Skip to main content


Tag: Fleet Profiles

Pioneering a Utility Drone Program

In 2015, Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd) became the first utility to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for operational use of unmanned aircraft systems – also referred to as UAS or drones – under certain conditions for line inspection and emergency response applications.

So, three years and 250 flights later, how has it been going? Where does ComEd’s program stand today? What types of applications are they using drones for? And what are some of the lessons the utility has learned?

UFP recently spoke with Brian Cramer, UAS program manager at ComEd, to get the behind-the-scenes story of a utility company pioneering new drone technology that could have enormous implications for worker safety and operational efficiencies throughout the industry.

UFP: How are you currently using drones?

Brian Cramer: If there’s a problem that crews haven’t been able to identify using normal means – whether it’s ground patrols, helicopters and so forth – we’ll use drones to provide imaging for inspections to find out what’s happening. That’s because the drone can get closer to the problem area, and we can see it from every angle, including from above.

In a helicopter, you can get up close to the issue from above, but often only from one side – you can’t see both sides. So, if the problem is literally in the wrong place, you won’t find it.

And where we can’t get up close, some of our drones have 30x zoom cameras, where we can zoom right in to see things in detail. That’s our most frequent type of flight.

We also use drones for access, to get to hard-to-reach areas. Sometimes it isn’t safe for someone to go through the high grass or debris to try to climb around in there and see what’s happening. We can get up above and capture imaging to get better information without any risk to anyone.

I can imagine that level of visibility from drones is especially important when you’re talking about emergency preparedness.

Yes. Actually, when we first started talking with our [emergency preparedness] people three years ago, they said there were three things they were really interested in.

First was to find the scope of the area of damage – to get the big picture, so they knew what they were looking at.

The second thing was to go through the analysis. There’s a pole with a transformer, so we’ve got to replace that. The wire’s down; we need to get the detailed scope of repair.

The third thing was safe access – to be able to figure out how your crews can safely get to where they need to be to get the work done.

And these three things remain significant in our thinking.

What’s a unique application that you didn’t initially consider for drones but have since discovered to be an interesting use-case?

An application that comes to mind is the simplest one – a crew who does foot patrols, whether for planning new construction or inspecting lines. Every so often, they get to a point where it’s tough to get themselves physically closer to where they want to be.

So, it’s useful to have a drone in the truck where crews could take it out, set it up, go through the checklist and processes, and fly the drone the last hundred yards or whatever they need to see the thing that they wanted to see, instead of climbing down a ravine, which introduces risks.

If you ask most of these people, “Do you need a drone?” they would likely say no. But if you gave them one and asked them six months later, “Do you need this drone?” they would say, “Wow, absolutely – this is fantastic!”

ComEd owns eight drones but also outsources on occasion. In what scenarios do you contract with drone services companies?

There are three ways we use outside drone companies.

First is if we have a major storm. We’re prepared to bring in a number of crews from these organizations who would team up with our people who patrol for damage. So, you would have a drone operator or operator team with one of our patrollers. They would provide eyes that can see beyond the debris and the floodwater so that our patrollers can be much more effective in getting accurate information faster.

A second way is if we have a major project where we want to do a lot of inspections of certain areas or something for critical lines and we don’t have enough resources to do that. So, we will bring in a contractor to handle that.

The third is expensive technologies that we don’t use all the time, like lidar. If we needed to do lidar work, we would probably hire one of these contractors to do that for us because that equipment is costly. It takes knowledge to use it properly, and the technology is changing so rapidly. Right now, it doesn’t make sense for us to invest in that technology.

As your drone program expands, do you envision that your drones will eventually be managed by the fleet department?

At this point, that doesn’t happen to be the way that we’re organized at ComEd. I know of at least one utility where their drone operation is operated out of their fleet system. We have three different groups of air assets at Exelon [parent company of ComEd] – helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and drones. At this point, none of our aviation assets are under fleet. But is the idea of managing drones as a fleet asset a logical way to do it? Yes, it certainly can be.

What advice do you have to give to other utilities that are looking to launch or expand their drone programs?

I would say do your homework. Learn the rules. Learn how to do it right. As a utility company, you’re in an extreme safety culture. So, make sure that safety translates appropriately into your drone operations. And one of the things to remember and focus on is this: If you put together your internal rules for how you are going to operate your drones – and how you’re going to allow contractors to operate drones for you – make sure you set up the rules in a way that facilitates those safe and effective operations. It’s too easy to put rules in place that inadvertently obstruct the ability to do that work. You have to look hard at what you’re doing and make sure you find ways to facilitate safe and effective operations.

If you were to make the case as to why utility companies should commit to launching a drone program, what would you say?

Everywhere we look, we keep finding new places where having the detailed level of visibility [from drones] is useful, or where it could enhance the safety of our people and the reliability of our system.

We have poles that are 200 feet tall in our transmission system that have FAA lights on top. To check those lights, a [lineworker] has to climb up 200 feet. But I can use a drone, fly it up there, look at the lights, bring it back and land in five minutes. Nobody had to leave the ground. Now, [lineworkers] know what they’re doing. They’re as safe as it’s possible to be. But there’s always a risk, and to the extent that we can reduce those risks, I’m all over that one. So, when you’re trying to find your way through the high brush on a right-of-way or you’re climbing up in the air to do your job, if you can do less of that, we are all better off.

Utility Fleets to the Rescue in Puerto Rico

This story hasn’t been getting a lot of attention in the national press, but there has been a massive mobilization effort by utilities across the U.S. to send thousands of lineworkers, trucks and pieces of heavy equipment to help restore power to Puerto Rico, where many residents have suffered without electricity since Hurricane Maria pummeled the island last fall.

In December, several electric companies began mobilizing crews at the request of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), in a coordinated effort with the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the American Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, deploying nearly 1,500 additional restoration workers and support personnel to the island as of press time.

One of those utilities is Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E), based in Oklahoma City, which is assigned to the Arecibo region on the northwest side of the island, along with Dallas-based Oncor and Houston-based CenterPoint Energy.

On January 18, about 60 of OG&E’s trademark orange trucks arrived at the port in Ponce, Puerto Rico, taking about two weeks to complete the 1,900-mile trek from Lake Charles, Louisiana. The plan is for OG&E’s first wave of 50 crew members to work for 20 days and then relieve those workers by sending a second wave of 50 to continue work for at least another 20 days.

Although 60 vehicles is a small percentage of OG&E’s nearly 2,000 fleet assets, a mobilization effort that involves sending that many pieces of equipment to an island a couple thousand miles away is no small task.

So, what exactly is a fleet department’s role in coordinating an overseas mobilization effort like this one? What are the key factors fleet managers need to think through to ensure things go as smoothly as possible for the crews?

UFP recently spoke with Paul Jefferson, fleet manager at OG&E, to get a glimpse into the Puerto Rico storm-response process and any lessons he has learned along the way. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

UFP: When you received word that OG&E was going to participate in the Puerto Rico assistance effort, what were some of the initial steps from there? How did you determine the number of fleet assets to send?

Paul Jefferson: [EEI] asked for 50 linemen from us, and we needed to also send a couple mechanics, safety personnel and supervisors – so about 60 trucks total. Once OG&E’s [transmission and distribution] management figured out which crews were going, they selected the trucks to bring. Then my role was to review the list and approve or substitute units so we don’t send any equipment that’s not up to the job. 

There’s also a lot that goes into getting the barge ready to haul the vehicles. In the area [of Puerto Rico] we’re working in, we’ve teamed up with Oncor and CenterPoint. And CenterPoint has a lot of experience with barges, so they took the lead with the barge. But we needed to pull together quite a bit of information to give to the barge company – truck weight, size, height and so forth – for all the assets we were sending over.

Then you have insurance, where we needed to state the value of the vehicles so that our corporate risk department could get coverage in case something happens to the vehicles on the barge on the way over.

When you were evaluating the initial list of vehicles, what were some of the things you were looking for to help you determine whether to approve an asset or substitute it with something else?  

The biggest thing for me is that I didn’t want us sending over our oldest trucks or spare trucks or stuff like that. I wanted to make sure all the vehicles were good to go, and I ended up substituting a couple of them.

But even with the best equipment, things break down. How do you manage maintenance, parts inventory and repairs on vehicles that are operating on an island a couple thousand miles away? 

We’re primarily an International truck fleet, so I got online to see if there were International dealerships that we could use near us in Puerto Rico. And we found a dealership where we could use our fleet charge account, which was good because we get national pricing.

In terms of parts, we took quite a few of what we thought would be high-moving items with us on the trucks. And we’ll use those first. If we need any parts that we don’t have, we’ll then go to the dealer.

But one challenge is that we run Goodyear Tires but [Goodyear] doesn’t have a commercial tire center over there. They just have automotive stuff.

How did you and your team address the tire situation?

We ramped up the number of tires we took with us, putting them on our flatbed trucks and mechanics’ trucks for shipping on the barge, and then storing them at our staging area in Puerto Rico. Worst-case scenario, we may have to put on a different brand tire.

What has been the impact on your operations?

One impact on the company is that while the trucks were being shipped for two to three weeks, some of the linemen didn’t have a truck. So, they had to share equipment with each other during that time.

How does the fleet department go about planning for a large-scale mutual-assistance effort like this one – especially when it’s overseas?

A lot of it comes from our knowledge from past storms. We’ve worked ice storms and tornadoes and hurricanes on mutual assistance before. So, our team got together and talked about what we might need to come up with for a list. We then reached out to our vendors, telling them what we wanted and when we needed those things by. And they palletized the cargo for us, sent it to our garage and put it on our trucks.

And we have a document for storm response that we follow. We have a list of volunteers, mechanics who want to work on these mutual-assistance efforts. We have a list of standard truck parts and tires we take on mutual-assistance storms. And we have a list of phone numbers of our vendors. So, for example, Goodyear Tires has a special phone number for utility companies working on mutual assistance so that when you have a tire problem, there’s a phone number that puts you at the front of the list. And, for our International trucks, we have a fleet charge account that is part of the package that mechanics take with them that has our fleet charge number there, so if they’re at an unfamiliar dealership, they can still use our account.

Was there anything unique that wasn’t on your typical storm-response list because this was for Puerto Rico?

One thing we did is that we got with Altec and Terex to add Spanish versions to our warning decals on our bucket and line trucks, which typically are only in English.

Was that something PREPA requested or required?

No, we just did that on our own. We felt like it was the safe thing to do.

What advice do you have for other utility fleet managers on how they can best prepare and execute their storm-response plans?

I think the main thing is to make sure you have a base plan in place. It may change, but at least you have a starting point to follow. I never dreamed we’d be going to Puerto Rico two years ago. So, try to think outside the box of any place you might be going and think through plans accordingly.

Dominion Virginia Power’s Drone Program Takes Flight

Unmanned aerial vehicles – also known as UAVs or drones – offer the utility industry the promise of lower costs and improved worker safety with regard to line inspections, storm damage assessments, and other tasks that are traditionally performed using manned helicopters and third-party inspection services.

And the market appears ripe for rapid expansion, as drone technology becomes more advanced and hardware costs continue to plummet. In fact, global annual revenue for drone and robotics technologies for transmission and distribution is expected to grow from $131.7 million in 2015 to $4.1 billion in 2024 – about a 30-fold increase – according to Navigant Research (

But the U.S. market still has regulatory hurdles to overcome before utilities can deploy drones at a level where they can effectively realize the full business benefits of the technology. Federal Aviation Administration restrictions, such as having to maintain visual line of sight, have prevented utilities from being able to fly drones over longer distances and inspect large sections of power lines at a time – the holy grail for utility drone programs.

Yet despite these constraints, a growing number of U.S. utility companies, like Dominion Virginia Power, which launched its drone program in 2013, are getting into the drone business and seeing promising results. And there could be huge implications for fleet.

What exactly is involved with starting a utility drone program? How are these programs managed? And what’s the potential impact on fleet? Will drones replace certain types of ground vehicles? Will they eventually become fleet assets?

UFP recently spoke with Steve Eisenrauch, manager of transmission forestry and line services for Dominion Virginia Power and the leader of his department’s drone program, to explore these questions and more.

UFP: What motivated you and your team at Dominion to launch your drone program in 2013?

Steve Eisenrauch: The technology. Basically, at that point, I had come to the realization that it looked like the technology was going to be usable for utilities. It had advanced to where it was more commonplace in the market. There were some companies out there that were starting to offer drone services, and the FAA was looking at the ability for folks to start using drones commercially.

UFP: What often happens when launching a new program is that you encounter some level of resistance because people fear change. Was there any resistance you had to face when getting your drone program started?

SE: Interestingly enough, no. From a getting-it-started perspective, the only thing that we had to make sure of was that our vendors had FAA approval to do the flights. Of course, we had to make sure that they had all their proper licenses and certificates and insurance requirements. But we had an area that we could test that wasn’t going to be energized, so if there was an issue, it wouldn’t be a problem. Our folks looked at this as really a groundbreaking technology that could be a great tool for utilities to be able to use.

UFP: Who operates the drones right now for Dominion?

SE: We have a vendor that uses two operators for each drone flight – a licensed pilot who controls the drone and a sensor operator who controls the camera to point, zoom, tilt up and down, that sort of thing. Basically, the pilot will take the drone up and get it in position; then the sensor operator will control the camera to look at the different assets and structures to make sure there are no issues.

UFP: You’ve decided to outsource the drones and the personnel who operate them. What was the reasoning to go with that model versus owning the drones?

SE: Several reasons. One is the ability to get the program up and running very quickly. These vendor companies already had the drones, the FAA clearances to do the work and the pilots. When we first started flying the drones in 2014, a commercial pilot’s license was required to fly. That changed last year with the FAA’s new requirement for a commercial drone operator to only have a remote pilot certification.

And beyond the operator needing a pilot’s certification, there’s still a lot of on-the-job training and practice to operate drones around power lines. That’s one reason why we gave it to the third-party vendor.

We also had to consider that drone technology gets outdated very quickly. A third-party service provider is more likely to upgrade quicker than a utility would be able to do.

Yet that’s not to say that down the road, as drones become more autonomous, we won’t integrate them into our line crews. It’s just initially, and for the last couple of years, we haven’t chosen to go that route quite yet. We don’t think [the drone technology] is quite as far along as it needs to be at this point.

UFP: What department does your drone program fit under?

SE: Electric transmission is the main user of drones within Dominion. Now, once again, that’s not to say there aren’t a few other drones scattered around other departments at Dominion that are used occasionally. But the main drone program is housed here in electric transmission.

UFP: You’re currently operating three drones. Where do you see that number, say, in the next year? Do you see it remaining roughly the same or growing?

SE: If the FAA regulations remain the same, then from a day-to-day operations perspective I don’t see that number changing. But if the regulations change to allow for beyond line-of-sight operation, I think that number’s going to grow.

UFP: What’s the potential impact that the growth of drones could have on fleet? Do you envision drones impacting the composition of Dominion’s ground fleet, where they might replace all-terrain vehicles or other equipment that would get out to typically hard-to-reach areas?

SE: I think drones are going to be very helpful at providing information that identifies what’s needed to take care of issues in those areas. But I don’t think that drones are going to be replacing the bucket trucks and the ATVs for the guys that actually get to those locations once the issue is discovered.

One thing I would expect, though, is that drones eventually will become a fleet asset. That’s because one of the things we want to be able to do down the road is that when we have a line operation, if a line locks out, we’ll get an approximate location from our fault analysis group. Then we have somebody in our system operation center who dispatches the nearest drone to that location. The drones would be able to get real-time feedback, so they know precisely what equipment, people, access and material are needed to get to the site and repair the issue as quickly as possible.

What that means is that we’re going to have to have these drones stationed around our service area, not just here at our headquarters or at a vendor. Maybe we have them stationed strategically in some of our substations or other office locations so that we can be able to give a command from a central area and fly these things out.

Then, instead of having three drones – like we have right now – we may have 100 drones. And at that scale, I could see the drone becoming a fleet asset.

So, I don’t know whether we’ll see drones taking away from the existing fleet. But we may see them becoming fleet assets in the future.

3 Takeaways from Southern California Edison’s Fleet Electrification Initiative

Conventional wisdom says that as fuel prices drop, so does market demand for alternative-fuel vehicles – such as those powered by compressed natural gas, propane autogas and plug-in electric systems. That’s because the lower the price of gasoline and diesel, the longer it takes to recoup the premium for alt-fuel technologies through fuel-cost savings.

Yet despite fuel prices in the low two-dollar range per gallon as of press time, a growing number of electric utilities in the U.S. are making substantial investments to green their fleets – specifically in plug-in electric vehicle (EV) systems.

A major driver of this trend has been Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) Transportation Electrification Initiative, which in late 2014 garnered commitments from more than 70 investor-owned electric utilities to devote at least 5 percent of their annual fleet acquisition budgets to purchase plug-in EVs and equipment.

But for one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, Southern California Edison (SCE), the push for fleet electrification began nearly two decades ago, in 2000. And today, SCE ( operates 644 electrified units, comprising 11 percent of its total fleet. Last year, the utility invested 18.7 percent of its fleet spend in EVs, nearly quadruple the EEI annual target.

UFP recently spoke with Todd Carlson, principal manager for fleet asset management at SCE, to get more details about their fleet electrification initiative and uncover some of the lessons that Carlson and his team have learned in the process. Here are three takeaways that emerged from our conversation.

1. Look for smart opportunities for electrification.
While EVs are not a good fit for all fleet applications right now, there are opportunities for fleet electrification that offer a compelling business case, if you know where to look.

“We seek to electrify everything we possibly can in our fleet,” Carlson said. “Now obviously, we’re not going to electrify our helicopters or some of the real heavy-energy-intensive vehicles. We don’t have plans to electrify our 150-ton cranes. But we do seek to electrify everything we possibly can when it makes good business sense to do so.”

So, where does fleet electrification make good business sense?

Carlson shared one example that may not be on a lot of fleet managers’ radar: corporate security vehicles.

At SCE’s five-building complex in Rosemead, Calif., security guards were using gasoline-powered Ford Transit Connect vehicles to do around-the-clock patrols around the campus.

“We were in a position where there was so much idling and wear and tear on the engine, that the vehicles were constantly down,” Carlson said. “And since this was a very low-mileage, high-idle application, we were having to do more engine replacements and other maintenance to those vehicles. So, we built a business case that showed that it would be more cost-effective to replace the two gas-powered Transit Connects with four battery-electric Toyota RAV4s.”

How could doubling the number of vehicles – with more expensive EVs – be more cost-effective?

“First, since we went from two to four vehicles, we could extend a longer-term lease payment structure,” Carlson explained. “Instead of basically consuming the vehicle over a four-year period, we could expect a life expectancy of seven years because we had double the number of vehicles. And while one vehicle is charging, they’re using the other one.”

But what about the economics of operating the electric RAV4s compared to the gas-powered vehicle? What makes the EV a better investment in this instance?

“When we factor in the lower cost of maintenance [for the EV], the lower cost over the life of the vehicle and the cost of the electricity versus gas, it is actually a lower-cost solution for us to use two electric vehicles in place of one gas-powered vehicle that runs virtually 24/7,” Carlson said.

And Carlson noted there have been driver acceptance and health benefits from the switch to the EVs. “The guards who use EVs absolutely love those vehicles because they don’t have to deal with an engine running all day long that causes constant engine vibration in the vehicle and creates exhaust that they breathe in.”

2. Understand that the business case for ePTO trucks goes beyond financial payback.
SCE operates about 64 medium- and heavy-duty trucks with electric power takeoff (ePTO) systems that power the onboard equipment, such as an aerial platform, without the need to idle the engine. And while SCE has seen direct economic benefits from these trucks in terms of fuel-cost savings, lower maintenance costs and longer asset life, the substantial reduction of exhaust fumes and equipment noise is paying dividends in improved health and safety for the operators, Carlson said.

“The crews love these trucks because they don’t have to deal with fumes and noise – where they’re shouting over the engine noise of the large truck to talk to one another,” Carlson said. “You can talk in a normal voice from the ground to the operator up in the bucket, while he’s up working on the wires. And that’s a big deal with it comes to keeping our crews safe.”

What has SCE seen in terms of payback from fuel-cost savings with ePTO trucks?

Carlson said that the direct financial payback is still “borderline,” but “it’s close enough that we continue to lean into it to say, ‘We’re going to learn more about these trucks and keep doing it.’ Our hope is that this technology continues to move forward and the price keeps coming down, so that we will get a great payback on this type of system.”

3. Eliminate the “hassle factor” of EVs for users.
Carlson said that the biggest challenges SCE has experienced with fleet electrification have to do with take-home vehicles and range anxiety – both examples of the hassle factor.

“If you’re planning to charge the vehicle overnight, you need to have a solution for how that vehicle is going to charge,” Carlson said. “Is the employee expected to plug that vehicle into their own electric outlet at their home? If it’s a hybrid-electric troubleman truck that gets taken home, how will it get charged? If you park it in front of the house and you’re needing to run extension cords out to charge the truck, you’re going to be dealing with potential trip hazards or something else that makes it even more challenging. Charging at home for take-home vehicles can be a bit of a funny question to deal with.”

How has SCE addressed this issue?

“We use our telematics system to identify the trouble truck operators who regularly parked their vehicles at the service centers – where they would be able to safely charge the vehicles – as the target users of new trouble trucks equipped with the plug-in electric systems.”

To tackle the challenge of overcoming range anxiety – the fear of not having enough battery power to make it to a destination – SCE has focused on striking the optimal balance between the driver’s daily job requirements and a vehicle’s range capabilities.

“The solution may be either going with a plug-in hybrid unit that has the range extension of the gasoline engine or identifying a fully electrified product that has a large enough battery capacity to satisfy the 98th percentile of the driver’s daily missions,” Carlson said.

Carlson continued: “You can clearly borrow a vehicle, take from a loaner pool, rent a vehicle or find an alternate vehicle if you need to go on that long trip that the battery electric range doesn’t support. But that adds a hassle factor in logistics to the driver that they otherwise wouldn’t necessarily have in a gas vehicle. So, you need to make sure you limit the hassle factor for the electric vehicles in the vast majority of situations for that driver.”

Next Steps
What advice does Carlson have for fleet managers who are considering expanding their own fleet electrification efforts?

“I would encourage them to lean into it because of the benefits of transportation electrification,” he said. “The driving experience with the quality products on the market is very high. And the users, once they drive electric vehicles, tend to always want to stick with those vehicles moving forward. I think that if fleet managers do the business case realistically and appropriately, then they’ll see that their maintenance costs are typically less with the electrified vehicles and the life of the vehicle is often expected to be increased.”

Eversource Energy’s New Approach to Change Management in Fleet

About a year ago, the fleet team at Eversource Energy ( launched an initiative to standardize vehicle and equipment specifications across their three-state service area that includes Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Their objective: Cut fleet costs by limiting vehicle configurations to specific job descriptions. This would enable the fleet to strengthen its buying power (by purchasing a higher volume of same-spec units); streamline parts inventories across all their locations (by operating more equipment from fewer OEMs); and benefit from shorter order-to-delivery cycles (by ordering from fewer vendors).

“If you’re a lineworker, the function of a material-handling truck is going to be the same whether you’re in New Hampshire, Connecticut or Massachusetts,” said Steve Driscoll, vice president of operation services for Eversource, which is New England’s largest electric and gas utility, with about 6,500 fleet assets, including trailers. “In the past, we allowed for differences and customization in equipment, based on an operator’s personal preferences. We recognized the need for going to a standard vehicle across the board to be more efficient and reduce costs.”

But the Eversource team also recognized that many of their end users might not like the change. After all, operators had become accustomed to having their vehicles a certain way for years. And they would likely feel resentment toward fleet, especially if no one clearly explained the why behind the changes.

Effective Change Management
So, to help ease the transition, Eversource decided to take a new approach to introducing new vehicle and equipment models to operators. Beginning earlier this year, the Eversource fleet team began conducting comprehensive in-service events, each lasting about two to three hours, with classroom instruction and hands-on demonstrations.

The events are led by each of the key vendor partners involved with the build-out of the truck, including the chassis manufacturer, body manufacturer and equipment upfitters. The utility’s insurance agency, Liberty Mutual, also sends an expert, who typically opens the event by teaching safe driving and equipment operation practices during the classroom portion of the agenda.

“We recognized that this change toward fleet standardization was significant, and we would need to address the change directly with those who would be affected by it,” Driscoll said. “We couldn’t simply have new trucks dropped off – as in, ‘Here’s your new truck’ – without explaining the changes. So, it’s helpful to have all the manufacturers there because they bring a lot of credibility in helping explain some of the benefits that come with the new specs.”

In the past, if an aerial platform truck was being delivered, only the aerial device manufacturer would conduct a brief in-servicing overview for the operators. “There was no involvement of the chassis manufacturer, no involvement of any of the other upfitters involved with the truck. They would come in, go over the owner’s manual and briefly demonstrate the platform operation,” Driscoll said. And in some cases, depending on the vehicle, “it would just be in-serviced by the mechanics in the garage, with a ‘come by and pick up your new vehicle’ approach.”

But now, Eversource puts on a full-scale in-service event whenever they introduce a new vehicle. “You’re taking the time to explain the whys behind the way things are, and I think this has been very helpful with our people accepting the changes,” Driscoll said.

A ‘360-Degree’ In-Service Event
By the end of 2016, Eversource will have conducted over 30 of these comprehensive in-service events – about two to three per month – with anywhere from five to 30 people in attendance, depending on the location and the vehicle being introduced.

What’s on the agenda?

Driscoll said the event starts right after the attendees’ departmental morning meeting. “We try to get the event started early in the morning so the crews can get out to the field.”

The first part consists of a 30- to 40-minute conference room session, with a welcome and introduction by Eversource leadership, a presentation by Liberty Mutual on safe driving techniques and an overview by the vehicle manufacturer. “If it’s Altec, for example, they’ll go over some of the highlights and what’s new in the equipment from previous years,” Driscoll said.

“I’ll do a ‘walk-around’ on PowerPoint,” said Adam Engel, senior account manager at Altec Industries (, who has participated in several in-servicing events with Eversource this year. “And whatever the option we’re going over – whether it’s a ladder rack, a cross-arm holder, a chainsaw box – the goal is to make sure [attendees] understand that there’s a function to each piece of equipment that was put on the vehicle.”

After the indoor session is over, the attendees take a quick break and head outside.

“We have a couple of the vehicles outside pre-staged to go through,” Driscoll said. “We’ll do a walk-around on the vehicle with the attendees, with the chassis manufacturer explaining all the options inside the cab. Then we’ll go through the body with the body manufacturers.”

If the truck is equipped with an aerial device, the manufacturer’s representative demonstrates the operation and the characteristics of the aerial itself. “We’re going to start by highlighting everything inside the cab that pertains to the equipment, such as all of the switches and anything that we’ve added inside the chassis that the operators might not be familiar with,” Engel said.

Then there’s an opportunity for hands-on driving for the participants. “We’ll have an area set up with cones, where Liberty Mutual will take each driver through a course to practice backing, using the mirrors or backup camera, and so forth,” Driscoll said. “Depending on the type of vehicle, we take people over the road so they can get the feel of towing a machine behind that specific vehicle.”

To minimize downtime for operators, the Eversource fleet team and vendor partners bring the in-service event to the area where the operators will be using the new vehicles. “We want to have an efficient session and be cognizant of their time – to get people back out doing what they need to do in the field as soon as possible,” Driscoll said.

What makes an Eversource in-servicing event different than typical new vehicle deliveries?

“Eversource’s in-depth and interactive in-service is unique in the industry,” Engel said. “With [an Eversource event], it’s a comprehensive, 360-degree model. You’ve got somebody who has ownership on each piece of this vehicle, who has the expertise to answer questions specific to their part of the truck. Altec is proud to be a part of Eversource’s in-service events, and we recognize the importance they bring with enhancing safety and streamlining the delivery process.”

Moving Forward
Driscoll said the company expects to continue the pace of two to three in-service events per month for the foreseeable future, indicating that the events have been helping smooth the transition to the new standardized specs.

“If you don’t take time to explain things when in-servicing a vehicle, you run the risk that there will be friction with drivers because of all the changes, and that can taint the perception of the fleet,” Driscoll said. “As the asset owner, we’re very sensitive to that. We want drivers to know that when we invest in fleet, we do it in a thoughtful way and understand how they’ll be using these trucks. These in-service events help us communicate that message directly.”

Mobile Command Centers Accelerate Emergency Response for Consumers Energy

Utility companies can’t control Mother Nature. When an ice storm, high winds, torrential rain or any major weather event knocks out power for hundreds of thousands or even millions of customers, a lot is at stake to get power back online fast – from the health and safety of residents to the economic impact of lost power and revenues on local businesses.

However, utilities can control how they prepare for and respond to Mother Nature’s wrath. And that’s precisely what Consumers Energy, the largest electric and gas utility in Michigan, has sought to do with its recent purchase of two 30-foot mobile command centers: provide better coordination between utility management, crews and first responders in the field, so they can restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

Each of the vehicles is built on a 2016 Ford F-59 stripped chassis with a Utilimaster step-van body, and the cargo area is furnished with workstations and state-of-the-art communications systems.

But what exactly is a mobile command center? What are its advantages for utility companies? UFP spoke with Aaron Kantor, director of emergency management and public safety for Consumers Energy, to get the utility’s story.

Conference Rooms on Wheels
Consumers Energy took delivery of the trucks this summer, with one deployed to Jackson and the other deployed to Clinton Township, Mich. Both are positioned to respond to local emergencies and to support the utility’s wider-spread storm restoration work.

Each unit is equipped with the latest communications technologies, including backup satellite internet and 800-megahertz radio equipment, to keep communication channels available in case typical systems aren’t operational. Inside the step van’s cargo area is the command center, with five laptop-ready workstations, a plotter to print large maps and blueprints, a conference table and a large television screen.

“What the vehicle really provides for is a conference room on wheels with redundant communications systems that can support our response to a variety of emergencies,” Kantor said. “During emergencies, our No. 1 priority is the safety of the public and our crews. These vehicles augment our emergency response capabilities by providing a mobile command center for our field leadership to work out of, with redundant cellular modems and satellite networks to provide access to our company network and internet. These vehicles will be extremely helpful, especially for the more rural parts of our service territory.”

More Effective, Efficient Coordination
The purpose of each mobile command center, according to Kantor, is to create a “one-stop shop” for emergency response, where all key team members can work together in close proximity in the field.

“Consumers Energy has adopted the Incident Command System as our common response structure that we use for any and all emergencies,” he said. “And part of that structure requires close collaboration among our field leadership for electric and gas operations and other support roles, including a safety officer, liaison officer – who interfaces on the scene with any police or fire departments that may be responding to that incident – and a public information officer who provides support for both internal and public communications. The new mobile command centers support this collaborative structure by providing key necessities for responding to emergencies effectively, including communications and fully functioning workstations with printing and plotter access.”

For more information about the Incident Command System, visit

Prior to deploying the mobile command centers, Consumers Energy’s emergency response team couldn’t work together as closely as they needed to in the field. The vehicles they were using for the command center role – pickup trucks and service vans – only allowed for up to two employees to collaborate on-site, while the other team members had to work remotely to be able to access the technology tools they needed to effectively coordinate the emergency response efforts.

But now, all those tools are available in one truck, making it possible for all team members to work together in one place. And that means better communication and faster decision-making.

“What the new mobile command center trucks really provide is that one-stop shop – not only for our field leadership, but also for the supporting organizations within the business – to bring to bear one comprehensive effort to effectively respond to any emergency while ensuring the safety of our communities and crews,” Kantor said.

The mobile command centers also make a bold statement to the public: that the utility has all hands on deck to do everything in its power to get services restored to customers as quickly as possible.

An Expanding Fleet Segment
Consumers Energy is among a growing number of utilities – including Florida Power & Light Co., Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Tampa Electric, to name a few – that operate large, highly advanced mobile command centers.

“We have seen other utilities across the nation deploying these types of vehicles as an expanded commitment to emergency response,” Kantor said. “So, with our planning efforts, we spoke with those utilities and incorporated their vehicle development and deployment learnings into our own processes.”

When designing the mobile command centers, the Consumers Energy team had one overarching vision in mind, Kantor said: “That when outages or other emergencies occur, these vehicles enable us to deploy competent leadership with the tools they need on hand that help them ensure public safety, while restoring services to our customers effectively and efficiently.”

Photo: Consumers Energy


Mobile Command Center Spec Sheet

Chassis: 2016 Ford F-59 stripped chassis

GVWR: 22,000 pounds

Engine: 6.8-liter Ford gasoline engine

Transmission: Ford TorqShift six-speed automatic

Body: Thirty-foot aluminum walk-in step-van body built by Utilimaster. Body design was a joint effort between Consumers Energy and Utilimaster.

Equipment: Backup satellite internet, 800-megahertz radio equipment, five laptop-ready workstations, plotter to print large maps and blueprints, conference table, large television screen

Source: Mark Wolski, fleet acquisition and disposition for Consumers Energy

Time Warner Cable: Forging a Path Toward Fleet Sustainability

To make a real impact on cutting carbon emissions, a fleet needs to make huge investments in new clean-fuel technologies, right?

Not necessarily.

Take Time Warner Cable Inc. (TWC), for example. The telecommunications giant is on track to cut fleet-wide fuel consumption by nearly 1 million gallons in 2016, with only a modest investment in green technologies, such as plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles. The bulk of the fuel savings is coming from TWC’s vehicle replacement strategy; the company has recently changed its bucket and pickup truck specifications to generate substantial gains in fuel economy.

And it’s this progress in cutting fuel consumption and carbon emissions that has led TWC to become one of the first 10 companies in the U.S. to be named an accredited sustainable fleet as part of a new accreditation program launched by the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) in 2015.

According to NAFA, the Sustainable Fleet Accreditation Program ( recognizes fleets for “their commitment to sustainability with levels of recognition based on actual reductions in net environmental impacts,” including improving air quality through emissions reduction, increasing fuel efficiency and reducing fuel usage.

Utility Fleet Professional recently spoke with longtime fleet professional George Survant, senior fleet director at TWC, to learn more about how the company has been able to make significant progress toward sustainability in a way that’s also financially sustainable for the company. Here are three strategies that emerged from the conversation.

Strategy #1
Bucket Trucks: Switch to Diesel, Reduce Weight and Cut Idle
For years, TWC spec’d its Ford F-450 35-foot bucket trucks with V-10 gasoline engines. But a couple years ago, Survant began replacing the gas trucks with ones equipped with diesel engines, lighter-weight bodies and idle reduction technologies.

The impact? In 2014, TWC cut fuel consumption by 700,000 gallons in its bucket truck fleet alone. Last year, after replacing about half as many vehicles as they did in 2014, the company still reduced fuel consumption by 256,000 gallons.

How did the change in specs achieve these results?

First, consider the use of lightweight materials in the truck body and equipment specs. The lighter the truck, the less power – or fuel – it requires to propel the vehicle. “We incorporate aluminum and fiberglass wherever possible in our body designs, which has taken our rolling weight down between 700 and 800 pounds per truck,” Survant said.

Then there’s the idle mitigation technology, including electric power take-off, which eliminates hours of engine idle while service technicians operate the aerial boom.

Finally, take into account the switch to the more fuel-efficient diesel engine. How much of a difference has that made? “Excluding the impact of our idle mitigation systems, we went from about 5.6 mpg with our gas bucket trucks to getting 8.7 mpg with the new lighter-weight diesel-powered buckets,” Survant said.

That’s a 55 percent bump in fuel economy.

Strategy #2
Pickups: Right-Size Trucks and Powertrains
In 2014, Survant began replacing TWC’s Ford F-250 pickups powered by a V-8 with the redesigned F-150s equipped with the fuel-sipping V-6 EcoBoost engine.

“For years we bought F-250s on the operating premise that it took the big V-8 engine to haul around the loads we were hauling,” Survant said. “But today we’re doing exactly the same job with remarkably good performance with a 2.7-liter EcoBoost [V-6].”

According to Ford, the lightweight aluminum body design for the new F-150 sheds about 700 pounds from the previous model, which has enabled fleets like TWC to consider downsizing to a lighter truck, without sacrificing payload requirements.

What has been the impact on fuel economy?

“What we’re seeing with the new trucks fully loaded and fully burdened, month in and month out, is about 15.7 mpg, compared to about 10 mpg with the legacy trucks,” Survant said.

Going to a smaller engine was just one factor in the equation in reducing fuel use, Survant explained. “One of the most amazing things for us is the stop-start technology with the new engines. In New York City, some of our best-performing vehicles are actually these full-sized F-150 pickups because they turn off at stop signs and stoplights.”

But how has this change to trucks with smaller engines impacted driver acceptance? Has TWC experienced any sort of complaints or resistance from drivers?

Not so far. “Our acceptance of these vehicles has been so good that we’ve had a little bit of a dispute among drivers over who gets a new vehicle,” Survant said. “They’re keyed up to argue, ‘I need this truck more than you need it.’”

Strategy #3
Expand Biodiesel Use and Electrification
What is TWC doing with alternative fuels to cut carbon emissions?

“Our focus has been on [alternative] fuels in a few aspects of our fleet,” Survant said. “One, with our shift to diesel, we’re trying to structure a program where we can access biodiesel on a broader scale than we do today. Almost all diesel products have some percentage of biodiesel through the public distribution systems today. But we really want to ramp that up. We want to get our drivers to use, on average, a higher concentration of biodiesel. The second point is that we have hybridized all of our passenger car fleet. And third, we’re engaging an action plan where we’re putting motor pools with electric vehicles into places where we have high concentrations of employees who don’t have assigned vehicles.”

In terms of the EV motor pools, Survant offered this example: “We have 1,600 vehicles in 16 square miles in Manhattan. There’s a lot of opportunity for us to have pools used there. We’re embarking on a program this year to partner with Ford to put some Ford Focus electrics in place, and we’re working through permitting for the installation of recharging facilities as we speak.”

Survant said the company is looking to roll out similar EV programs in other urban areas, such as Los Angeles and Kansas City, Mo., in the near future.

What about propane autogas and natural gas vehicles?

“Right now, we’re really not spending any money in propane and natural gas,” Survant said. “That’s because our trucks are domiciled at our drivers’ homes at night, and they’re not accessible to centralized fueling. We don’t have much control over where our technicians live for us to be able to take real good advantage of a public-accessible alt-fuel station. So, there are only a handful of co-located places in the country where we even have a remote opportunity to do that.”

The Bottom Line
For Survant and TWC, any fleet sustainability initiative needs to keep the overall business in mind. “We have not been as far out on the leading edge as some fleets have been with alt-fuel development or hybridization of service vans or trucks,” Survant said. “Instead we tie fuel reduction goals into our vehicle replacement strategy so that it’s not disruptive to our business and doesn’t require external funding. Our objective is that everywhere we operate, we’re going to make continuous and steady, if somewhat modest, improvements.”

What to Expect in a Telematics Deployment

There’s a lot of hype around telematics – and for good reason.

When properly configured and maintained, telematics works like a sophisticated air traffic control system for your fleet. It uses GPS tracking and wireless connectivity to stream real-time vehicle location and performance data, giving you all the information you need – at a glance – to make smart decisions that reduce your fleet’s fuel costs and carbon footprint, improve vehicle utilization rates and promote safer driver behaviors.

But the qualifier here is the phrase “properly configured and maintained.” That’s because even when you’ve selected the right telematics system for your fleet, the installations and ongoing maintenance can get tricky, especially when you’re trying to track hundreds or thousands of fleet assets across multiple locations in a large service area.

At least that has been the experience for Ameren Illinois Company (AIC), a rate-regulated gas and electric utility headquartered in Collinsville, Ill., which completed its telematics hardware installations on about 2,300 vehicles and pieces of equipment in November 2014. The company currently has 3,300 total assets including trailers.

Overall Success
On one level, AIC has already received value from its telematics deployment, generating meaningful fuel cost savings the first full year (2015). This is largely attributed to engine idle reduction, according to Beth Daiber, CPA, supervisor of fleet administration for AIC.

Telematics has also helped AIC work with police to track down and recover a stolen asset, as GPS data showed the vehicle traveling through downtown St. Louis.

And AIC employees who are questioned about their driving or vehicle handling have found that telematics data can help set the record straight. “We can quickly pull the data and in many cases see that our drivers were operating safely,” Daiber said.

Data Quality Challenges
Yet, on a practical level, telematics is only as valuable as the quality of the data it generates. And sometimes that quality can be harder to achieve on a day-to-day basis than what you might expect, said Dan Remmert, manager of fleet services for AIC.

Take, for example, disruptions in wireless connectivity, where the vehicle’s GPS signal gets lost, leading to false reports.

“We’d pull idle reports on vehicles and started seeing odd data, such as a vehicle showing that it idled longer than the actual engine hours,” Remmert said. “You know it’s not correct, but it took us some time to figure out what was going on. In some cases, a vehicle would be in a garage and lose connectivity for several hours, but because of the programming of the software, when the signal returned, the data indicated that the vehicle had been idling when in reality it was parked and the ignition was shut off.”

How did AIC resolve the issue? “It was actually a third-party contractor performing on-site repairs on our vehicles who noticed that, when these units pulled into a garage, they lost GPS connectivity,” Daiber said. “Once we told our telematics provider what we were seeing with the garage issue, they were able to rectify it by making adjustments in the software logic.”

But sometimes disruptions in connectivity have nothing to do with the telematics hardware or software itself; if a backup asset sits too long, the vehicle’s battery will eventually die – and so will the GPS signal. At that point, the vehicle disappears from view, along with its data, impacting the accuracy of reports.

Getting unresponsive GPS units back online can be a challenge, especially for larger fleets, Daiber said. “The problem is, it’s never the same asset. You fix one, but then you’ve got three other ones that aren’t working. It’s a moving target.”

Real-World Advice
So, what are some lessons learned from AIC’s telematics deployment that you can apply to your own fleet? Remmert and Daiber offered these tips.

1. Network with peers.
“Network with other fleet managers in the utility industry to learn what has worked and what hasn’t,” Remmert said. “I think you really need to focus on getting advice within the utility industry because utility fleets have a unique set of needs and challenges that are different than those of, say, a delivery fleet.”

2. Plan for ongoing maintenance.
“Before you even start installations, have a plan as to how you’re going to maintain those units,” Daiber said. “That was something that I don’t think was fully on our radar before we got into this. We didn’t anticipate the amount of time it would take to maintain the hardware.”

3. Test data definitions during the pilot phase.
“When you’re doing a pilot [where the telematics provider allows you to test the system], really get down into the weeds about the data itself and test the reports so you’re actually getting what you think you’re getting,” Remmert said. “We really struggled with setting up our data definitions correctly upfront. I don’t blame that on the telematics provider. We had to understand what we wanted. What defines idle? What defines a backing event? You have to spend time working with your internal customers to determine what definitions they want set and then work with your telematics provider to help you get it done right.”

4. Get buy-in across the organization.
“Involving stakeholders throughout the company has been essential in the success of our telematics deployment,” Remmert said. “As an organization, we agreed that fleet would be responsible for managing the installs, maintenance and the reporting aspects of the system, but it’s really a full company initiative – not just fleet’s. We focused on getting all of senior leadership’s and other stakeholders’ buy-in before moving forward, which helped make the transition to GPS tracking go more smoothly.”

Daiber agreed. She said that when the fleet team set out to create an idle reduction policy to coincide with the telematics capabilities, they worked closely with AIC’s human resources group and equipment end users to craft a policy that would be practical and acceptable to all parties. “We went out into the field and received input from the end users, learning about their challenges, finding out why they idle their vehicles and uncovering ideas where we could reduce idle without negatively impacting driver productivity,” Daiber said. “We avoided creating an environment where the end users feel like they’re being watched and judged. That’s important to ensure that everyone is committed to continuous improvement.”

The Bottom Line
Despite some of the challenges his team has encountered with ensuring the quality of the data, Remmert said that, overall, telematics has transformed AIC’s fleet operations and is already generating actionable results. “At first you might feel like you’re beating your head against the wall, trying to manage all the complexities involved, but it’s worth it to get a final product that will help you manage your fleet performance more efficiently today and into the future,” he said.

Executing an Effective Fleet Rightsizing Strategy

About four years ago, East Central Energy, an electric distribution cooperative headquartered in Braham, Minn., underwent a corporate restructuring that shifted fleet from operations to the finance department. This reorganization, along with a drop in demand for new services, sparked an initiative to rightsize the fleet, said Holly Giffrow-Bos, East Central Energy’s fleet supervisor.

“When fleet was moved to finance, that’s when we started doing a lot more analyzing and measuring the financial performance of our fleet,” Giffrow-Bos said. “And when the scope of our business changed [with lower demand in new services], we analyzed the impact on our fleet. We measured and ranked our assets at each of our five locations, based on set criteria, to determine which assets we should keep, replace, reassign or eliminate.”

The result: about a 13 percent reduction in fleet assets, from 205 to 178 units since 2011, which has generated tens of thousands of dollars in annual savings for East Central Energy.

A reorganization of sorts also prompted a fleet rightsizing initiative for Matt Gilliland, fleet services manager at Nebraska Public Power District, which operates more than 1,100 fleet assets.

A few years ago, Gilliland’s fleet organization served only the transmission and distribution business units. But in 2012, his department’s responsibilities were expanded to oversee the fleets of all the district’s business units – a total of eight – creating opportunities for fleet consolidation and reduction.

“When we onboarded those business units, we rightsized their fleets, identifying about 70 assets that could go away,” Gilliland said.

Rightsizing Defined
Both Giffrow-Bos and Gilliland will tell you that rightsizing refers to more than simply downsizing. It’s about striking the optimal balance between fleet composition and business requirements. This is because, depending on changes in the business, rightsizing might actually mean having to add assets to maintain proper service levels to customers.

Rightsizing also relates to the right size or spec of a vehicle. In some applications, you might be able to downsize to a vehicle that offers a smaller, more fuel-efficient engine and lower purchase price. But in other instances, you might discover that you need to bump up to a larger truck because the current one has been consistently overloaded, creating premature maintenance issues and excessive downtime.

And it’s important to consider the right type of asset when formulating your rightsizing strategy. For example, you might have assigned someone an SUV, when a less expensive, more fuel-efficient passenger vehicle could still do the job. By making this switch, you may not be reducing the overall fleet size, but you are rightsizing both operational and capital expenditures.

Fleet Manager as Adviser
Any time there’s a proposed change – especially when it impacts a business unit’s access to equipment – there are politics involved. The fleet managers who know how to navigate those politics will be the most successful in implementing positive change for all affected parties.

This starts with the fleet manager taking on the role of an adviser to the leaders of each business unit, said Paul Lauria, who has conducted numerous rightsizing studies for government and utility fleets for more than three decades as president of Mercury Associates (, a fleet management consulting firm based in Rockville, Md.

“In my view, the fleet manager’s role should be to help business units make sound fleet resource decisions that save money and do not impair the operators from doing their jobs,” Lauria said. “It’s not the fleet manager’s responsibility to force operators into accepting a particular type of vehicle. Instead, it’s their role to outline what are the most cost-effective types of resources to perform particular jobs.”

Gilliland agreed. “The role of the fleet manager is mostly tied to information,” he said. “It’s fleet’s job to identify what we should replace and when based on utilization history and life-cycle costing. We take that data and sit down with the supervisor of each independent business unit. We convey to them what we plan to replace and when, and they have an opportunity to provide good feedback on what they really need to do their jobs. It’s more of a collaborative process.”

Lauria said that business unit input is essential before making final decisions about whether to retire an underutilized asset. “That supervisor might say, ‘Yes, I have two backups. But that’s because we’re not doing a great job replacing our frontline units. So now I have to put those backups into service fairly often, while my frontline units are in the garage for repairs.’ Or it might be a situation where the supervisor says, ‘We’ve analyzed the demand for these types of assets during certain times of year and these assets are going to be heavily utilized in the winter months.’”

According to Giffrow-Bos, “If we see something underutilized, we get with the supervisor of that business unit and find out why they aren’t using it. Has the scope of the business changed? Or is it that we haven’t had any jobs that require this piece of equipment? If so, is this something you think you can live without? Or is this something you could rent when the need arises?”

Seeing the Big Picture
While business unit supervisors are best equipped to provide field-level insight into their equipment needs, the fleet manager sees the big picture.

“Fleet managers have enterprise-wide visibility into the costs of the fleet, and the deployment and utilization of vehicles,” Lauria said. “You wouldn’t expect individual business units to have that same visibility.”

And sometimes that difference in perspective can create tension between fleet and the business unit. “One of the key challenges when rightsizing is getting supervisors to see beyond their own business,” Gilliland said. “When it comes time to share or reassign vehicles, it’s somewhat difficult to get leadership of those units to see beyond themselves – to get one business unit to give up an asset for the benefit of another.”

So, how do you navigate a situation like this to help bring about consensus? “It comes down to communication and relationship building. You need to cultivate a relationship with that supervisor so you can have frank yet respectful conversations about what’s best for the organization as a whole,” Gilliland advised.

Lauria recommended using objective data to help business unit supervisors see the financial impact of keeping an underutilized vehicle. “A well-defined cost-chargeback system, for example, creates economic incentives for the business units to pay attention to the fixed cost of adding or keeping fleet assets,” he said. “If a business unit is charged $1,300 a month for the fixed cost of a piece of equipment they barely use, you’re empowering them to say, ‘You know what, this is crazy to keep this. We use this thing six hours a month and we need to explore other options for meeting this particular type of need.’ In some cases, there are no other good options, but the point is that a good charge-back system engages fleet users in the management of fleet costs.”

Rewards of Rightsizing
Even relatively small changes through rightsizing can yield considerable cost savings from a reduction in capital purchases and the elimination of ongoing maintenance, tax and insurance costs for each asset retired from the fleet.

For example, three years ago East Central Energy began the process of retiring or reassigning 12 vehicles by switching over to an IRS-approved driver reimbursement program managed by Runzheimer International (, a Waterford, Wis.-based firm that provides mobility program management services. “We were able to take the 12 vehicles and reassign or eliminate them from the inventory,” Giffrow-Bos said. “If it was a decent truck and worthy to keep in our fleet, we would reassign it to another district and fulfill a need of another driver, without having to go outside and purchase a new one.”

The result? “We’ve saved about $38,000 annually with the 12 drivers on the program,” Giffrow-Bos said.

So, how often should you conduct a fleet rightsizing analysis for maximum benefit?

“If you’re talking about doing an enterprise-wide rightsizing study, I’d say once every five years,” Lauria advised. “If you’re identifying individual assets that are clearly being used less than the norm for that type of asset and application, then you could evaluate those opportunities for rightsizing at any time.”

An Ongoing Effort
The key takeaway here is that rightsizing is not a one-and-done project; it’s an ongoing, continuous improvement effort. That’s because the scope of your business can change at any time, directly impacting the number and type of assets you need to ensure that you’re maintaining a fleet that’s the right size.

The Millennial Challenge: Attracting and Retaining Younger Workers in Utility Fleet Operations

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This is the fifth habit in Stephen R. Covey’s perennial best-seller, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

And it could also serve as a guiding principle for today’s baby boomer and Gen X fleet managers as they grapple with replacing a large swath of workers retiring over the next few years with millennials who bring a substantially different perspective toward their work and lives.

Also known as Generation Y, millennials – ages 18 to 34 as of 2015 – are projected to surpass the baby boomers – ages 51 to 69 – as the nation’s largest living generation this year by a total of 75.3 million to 74.9 million, according to Pew Research Center. They represent a much larger generation than their Gen X parents – ages 35 to 50 – who aren’t expected to eclipse the boomer population until 2028.

Millennials are often labeled as too idealistic, entitled, lazy and obsessed with instant gratification. But as the seismic generational shift occurs in the job market, smart fleet managers must look beyond the perceptions and “seek first to understand” to compete for the best young talent.

So, whether you’re a boomer, Gen Xer or millennial yourself, how can you more effectively attract, retain and motivate millennials? Consider these five strategies.

1. Talk about your industry, organization and the job in the context of purpose.
Millennials are looking for more than just a paycheck; they want to be part of something they perceive will make a difference in their communities and the world.

“The main characteristic we’re observing in millennials is that they’re purpose-driven – more so than other generations,” said Jim Finkelstein, author of “FUSE: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace” and the president and CEO of FutureSense Inc. (, a San Rafael, Calif.-based professional services firm that was founded in 1995 to advise, consult and support clients in the areas of people, organization and strategy. “When you look at old-school industries, such as the utility sector, you often see that they have a challenge of connecting with younger workers because they don’t address the ‘why’ question for millennials: ‘Why do I want to be involved with this industry?’”

Finkelstein said this priority of purpose versus paycheck is largely because millennials have become disillusioned by observing their parents, who would grind it out in jobs they didn’t enjoy, sacrificing family time in the name of career advancement and financial stability, only to get burned by layoffs and market crashes, like what happened in 2001 and 2008.

“They’ve seen the impact of economic disaster and the emotional toll it has taken on their parents’ generation. And they’re saying, ‘You know, maybe I can get by with a little less.’ They’re much more minimalistic in how they approach the acquisition of assets, and more focused on fulfilling their passion and purpose,” Finkelstein said.

How can the utility fleet industry tap into a millennial’s pursuit of a purposeful career?

Finkelstein advises fleets to frame the job in these terms: “Why is it important to have a fleet that is well-functioning and fuel-efficient? How will this impact creating a cleaner environment? How will it help advance the causes they believe in? Millennials need to see the purpose, the big picture that draws them into a movement – something more than, ‘Oh well, I need to get to work to fix a few trucks today.’”

Matt Gilliland, fleet services manager for Nebraska Public Power District, said that his utility’s purpose-driven focus has helped substantially with recruiting younger workers. “We’re all about doing what’s right for Nebraskans,” Gilliland said. “And that commitment to serving the community really connects with millennials who share that service-oriented attitude. They like to see an organization, a team or even a boss that has objectives larger than just completing work by the end of the day.”

2. Accommodate for work-life balance.

According to a recent survey by Ernst & Young, “Global Generations: A Global Study on Work-Life Challenges Across Generations,” U.S. millennials are the most likely generation to say they would change jobs – 77 percent, versus 71 percent for Gen X and 49 percent for baby boomers – or give up an opportunity for a promotion – 65 percent, compared to 56 percent for Gen X and 47 percent for boomers – to more effectively manage work-life balance.

A major driver of this trend, the report stated, is that close to 80 percent of the millennials surveyed are part of dual-income couples, with both spouses working full time. And that means they share more responsibilities at home, compared to the majority of baby boomers, where one spouse works full time. As a result, millennials value increased schedule flexibility and paid parental leave more than other generations, the report said.

Paul Jefferson, fleet manager for Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E), has observed this trend firsthand with younger mechanics in his organization. “There were several mechanics we would hire, and six months to a year later, they would go on and work for someone else. They would even lose money to go somewhere else.”

When looking deeper into this issue, Jefferson realized the existing shift schedule didn’t work well for younger mechanics with family responsibilities. “In the past, we had 95 percent of our mechanics scheduled to work the evening shift [2-11:30 p.m.] and a handful work the early shift [7 a.m.-3:30 p.m.],” he said.

Jefferson worked with his team to develop a compromise, so that all mechanics would be on a rotation with two weeks of day shifts and two weeks of evenings. He also changed the evening hours to 1-9:30 p.m., so those who worked the late shift would still get home two hours earlier than the previous schedule. That way, his team could accommodate the work-life balance needs of his mechanics by providing more day shifts, while ensuring all shifts are fully staffed to meet the service needs of the entire organization.

The new schedule went into effect in September 2014. A year later, it seems to be working. “We haven’t lost any mechanics since the change,” Jefferson said.

3. Become a more collaborative leader.
Beyond being purpose-driven and offering a more flexible schedule, what should utility fleets consider to attract and motivate millennials?

“Create a highly collaborative, team-oriented environment, where people are tapping into each other’s potential and where leaders are seen more as mentors and guides,” Finkelstein said.

Gilliland agrees. “Traditionally, it has been that those who exhibited a high level of technical knowledge would get promoted into management,” he said. “But millennials put more value on strategic thinking and seeing the big picture than technical expertise. They want their leader to be more of a team leader, an inspirational guide who collaborates with them to get things done, and there’s less emphasis on someone who has the technical knowledge.”

This also means the command-and-control leadership model is likely to be a turnoff to most millennials. “It used to be, if the boss says it, you do it. Not anymore,” Gilliland said.

He recommends that fleet managers take a more participative management approach, getting workers involved in the planning and decision-making processes. “Instead of me sitting in a meeting and dictating the steps we’re going to do, it’s more of this: ‘Here are our challenges, here’s what would be ideal and here are the expectations of what things should look like in the end. What are some ways we can get there?’”

4. Tap into instant gratification as a motivator.
Millennials have become accustomed to on-demand conveniences. They’ve grown up in a digital world where, with a few keystrokes on a computer or swipes on a smartphone, they can order food, watch videos or even direct message the most famous celebrities. And with social media likes, shares and comments, they’re conditioned to get instant feedback on their thoughts and ideas.

In other words, millennials are conditioned to expect instant gratification. So, how does this impact your management style?

Jefferson said that one adjustment he has made is to “react quickly and communicate frequently. Especially with the positive stuff. Often, that motivates [millennials] more than a raise.”

Finkelstein recommends that when you’re giving raises, bonuses or other type of rewards, don’t wait until the end of the year. “We often wait too long to give somebody a bonus, the money that recognizes their accomplishments,” Finkelstein said. “Make those rewards more episodic throughout the year – that’s great for keeping millennials engaged.”

This goes for nonfinancial rewards as well, according to Finkelstein. “Based on their desire for work-life balance, a real big driver for millennials is time off,” he said. “We might assume they’re lazy, but in fact, if you give millennials more opportunities to take time off throughout the year, they refresh, renew and come back even more juiced to do the work that is necessary.”

5. Personalize your approach.
Despite some of the common characteristics of millennials, avoid the trap of assuming all millennials fit the same profile. “We have to recognize unique motivators and customize our approach on how we lead people in the marketplace,” Finkelstein said.

He recommends fleet managers put together what he calls a “UMP” – a unique motivational profile. “Millennials who don’t have kids have a very different motivational profile than others that have kids. We also have real diversity in needs and interests. So if we start generalizing and say all millennials want time off, there may be millennials who don’t. I think we have to resist the urge to generalize.”

That’s the hard part. And it takes time. But it’s imperative to personalize your approach if you’re going to get the most out of your people, Finkelstein said. “Everybody who works on the shop floor, everybody who works as a mechanic – they are not all cast in the same mold. They are all different and unique. Once we get that, then we’re going to be able to build a system of interaction with them that’s customized and truly effective, tapping into their unique humanness, potential and motivations.”

The Bottom Line
All five of these strategies point back to Covey’s maxim to “seek first to understand.” It’s only with deep understanding and genuine empathy that you can effectively connect with the minds and hearts of millennials – and maximize their potential in your organization.

For Fairfax Water, Preventive Maintenance is Customer Service

A utility fleet is ultimately responsible for serving the public. So when a vehicle breaks down and delays an emergency crew’s response to a water main break or downed power line, that reflects poorly on the utility’s customer service – and on the fleet manager’s performance.

How can utility fleets reduce the risk of unexpected and costly downtime, especially when vehicles must be ready to respond in crisis situations?

The solution is timely preventive maintenance (PM), said Dale Collins, CAFM, the fleet services supervisor for Fairfax County Water Authority (Fairfax Water). “It’s so much easier and cheaper to maintain a vehicle than repair it after the fact. You’ll eliminate the downtime and the inconvenience, not only for your end users but also for the departments you’re serving.”

Collins started at Fairfax Water (, Virginia’s largest water utility, as an entry-level mechanic in 1997. After quickly moving up the ranks, he was appointed to head the fleet department in 2006 and is now responsible for managing approximately 270 vehicles, ranging from sedans to Class 8 dump trucks, plus another 140 pieces of miscellaneous equipment, such as trailers and excavators. He also oversees the operations of the water utility’s two maintenance shops, which have a total of 10 bays and five vehicle lifts.

Utility Fleet Professional spoke with Collins to learn more about the new technologies and processes he and his team have adopted in recent years to make Fairfax Water’s fleet PM program more efficient and effective. Perhaps you’ll discover some ideas here that you can apply to your own fleet.

UFP: The value of timely PM is clear – it helps to maximize vehicle uptime, avoid major component failures and reduce overall maintenance costs. But how exactly do you define “timely”? Is it based on vehicle miles? Engine hours? Or a combination of these thresholds?

Collins: It depends on the application, the vehicle’s job description. The interval can be different even for similar types of vehicles.

Say you have a plant mechanic’s truck, which for us is a Ford F-350 Super Duty utility body truck that travels between the two treatment plants in the county, with a relatively light duty cycle. In this case, we typically base the PM interval on mileage.

But if you take a maintenance truck – which is also a Ford F-350 – that services a distribution area, that requires a different approach. In the wintertime, these trucks are logging a lot of miles and engine hours on the job site or going through heavy traffic. In this application, we’ll tend to base the PM interval on a combination of both miles and hours, or we may do it on a threshold of a certain number of miles or hours, depending on which interval comes first.

UFP: When managing a wide range of vehicle types and applications in a fleet, how do you track and determine when a timely threshold has been hit for each unit?

Collins: In 2009, we deployed an asset management system by SAP ( At the time, our organization was already using SAP to automate customer service, finance and other operations functions. So it made sense for our fleet to use SAP as well. If you have a single system throughout the organization, it’s a little easier for everyone to speak the same language than it is to have different systems trying to communicate with each other.

Through SAP, we’re using a plant maintenance module that allows us to set up customized maintenance plans for each vehicle based on specific intervals of miles, hours or a hybrid between the two.

When a vehicle meets a specific PM threshold, the system self-generates a work order, automatically populates the form with the appropriate information and puts it in your queue that a particular asset is due for a PM. This really helps us stay on top of all our PMs and keeps our service backlog to a minimum.

Before automating our PM schedules, we had to depend on the operator to report when the vehicle was ready for service based on stickers placed on the equipment, which was very difficult to manage. The technology allows us to automate the process and take the operator out of the middle, so we can manage the PM schedules directly and ensure the service gets done on time.

UFP: How do you efficiently capture the vehicle data to feed into the system?

Collins: We use an on-site fueling system by E.J. Ward (, which we deployed in 2008, to capture the data. Each time an operator fuels the vehicle, the fueling system automatically uploads key vehicle information, such as the odometer reading, engine hours and any fault codes, like what you would see when there’s a check-engine light. And each night a file is generated, which updates the vehicle record in SAP.

It used to be that our drivers would have to fill out a form on a clipboard each time they fueled up their vehicles, and we would have to manually input that data into our fleet management system. There was a lot of human error we had to deal with, making it difficult to have good, clean data on which to base our PM schedules.

Although we have five fueling sites located throughout Fairfax County, a small percentage of our vehicles operate in the Falls Church area, which is not near any of our fueling sites. In this case, we have fuel cards obtained through our Virginia State Motor Fuel Fund that our operators can use. I’ll get a monthly report generated by the fuel card system, which we’ll feed into the SAP system to update the mileage and hours record for those vehicles.

We can’t get the same level of detail using the fuel cards, and it’s more of a manual process, but it affects only a small number of our vehicles.

UFP: As a fleet manager, you’re not only managing assets; you’re also dealing with people. How do you efficiently coordinate with drivers across the organization to ensure they bring their vehicles in for PM service at the appropriate time?

Collins: Yes, if you’re dealing with just assets, that would be easy. But you have to make sure you can accommodate the people you work with. I don’t care what business you’re in, ultimately, we’re all in the people business. Even the best asset management system can’t take into account all variables, so we find that it’s easier to work out the logistics on a personal level.

When a PM work order on a vehicle is generated by the SAP system, we’ll usually contact the employee’s supervisor and say, “Joe’s vehicle is due for service. When can we schedule him?” They can then look and see when the best time would be for him to give us an hour or so to perform the service. Or, depending on the relationship we have with the employee, we may contact that person directly to schedule the PM.

A standard PM usually takes 45 minutes to one hour. If we find that a corrective repair needs to be done, requiring more time, we usually have a spare vehicle or two already set up for their type of work. This way, we can perform that repair without having to add to the employee’s sit time, when he really needs to be out in that vehicle servicing the customer.

UFP: What is your strategy with spare vehicles?

Collins: We try to carry at least two service trucks – which are first-responder vehicles – at each shop location.

For construction inspection vehicles, we have vans set up as a mobile office. This way, if we find during the PM that a van needs an evaporator, we can work on it immediately, while putting the inspector into a fully upfitted spare van so he can do his job, without disruption, until his vehicle is repaired.

We like to have at least one spare for each type of customer we serve and multiples for the more critical stuff like a service truck or inspector van.

UFP: Ultimately, what has been the impact of automating your PM processes?

Collins: It’s difficult to quantify specifically. But I can tell you that although we’ve taken on a greater geographical area and more physical assets, we’ve kept our staffing level about the same. And we’re not working longer hours. I guess you can quantify the fact that our fleet size has increased, but we’re maintaining the same level of service, if not better, prior to automating our PM schedules.

And I can’t tell you the last time we had an oil-related failure or a transmission failure with PM schedules generated and managed through the automated system. We save tremendous amounts of time and money on not having to do major component swaps like transmissions, engines or rear differentials.

UFP: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you think would be important for our readers to know when it comes to maximizing PM effectiveness?

Collins: Make sure you have the right asset to begin with. This always helps with PMs. For example, you wouldn’t want to buy a half-ton truck to haul gravel all day. You want to make sure the truck is the best fit possible for the job. If you have a piece of equipment that you’re constantly overworking and overloading, asking it to do things it wasn’t designed to do, all the PMs in the world aren’t going to compensate for the component failures that will occur because it’s the wrong vehicle for the job.

The Art and Science of a Telematics Deployment

A growing number of utility fleets are turning to telematics to improve driver behavior, cut fuel consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and uncover numerous cost-saving opportunities throughout their fleet operations.

But it’s not the GPS data itself that makes telematics so useful; it’s how fleet and senior management use that information when managing their people and processes that ultimately determines the business case for the technology.

How can you use telematics to more effectively manage your drivers and their use of your equipment? How do you handle potential pushback from employees who might be wary of “being watched”? How can you integrate telematics with other technology systems to help your organization improve vehicle uptime, emergency dispatch response and overall service to customers?

The fleet team with utility contractor INTREN Inc. has wrestled with questions like these since deploying GPS technology in approximately 700 vehicles over the past five years. And they’ve come up with some innovative solutions and interesting insights that might help other fleets get the most out of their own telematics deployments.

Started in 1988 as a small trenching company in Union, Ill., INTREN has grown into a full-service utility construction contractor with more than 1,000 employees and offices in Illinois, California, Wisconsin and Missouri. Today, the company serves major electric and gas utilities and private corporations nationwide.

As INTREN expanded, so did its equipment requirements. That’s what drove the company to look into GPS technology as a tool to more effectively manage the increasing number of drivers and equipment assets.

Jim Bishop, director of fleet services at INTREN, said that the company started a telematics trial with 50 units about five years ago, and then gradually rolled it out on additional vehicles to the point that today “we put it on every licensed piece of equipment and certain high-dollar off-road equipment.”

The company had clear goals that it wanted to achieve with the technology. “While we’ve viewed telematics as a tool to green our fleet [because of tracking capabilities that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions], a major factor in our decision to go with telematics was to drive down our operational costs like fuel expense,” said Pat Williams, INTREN’s senior director of supply chain.

Handling Pushback
Despite the value proposition for management, telematics initially was a cause for concern among INTREN’s drivers.

“When we initially rolled out GPS, our field personnel had significant concern with the idea of Big Brother watching them,” Bishop said.

In situations like this, when you’re encountering resistance on telematics deployment, how do you handle it in such a way that drivers don’t feel like the technology is being shoved down their throats?

“Include drivers in the process by getting their input and feedback,” Williams advised.


Take idle reduction, for example. It’s nothing new that telematics can help fleets monitor excessive engine idle with real-time alerts and reports, acting as a tool to hold drivers accountable for cutting down their engine idle time and eliminating fuel waste. But if drivers perceive that the technology is there strictly to catch them doing something wrong, this could have a negative impact on their morale and productivity.

INTREN’s fleet team was sensitive to this risk and decided to take a more collaborative approach with drivers.

“We wanted drivers to know that telematics isn’t just Big Brother watching,” Bishop said. “So when we focused on idle reduction, we sought feedback from the field as to specifically why they were needing to idle. Some of the feedback we got was that their trucks needed to be running because of the power drawn from their four-way flashers, strobes or the power inverters inside the vehicle.”

Instead of coming up with a directive of, “Hey, you’ve got to change your habits to bring down your idle time or you’ll be penalized,” the fleet team looked at potential equipment spec modifications that could address management’s objective to reduce fuel costs, while also considering the drivers’ concerns.

“We took their feedback, ran some tests, found out what the average draw was and realized that, in some cases, an incandescent bulb could run the vehicle batteries down quickly,” Bishop said. “So we switched over to LED stoplights, turn signals and strobe lights. Now, even on a 15-degree day you can run that equipment for six hours, and the truck doesn’t need to be running.”

According to Williams, “You can use the telematics to spot a problem. But then you need to get to the cause. And in many cases, the best way to get that information is to talk with your people and find a solution that satisfies concerns across the board.”

Increased Visibility and Productivity
With GPS technology, fleet managers can get real-time and historical data on the status and location of their vehicles. That’s a nice feature, but what does it mean in terms of real-world impact on your business?

“For our road service technicians, location data eliminates a lot of phone calls and helps speed their response,” Williams said. “When we alert the tech that a truck is broken down, we don’t have to give them an address. They just type in the unit number on their mobile device, find the truck location on the GPS and get directions to get there.”

It also helps with mobilizing and coordinating storm response teams.

“We may send up to 200 people out on storm response,” Williams said. “Without telematics, you can’t really see what’s going on with all those units, where they are, whether any of them are having any mechanical issues and so forth. Now, we can immediately see what assets we have available, where they are and can more efficiently coordinate them.”

Real-time location data also facilitates safety audits in a way that minimizes impact on staff productivity.

“Our crews are all over metro Chicago, San Francisco and other areas across the country. GPS helps us to supervise and audit our crews more efficiently,” Williams said. “If you’re trying to track down a four-man crew, a phone call is a difficult way to find those guys. For example, the safety department is not directly supervising the crews, but they are responsible to go find and audit them. With GPS location data, they can locate the crews without phone calls – just find them on GPS.”

The Next Level: Mobile Fleet Technology
While these benefits offer a compelling business case for GPS technology, what if you could take the power of telematics to a higher level: to maximize its impact – and value – throughout the organization? That’s what Williams said INTREN is doing with a proprietary system the company has dubbed “Mobile Fleet Technology,” or MFT.

With MFT, INTREN is integrating telematics data with the company’s in-house back office and vehicle maintenance software systems to help the fleet department more efficiently manage maintenance schedules, accelerate repair times and boost overall vehicle uptime and productivity.

“MFT is what we’re using with our technicians to record all of our repair services, so we can measure our costs better and really try to improve our speed of repair,” Bishop said. “How fast can we, as an organization, respond to a piece of equipment that is down? This helps us improve our utilization rates because we’re reducing the number of spares we need to keep in our fleet.”

“We’re also using the system as a repair and maintenance scheduling tool,” Williams said. “How should you go about scheduling your preventive maintenance, your road repairs, your in-shop repairs, third-party repairs? How do you manage all those repair schedules [for nearly 1,400 pieces of equipment] in a way that operations will optimize uptime on the equipment? That’s what MFT is intended to do.”

The Bottom Line
The key takeaway from INTREN’s experience with rolling out GPS technology itself is only half the equation. The other half is the human element. Fleet managers must be able to work through and with people to build acceptance of telematics and be able to think analytically about how the data can be integrated with other systems in ways that contribute maximum value for the fleet and the business as a whole.

Sharing Knowledge: The Value of Joining a Utility Fleet Organization

Have you ever heard of the Homebrew Computer Club (HCC)? How about Apple, the technology company? The odds are that all of you are familiar with Apple – with its ubiquitous iPhones and iPads – but very few of you have heard of the HCC. But did you know that without the HCC’s existence, Apple might never have existed? In fact, some credit the club as the birthplace of the personal computer revolution.

To give you some background, the HCC was created in 1975 to bring together like-minded electronics enthusiasts in order to talk shop and share ideas. It was during an HCC meeting that one of its members, Steve Wozniak, found inspiration to design a new kind of personal computer – the seed from which the Apple empire grew.

At this point you may be thinking, what does any of this have to do with utility fleet professionals? The answer is that belonging to an organized group of like-minded professionals – whether they’re focused on electronics or fleets – can have an incredible impact on personal success as well as the success of an industry.

To help illustrate this point, UFP sat down with three officers who help direct the Upper Midwest Utility Fleet Council (UMUFC), an organization that brings together leading utility fleet minds in the region. Our roundtable includes:
Bernie Kolnberger, utility services manager at Dakota Electric Association, which is the second-largest electric cooperative in Minnesota and ranked among the 25 largest electric distribution cooperatives in the nation.
Jeff Bickler, fleet manager at CenterPoint Energy, a domestic energy delivery company that includes electric transmission and distribution, natural gas distribution and energy services operations. The company serves more than 5 million metered customers in several states. Bickler operates out of Minnesota, where CenterPoint is the largest gas distribution company in the state.
Mike Donahue, transportation and construction equipment manager at Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), the 12th-largest public power utility in the U.S., which provides electricity to nearly 800,000 customers in Nebraska.

The three men provided some insight about their respective fleet operations and revealed just how valuable and important their involvement with the UMUFC has been.

UFP: Let’s start off by getting an idea about the size and scope of your fleet operation. How many vehicles, pieces of equipment and facilities do you oversee?

Kolnberger: We’re fortunate enough to have all of our vehicles and equipment come back to one maintenance facility. We have 17 aerial trucks; 74 light-duty vehicles; six digger derricks; 42 pieces of power equipment; 36 trailers; and nine utility trucks. We have one shop superintendent, four full-time mechanics and one part-time helper working at our maintenance facility.

Donahue: At OPPD, we manage 430 light-duty vehicles; 63 cargo/dump/underground trucks; seven semis; 49 digger derricks; 87 bucket trucks; seven specialty trucks; 366 trailers; 394 pieces of construction equipment, from trenchers and backhoes to loaders and generators; one locomotive; and seven coal dozers. We have a team of approximately 50 people divided up among four facilities, including field supervisors, managers, crew leaders, parts specialists, clerks and so on.

Bickler: Our fleet structure is unique. In the state of Minnesota, where I’m located, I manage a fleet of about 1,200 vehicles and pieces of equipment, and this fleet is used to provide gas distribution service to the state. We also have about 3,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment located in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas that are used for CenterPoint’s gas distribution service. I co-manage the other states’ gas distribution fleet, where we use a third party for the maintenance of those vehicles. For the Minnesota fleet, we have two garages and a staff of 13 technicians. In addition to this, we have fleet garages and support in Houston, which support the 2,500 vehicles and equipment on the electric side of our business as well as support the gas distribution fleet.

UFP: It’s insightful to learn how someone made their way up the ladder to the position they’re in today. How did each of you evolve and grow into your current fleet leadership position?

Kolnberger: I’ve worked in the utility industry ever since I graduated from college. I worked my way up the ladder, working in inventory planning and serving a couple different roles as a buyer/planner. Nearly 30 years of experience with utilities have given me such great perspective and insight and have really helped prepare me for my current role as the utility services manager.

Bickler: I started with CenterPoint Energy as a technician and was promoted to fleet supervisor shortly after that. I believe my past experiences in the fleet and automotive industry, as well as my experience owning my own business, were key factors in getting promoted to the position so quickly. As fleet supervisor, I had the opportunity to manage multiple projects across multiple states, and that experience was so valuable in preparing me for my current role as fleet manager.

Donahue: I was in the process of completing my mechanical engineering degree at Iowa State University when I obtained a co-op position at OPPD in the transportation department. After graduation, I was able to join OPPD full time as a specification engineer and made sure to put work into learning everything I could about the vehicles, equipment, applications, operators, scheduling, purchasing and so on. I also put time into developing relationships with employees, customers, vendors, managers and peers.

UFP: It sounds like being involved in utility fleets is something you knew you wanted to do very early on in your career.

Donahue: It was. I even joined NAFA so I could learn more about the many additional aspects of fleet management, and I completed my Certified Automotive Fleet Manager certification. That education played an important role in my development.

After about 10 years, I was promoted to supervisor over engineering, administration and parts. In this role, I learned more detail about the roles of others within the department and the demands of supervision. About five or six years ago I was promoted to manager of transportation and construction equipment, and the learning and fun continues.

UFP: All of your organizations and responsibilities have a lot of differences. However, one thing all of you have in common is that you serve as an officer for and sit on the board of directors of the UMUFC. Can you tell me how you got involved with the organization and how it continues to be a rewarding experience for you?

Bickler: The UMUFC has been a great group to be a part of. Sharing knowledge with your peers in the industry has been a second-to-none resource to me. I’m always amazed by the wealth of experience and insight that all of our members bring to the table.

UFP: I imagine without having a group like UMUFC to be involved with, it would be pretty difficult to find so many experienced and knowledgeable fleet minds from which to learn.

Bickler: You hit the nail right on the head. It’s such a tremendous resource, and the council has continued to grow because it’s just such a valuable experience. UMUFC has a very bright future and I’m excited to be a part of it.

Kolnberger: I have been involved with the UMUFC ever since I took on my first fleet manager position back in 2001, and I have been attending meetings ever since. It is an excellent group of people with whom to share thoughts and ideas. The camaraderie is second to none. It’s amazing to me that we all have similar pains and challenges no matter the size of the operation. The larger operations fight many of the same battles as the smaller ones – they just do so on a larger and broader scale. There are times when I go into a meeting with a new issue I’m dealing with, and it’s funny to see how many people in the room are also dealing with it, and some who have already dealt with it have shared great information and tips about that process. Of course, each organization has its own unique atmosphere, so sometimes the solutions they’ve implemented aren’t going to be your solution. But more times than not, you end up using a part of or several parts of that solution to create your own.

UFP: What about you, Mike?

Donahue: I love the variety of perspective that the UMUFC brings. You get people who are managers, technicians, operators, vendors and so on who participate, and that creates conversations that cover a broad scope of information. Another great thing about the UMUFC is that it’s small enough that everyone has a chance to participate. Everybody has a voice. And we try to encourage that by creating agendas that purposefully cover a wide variety of topics, as well as soliciting topic discussions prior to meetings so we can integrate those topics into the meeting.

UFP: It sounds like there is a lot of effort put into providing a fulfilling experience to as many members as possible.

Donahue: Yes, I feel like the group is genuine in their approach. We understand the value of staying focused on the needs of the members. In turn, we’ve had excellent response rates when members have specific questions that they want posed to the group.

UFP: How would each of you describe your personal fleet management strategy? In other words, in what areas do you excel and how do you bring the most value to your organization? What have you learned over time from your fleet management experience?

Kolnberger: For me, it’s all about being organized. You can’t get bogged down in micromanaging the day-to-day fixes and problems. Instead, I make sure there are processes and procedures put in place to ensure that the operation continues to run efficiently. Ten years ago, when I started the fleet manager position, our shop didn’t have a maintenance computer application in place, and that was one of the first areas I addressed. This built automation into the process, which has reduced wasting time and increased work quality.

One area where organization is crucial is the specification process. I put a lot of effort into making sure we are purchasing and disposing of vehicles in an organized, planned out manner that helps us avoid those spikes in the budget from year to year and allows us to more accurately forecast budget needs for upcoming years.

Bickler: Bernie brought up a great point about implementing technology. As an owner of a computer services company, I think it’s important to not only understand how we can look to technology as part of the fleet management process, but also be open to adopting it when it improves the operation. That’s a big part of my strategy. Another part of my strategy comes from my experience working for more than a decade on the OEM side of the automotive industry. Having that insight and experience helps mold your processes.

Donahue: I feel like one of the main things I have learned over time is that almost nothing stays the same in fleet. So, our strategy is one of continual improvement. We need to use as much input as we can to recognize where we need to improve, do so, and then repeat. I don’t feel like our organization can afford to ever be stagnant. As part of implementing this strategy, our team went through lean training.

UFP: By “lean training,” you’re referring to the waste reduction, efficiency and quality improvement strategies that many say were mostly created by Toyota.

Donahue: Exactly. It is amazing how going through that process and committing to it can help change the environment and culture of a group. We also implemented 5S training, which taught our staff about standardization of processes and how to create a workspace that is both efficient and effective. We are nowhere near perfect, but the constant improvement part of lean strategies and those 5S events laid a foundation that everyone involved continues to use to this day.

UFP: What are some of the unique fleet challenges that each of you face that others at this table – as well as our readers – may not have to battle?

Bickler: One of our unique challenges has been supporting folks in different states. You have to take account of the differences there are in each region while at the same time standardize the processes for efficiencies, and do it all without affecting the operation and the clients you support.

Kolnberger: Like I had mentioned earlier, being a part of the UMUFC really does reveal just how similar one utility fleet is to the next. The similarities far outweigh the differences. Of course, we all have our own unique cultures we deal with within the organization. But at the end of the day, we are all facing challenges with budgets, idling and so on. More times than not, the differences between one fleet to another come down to how those issues are prioritized. An issue for one utility fleet may be priority No. 1, and for the next, the same issue falls lower on the priority scale.

Donahue: Our main challenges are keeping the mechanics trained on the wide variety of vehicles and equipment they need to maintain and repair; keeping tools and diagnostic equipment up to date; long-term direction on fuels; and adjusting the workplace culture to improve engagement, safety and accountability. In addition, I have heard of the increased incidence of trouble finding qualified mechanics. We have not experienced that particular one yet; however, with some upcoming retirements, we had better be prepared for that potential.

UFP: The utility fleet manager has been a position that hasn’t been recognized as much as it should. The millions of dollars and moving pieces that many fleet managers have to oversee is a pretty daunting yet vital role in an organization. With that said, what do you celebrate about your job? What do you most enjoy about what you do?

Bickler: First and foremost for me is that I love working in this industry. A couple of things that bring me a lot of joy are doing a great job serving our clients and continuing to bring new standards and technology solutions to the table. I also enjoy working with the great staff we have here. When they see ways we can improve our processes, they are so awesome at sharing those ideas with me.

Donahue: Like Jeff, one of the best parts of my job is getting the opportunity to work with the people I get to work with every day, from the folks in our department to the leadership up the chain. I also enjoy facing the challenges the fleet faces every day and finding the solutions that work.

Kolnberger: Well, I hate to repeat what these two guys said, but I too find that working with the people here is so rewarding. They’re a great bunch and that motivates me that much more to find solutions that not only make the fleet more efficient, but also make their jobs better. For example, when we first implemented the shop software, it was something that I knew would create a better environment for everybody. Don’t get me wrong – it did take some work to get everybody to fully buy in. But then that moment comes where the solution just clicks with everybody, and you’re seeing the positive business and human performance results from that. And that’s the kind of thing that makes me proud.

UFP: Many of our readers are in fleet management and leadership positions like the three of you, and others are striving to grow and advance into fleet leadership positions. What advice would you give to them?

Donahue: My advice to someone who may want to become a fleet manager would be to look for an opportunity to get involved in an internship or co-op within the community and find out through experience if it looks like an area that they find interesting and stimulating. I’d also recommend that they find ways to grow their knowledge about the profession. NAFA offers some great educational programs that really worked well for me. Become active in fleet management communities and groups as well so you can learn from experienced fleet leaders.

Kolnberger: To add on to Mike’s great suggestions, I think one should also learn about general management skills. Being a fleet leader is something that requires one to have patience, strategy development and people management skills. For example, there are times when there are a daunting number of challenges to face, and sometimes the best decision in those instances is building morale by first going after some of the smaller victories before tackling the challenging ones.

UFP: That’s an interesting point. It must be an intimidating part of the process to not only understand the big moving pieces, but to also grasp the little things and know how to respond.

Kolnberger: One thing I did that has made a world of difference is implementing effective specification procedures and documenting our operating procedures. When you go through that entire process and break it all down, you really learn what is going on in the trenches and it really helps you better understand where to spend your time and energy. And, when you nail down a great process that works, you don’t have to give it as much focus as you would if there wasn’t good process, which frees you up to focus on other areas of need.

UFP: Thanks to all of you for your time. One last question: For those who are located in the Upper Midwest region, where should they go to learn more about the UMUFC?

Bickler: I’ll take that one. If you want to learn more about the council, visit our website at We’d be happy to have you join us. And for those of you who aren’t in our region, I urge you to look for regional utility fleet groups in your area. If there isn’t one available, think about starting one yourself. It’s well worth the effort.

Reducing Costs

While independent electric grids power each of the Hawaiian Islands, servicing all of those grids is the responsibility of the Hawaiian Electric Co., which serves 95 percent of the state’s 1.4 million residents. Hawaiian Electric’s subsidiary Hawai‘i Electric Light serves more than 80,000 customers on Hawai‘i Island, the chain’s biggest island at more than 4,000 square miles.

The challenges that Hawai‘i Electric Light face are unique, said Kelvin Kohatsu, fleet administrator. “Our terrain ranges from tropical growth on the east side, to desert-like conditions on the west side, to freezing temperatures atop Mauna Kea mountain,” he said. “To serve the people who live and work in that vast and diverse terrain, we have a distribution system comprised of more than 3,300 miles of overhead distribution lines, more than 780 miles of underground distribution lines and 641 miles of overhead transmission lines.

“We operate a wide range of more than 300 vehicles and pieces of equipment,” Kohatsu said. “Due to our location, we focus very closely on uptime and product support, along with traditional metrics like life-cycle costs, and on safety and ergonomics. Every week, we generate a report on uptime percentage, costs for fuel, tires, repairs, maintenance and inspections, and damage and accident costs. With this information, we can determine the best equipment to purchase for longevity, not to mention operator acceptance and safety.”

Employee Safety
The large service area, diverse terrain, and variable weather make maintaining infrastructure and reliability a challenge, but safety is Hawai‘i Electric Light’s top priority. Drivers log 1.7 million miles on the road annually. Crews can work in distant, remote areas, and some employees work alone.

Proven Support
The equipment and vehicles used by Hawai‘i Electric Light have the best product support in Hawai‘i, which keeps the fleet’s uptime consistently between 96 and 98 percent, according to Kohatsu. Major suppliers include Kenworth for Class 7 T370 and Class 8 T800 trucks, Dodge for Class 3 and 5 trucks equipped with service bodies, and Altec aerial devices and digger derricks. Also in the fleet are a mix of Nissan, Toyota, Dodge and Ford sedans, pickups, vans and SUVs, along with trailers, forklifts, golf carts, sweepers and stationary equipment.

All diesel-fueled vehicles at Hawai‘i Electric Light run on biodiesel; nearly all use B20 with the rest on B100. The fleet also includes light hybrid vehicles, electric-powered Nissan LEAFs, plug-in hybrid electric Toyota Priuses and a Class 7 Kenworth T370 diesel-electric hybrid truck, the first of its kind in the state. Spec’d as well are Altec JEMS 48 AT37G aerial units.

“We’ve standardized in many cases to enhance the ability to maintain equipment and streamline product support,” Kohatsu said. “While we’ve ascertained that the systems we have in place work very well for us, we continue to evaluate new systems and components and ask other fleets about their experiences.

“At the vehicle and equipment level, we’ve been fortunate that manufacturers have involved us in some of their product development and in the testing and evaluation stages before production release,” Kohatsu said. “For example, we added a new Altec HiLine AH151 Model aerial on a Kenworth T800, along with a digger derrick with a rear-mounted spool handler that can be driven loaded.”

Key Focus
Fuel economy is key to improving the efficiency of the Hawai‘i Electric Light fleet. “After installing a telematics system in 2008, we reduced our diesel fuel consumption by more than 22,000 gallons in the first six months compared to the same time period one year earlier,” Kohatsu said. “We were essentially traveling the same number of miles, but we were seeing a huge reduction in fuel use from better routing and less idling.”

By 2009, telematics systems were installed on all trucks in the fleet. In 2012, the company switched to Zonar’s telematics system and also began using its electronic vehicle inspection reporting (EVIR) application. “After the Zonar telematics equipment was installed, we realized a further reduction in diesel fuel consumption of about 18,000 gallons,” Kohatsu said. “Combined with the 22,000-gallon reduction from 2008 to 2009, fuel savings totaled more than 40,000 gallons even though the fleet’s annual mileage stayed constant at about 1.7 million miles annually.”

Telematics also is helping Hawai‘i Electric Light improve safety. “With telematics, we can better monitor equipment – a feature that is critical for the safety of employees who work alone in remote locations,” Kohatsu said. “Telematics also results in safer driving practices because it gives us a much higher degree of transparency in our fleet operations.

“We can now monitor behaviors and correct those that are costly,” Kohatsu said. “For example, drivers aren’t driving as fast, and when they stop at company offices or job sites, they turn off the engine instead of leaving it idling. It’s clear to me that telematics strongly influences driver behavior. You can’t hold drivers accountable and change their behaviors without an objective way to measure their performance.”

Effective Tool
Zonar’s EVIR system has also proven to be an effective tool for Hawai‘i Electric Light’s maintenance operation.

Kohatsu believes drivers must complete pre- and post-inspection reports fully and consistently to effectively limit downtime and keep costs low. “Zonar’s EVIR holds drivers accountable since it tracks when they did their inspections and how long it took them,” he said.

Using Zonar’s EVIR inspection tool, Hawai‘i Electric Light’s drivers conduct inspections by placing a reader within inches of radio-frequency identification tags that are placed on equipment in critical inspection zones. The tags contain information about their location on the unit, the components to be inspected, and the identity of the vehicle or piece of equipment.

Using the reader, drivers indicate the condition of the components within each zone. When a defect is discovered, the driver selects a description from a predefined list and indicates whether the equipment is safe to operate. When the inspection is complete, drivers place the hand-held unit into the EVIR mount inside the cab. Zonar’s telematics platform then wirelessly transmits inspection data and remote diagnostic information to a Web-based ground traffic control data management application.

Ensuring Compliance
At Hawai‘i Electric Light, the Zonar data is integrated into FleetFocus, a maintenance management system supplied by AssetWorks. This integration generates service requests automatically and transmits them by email through the FleetFocus portal to Hawai‘i Electric Light’s maintenance vendors, Kohatsu said. Once repairs are performed and marked complete in FleetFocus, they are automatically uploaded to the Web-based management application, indicating to dispatchers that the vehicle is in full compliance for operation and can return to service.

“The integration of Zonar and AssetWorks has made the generation of work orders resulting from driver-identified defects or vehicle sensors seamless,” Kohatsu said. “As a result, along with effective specifications, our uptime has increased and our life-cycle costs have dropped. Most important, we have a safer fleet operation.”

Hawai‘i Electric Light Class 7 and 8 Truck Specifications
Models: Kenworth T370 and T800
Engine: PACCAR
Transmissions: Allison; Eaton UltraShift PLUS
Front Axle: Dana Spicer
Power Steering: TRW
Rear Axle and Suspension: Dana Spicer; Reyco; Chalmers
Brakes: Bendix air disc
Wheels: Alcoa aluminum; Accuride steel
Tires: Michelin

About the Author: Seth Skydel has more than 29 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.

Effectively Meeting Needs

“NV Energy is unlike many other utilities our size because we have two metropolitan areas in Reno and Las Vegas, and the rest of the service territory is spread out across nearly 60,000 square miles,” said Joe Pellissier, the company’s process improvement manager. “The terrain ranges from lower desert areas to the alpine forest of Lake Tahoe, with temperatures from over 110 degrees in the summer in Las Vegas to below zero in many areas in northern Nevada.”

NV Energy supplies electricity across its whole service territory, in addition to gas in northern Nevada. “The fleet department must provide vehicles to meet these conditions as well as provide maintenance and repair support,” Pellissier explained. “Attempting to standardize our fleet is very challenging given the different geographical areas and conditions. Additionally, drivers with similar job titles have differing job functions due to operational differences in metropolitan and rural areas, and that also drives differences in vehicle and equipment needs.”

Currently, the NV Energy fleet includes approximately 1,500 vehicles, trailers and pieces of equipment. To accommodate the varying terrains, NV Energy has standardized the chassis and drivetrains of many vehicle types. Most heavy-duty trucks are equipped with 425-horsepower Cummins engines, Allison transmissions and 6×6 drive axle configurations. Recently, the company relaxed the drivetrain requirement in Las Vegas, allowing some vehicles to have a 6×4 configuration. Most of the heavy truck fleet is made up of Internationals as well as a few Freightliner, Peterbilt and Mack units.

The majority of the Class 3-5 fleet at NV Energy is supplied by Ford, along with some Ram trucks, and most light-duty pickups, vans and SUVs are GM models. Since 2005, digger derricks and aerials have been supplied mainly by Altec, although several larger specialty units have been supplied by Terex. Most of the Class 3-5 service bodies and flatbeds have been Knapheide units from local high-quality suppliers.

“We don’t have preferred suppliers,” Pellissier related. “We develop specs and any manufacturer can bid on our business. When evaluating bids, specification compliance is the first issue considered. If a vendor doesn’t meet the specs, we dive deeper into why, how important are the deviations, and whether we can accept them. After that, the second consideration is quality, but that is becoming less of an issue as we weed out suppliers that don’t meet our quality expectations.

“While we do very little evaluation of new systems and components,” Pellissier added, “when we find something that will make the user more effective or reduce our costs, we incorporate the new components into our specifications. We require suppliers to be in compliance with our specs. This allows us to reduce spare parts for many components as well as minimizes the knowledge base necessary for repairs. On some occasions, we discover new technologies or features that we incorporate into the specifications for testing development. If the tests successfully meet the desired outcome, these become standard items, which subsequent vendors are required to meet.”

Passing Hurdles
“After passing the first two hurdles in the bid evaluation, in most cases the low bidder gets the order,” Pellissier continued. “We do factor in standardization of similar units, because if we have similar vehicles and historically they have not been a problem, we look more favorably at them. We also consider life cost, including depreciation, in our purchase decisions, but generally that is addressed upfront, prior to the bid.”

As the depreciation rate has changed a few times over the years, Pellissier explained further, users are sometimes reluctant to accept new vehicles if the expense is too high. Fleet explains to users that operating costs will rise significantly as vehicles age and will meet or exceed the higher costs due to depreciation. NV Energy has been leasing vehicles since 2005, and the depreciation issue went away, Pellissier also related, but as the utility has gone back to purchasing, depreciation again becomes a bigger issue.

“Recently NVE has worked on improving reliability of vehicles and equipment, addressing the impact of extended idle time on engine wear, and reducing operational costs due to additional maintenance and fuel,” Pellissier said, “We are focused on the reduction in idle time and the increased engine life and reliability. We evaluate idle time on most vehicles and its effect on fuel costs and maintenance.

“Our specifications now require options for minimizing idle time by using various types of plug-in electric hybrid systems on any unit with a service or larger utility body,” Pellissier continued. “We use GPS data from the existing vehicle, look at historical idle time and fuel cost, and project that to the new vehicle to determine if selecting and paying for anti-idle technology is justified. If so, we add the hybrid system to the vehicle price and determine if the payback is achievable within the life cycle of the vehicle.”

NV Energy uses two methods to calculate the payback on hybrid systems, Pellissier explained. “First,” he related, “we use actual historical idle time and, secondly, idle time as a percentage of 1,600 work hours per year. We use 1 gallon of fuel use per hour of idle time and the actual cost of fuel. For a fuel use payback calculation, the company uses actual mileage and gallons used in the previous year, as well as fuel cost per gallon.”

Promoting Development
NV Energy was one of the first early adopters of Altec’s JEMS system and has been very active in promoting development of hybrid solutions. During NV Energy’s first few years of hybrid system adoption, the focus was on vehicles with hydraulically powered equipment. More recently however, the focus has shifted to hybrid technology to support anti-idle and power requirements for 12-volt truck chassis systems and 110-volt systems for external power.

In addition to trouble trucks with 38-foot lifts, NV Energy has deployed hybrid systems on other vehicles to eliminate idle time. One example is a gas crew truck that utilizes an Odyne system to power an under-chassis air compressor and electric gas pipe fusing equipment. The company also recently added four Altec JEMS systems to vehicles without any hydraulic systems. The hybrid system manages the 12- and 110-volt truck and tool load while minimizing idle time.

“We recently ordered two more gas crew trucks and a vacuum gas valve maintenance truck with the next-generation Odyne system,” Pellissier related. “The only alternative fuel we utilize today is electricity, so we’re pushing to get electric-powered vehicles, including plug-in hybrid technology, into the fleet.”

NV Energy’s hybrid-electric plan includes an expanded focus on light-duty OEM vehicles when the make, model and type of unit meet the fleet’s needs. Included are extended-range electric trucks and the ability to utilize plug-in technology while taking into consideration the challenge posed by a limited infrastructure for plugging in vehicles.

The company is also now requiring options for anti-idle technology on work trucks. “If we have vehicles with a history of long idle time, we are likely to require anti-idle/hybrid technology on the new vehicle,” Pellissier said. “NV Energy’s anti-idle system requirements include systems that power supplemental cab air conditioning and heating, as well as provide exportable power for generators, inverters and other tools.

“Altec and Terex have done a good job with their anti-idle systems,” Pellissier continued. “However, we need to extend this to other vehicle types. Our relationships with Altec, Terex and Odyne are part of our sustainability commitment to deploy alternative vehicle technologies that promote reduction of emissions and fuel consumption in appropriate work task applications.”

First Hybrid
After deploying several Altec JEMS systems, NV Energy looked for other opportunities and fielded its first truck with a hybrid system for use in the utility’s gas operation. The truck was ordered under the U.S. Department of Energy/South Coast Air Quality Management District EPRI grant awarded to Odyne to deploy 120 vehicles throughout North America.

For the next round of vehicles in the new EPRI program, the company ordered three more trucks. Two of the trucks are crew cab International models similar to the first unit, with hybrid systems to power a Vanair under-chassis air compressor and to supply power for 12- and 110-volt electrical needs. The other vehicle is a Class 7 standard cab International with a hybrid system that will power a vacuum unit, a high-pressure washer, an air compressor and a grease pump for gas valve maintenance work.

Odyne’s plug-in hybrid systems interface with Allison 3000 automatic transmissions to help save fuel during drive cycles and to provide 10,000 watts of power for stationary operations at work sites. The systems, which consist of 14.2-kWh or 28.4-kWh Johnson Controls’ lithium-ion battery packs and Remy HVH250 electric motors, are installed by Odyne and shipped to final stage manufacturers such as Altec and Terex.

Recently, Pellissier participated with EEI and other utility fleet leaders to draft a white paper making the case for utilities to increase their support of electric plug-in hybrid vehicles and systems. This paper was delivered to attendees at the EEI Annual Convention held in Las Vegas in June.

Managing the Fleet
As a former fleet manager and now a manager of process improvement, a relatively new role, Pellissier supports the NV Energy fleet on behalf of the company’s vice president of electric delivery. Victor Figueredo, director of transmission and distribution support services, oversees direct management of the fleet. Reporting to Figueredo are four fleet supervisors – Jeff McKenzie and Tom Rich in northern Nevada and Todd Seibert and Randy Koss in southern Nevada. The management team also includes a fleet administrator and a coordinator.

“We have two shops in Las Vegas, one in Reno, and five mechanics assigned to shops in small towns or at power plants,” Pellissier said. “There are also mechanics with mobile maintenance trucks who work in the field or at one of several unmanned shops. We constantly have crews assigned to work on long-term construction projects, so that too presents a challenge for the fleet department. When these projects start, we usually have a mechanic on-site for the duration of the project to ensure all vehicles and equipment are performing as expected.

“With vehicles spread out across such a large territory, it can be difficult to keep up with maintenance and compliance,” Pellissier continued, “but we have a zero tolerance for compliance items beyond the due date. Much of our repair work is outsourced due to staffing limitations, so it’s very important that we do the best maintenance we can to minimize repairs to the greatest extent possible.

“When it comes to preventive maintenance, the fleet department is challenged with getting vehicles ready for service,” Pellissier explained further. “Without the mandatory compliance issue, it is difficult to get vehicles serviced before they are considered overdue, but we have set up reporting to monitor compliance and maintenance scheduling.

“We have a complex vehicle fleet in order to meet NV Energy’s operational needs in a wide-ranging and diverse service area,” Pellissier concluded. “In addition to maintaining the fleet effectively, we continue to monitor and evaluate emerging and maturing technologies and new vehicle options, and introduce technology when it is cost-effective and applicable to the needs of NV Energy.”

About NV Energy: NV Energy Inc. provides a wide range of energy services to 1.3 million customers throughout Nevada and nearly 40 million tourists annually. NV Energy is a holding company whose principal subsidiaries, Nevada Power Co. and Sierra Pacific Power Co., do business as NV Energy. The company is headquartered in Las Vegas.

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.

Worthwhile Investment

“Like many utility fleets, we have gone down the rebuilding path before and then moved away from it,” said Al Mascaro, fleet manager at Connecticut Light & Power Co. “Today, however, several key factors caused us to rethink our aerial replacement practices.

“There were economic and financial issues,” Mascaro continued, “such as the higher cost of new equipment and the relatively low residual value of used units. There were also changes in technology that have significantly improved equipment longevity and durability, including truck chassis and bodies that are favorable for rebuilding.”

Last, but certainly not least, Mascaro added, “We have the talent, tools and facilities to rebuild trucks and aerials in-house for less than half the cost of purchasing new equipment. The bottom line is that from operational and maintenance standpoints, we can have a boom going out that is better than when it came in.”

When the decision was made to embark on an in-house aerial rebuilding program at CL&P, Mascaro, a 32-year veteran of the utility, turned to the fleet’s highly qualified management personnel. Heading up the effort are Ronald Henne, transportation supervisor – Central Services, who has more than 33 years of fleet work experience, including 28 years at CL&P and 23 years as a supervisor, and Jack Deen, transportation supervisor – Aerial Overhaul Program, who joined the company after retiring from the U.S. Navy and has additional experience at Cummins and truck stop service facilities.

Selling Points
“One of the biggest selling points for this program,” Henne said, “is that we can rebuild aerials to reflect the latest designs and technologies. Everything manufacturers have developed and changed over time can be applied to the rebuilt units, from the turret to the bucket.”

The same philosophy, Mascaro noted, is applicable to the trucks’ chassis and stainless steel bodies. “We looked at our maintenance costs for a bucket truck in our fleet, which has a typical life cycle of 10 years, and realized we weren’t spending a lot of money on major components,” he said.

“Our specs and spending up front were designed for longevity, but we weren’t keeping trucks in service for a longer time,” Mascaro related. “With this program, we’re extending a 10-year life cycle to 17 years, which also frees up capital for customer reliability projects.”

The CL&P chassis in the rebuilding program are International 4400 models with DT466 engines and Allison automatic transmissions. Deen noted that to date, of the 61 trucks that have received rebuilt aerials, fewer than 20 percent – or about 10 to 12 units – have required powertrain rebuilds.

Aerial equipment makers involved in the CL&P rebuilding program include Holan, Lift-All, Terex and Altec. “We work closely with suppliers and manufacturers to maintain a sufficient inventory of parts to support the rebuild program,” Deen said. “This partnership facilitates long-range planning and ordering of supplies before a truck is scheduled to be rebuilt.”

According to Deen and Henne, one challenging part of the process has been to stay ahead of changes among manufacturers, particularly aerial equipment companies that have merged or been bought out. “That is an ongoing issue, particularly for inventory control and engineering support,” Henne stated.

“Manufacturers are also key to making sure our technicians have the skills necessary to support the rebuild program,” Deen added. “Our suppliers helped technicians develop those additional skills through on-the-job training, including specialized skills associated with the aerial rebuilds which are done in-house, such as machining bushings from raw stock, custom fabrication of hydraulic hoses and rebuilding hydraulic cylinders.”

For completed rebuilt units, dielectric testing is handled for CL&P by Diversified Inspections/ITL, which is the same outside service provider that certifies the company’s aerials on a regular basis. In addition to dielectric testing, rebuilt units also have an acoustic emissions test performed in-house prior to being returned to service.

Under Mascaro’s direction, the CL&P fleet includes approximately 300 bucket trucks, 50 digger derricks, 500 Class 2 pickups and vans, 12 tractor-trailers, and a range of specialty and heavy equipment such as cranes and bulldozers. Specifications and purchases are handled by the Corporate Transportation operation headed up by Ron Thresher, manager at Northeast Utilities, CL&P’s parent company. The CL&P fleet is maintained by 80 technicians at 16 shops across Connecticut.

Exceeding Expectations
“There are always changes that can adversely affect equipment reliability,” Mascaro stated, “but we’re keeping tabs on every facet of our rebuilding program, and we are confident that it’s meeting and exceeding our expectations in every way. That not only includes financially, but in other very important ways as well.

“We could have outsourced this process very easily, and the numbers were very good either way,” Mascaro continued, “but we feel that performing this work in-house contributes to the program’s success. We have full faith in the skill of our staff, and our lineworkers feel the same way.

“Their confidence in this program was especially apparent this past January when we dispatched crews to help with storm restoration work in another state,” Mascaro concluded. “While the company selected the crews that would go out of state, the lineworkers chose the vehicles to take, and among them were two units from our rebuilding program.”

CL&P Truck Specifications
Model: International 4400
Wheelbase: 175 inches
Body: Reading ZAT148ADW Utility Body
Engine: International DT466 HT, 250 HP at 2300 rpm
Transmission: Allison MD3060P
Front Axle and Suspension: 12,000-pound leaf spring
Power Steering: TRW
Rear Axle and Suspension: 23,000-pound leaf spring
Brakes: Air
Wheels: 22.5-by-8.25 steel disc
Tires: 11R22.5 Michelin XZE

About CL&P: Formed in 1917, Connecticut Light & Power Co. is the state’s largest electric utility. Serving 1.2 million customers in 149 cities and towns, the company has a service area bordered by New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island covering about 4,400 square miles. CL&P’s transmission network includes 1,625 miles of overhead transmission lines, 403 miles of underground cables and 19 substations. Its distribution network has 18,375 miles of overhead lines, 1,154 miles of underground lines and 212 substations.

CL&P is part of Northeast Utilities, New England’s largest utility system serving more than 3.6 million electric and natural gas customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Sister companies include NSTAR Electric, Public Service of New Hampshire, Western Massachusetts Electric Co., Hopkinton LNG Corp., NSTAR Gas and Yankee Gas Services Co.

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.

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.

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.

OPPD’s Continual Evolution

Founded in 1946, Omaha Public Power District is a publicly owned, business-managed electric utility governed by an elected board of directors and headquartered in Omaha, Neb. With a fleet operations staff of more than 50, OPPD services 5,000 square miles, covering 13 counties in southeastern Nebraska and serving 352,000 customers. In fact, OPPD is the 12th-largest public power utility in the United States in number of customers served. OPPD maintains multiple facilities, including three full-service garages in the metropolitan Omaha area, one full-service garage in south rural Omaha and a light-duty garage in downtown Omaha.

Working Smarter
Mike Donahue has spent the last three years as manager of transportation and construction equipment for OPPD, and has 18 years of industry experience working with fleets. Donahue said that a recent method OPPD has adopted to keep its fleet running smoothly and cost-effectively is the addition of Energy Xtreme mobile power units to two of its trucks. The system runs all electrical accessories – including emergency lights, tools, battery chargers, computers and cab heaters – but not the hydraulics. Though early in the process, Donahue said the old trucks were averaging 12.6 miles per engine hour, and the new trucks are averaging 16.9 miles per engine hour, an improvement of approximately 33 percent.

OPPD will also be adding two Altec JEMS units in the near future. These basket trucks are equipped with an electrical package that is comparable in concept to the Energy Xtreme units, except the electric power will run the hydraulics and boom as well, and also have an HVAC solution.

Other measures have been taken to reduce idling and fuel expense times as well. OPPD has employed a single fuel card for internal and external fuel transactions, with increased security on its internal fuel transactions with the implementation of the FuelFocus package through its fleet software provider, AssetWorks. An automated pool system, KeyValet from AssetWorks, has also been implemented at two of OPPD’s main sites to handle light-duty vehicle pools.

The utility has been locking in prices for bulk fuel on an annual basis, as well as regularly analyzing its fleet size, looking for units that are underutilized or that can be pooled, shared, traded, downsized, eliminated or repurposed. This effort has resulted in significant fleet reductions of nearly 40-50 units. Additional analysis of fleet replacement vehicles also is regularly performed.

“Vehicles are replaced based on lowest life-cycle cost calculations,” Donahue said. “Example replacement cycles are 10 years for large bucket trucks and 12 years for digger derricks. We have started to transfer small aerials and fiberglass bodies to new chassis at seven years.”

Donahue said the process is primarily for troubleshooter trucks, such as an Altec AT37G mounted on a Ford F-550 or Dodge 5500 chassis. “The trucks tend to get high miles, high engine hours, but not as much boom operation, so the booms and bodies tend to be in decent condition, whereas the engines and chassis equipment are being taxed heavily after that time frame,” he said. “We save more than 50 percent of replacement cost of the boom and body by transferring. We are also cycling out of the engines in those trucks, which will benefit us as well.”

A wide assortment of factors can come into play when researching and deciding to purchase new vehicles for the fleet. Donahue said that the economy over the past few years has really sent a jolt to the work that OPPD’s internal and external customers are doing.

“When the economy was hot, OPPD was installing new home services and neighborhood backbones just as fast as possible,” he said. “Now, that work has slowed down quite a bit and the focus has spread to more maintenance on the existing system. Those factors have really affected the need for trenchers, boring equipment, easement machines and mini-excavators. Storerooms, facilities and production facilities have seen increased production from telehandlers and self-propelled aerials, so they are requesting more of those types of units. Designers are requiring taller poles and placing them farther off the roads, which drives the need for taller aerials and bigger derricks.

“In a nutshell, we continually investigate what our customer needs are when determining the best vehicles for their applications,” Donahue noted. “We stay up to date on trends in the industry, available technology, what makes sense for OPPD, alternative fuels versus standard gas or diesel engines, idle reduction technology, maintenance experience and rental options. We do the best we can to encompass all those components when making purchasing decisions. It is a constant challenge.”

OPPD has seen positive results from many of the steps it’s taken. Improved fuel management and improved fuel economy have been achieved, and fleet reductions and the purchase of replacements with smaller, more fuel-efficient engines have helped with increased pool size and better fleet utilization. These efforts will continue, according to Donahue.

Happy with Hybrids
The utility has a growing fleet of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, mainly passenger cars and SUVs. Donahue said that all of OPPD’s hybrid vehicles have performed exceptionally well and improved the mileage in their vehicle classes.

“We have hybrid Toyota Priuses, Camrys and Highlanders, Honda Insights and Civics, a Chevrolet Malibu, a Ford Fusion and an International 4300M7 with the Eaton transmission,” he said. “We also have a Chevrolet Volt which has been averaging well over 100 mpg in our application. We look forward to receiving Ford C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi plug-in extended-range hybrids in the very near future. We understand that application of these units has a significant impact on the successful implementation of these units so we consider that application when making the purchasing decision.”

In regard to hybrid vehicles, Donahue said that there are gains to be made on virtually all sides of the issue, including reduced fuel consumption, fewer emissions out of the tailpipe, less wear and tear on the engine, less maintenance and fewer repairs, an extended truck life and less engine noise.

“OPPD is evaluating the expansion of the plug-in fleet and proceeding where it is appropriate,” Donahue said. “Idle reduction is a significant opportunity. The operators are even feeding back that they enjoy less fumes and quieter work environments. I anticipate that it will ease expanded implementation on similar units in the future.”

Moving Forward
The current challenges to his fleet are not so different from when he first entered the industry 18 years ago, according to Donahue. Keeping the mechanics trained on the wide variety of vehicles and equipment they need to maintain and repair, keeping tools and diagnostic equipment up to date, finding long-term direction on fuels, and adjusting the workplace culture to improve engagement, safety and accountability all are issues he has encountered. Donahue belongs to NAFA Fleet Management Association and the Upper Midwest Utility Fleet Council, and attends fleet-related conferences like the Green Fleet Conference & Expo and ICUEE to help him pick up information to deal with fleet issues.

“Our mindset now needs to be one of continual improvement, employee development, staying on top of issues and technological developments, fuels, recognizing our customer needs and staying involved in fleet communities facing similar challenges,” Donahue said.

The future for OPPD and its fleet should see significant attention to alternative fuels and the things that come along with them. Donahue said OPPD is going through what one might call “a significant commitment point on alternative fuels.”

“With so much attention being paid to diesel and the associated emission equipment, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, natural gas, propane, other gaseous fuels, ethanol and biodiesel, it’s challenging,” Donahue said. “We look over the last 10 years and see all the emission changes that took place from 2003 to 2013, the fuel and technology development, and if we are anywhere close to that rate of change over the next 10 years, it’s hard to imagine where we will be. That’s the challenge we all should love, right? OPPD will continue to work on all these areas to manage doing the best we can for our customers, our customer owners and the environment. It should be a fun ride.”

About the Author: Wade Vonasek is a writer and editor. His work has appeared both in print and online for publications such as Mass Transit, Professional Tool & Equipment News, Fleet Maintenance and more. He resides in Bristol, Wis.

New Model

Dave Seavey, fleet management director with the City of Seattle’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services, Fleet Management Division (FMD), sums up his organization this way: “The Fleet Management Division is 126 people helping 10,000 employees acquire and maintain the right vehicles and equipment to effectively do their jobs.”

“We manage the city fleet internally and lease vehicles to most departments, including police, fire and parks,” Seavey said. “We purchase equipment and custom design about 300 vehicles each year. The fleet numbers over 4,100 units, and includes everything from bicycles to cars, passenger vans, hybrid SUVs and trucks. The most expensive piece of equipment in the Seattle fleet is a fire ladder truck, which cost just over $1.2 million.”

FMD maintains and repairs Seattle’s vehicles and specialized equipment, including cars, trucks, and fire apparatus and heavy equipment. Routine maintenance and repairs are part of each lease. In addition, Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) own their vehicles, but both departments pay FMD to maintain and co-manage their fleets. Annually, Seavey related, the FMD maintenance operation performs about 10,000 preventive maintenance checks and changes almost 4,000 tires.

In 2008, FMD hired an outside consultant to assess its fleet operations. The consultant evaluated current practices, equipment and facilities, identified and proposed appropriate best practices, and developed an implementation plan. In addition, in 2005 SPU hired a consultant to review its fleet operations, and because SPU’s fleet is managed partially by FMD, the study included a review of FMD’s competitiveness and internal business processes.

Implementing Best Practices
While the overall assessment of FMD’s operations in both studies was favorable, they did find room for improvement, and since then FMD has been implementing best practices recommendations. Resulting changes in how Seattle manages its vehicle fleet netted taxpayers more than $3 million in savings during one budget cycle.

Those savings, according to Seavey, include lowering fleet fund reserves by $2 million. “By developing a new forecasting model that projects out 10 years,” he explained, “FMD is able to minimize its reserves, which frees up funds for other city uses.

“Extending vehicle life cycles saves about $350,000 per year,” Seavey continued. “We have re-evaluated the useful life of every type of vehicle in the city fleet. In some cases, we found life cycles that were too short, meaning that vehicles may have been replaced before their optimal point. By selectively extending certain life cycles, we have cut replacement costs without any impact on the cost of maintaining those vehicles. The life cycle extensions initially saved the city more than $700,000 in 2009 and 2010, and the savings continue.”

Seattle’s FMD has also been working to reduce the size of its fleet. For example, in 2010 and 2011 the fleet was downsized by 200 vehicles. “This is an ongoing effort,” Seavey reported, “and we expect it to save millions over the next five years. In just the past year, we eliminated 188 vehicles, so not only will Seattle avoid the cost of replacing those vehicles, it will also avoid the cost of maintaining them in the future.

“We routinely benchmark our operations against other government agencies and fleet costs against the private sector,” Seavey added. “Government agencies that provide the same type of services that we do make good comparisons, and fleet costs, such as labor rates and markups, are compared with local private vendors who do the same work for profit.”

Green Fleet Policies
Another initiative in the City of Seattle is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by implementing green fleet policies. “One of the best things the city can do to protect and improve air quality, and encourage smart fuel and vehicle choices in the community, is to make our own vehicle fleet a model of environmental best practices,” Seavey stated.

Among the things Seattle has done to green its fleet in the past, Seavey noted, is to convert the entire diesel fleet to ultralow sulfur diesel (ULSD), and to use a B20 blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent ULSD for select fleets. In addition, FMD has retrofitted all of the city’s heavy-duty trucks with emissions control devices. Combined, the two measures have cut harmful emissions by about 50 percent per vehicle.

Other green fleet initiatives in Seattle include making more than three-fourths of light-duty vehicle purchases for hybrid or biodiesel vehicles, and at least half of all compact cars purchased by the city each year use alternative fuels or get at least 45 miles per gallon.

In addition, in 2011 the city began adding all-electric vehicles to its fleet, and it has adopted Segways for jobs like water meter reading and parking enforcement. With zero emissions, a cost of just $3 per year to recharge and in some cases replacing the use of a car, the personal mobility vehicles are paying dividends in many ways.

Upgrading Technology
FMD is also focused on using technology in its maintenance operation to improve efficiency and productivity. At the 2013 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, Seavey presented how “Technology in Maintenance is Essential to Reaching the Green.”

“Technology and data matter,” Seavey said. “We have been upgrading the technology in our shops. We have cleaned the facilities and identified and replaced broken tools. We have replaced lifts and we’re adopting scan tools and laptops as well as using Web-based OEM repair programs.”

Examples of technology in the Seattle FMD include software from Cummins, Bendix, Meritor WABCO, International Trucks, GM, Eaton, Detroit Diesel, AutoEnginuity, TPMS and vehicle electrical system suppliers. Management tools in place include systems from MotorVac, Zonar, Mitchell and NAPA.

FMD also converted technology to better manage its fueling systems. At a cost of $250,000, Seavey pointed out, the division now has an automated solution that streamlines fueling for drivers including capturing mileage, provides transaction data for accurate billing, and has better internal controls for reconciliation and inventory control.

“We have also embarked on a complete makeover of our fleet management information systems,” Seavey related. “With our supplier, who had a project manager on site for one year for system setup, data correction and staff training, the two-year project has included establishing a wireless network and placing computers in the bays of all five FMD shops.

Overcoming Obstacles
“We did have to overcome some obstacles,” Seavey continued, “including securing $400,000 in funding. We also had to sell the reason for change to our technicians and supervisors. These systems meant a new way of working and in some cases we had to overcome false beliefs about technology.”

The benefits, however, are obvious, Seavey noted. “We’ve improved shop operations, morale and established integrity,” he stated. “We’ve decreased downtime significantly, which has allowed us to reassign staff and increase billable hours. We’ve also produced data that helps us make better vehicle and specification decisions.

“One of the biggest challenges our industry faces is to improve our understanding of finance, including business operations, and to embrace technology, such as information management systems,” Seavey added. “Fleet managers can no longer just rely on vehicle maintenance management skills. To be competitive, we must expand in these areas.”

Seavey, who spent 21 years in the U.S. Navy as a submarine force enlisted man and officer, brings a wealth of experience to FMD. After retiring from active duty, he worked for five years as a maintenance supervisor at Intercity Transit in Olympia, Wash., then spent five more years as the City of Olympia’s fleet manager. He joined Seattle’s FMD as fleet management director five years ago.

“In the past,” Seavey said, “our customer service model meant that FMD provided service to city operations. Our new model is that fleet services and operations are 50-50 partners. With that in mind, our Fleet Management Division manages the city’s vehicle and equipment operations with one goal – to ensure timely, cost-effective, and high-quality vehicles and maintenance services.”

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.

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.

Making Effective Choices

With about 14,000 units ranging from passenger cars to Class 8 trucks, the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. fleet is sizable by any measure. Add to that a fleet maintenance operation that encompasses 63 facilities and 80 mobile service vehicles, and employs about 375 technicians and nearly 60 administrative personnel.

Another challenging aspect of the PG&E fleet is that its equipment covers more than 70,000 square miles of service territory including urban, suburban and rural areas. For Dave Meisel, senior director – transportation and aviation services, it all adds up to the need to make highly effective vehicle choices.

“When we’re looking at replacing vehicles, we have several considerations,” Meisel said. “We operate entirely within the state of California, which has the strictest clean air regulations in the country. That means we need to take into account the number of vehicles we have to replace to meet alternative fuel and regulatory requirements.

“We also need to look at vehicle additions that are needed for our business model,” Meisel added, “along with questioning if owning a unit might be more advantageous than long-term rentals. Simultaneously, we have to consider units that are out of life cycle, or will be in the planning year.

“We determine a vehicle’s life cycle by benchmarking against other operations,” Meisel continued. “Once or twice a year, we exchange visits with other fleets, including utility and nonutility operations, to learn from each other. Every time we make those visits, we learn something that we can do better.”

Exchanging Knowledge
As a utility operating about 14,000 vehicles in a single state, Meisel noted, it’s hard to find other operations that can be compared to PG&E’s fleet. That challenge, he related, is addressed by sharing information with some of the few multistate utilities in the country that operate more than 10,000 units, and with other types of fleets such as package, food and beverage operations that are similar in size.

For an industry perspective, PG&E also turns to Utilimarc, a provider of benchmarking, fleet consulting and business intelligence services, to compare specific fleet metrics within its own organization and against an industry database of as many as 400,000 units.

“Utilimarc forces you to provide data in a consistent structure, which gives us a true comparison of where we stand and how we relate to other fleets,” Meisel said. “Their methodology lets us look at detailed reports on costs by mile, unit, type, region and fleet size. We can also poll individual and groups of fleets on specific issues. For a relatively low cost compared to the quality of information we receive, Utilimarc’s analytical data tells us where there are opportunities to improve.”

The PG&E fleet now includes primarily Ford and GM models through Class 5, and Navistar and Peterbilt Class 6 through 8 trucks. The acquisition decisions that are made about the fleet are also the product of an evaluation of financing alternatives.

“Capital is the desired method of purchasing long-term assets in a regulated and decoupled utility like PG&E,” Meisel said. “We buy our vehicles outright in most cases because there is a return on capital associated with that activity. The practice of decoupling also promotes the conservation of energy.

“When we replace vehicles outside of our normal replacement cycle, it’s most often when major components have failed or there’s a structural integrity issue,” Meisel continued. “All other costs are maintenance related, which we handle primarily in-house. We have an outsourcing strategy and it’s not to outsource – except for items that are hard to cost justify internally, such as glass and body work.”

Lessons Learned
PG&E’s approach to managing its fleet is also based on both Meisel’s experience and the lessons he learns by remaining involved in the industry. His career began in the late 1970s as a mechanic at his family’s tractor and trailer rebuilding facility. From there, Meisel went on to management roles at Roadway Express and the Frito-Lay fleet, and at Consumers Energy in Michigan before joining PG&E more than six years ago.

Meisel currently serves on the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference board of directors and is a regular attendee at shows like the International Construction & Utility Equipment Exposition. “Many conferences and shows don’t offer a lot of value,” he said, “but these events bring together major players and decision-makers. In a few days at ICUEE we can see a lot of the newest technology that suppliers have to offer. At EUFMC we get very valuable feedback from other fleet managers and get the opportunity to build relationships with some of the most senior players in the supplier world. It doesn’t get any more efficient than that.”

About PG&E: Incorporated in 1905, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is the San Francisco-based subsidiary of PG&E Corp. and one of the largest combination natural gas and electric utilities in the U.S. PG&E currently provides natural gas and electricity to approximately 15 million people in northern and central California through 141,215 circuit miles of electric distribution lines and 18,616 circuit miles of interconnected transmission lines as well as 42,141 miles of natural gas distribution pipelines and 6,438 miles of transportation pipelines. That utility operation relies heavily on a fleet of almost 14,000 vehicles and the capabilities of a maintenance team that numbers more than 425. In turn, the decisions made by the fleet management operation at PG&E are driving efficiency in all respects.

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.

Pulling All the Levers

George Survant, senior director, fleet at Time Warner Cable knows exactly the direction he wants to focus on for the future of the telecom provider’s vehicle operation. “We have to manage for the minimum cost per month over the life cycle of the vehicle,” he said. “If we use best practices to drive up reliability, we not only have lower costs, but we’re in a better position to meet customer expectations and improve our customers’ experience.”

Joining Time Warner Cable in mid-2012, Survant brings more than 30 years of utility fleet management expertise to an organization full of highly skilled and experienced fleet operations professionals. “We have an opportunity to make sure that our service fleet and its management programs are as leading edge as the entertainment, communications and information technology that Time Warner Cable provides,” he stated.

Aggressive growth at Time Warner Cable, which now serves more than 15 million residential and business customers in 29 states, has presented the company’s fleet managers with a number of challenges. Its 21,000 vehicles are spread out from coast to coast, and in Hawaii. Large groups of trucks were brought into the operation as a result of acquisitions. More than 70 dealerships were involved in spec’ing equipment and negotiating purchases, and with 95 percent of the fleet’s maintenance outsourced, hundreds of service providers were in the mix.

Significant Muscle
“About three years ago,” Survant related, “the management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company Accenture began working with Time Warner Cable to address organizational strategies. The company was understandably decentralized in different areas, including fleet. Operating like many small companies rather than one entity meant lost opportunities to flex the organization’s significant market muscle.”

Applying that lesson to managing its fleet, Time Warner Cable has embarked on a comprehensive set of initiatives to take advantage of economies of scale, to centralize the fleet operation, and to leverage existing and new best practices across the entire equipment and maintenance organization.

“One objective is to drive up reliability,” Survant said. “There is a hidden cost of having many different vehicles sourced in small groups. Also, trucks simply become less reliable with age so we needed a consistent replacement plan that can only come from a national supplier relationship.”

Taking Advantage
In July 2012, Survant noted, the median age of a standard service van or pickup truck in the Time Warner Cable fleet was 6.7 years. “Ideally,” he added, “the median age target for this type of vehicle is 3.75 to 4 years. Moving in that direction, we’ve lowered the median age of our fleet to under 6 years in just six months, and we’ve reduced acquisition costs by working with OEMs directly on a national level, and by taking advantage of utility fleet pricing programs.”

The current Time Warner Cable fleet consists of 11,000 vans, primarily Ford E-150 and E-250 models along with some GM units. Its 4,000 quarter- and half-ton pickup trucks are also mainly Fords and there are 2,600 Class 5 Ford F-350 and F-450 bucket trucks. The balance of the fleet consists of fewer than 100 Class 6-8 trucks and some passenger cars and vans.

To adopt better solutions, remarketing of vehicles being phased out of the Time Warner Cable fleet has also been addressed. Today, when groups of vehicles become available, the company invites auction houses to bid and investigates the resale value it can realize by selling the trucks to dealer auctions or wholesalers, taking into account the cost of prepping vehicles and providing required paperwork. Resale value is going to be a factor in new vehicle purchases going forward, Survant also noted.

Nationwide Program
Turning its attention to maintaining the fleet, Time Warner Cable’s fleet management team focused on creating a single, nationwide program. In the fall of 2012, the company began using the vehicle fleet management services company ARI at all locations, except for the four in-house service facilities with on-site vendors that it operates in the Midwest and in New York City.

“ARI has an advanced maintenance management solution that it uses to leverage maintenance relationships with vendors nationwide on our behalf, and a breakdown call center that makes sense for the size and scope of our fleet operation,” Survant said. “We dictate preventive maintenance practices based on OEM recommendations and our own needs and experience, and ARI’s extensive network of dealers, leasing companies and independent service providers does the work. They also manage our national account program with Goodyear to meet all of our tire needs.”

ARI is also handling equipment upfitting when Time Warner Cable places new vehicles in service. Included is the installation of aerial devices supplied by Altec, ETI and Versalift, and Masterack interior shelving and ladder racks from Leggett & Platt. “A considerable amount of detail goes into the layout and correct upfitting of these items in service vehicles,” Survant stated. “We have a high volume of demand for field service so it’s essential to have the right tools, equipment and inventory on our trucks at all times.”

Customer Expectations
“It is increasingly challenging to meet customer expectations for time and service requirements,” Survant continued. “Along with fielding reliable vehicles, we need to ensure the fleet is in the right place at all times. While Time Warner Cable’s dispatch and operations management and planning practices have been very successful, enhancements to the installed AVL and GPS systems will continue to help them address that need even more effectively.”

For Time Warner Cable, the second largest provider of video, high-speed data and phone services in the U.S., a field service fleet operation that consistently achieves customer satisfaction goals is critical to success.

For the fleet management team at Time Warner Cable, Survant is quick to point out, reliable vehicles are at the top of the list. “It’s common sense,” he said. “A 4 percent failure rate means the same percentage of our service guarantees are at risk. Using best practices to field the right equipment and maintain it correctly eliminates those issues.”

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.

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

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

Pedernales Electric Cooperative

When you have upward of 200,000 members to make happy, there’s more than a little pressure on any fleet manager to make smart and effective decisions. For Jim Petty, fleet supervisor for Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) – the country’s largest – the recent purchase of a Kenworth T370 hybrid truck is turning out to be the right choice.

“Not only will we be saving up to 50 percent in our fuel bills, but we’re doing something positive for our workers and the environment when it comes to emissions,” said Petty. “We expect the Kenworth hybrid to pay for the cost difference against a standard T370 in a short period. After that, we’ll save substantial money during our eight- to 10-year trade cycle. And we’ll be doing our part to be green.”

Headquartered in Johnson City, Texas, 50 miles west of Austin, PEC fields a fleet that is used to repair and maintain power lines in an 8,100-square-mile service territory. The new Kenworth T370 hybrid purchased through Kenworth of South Texas joins 75 other Class 6 to 8 trucks with aerial devices in the utility’s fleet. Those other trucks, which include Kenworth T800s, are equipped with PTO-driven 45- to 95-foot extendable buckets.

With the Kenworth hybrid, the bucket arm is extended and manipulated with a PTO powered by the hybrid’s battery pack. “In our other trucks, the engine always idles to run the PTO,” Petty noted. “We average between 3,000 to 5,000 hours of idling just to operate the PTO during the life cycle of the aerial device.

“Since the T370’s engine will only come on periodically to charge the batteries, we’ll save thousands of dollars in idling costs alone when we’re working on lines,” Petty continued. “We’ll also get upward of 25 to 30 percent better fuel economy since we drive in many urban areas, especially around Austin. What’s more, our crew on the ground won’t be exposed to diesel exhaust and we’ll have a quieter operation.”

The Kenworth T370 hybrid is powered by a 300-HP PACCAR PX-6 engine, and features an integral transmission-mounted motor/generator, a frame-mounted 340-volt battery pack and a dedicated power management system. Electricity that is generated through regenerative braking is stored and used for acceleration, assisting the diesel engine.

Kenworth offers a high-resolution, full-color in-dash display to monitor the hybrid system. As the power requirements for different driving conditions change, the screen constantly updates the system status, allowing the driver to optimize the performance of the hybrid system.

According to Petty, the electric co-op has been running hybrid cars for years with good success. “It’s a natural extension for us to move to bigger vehicles and all of us were excited to put the Kenworth into operation,” he said. “We placed the truck into service at our Austin service location and our drivers can’t wait to start driving it. During test drives, they commented about the smooth and fast initial acceleration, thanks to using battery power.”

Petty said there was no trepidation in putting the new hybrid technology to work. “Kenworth of South Texas and Eaton, the manufacturer of the hybrid system, did a great job during a training session to show our drivers and technicians exactly how the hybrid worked, and how it was different from conventional trucks. It gave us confidence going forward that we definitely made the right choice.”

About Pedernales Electric Cooperative
With a long history of serving its customers – called members because they are also owners – Pedernales Electric Cooperative was started in 1938 with the help of then-Congressman Lyndon Johnson. “He helped lobby the Roosevelt administration to secure a loan to build nearly 1,800 miles of electric lines through the Texas Hill Country,” explained Jim Petty, fleet supervisor. “It was the first power to be brought to the area for residents, who, until that time, relied on kerosene lamps for illumination.”

City of Sacramento

For the City of Sacramento, Calif., the recent implementation of vehicle telematics has led to significant reductions in fleet fuel consumption and operating costs. Recently, the municipal fleet equipped more than 400 of its vehicles with electronic fleet management products from Zonar Systems.

“Utilizing trip-level metrics on operator behavior and vehicle performance directly impacts behavior and leads to improved fuel efficiency,” said Keith Leech, City of Sacramento’s fleet manager. “Visibility into fleet operations brings automatic accountability that impacts workforce productivity.

“Performance and cost data prior to and post-Zonar installation, for a sampling of 184 of the city’s fleet vehicles representing 14 different vehicle types, was analyzed to conduct an ROI analysis,” Leech continued. “The analysis identified savings in excess of $60,000 a month in fuel costs alone, quite an impressive figure considering the cost to equip those 184 vehicles was just over $110,000. Simply stated, the Zonar system paid for itself in just two short months, making it an excellent investment for the city and a real money-saver for the taxpayers.”

The Zonar solution optimizes vehicle routes, monitors vehicle performance, identifies opportunities for improvements in driver behavior and streamlines the pre- and post-trip inspection process. Products include an Electronic Vehicle Inspection Report (EVIR) that ensures pre- and post-trip inspection compliance while eliminating paperwork and speeding vehicle repair; V2J with HD-GPS capabilities that combine real-time delivery of vehicle location, operation, fuel consumption and performance data in one device; and Ground Traffic Control, a Web-based fleet management portal that provides managers with visibility into fleet performance information.