet Products for medium-duty platforms, including Ford E-Series and F-Series trucks (model years 2004 and newer) and GM Class 2-6 trucks for model years 2002-2011. A broad spectrum of vehicle makes and models will be added throughout 2012.

Visit and for more information.

Proven Practices

During the 2011 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, fleet managers detailed the successful approaches they’re employing for acquisition, maintenance and parts strategies in their operations.

Baltimore Gas & Electric
An affiliate of Constellation Energy, Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) provides electric and gas service in a territory of about 2,400 square miles surrounding the Baltimore metropolitan area of central Maryland. BGE Fleet Services, with 80 employees, including 46 technicians, manages a fleet of more than 1,500 vehicles and 400 pieces of equipment. The operation has a central shop at its headquarters location where all major repairs, new vehicle preparation and maintenance on local units is performed, as well as seven shops located throughout its service territory.

“Our replacement cycle has been based on economic life, the evaluation of units, user input and a review of maintenance records,” said Gill Nichols, supervisor, fleet engineering. “Budgetary and business cycle constraints can limit replacement activity, but our annual replacement plan is developed within current financial constraints and with the concurrence of users.”

BGE, Nichols reported, recently completed a five-year leasing contract. “A finance evaluation proved that leasing was less expensive than buying for BGE’s cost structure,” he said, “so we established a contract with a funding source and a separate services provider.”

BGE Fleet Services, Nichols explained, develops standardized specifications for each vehicle and equipment type in the utility’s operation. “A user-needs review identifies any necessary departure from standard offerings,” he added, “and modifications are controlled through an engineering review and user management approval of costs.”

Alliance agreements with major component suppliers have been established by BGE Fleet Services to provide for lower parts pricing and on-site training sessions. “The agreements cover most chassis, body and aerial components, and equipment types,” Nichols related. “These partnerships also allow us to collaborate with our suppliers on new product development and to serve as testing ground for new technologies.”

Preventive maintenance (PM) on the BGE fleet is usually based on manufacturers’ schedules, although BGE Fleet Services does modify schedules based on mileage, engine hours or fuel usage if those parameters are observed to be out of range. In addition, the fleet’s managers conduct data analysis of vehicles and equipment showing any higher than scheduled usage. In use is AssetWorks FleetAnywhere software. “We’ve been using this system for over 10 years,” Nichols stated. “It provides data on historic cost of repairs, labor hours, fuel usage, ownership costs and parts expenses, which we also use for setting charge-back rates and for benchmarking our operation.”

Maintaining the BGE fleet is a team of PM trainees, PM technicians, master technicians and senior master technicians. “We established these roles so our technicians can move from job to job based on attaining required certifications, meeting established performance standards and job qualifications, and demonstrating the ability to perform required tasks,” Nichols said.

“Our technicians are provided with information about what is required to advance and are given opportunities to advance at their own pace,” Nichols continued. “Manpower utilization in our shops is planned on a monthly basis using estimated repair activity and PM schedules. Shop-to-shop labor transfers are made to manage spikes in workload, vacations and long-term medical absences.”

BGE Fleet Services makes extensive training opportunities available to its technicians. An established program for new hires encompasses seasoned workers as well as high school graduates. The highly structured program teaches shop functions, computer systems, safe work practices, tool and equipment use, and basic elements of maintenance and repair work. Trainees are instructed daily on how to perform PMs and other repairs by working in the fleet’s central shop with a senior master technician.

Manufacturer training sessions are also provided to trainees and all technicians to familiarize them with new models, systems and functions of vehicles and equipment. Additionally, a contracted training program has been developed to provide basic through advanced training in electronics, braking systems, engines, hydraulic systems and other areas.

BGE Fleet Services has also worked with all of its major suppliers to establish warranty repair agreements, enabling the fleet’s technicians to perform repairs on covered items. “We actively manage the warranty recovery process, set annual recovery goals and include this in our bonus performance award program,” Nichols related.

Parts inventories are managed closely at BGE Fleet Services. Established through competitive bidding, contracts are in place for high volume items using specialty suppliers where applicable and larger suppliers for the majority of stocked parts. The fleet’s Operations & Support Unit monitors and manages inventories, orders stock parts, and collaborates with shop personnel to add or delete parts from stock based on usage patterns. The group also assists in ordering specialty or long-lead items.

Successful acquisition, maintenance and parts programs, Nichols pointed out, are the result of finding effective solutions on a consistent basis. “We address short-term issues through teams composed of members from all areas within the department and customers,” he explained.

“We also hold an annual planning conference to develop short- and long-term goals and initiatives for the department,” Nichols concluded. “Prior to the conference, feedback is solicited from all members of the department about improvement ideas or suggestions, and identification of problems or issues that need to be addressed. Department management and leadership use the responses to formulate strategies to improve performance, address issues and develop goals to pursue.”

Progress Energy
Covering a territory that encompasses 34,000 square miles across North Carolina and South Carolina and 20,000 square miles in Florida, Progress Energy serves more than 3 million customers. Its fleet of nearly 3,900 vehicles and equipment is maintained in 26 regional garages by 124 employees, including 88 technicians, along with supervisors, administrators and other support personnel.

The Progress Energy fleet includes 2,500+ light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles from a variety of manufacturers. Also in the operation are more than 1,300 pieces of equipment including trailers and off-road excavating equipment.

“We have a $50 million annual operational and maintenance budget,” reported Gary Butler, Progress Energy Carolinas manager of fleet assets and maintenance. “About one-third of that covers vehicle ownership, one-third is for maintenance and the balance is for fuel.”

Each of those cost areas is then the focus of efforts by the fleet’s managers. Equipment utilization is reviewed periodically to ensure proper allocation of the fleet, and vehicles can be moved after a review of job duties, equipment sizing and other considerations.

Current replacement cycles for the Progress Energy fleet are five years or 125,000 miles for light-duty vehicles, seven to eight years for medium-duty models and 11 years for heavy-duty units. Service buckets are usually replaced after four to five years and trailers in the operation last 20 years.

The Progress Energy maintenance operation handles 93 to 95 percent of the fleet’s maintenance and repair needs in-house, including using 20 traveling preventive maintenance trucks. Day and night shifts also complete dielectric testing on aerial units.

Shops are manufacturer-approved warranty repair centers for GM, Ford, Dodge, Freightliner, International, Sterling, Western Star, Altec and Terex. Warranty recovery utilizing the services of a third-party warranty administrator totaled $45,000 in 2010 and was projected to rise to $75,000 to $100,000 in 2011, Butler reported.

About 5 to 7 percent of the Progress Energy fleet’s maintenance and repair work is outsourced, including tire work and alignments, windshield and body repairs, automatic transmission work and hydraulic cylinder rebuilding.

“We occasionally outsource maintenance due to workload and logistics considerations, and when we identify savings opportunities,” Butler related. “Current maintenance intervals have been set based on regulatory and manufacturer requirements. Preventive maintenance intervals can also vary depending on make, model and application while costs can be affected by hourly labor rates for technicians, which are dependent on progression in salary and other variables.

“Our preventive maintenance intervals are also based on oil sampling,” Butler added. “The data indicates we could extend the intervals, but we established a conservative approach and set mileage limits to ensure that extremely excessive mileage does not occur.”

Parts supplier agreements in place at Progress Energy are resulting in cost savings. Costs are kept in check using volume pricing and rebates, centralized billing and reporting and tracking capabilities.

Progress Energy’s fleet managers also pay close attention to fuel costs and use the information to bolster fuel consumption awareness, including idling practices, routes, weight and stop/start operations. Fuel hedging serves as insurance against steep price increases.

An all-around approach, Butler noted, is minimizing rising vehicle costs at Progress Energy. “We have vehicles and equipment, and driver teams that address issues like utilization, maintenance and fuel consumption,” he explained. “Management system and benchmarking data supports our cost reduction initiatives. In the last 10 years, we’ve held costs flat and absorbed labor increases.”

Oklahoma Gas & Electric
Serving 765,000 customers in a 30,000-square-mile service territory in central Oklahoma and western Arkansas, Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OGE) fields a fleet of more than 2,400 pieces of equipment, including 1,300 light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The fleet is maintained in 11 garages, including one central facility in each of the utility’s larger districts that supports at least one smaller district and/or power plant.

OGE employs 23 mechanics and three garage supervisors as well as eight support personnel in its maintenance operation. Senior mechanics are assigned to one-person shops, mobile service units or as lead technicians in larger facilities. The staff also includes journey and apprentice mechanics as well as interns.

“Many of our garages are one-person operations,” said Herb Kramer, fleet maintenance supervisor. “We move larger jobs to external sources or to our main shop, or we move resources to accomplish the work. We do not want the one mechanic in a facility to be overwhelmed or to create a backlog with a larger time-consuming job. All but three mechanics work from 3 to 11:30 p.m.,” he added, “which means if there is a problem during the day it is repaired that night and the unit is back in service in the morning.

“We handle 75 to 80 percent of the work our fleet requires internally,” Kramer continued, “and we outsource work that we feel we cannot handle as cost effectively as an outside supplier. That may have to do with our available resources, but in all cases we limit the number of suppliers we use.”

At OGE, Kramer reported, all bodywork, windshield repair and virtually all tire work is outsourced. In addition, the fleet outsources 80 percent of light-duty vehicle warranty work, 10 percent of preventive maintenance on those vehicles, and 70 percent of repairs and larger issues found during PMs on light-duty models. Dealers servicing the fleet are required to provide pickup and delivery services.

“We’re very focused on vehicle inspection,” Kramer stated. “Engine oil is sampled at every drain interval and hydraulic oil is tested once per year unless contamination is found. Every time a vehicle is in a shop we try to correct anything we find. We created a checklist so mechanics know what to focus on and we started requiring shop supervisors to check 10 to 20 percent of all work.”

During and between routine PMs, OGE shops are also focusing closely on vehicles and equipment with higher utilization, and those with harder duty cycles. “When we find high-mileage newer vehicles,” Kramer noted, “we move them to areas with lower utilization. That helps us stay on track for replacement cycles and reduces repair costs.”

For parts, OGE is moving from one to three suppliers. “The theory was that we could do a better job of managing costs with one supplier,” Kramer related, “but that made it hard to compare, and having one pipeline increased downtime. To reduce downtime we allowed mechanics to buy locally if it meant they could get the vehicle back in service, and that drove up costs. With our new arrangement we realized a 20 percent reduction in parts costs.”

OGE’s other practices are paying off as well. A proactive approach to maintenance and repairs has reduced downtime and breakdowns, cutting the number of service calls from more than 100 to fewer than 10 per month. Increased uptime, measured as mean time between repairs, has improved.

“That was partially from upgrading equipment and moving high-use vehicles to lower-use areas,” Kramer said. “It’s also a result of better diagnostics and parts availability, as well as keeping mechanics focused on completing a job by giving them the responsibility to manage their own schedules.

“When we started down this path our costs started to rise,” Kramer continued, “because we were fixing things that were broken but never reported. Over time we started seeing our efforts pay off. Today we’ve realized a $700,000 drop in maintenance costs, and a reduction in annual tire expenses from over $950,000 to $550,000.”

Critical to this success, according to Kramer, is meeting with major vendors three or four times per year, and having information on the fleet’s operation and analyzing that data often. OGE also uses the benchmarking services of Utilimarc.

“We measure everything possible and question it regularly,” Kramer stated, “including mean time to repair data, and repair costs for internal and outsourced work. We also evaluate warranty and utilization. Overall, we’re focusing on reducing our annual budget from a variable $11 to $15 million to a lower and steady $9.5 million per year.”

Editor’s Note: The annual Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference will be held June 3-6, 2012, in Williamsburg, Va. For more information, visit

Ensuring Fleet Readiness

Improving communication and access to information during service events leads to less downtime.

Whether you outsource some or all of your fleet’s maintenance and repair work or handle everything in-house, an efficient and accurate exchange of pertinent information is vital to success. One solution that is steadily growing in use among fleets is the Web-based Decisiv Service Management Platform.

The Decisiv platform was designed to connect fleet managers with internal and external service locations. “The platform pulls together historically separate silos of information and places them within a single Web portal,” explained Dick Hyatt, president of Decisiv. “With the platform, fleet, service location, mobile service and call center personnel can all share information and effectively communicate throughout a service event. The result is the ability to save hours per service event, getting trucks back in service faster.”

The volume of service business handled on the Decisiv platform in the past two years topped 630,000 cases. Continued growth in fleet usage has brought the number of assets from more than 175 fleets loaded onto the platform to more than 150,000.

Decisiv also continues to expand the capabilities of the platform to more readily integrate telematics devices and a growing scope of applications from third-party developers. For example, the platform is enabled to provide real-time alerts and information from telematics devices. Included are location, mileage, engine hours, fault code and other relevant data, which is then used to open service events and initiate requests to service locations. In addition, telematics driven in-context information is used to trigger repair and maintenance operations, and to populate the platform’s date-/time-stamped electronic folder with fault codes and vehicle information.

“Fleet managers are inundated with information from multiple portals, websites and information sources,” said Hyatt. “By seamlessly integrating with third-party and OEM applications, including accessing real-time information from telematics devices, the Decisiv platform provides an in-context service initiation and management solution that greatly simplifies the service management process.”

The Decisiv platform is now in use at more than 500 service locations as MVASIST at Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks dealers, as the WheelTime Customer Service Platform at WheelTime Network Detroit Diesel-Allison distributors, and as the Decisiv Service Management Platform at Freightliner dealers and other facilities. To learn more, visit

Facilitating Service Operations
Properly specified, installed and maintained shop lifts can enable technicians to work on vehicles more productively.

The first consideration for fleet managers when choosing vehicle lifts is the type of services a facility performs. Available from several manufacturers are different types of lifts used in truck maintenance facilities.

Another important consideration is whether the lift has received certification by the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI). The industry association founded by vehicle lift manufacturers promotes the safe design, construction, installation, operation and maintenance of lifts, including those used to service commercial vehicles.

ALI testing includes verification of the structural integrity of a lift’s systems and components, proper function of its controls and load-holding devices, proper lowering speeds and overload protection. ALI has also developed standards covering a lift owner’s responsibilities regarding operation, inspection and maintenance, as well as a standard on the installation and service of vehicle lifts. Visit the ALI website at for more information.

Lift Choices
There are several different types of vehicle lifts based on design, including:

In-ground lifts that raise the vehicle by its axles and retract when not in use occupy less floor space, ease the movement of vehicles in service areas and provide excellent access to vehicles during service.

Two-post lifts provide easy access to the vehicle’s undercarriage and drivetrain. Featuring two sets of lifting arms attached to two columns used to lift a vehicle at designated points on the frame, two-post lifts are offered in symmetrical designs that are preferred for use on large vehicles.

Four-post lifts in a range of lengths and lifting capacities, and with adjustable runway track widths to accommodate most vehicles, are often among the fastest and simplest to use because no setup is required to drive the vehicle onto the runways and raise it to a comfortable working height. These lifts can also be fitted with rolling jacks to lift the front or rear wheels off the runways.

Parallelogram lifts include surface mount, surface with recessed mount and flush mount designs. Featuring runways that are raised using a parallelogram motion, these lifts can also be fitted with rolling jacks.

Mobile column lifts link four or six portable columns that are rolled to a vehicle and connected using control cables. Highly portable, these lifts are used to turn open space into inspection or service areas.

Pit lifts expand maintenance and repair capabilities of service pits. Types of pit lifts include floor-running, with wheels so they can be rolled anywhere in the pit, rail-mounted that move along a rail system at the bottom of the pit, and suspended pit lifts that ride on rails installed at the top of the pit.

Placement, Maintenance, Training
Vehicle lift selection and placement should also be part of the shop planning process. Each type and model of lift’s footprint and the turning radius and length of vehicles being serviced in the facility should be considered.

To keep lifts functioning safely and properly, manufacturers advise that fleets follow maintenance and adjustment recommendations. Lubrication is especially important for maintaining lift performance and longevity. Annual inspections and repairs, such as seal replacement or pressure testing, should be performed by qualified lift service personnel.

It is also essential that technicians operating lifts know how to use them correctly. All lift manufacturers offer training materials for this purpose.

Lift Suppliers

Products: Heavy-duty lifting systems for 48,000- to 320,000-pound loads. Drive-on models include Surface Mounted Scissor Lifts and Flush Mounted Scissor Lifts with platforms wide enough for dual-wheel vehicles.

Products: Two-post lifts in 26,000- and 30,000-pound capacity models. Four-post lifts ranging in capacity from 19,000 to 75,000 pounds. In-ground lifts in 55,000-, 66,000-, 82,500- and 99,000-pound capacities. Mobile column-style lifts with per column capacity ratings of 12,000 to 40,000 pounds. Parallelogram lifts with capacities from 36,000 to 100,000 pounds and track lengths from 26 to 48 feet, in surface or flush mount designs.

Products: In-ground scissor lift for any medium-duty or heavy-duty vehicle weighing up to 60,000 pounds. Mobile column hydraulic lift with adjustable wheel forks for different wheel sizes. Suspended and floor-running pit lifts. Parallelogram lift systems in capacities up to 100,000 pounds and platform lengths from 26 to 48 feet. Any of these models can now be ordered with a new wash bay package featuring marine-grade paint and stainless steel feet to resist corrosion caused by constant exposure to water, grime and chemicals. Rotary Lift’s wash bay lift also includes an ALI-certified stainless steel control panel.

Jenny Electric Two-Stage, Horizontal-Tank Stationary Air Compressors
Electric two-stage, horizontal-tank stationary air compressors from Jenny Products Inc. displace between 9.1 and 107 CFM at 175 PSI. The 22 belt-driven models in the product line include:

• 2- and 3-HP; 60- and 80-gallon tanks; 9.1 and 13.4 CFM
• 5-, 7.5- and 10-HP; 60- to 120-gallon tanks; 18.3 to 43.6 CFM
• 15-HP; 120- or 240-gallon tanks; 72.4 CFM
• 20-HP; 120- or 240-gallon tanks; 92.6 CFM
• 25-HP; 120- or 240-gallon tanks; 107 CFM

The Jenny compressors feature a heavy-duty, two-stage cast-iron compressor pump; powder-coated, ASME-certified tank; manual tank drain; tank gauge; large canister intake filter with replaceable filter elements; and a pressure-relief safety valve. A large flywheel provides for extra cooling and easier startup, and a directional air shroud also helps reduce pump temperatures.

To help maintain consistent pressure levels, an automatic start/stop control with a pressure unloader is standard on the company’s two-stage series. A constant-run feature can be installed for operations requiring a continuous, heavy flow of compressed air, and a dual-control option is offered. Visit for more.

Benchmarking Success

“The challenge of operating on a flat budget requires us to look for cost-saving measures on an annual basis,” says Richard Dwornik, business manager for transportation and equipment services at We Energies. “That and other management challenges lead to the need for a comprehensive process of benchmarking our fleet. Equipment utilization and staffing issues, for example, are among the things that drive us to see what other utilities are doing and to identify best practices that we can incorporate into our fleet management processes.

“We’re evaluating data on our operation and comparing it to the industry average as well as to historical and current internal benchmarks,” Dwornik continues. “We look at measurements of vehicle utilization, cost per unit, work order touches per unit, fuel usage, operating costs and staffing levels.”

The We Energies fleet of 2,239 units includes automobiles, pickup trucks, vans, bucket trucks, heavy-duty trucks, trenchers, backhoes, skid loaders, forklifts and trailers. The fleet is maintained in 18 shops by a staff of 45 technicians.

Comparing Metrics
For the past eight years, We Energies has been using the benchmarking services provided by Utilimarc. The fleet benchmarking, reporting and analysis firm supplies utility, municipal, federal and private fleets with a methodology for comparing vehicle class-specific metrics internally and externally.

Utilimarc clients routinely report process improvements in lease-versus-buy analysis, specification and standards development, replacement cycle development, vehicle utilization and fleet right-sizing, staffing, cost per maintenance and repair hour, outsourcing assessments, equipment disposal and fuel management.

Best in Class
“A focused benchmarking effort lets us develop best-in-class strategies,” Dwornik states. “Benchmarking is a tool that allows us to accurately compare ownership and operating costs and identify trends in our fleet’s performance. Sharing this information with our employees so everyone knows the challenges helps us make more effective equipment and staffing decisions. We also share the data with user groups to get their involvement.

“An outside benchmarking services supplier has been more beneficial to us than comparing data internally,” Dwornik concludes. “Utilimarc’s data is very extensive and comprehensive, and highly reliable. We’ve come to rely on it to help lower costs and improve efficiency and productivity.”

About We Energies
We Energies serves more than 1.1 million electric customers in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and more than 1 million natural gas customers in Wisconsin. We Energies is the trade name of Wisconsin Electric Power Company and Wisconsin Gas LLC, the principal utility subsidiaries of Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE: WEC). Visit the We Energies website at

For more information about Utilimarc, visit

Doing It Right

Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS), headquartered in Rutland, is one of the largest businesses in Vermont and the state’s largest electric company. The utility, which was organized in 1929 with the consolidation of eight electric companies, traces its roots to more than 100 companies, including one dating back to 1858.

A shareholder-owned electric utility, CVPS serves one of the most rural territories in the country, with just 18 customers per mile of line. Its customer base, however, numbers more than 159,000 in 163 communities. Due to the size of its operating territory, CVPS utilizes 617 miles of transmission line and 8,806 miles of distribution line to meet customer power needs.

In place at CVPS is a fleet of 117 vehicles under 8,600 pounds GVWR and 97 vehicles rated more than 8,600 pounds, including 68 aerial bucket- and digger derrick-equipped trucks. In addition, the company fields 75 trailers; 16 pieces of off-road equipment such as four-wheel-drive ATVs, UTVs and snowmobiles; nine materials-handling units including forklifts and cranes; nine stationary generators; seven portable air compressors; five portable substations and related equipment; and six tracked off-road pieces of equipment.

The transportation team at CVPS provides a wide range of services. Included are vehicle specification, procurement and resale, maintenance, repair and rebuilding, purchasing and parts inventory management, track vehicle operations, vehicle registration, highway permits and DOT compliance coordination, training of vehicle operators and demonstration of new vehicles, and materials, supplies and equipment delivery. Transportation also fulfills a role as front-line support for operations during storms.

Overseeing the transportation team that supports CVPS and its customers is Daniel J. Mackey, who assumed the role of fleet manager in January 2006. A 21-year CVPS employee, his experience includes six years as transportation stockkeeper and 10 years as procurement agent. Recently, Mackey discussed the CVPS operation with Utility Fleet Professional.

What factors impact vehicle purchasing, specification and replacement decisions at CVPS?

We have a vehicle specification committee that includes operators. We value their input in the purchasing and specification process for vehicles because they know what works best and what is needed to accomplish their jobs. This allows CVPS to obtain vehicles and equipment that will be accepted by everyone.

The criteria we use to identify which vehicles need to be replaced include a combination of age and mileage. For example, vehicles under 10,000 pounds GVWR are generally replaced after five to seven years and 100,000 to 120,000 miles of service. Vehicles more than 10,001 pounds GVWR are replaced after seven to 10 years and 120,000 to 150,000 miles of service. Other factors that we take into account include maintenance costs, downtime, physical condition, user comfort and functionality, along with performing a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

Is standardization a factor in your decisions?

All of our medium-duty trucks are International models and our lighter vehicles are Fords, although we do have a few other makes that are needed because of the function they fulfill.
Standardization of the fleet as much as possible allows us to reduce the number of suppliers we do business with, provide specific training for our mechanics, keep our parts inventory to a minimum and only purchase diagnostic equipment specific to the vehicles we operate.

Are alternative fuel-powered vehicles a part of the CVPS fleet?

We have two Toyota Prius hybrids that were converted by A123 Systems to plug-in hybrids and have been working with Green Mountain College, The University of Vermont and Idaho National Laboratory to collect mileage and cost data and evaluate the benefits of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Those vehicles averaged 76 miles per gallon during the winter months and exceeded 100 mpg in warmer months. Recently, the transportation department converted a Ford Escape Hybrid to a plug-in hybrid for use by our mailroom for local deliveries. This is the ideal work situation for a plug-in hybrid.

In 2006, we put in service 15 Ford Escape hybrids for use as meter reading and general operations vehicles, and we have realized a benefit in reduced maintenance costs and lower fuel consumption. Also, in mid-2008 we purchased the first hybrid bucket truck in New England. Compared to our standard bucket truck, the International 4300 with the Eaton hybrid drive system has exhibited a 53 percent reduction in fuel consumption.

Currently we are looking at the potential of introducing to our fleet a plug-in system that allows the aerial device when in power takeoff mode to operate from an electric motor/pump combination powered by a dedicated bank of batteries (hybrid package). This system will not impact the drivability of the chassis. When the batteries are depleted in the field, the truck will automatically be returned to the traditional power takeoff operation of the aerial unit.

What programs are in place for maintenance management, tires, parts and fuel for the CVPS fleet?

We use FleetFocus from AssetWorks to manage the fleet. The software captures all costs and handles maintenance schedules, parts inventory, fuel, labor and lease expenses. We have local and national accounts for parts and tires and use Wright Express to capture fuel use and cost data.

Please describe the CVPS fleet maintenance operation.

The CVPS maintenance team is completely self-sufficient and has the ability to perform warranty work on all vehicles and equipment in our fleet. We outsource very few services. We operate two locations for servicing vehicles, on both sides of the state. Most of the preventive maintenance (PM) is performed at night so it is transparent to our internal customers. We also have two service trailers that we use for nighttime work in the field, and during service restoration operations we use the trailers at the hardest-hit locations so we can provide immediate support.

Ed Baker, shop foreman, oversees the daily operation of the vehicle PM and repair schedule. Karly Carrara, fleet administrator, handles paperwork and the data that includes all of the costs related to the vehicles and equipment operated by CVPS. We also have a stockkeeper who obtains parts and materials needed by mechanics and our internal customers. Overall, the transportation team consists of 12 dedicated, highly skilled employees. Included are 10 mechanics, all of whom hold commercial driver’s licenses, and welding and hydraulic certifications.

How would you sum up the goal and mission of the CVPS transportation team?

Our vision is to cost-effectively provide our customers with efficient, reliable vehicles and equipment. All of our services are driven by the desire to provide dependable, reliable vehicles and equipment at the most economical cost.

Central Vermont Public Service Truck Specifications

Model: International 7400 SBA 6×4
Wheelbase: 193 inches
Engine: International MaxxForce 9; 310 HP/950 lb/ft @ 1200 RPM; Diamond Logic exhaust brake
Transmission: Allison 3000_RDS_P automatic, five-speed overdrive
Transmission Oil Cooler: Modine
Front Axle: Dana Spicer, 14,000 lbs.
Front Suspension: Parabolic taper leaf springs
Power Steering: Sheppard M-100
Rear Axle: Dana Spicer, 40,000 lbs., 4.88 ratio
Rear Suspension: Hendrickson HAS-402-55, air ride
ABS: Bendix
Parking Brakes: MGM Long Stroke
Wheels: 22.5-inch steel disc, 10-hole hub piloted
Tires: 11R22.5 Michelin; XZY-3 steer, XDE M/S drive
Air Compressor: Bendix Tu-Flo 550, 13.2 CFM
Air Dryer: Meritor WABCO System Saver 1200
Fan Clutch: Horton Drivemaster; two-speed direct drive
Batteries: (2) International; 1850 CCA
Starter: Leece-Neville M130D
Alternator: Leece-Neville, 160 amp
Block Heater: Phillips, 1,250 watt
Mirrors: Lang Mekra, heated
Seats: National 2000, air suspension, high back
Fuel Tank: 70 gallon

Goodyear fleetHQ Solution Center

Introduced three years ago, the Goodyear fleetHQ Solution Center combines emergency road services with a portfolio of business solutions. Included are online information systems providing 24/7 access to service in progress, retread history, repair data and tire purchase history.

Designed to save fleet managers administrative time, Goodyear fleetHQ quickly connects fleets with more than 1,800 locations in the fleetHQ Servicing Dealer Network for tire-related emergency road assistance. Fleet users signed up for the free service – offered without enrollment or incidence fees – pay the same price for tires on the road that they do at their own facilities.

Fleet customers of fleetHQ can also establish complete portfolios listing all tires installed on all of their trucks, streamlining the road service process by providing the exact type, brand and size of tire needed for replacement.

“In 2010, the Goodyear fleetHQ Solution Center helped more than 164,000 customers, a nearly 60 percent increase over 2009,” said Tony Starling, general manager of fleetHQ. Fast response time for emergency roadside service, multiple business tools and ease of use are major reasons why the program has more than 20,000 customers enrolled.”

Visit for more information.

GM FleetTrac

GM FleetTrac offers fleet managers an opportunity to dramatically simplify the vehicle maintenance process. The new solution from General Motors offers the convenience, flexibility and reduced administrative costs of a system that consolidates vehicle maintenance invoices, documents vehicle repair history and minimizes the repair authorization process.

Available to fleets of all sizes, GM FleetTrac is designed for organizations that schedule vehicle repairs at outside repair shops without the use of a fleet management company. The program also enables fleet drivers to utilize a conveniently located network of GM dealers for vehicle maintenance and repair.

With the GM FleetTrac program, invoice details are delivered through a secure website and can be customized to fit any fleet’s business structure. Through FleetTrac’s consolidated service billing, drivers are also able to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses and account reimbursement processes.

“Our customers have consistently asked us to help simplify their fleet management processes,” said Brian Small, general manager, GM fleet and commercial operations. “GM FleetTrac has been built specifically with the needs of self-managed fleet customers in mind. It will help us offer our customers unsurpassed convenience while simultaneously helping them reduce their administrative workload and costs.”

FleetTrac is offered without enrollment or processing fees and includes flexible client-specified purchase policies and 30-day payment terms. GM FleetTrac agents, located throughout the U.S., are available to assist customers with program or invoice questions. For more information, visit

Green Fleets

Around the Industry
The National Clean Fleets Partnership, a Department of Energy (DOE) initiative, has set its sights on helping companies reduce diesel and gasoline use in their fleets by incorporating electric vehicles, alternative fuels and other fuel-saving measures into their daily operations. Through the partnership, the DOE will assist in efforts to reduce fuel use and achieve greater efficiency and cost savings by offering specialized resources, technical expertise and support.

Part of the DOE Vehicle Technology Program’s “Clean Cities” initiative, the National Clean Fleets Partnership includes opportunities for technical assistance and collaboration, such as peer-to-peer information exchange, and access to expertise at DOE and national laboratories where related research and development initiatives are underway. Also possible is assistance in pursuing group purchasing so smaller companies realize the benefits of purchasing advanced technology vehicles.

The DOE has developed a wide range of technical tools to help companies navigate the world of alternative fuels and advanced vehicles. The collection includes cost calculators, interactive maps, customizable database searches, mobile applications and other vital information.

Utilimarc and CALSTART have joined forces to provide fleets with a range of valuable resources and experience about light- and medium-duty vehicles powered by alternative fuel. CALSTART, which is known for its Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF), brings to bear its expertise to guide fleets in selecting and implementing new technology and measuring its benefits. Utilimarc’s benchmarking data plays a critical role in assessment, monitoring and ROI calculation, ensuring a reliable comparison of industry-specific metrics with an emphasis on tracking alternative fuel vehicles.

Regulations mandating environmental protection practices are requiring fleet managers to implement new programs. These rules, which cover a wide variety of topics, include the following:
• U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules covering hazardous wastes defined and regulated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, known as RCRA (“Rick-Rah”), including recycling and pollution prevention options
• Federal underground storage tank (UST) regulations and state UST programs approved by the EPA that are allowed to operate in lieu of the federal program and may have more stringent regulations than the federal requirements
• Safe fuel-handling regulations designed to prevent accidental spills and overfills
• RCRA, Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act requirements that may pertain to vehicle painting
• Refrigeration service activities regulated under the Clean Air Act
• Regulatory requirements for pollutant discharge and storm water runoff systems
• Requirements for hazmat incident reporting

GreenTruck (, a consolidated source of information about environmental regulations, is provided by American Trucking Associations and the Transportation Environmental Resource Center. The site details EPA programs for oil spill prevention and response, and hazmat incident reporting. Also covered are federal and state underground storage tank (UST) regulations, safe fuel-handling regulations, hazardous waste definitions, refrigeration service activities regulated under the Clean Air Act and requirements that may pertain to vehicle painting. GreenTruck also provides details on the EPA’s National Environmental Performance Track program, which rewards companies that exceed minimum regulatory requirements and take extra steps to reduce and prevent pollution.

On the Road
Fleet managers continue to learn more about alternative fuel-powered vehicles. During the 2010 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (EUFMC), three executives described their experiences.

Duke Energy has been operating groups of 2006- and 2009-model hybrid trucks, reported Mike Allison, director of fleet design and technical support. The hybrids and baseline vehicles in the fleet were fitted with data capture systems to compare operating information. “For the most closely matched vehicles, both driven approximately 22,000 miles,” he said, “we learned that the hybrid unit used 25 percent less fuel and accumulated 800 fewer engine hours. Overall, fuel economy was 6.83 mpg for the hybrid versus 5.60 mpg for the diesel-powered model.

“Initial acceptance by operators was also good,” Allison added, “and we found that savings were application-driven. Also, while we did have some performance complaints, those were corrected through software changes.”

Florida Power & Light also reported “strong user acceptance” for the initial 24 Class 6-7 hybrid trucks in its operation. At the time, the fleet had 36 months of service on its first hybrid units and more than 1 million miles of combined road service on the group of trucks. “At over 99 percent, availability of the hybrid trucks has been high,” said Claude Masters, manager, vehicle acquisition and fuel. “In addition, the hybrid trucks showed fuel savings of 32 to 47 percent [measured in gallons per hour].

“Factors affecting fuel economy include highway driving conditions and engine-off PTO operation,” Masters also reported. “Realizing efficiencies with hybrid vehicles comes from matching the equipment to the mission.”

Pacific Gas and Electric Company is also a user of alternative power trucks. “Making effective choices,” noted Dave Meisel, director, transportation services, “is about looking at the highest value proposition elements, and because fuel savings are very duty-cycle dependent, no one type of alternative fuel vehicle fits all applications. In addition, there are price and return-on-investment questions that need to be asked and answered because performance varies significantly between makes, models and manufacturers.”

Meisel also defined two other issues to address when considering alternative vehicles. Included were employee challenges, such as familiarity with the operation of the equipment and the availability of qualified technicians. Also to be considered are parts availability
and technical issues related to batteries and charging systems.

Today’s natural gas trucks are ready to handle utility tasks, said Dave Bryant, manager, vocational sales at Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), during the 2010 EUFMC. DTNA, he noted, has put more than 2,000 natural gas units into service in a range of applications, including utility, municipal and construction fleets.

DTNA’s factory-installed natural gas solution for the Freightliner M2 112 platform features the Cummins Westport ISL G 8 engine. The five models offered in liquefied natural gas (LNG) or compressed natural gas (CNG) versions include 250, 260, 280, 300 and 320 HP options with peak torque from 660 to 1,000 lbs./ft. at 1,300 rpm. For its M2 natural gas models, the OEM offers CNG tanks in 60 diesel gallon equivalent (DGE) and 75 DGE configurations. Factory-installed LNG options include 119- and 147-gallon tanks, which equate to 65 and 86 DGE, respectively.

All Freightliner natural gas vehicles include a standard methane detection system. The system encompasses sensors mounted in the cab, engine compartment and outside the cab near the fuel tank to provide visual and audible warnings of fuel leaks. Freightliner and Cummins Westport also provide on-site fleet customer training, as well as engine and fuel system maintenance and troubleshooting services.

Bryant pointed out several benefits of natural gas engines beyond lower operating costs than diesel. “With the same rated speed as an ISL diesel, the ISL G provides 30 percent more torque at idle, and it is quieter,” he said. “Other advantages include a maintenance-free three-way catalyst and no need for additional emissions control devices, diesel particulate filter regeneration or ash cleaning.

“When you look at fuel choices, natural gas is a great choice to meet short-haul and vocational needs,” Bryant said. “It is less expensive than diesel fuel, and NG-powered engines have a lower cost of operation than their diesel counterparts.”

Liquid propane autogas, another viable alternative for fleet vehicles, took center stage at the 2011 National Truck Equipment Association’s Work Truck Show. There, ROUSH CleanTech announced its new 6.8-liter V10 propane autogas-powered Ford F-550 super duty chassis cab. The propane autogas fuel system will be available for 2012 and later models of the Ford F-450 and F-550 truck series, and is expected to ship beginning in October 2011.

The fuel system is currently in development and will be EPA and California Air Resources
Board (CARB) certified at launch. The system will be available as a Ford ship-through option for installation on new vehicles, or as a retrofit option for vehicles already in service.

While ROUSH CleanTech is still finalizing the details on tank capacity and options, the plan is to offer up to three tank configurations for the Ford F-450 and F-550 propane autogas fuel system – an in-bed tank and two under-bed tanks. The fuel tank choices will be able to be combined to conform to various body configurations and to meet the range requirements of customers. The system, equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission, will work on all cab and wheelbase configurations, as well as 4×2 or 4×4 vehicles.

“Going green is not just for light-duty vehicles anymore,” said Joe Thompson, president of ROUSH CleanTech. “Propane autogas offers so many benefits to fleets in terms of safety, economics, environmental soundness and convenience. There are thousands of refueling stations across the U.S., and many fleets are installing low-cost on-site refueling infrastructure to eliminate the need for off-site stations.”

Propane autogas burns cleaner than gasoline or diesel, with 20 percent less nitrogen oxide, up to 60 percent less carbon monoxide, 17 to 24 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and fewer particulate emissions when compared to gasoline. When compared to diesel fuel, the emissions reductions are even greater. Propane autogas also offers up to 40 percent reduction in fuel costs when compared to gasoline.

In the Shop
Southern California Edison (SCE) has been honored for green shop efforts at its Wildomar, Calif. facility, achieving Platinum certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC process includes a green building rating system covering Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation in Design.

During the 2010 EUFMC, James Kennedy, manager, presented details on SCE’s Greening Utility Fleet Garage Facilities activities. The Wildomar service center site is home to a
21,116-square-foot, two-story garage with six truck bays, a welding bay and a wash bay, along with an office building, an assembly space and a yard management warehouse.

“In the shop we focused on environmentally-sensitive planning, design and construction,”
Kennedy said. “For example, skylights and glass bay doors in the garage were placed to optimize the use of natural light. Also used were low volatile organic compound-emitting, nontoxic paints, coatings, adhesives, carpets and floor coverings to promote high indoor air quality. In addition, the building has an HVAC system with CO2 monitoring devices and HEPA filters to regulate fresh-air ventilation when indoor CO2 levels reach a predetermined threshold.”

Kennedy went on to say that the Wildomar service center is a model for new building construction at SCE. “We’re committed to environmental protection,” he stated. “Beyond meeting regulatory requirements, we’re developing and implementing programs and practices that improve air and water quality, reduce solid waste and conserve natural resources. In addition, we’re benefiting by reducing operating costs and by providing a healthier, more comfortable work environment for our employees.”

SCE also earned LEED credits for its green building education practices by providing public information on the sustainable features of the Wildomar facility. The utility has also been awarded credits for its green housekeeping program that promotes the use of nontoxic cleaning supplies, for achieving water savings through the use of high-efficiency plumbing and landscaping fixtures, and for the purchase of renewable energy credits to offset the facility’s energy usage.

SCE, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, operates 1,900 medium-duty trucks and 3,000 passenger and light-duty vehicles, along with 1,000 heavy-duty units and 1,100 pieces of equipment. The fleet is maintained in 44 shops staffed by 246 technicians.