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The Value of Site-Specific Equipment Plans

Every equipment manager’s budget is impacted by unexpected losses and repairs. If you manage equipment, you know this. You may expect to get 160,000 miles out of that crew truck or 2,000 hours out of a digger derrick before major component replacement, but that’s not going to happen if a line crew drops it off a mountain. I once witnessed the remains of a digger derrick that was lost while being winched up a mountainside for a wilderness construction project. It was unoccupied when the slings attaching it to the D8 crawler dozer failed. At the bottom of the mountain, the winch hook was the only recognizable part. A few years later, I had flashbacks when I heard our construction manager negotiating with our right-of-way clearing manager for the loan of one of their D9s to haul equipment up a mountain. My interest was safety. But in the process of planning for safety, we gained a valuable lesson in equipment preservation. I got involved with pre-planning for mobilization and learned how construction managers planned to perform the project. It was a new line. Right-of-way clearing was being done by another contractor. There were no roads, so access was the challenge. The terrain was very steep at a couple locations.

Prior to the start of the work, I conferred with fleet management. Tow rigging connections are an issue on most equipment. Digger derricks and bucket trucks sometimes come with bumper-mounted factory tow hooks. These bumper hooks are sufficient for getting equipment out of sand if it gets stuck, but they are not necessarily appropriate for a half-mile haul up newly cleared, soft terrain. Fleet asked the truck manufacturer about getting design parameters for the bumper and frame to come up with a modification for towing.

Fleet then selected flatbed chassis derricks and buckets as the lightest for towing and rigged front hooks accordingly. They custom ordered four 60-foot-length 3/4-wire-rope slings for towing calculated at a minimum 3:1 ratio over the trucks’ weights. They also got details on the frame-mounted eyes on the back of the D9 that would be doing the haul up the hill. The last issue was a backup plan, which meant determining in advance what could be done to keep the truck from rolling backward down the hill if something went wrong. Trucks can’t be towed with the brakes on, and we didn’t want a driver in the cab. Fleet came up with a simple but ingenious rig that saved the day.

Training and Backup Plans Matter
As we learned, however, it turns out that the best procedures are only as good as the training that goes along with their implementation. In the scenario described above, somebody didn’t get the part of the plan about rigging to the eyes on the D9. A couple hauls, including the one that failed, were done from the winch cable on the back of the D9. That cable was 5/8-inch plow steel designed for hauling trees – and it had hauled many trees. The good news is, all the fleet planning time was not wasted because the backup plan worked.

An 11-foot-long, 10-inch-by-10-inch square pine beam was rigged behind the rear wheels on each haul. The log was chained to the bed on both sides so that if the truck rolled backward, it would hit the beam and stop. It worked. The winch cable did fail, and the truck being hauled dropped backward against the log and stopped.

The catch-rig story here is not a recommendation for readers. This one worked, but it may not have been effective given a different dirt type or condition, a different wheel size or other variations. With a little imagination, workers might come up with a number of backup plans, such as using safety cables similar to boat trailer chains parallel to the strain rigging. The point here is if the crew had used 3/4 IWRC cable rigged to the eyes on the D9, the haul rigging wouldn’t have failed. That’s the point, and the lesson is two parts: Site-specific planning can prevent loss if not disasters, and training the site crew to the plan is just as important as the plan itself.

Site-Specific Equipment Review
From that event on, I have always planned for site-specific equipment review. It begins with the bid process and a site visit. A couple questions to the project managers reveal the work execution plan. If there are going to be unusual conditions, plan for them. Write a site-specific plan, and then train every crew member on the plan and the procedures to be employed. For example, anybody who has ever worked in the grassy plains of Texas knows you likely will need a fleet of dozers to get your buckets from pole to pole in that soft Texas dirt. If you don’t provide rigging points and a plan, you’ll get equipment back with bent pintle hooks and missing or bent bumpers, or, even worse, broken leaf springs or spring hangers.

There are other benefits of equipment plans. A site visit by a fleet professional can prevent overweight tickets and job delays. For instance, during a site visit in the bid stage in the Midwest, estimators failed to notice local weight limits on roads to the right-of-way. The company I was working for got the job. On the third day of equipment mobilization, state police ticketed a lowboy for being overweight. The patrol hung around to make sure the trucks did not return to those roads. The project was shut down for several days while lighter trucks were delivered and materials were broken down to meet the restrictions. The job had to absorb the cost for mobilizing the original trucks, the lost days and mobilizing the lighter trucks, as well as double material-handling costs. A fleet professional likely would have noted the access issues and prevented the loss.

Site-specific planning also can ensure fuel and maintenance access is appropriate for what you want for your equipment. Crews are going to get the work done no matter what. A job in Georgia went under on fines when the crews used ag-dyed fuel in bucket trucks because they couldn’t get bulk fuel on-site through an unreliable supplier picked by project managers. When the state caught them, they based the fines on fuel purchased and miles that could have been driven. The fines for the nine trucks found with ag-dyed fuel were higher than the profit estimate for the job. In Arizona, crews were stopped by the Department of Transportation when a trooper noticed a bucket truck filling up at an auto-fuel dispenser. That’s not allowed in Arizona and other states for tax-related reasons. This wasn’t news to the fleet manager when he got the call from the Arizona Fuel Tax Evasion Unit, but apparently the crew didn’t know the rules.

Estimators and planners are not the best at planning critical resources for equipment support. But everybody knows your phone number when pressure diggers are down in the middle of nowhere. If you identify resources and lead time for those resources prior to the start of work, you will prevent headaches when the inevitable hose break occurs.

In summary, getting involved with estimating and planning is a good management tool. A little time and planning at the front end keeps you in the loop for what is coming up. It allows you to be sure the right equipment gets to the job, and pre-planning prevents those days of firefighting to solve problems. And not only do planning and training help to prevent issues, but if issues do arise, planning ensures an effective response gets crews and jobs back online quickly.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 20 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

Enforcement of Vehicle Weight and Load Securement Rules

In the past few months, I have received comments and inquiries from all over the U.S. regarding what appears to be stepped-up enforcement of both load securement and vehicle weight. It’s not unusual that these topics garner attention from the U.S. Department of Transportation when it comes to carriers, but this recent uptick seems to be directed at smaller commercial vehicles as well as bucket trucks and digger derricks. There have not been any changes of note in the rules for vehicle weight and load securement; however, it appears that some latitude taken by utilities, if not given by the DOT, has caught the attention of those responsible for enforcement of the rules.

In the last couple of years, state enforcement agencies have used local media to inform local commercial businesses – that are not carriers – that they would be stopped if they did not appear to comply with loading and marking standards for their class of vehicles. In Arizona, New Mexico, Washington and Colorado, my colleagues and I began to hear of roadside stops involving lawn maintenance companies and small construction concerns that pulled trailers with loaders, backhoes and super lawn machines. That soon extended to power company trucks, especially those loaded with large wire reels. I even heard of one instance in which state enforcement set up scales in a shopping center parking lot on a well-known route out of a power company service center. Within 40 minutes they cited 22 vehicles for being overweight. You would think drivers would have warned others, but the DOT waved them into the parking area before they started weighing and inspecting the vehicles, so no one knew what to expect. It shouldn’t have been – but it was – a big surprise for that utility’s fleet management to learn what kinds of loads lineworkers were putting on those trailers.

That is part of the problem. Craft workers – including lineworkers, cable splicers and tree workers – are licensed as CMV Class A operators. They take the same exams and demonstrate the same skills to become licensed as any other commercial truck driver does. However, in the utility and utility contractor industry, the frequency and types of violations reported in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Safety and Fitness Electronic Records (SAFER) System (https://safer.fmcsa.dot.gov) show a lack of compliance among craft drivers. The top violations of the Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) among utility drivers are vehicle inspections, trailer brakes, vehicle weight, lighting and reflectors. These compliance violations are an easy problem to remedy with training and reminders. Craft workers must understand that when they settle into the seat of that Class 7 vehicle, they are DOT drivers, not craft workers.

Misunderstanding of GVWR
Fleet managers also should be aware that, as of July 2017, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) have been updated and violation codes have been added. Among them are speed and weight class violations for tires, including de-rating of speed and weight class of tires for underinflation. Overloading of tires brings us to both an existing problem and an emerging problem. The existing problem is drivers’ understanding of vehicle and trailering weights, as well as load balancing on trailers. Without being too critical of craft workers, it seems that if a load will fit on a trailer, it goes to the worksite. As a longtime safety auditor, I have found numerous instances of heavily overloaded trailers. In those cases, I found some fairly common reasons for the conditions, including a misunderstanding of gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR).

It’s easy to do. Power units are relatively simple. They are designed to trailer by fifth wheel, and the gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCVWR) is listed right there on the door. Utility trucks often are purchased as chassis cabs with doorplates defining the GCVWR and curb weight of the chassis. Some chassis manufacturers – but not all – list the GCVWR, which is the chassis, payload for the chassis and maximum towing capacity. Once the truck is configured with booms and bodies, the curb weight changes dramatically and so does the payload capacity. Not all manufacturers of equipment replace the doorplates, so the truck arrives with the wrong information on the door. Without curb weight, the trailering capacity is unknown. If the chassis does not have the GCVWR listed, no one will know the capacity of the vehicle for trailering. Add to that the loading of storage bins, and the curb weight is not known. Since the combination weight rating is established by the braking capacity, this issue of overweight truck-trailer combinations can be a serious one on the road.

There is another issue with trailers and loading. Each truck’s GVWR is a combination of curb weight and payload. Payload also includes trailer tongue weight on the truck’s hitching system. Tongue weight is ideally suited to be 10 to 15 percent of the total and trailer load weight. If a trailer always carries the same load, such as a backhoe, the trailer can be configured for the weight and the stops on the deck can assure the load on the trailer is properly balanced for the tongue weight of 10 to 15 percent. However, if utility trailers are used, they can be loaded in any number of loads and balances, often overloading tongues. Overloading a trailer tongue can compromise steering and stopping and increase risks, especially in emergency maneuvers.

Solutions
Fleet managers should have a program for loading and rating that makes it easy for drivers to match trailers with trucks. Truck doorplates should list GVWR, GCVWR and curb weight of the straight truck with booms mounted and bins loaded. Truck bumpers should be labeled with the maximum trailer weight. Ideally, a single-point scale should be placed in the yard so that drivers can pull up and drop the trailer’s landing gear onto the trailer to see what the tongue weight is.

For trailers, GVWR rating, curb weight and load rating should be marked. Tires should be purchased to meet the weight/speed loads expected on both trucks and trailers. Finally, locate a scale to weigh trucks and axle loads, whether in the yard or off-site. Drivers and foremen should be trained, and each truck should have an information card to show axle weight limits for that specific truck.

CDL Operator Class
The FMCSR as well as most state driver’s license books have pictograms that show silhouette shapes of trucks represented in GVWR classes. With advances in suspension, engine output and rear-end ratios, trucks can haul more than ever. This can lead to some surprise roadside inspection outcomes and really mess with your BASIC scores. For instance, trucks under 10,001 pounds are GVWR Class C and are not regulated by FMCSR. In the past, Ford F-350s and Chevrolets were generally considered exempt from FMCSR. However, a quick look at the load and trailering schedules on these manufacturers’ websites show that F-350s and the GM 3500 series, with the right combinations of suspension, transmission, power plant and rear-end ratios, now can trailer 30,000 pounds. That means that in these extreme rigs, the chassis are now rated as GVWR Class 7 vehicles. If that’s the case, your F-350s must meet all of the requirements of any CMV for inspections, safety equipment, markings, driver qualifications and so on.

Load Securement
Load securement – as it pertains to miscellaneous small items laying in truck beds – is the last item we’ll discuss in this issue. Even though all vehicles under city codes can be cited for losing loads, we must look at load securement from the FMCSR perspective. Load securement has gained focus in large part due to two events that occurred in early 2018 and made national news. Materials from commercial vehicles left the beds of trucks, bounced across narrow medians and entered the windshields of cars passing in the opposite direction. On both occasions, the cars’ drivers were struck in the head; one of the drivers died and the other is permanently disabled. The items that bounced out of the truck beds were a steel wedge about 14 inches long and a 5/8-inch-by-22-inch DA bolt. The owners of the lost materials were never identified, but load securement enforcement for lighter trucks is ramping up across the nation. Enforcement is declaring that the traditional 2-inch-by-6-inch plank often fitted across the tail-end of crew trucks, bucket trucks, mechanics trucks and line trucks, as well as stair or ladder access points, is not load securement. The rule of thumb is if an item can bounce off, it is not secured. Fleet managers should look at their trucks for these small-item control issues and get ahead of the enforcement curve, not in the least to prevent injuring someone from the loss of a pole-top pin at 60 mph. The solutions are many, but we have seen larger solid barriers on sides and rear decks, as well as cargo nets and tarps fitted over pickup, crew and mechanics trucks.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 20 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a senior consultant for the Institute for Safety in Powerline Construction. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Preventing Future Driving Incidents

Fleet management economics are not just about predictive scheduling, inspection and maintenance. Yes, you can predict and control operating costs by keeping and analyzing records. But one thing you can’t do is predict accidents, other than predicting you will have one at some point. However, accidents – especially expensive ones – don’t have to be an unpredictable liability. In fact, most accidents don’t have to happen at all, although sometimes we as managers enable them.

A few years ago, I got a call from the sheriff of a small town in Tennessee. I was working for a contractor at the time, and one of our trucks had been found on its side in the trees off a small two-lane road. The cab was crushed and our driver was deceased, his body trapped in the wreck for several hours. This was not just a matter of having to cut away the cab. The driver, who was not wearing a seat belt, had been thrown below the steering column in the crash. The cab folded in and around him, and the truck was a total loss.

The reason I chose this story to make the following points is due to how the incident played out within the organization. Everyone was devastated by the loss of the driver. That was expected. But after a few weeks, the incident became the focus of accounting, and that’s when the safety department came under scrutiny. That’s because the highway patrol had completed the incident investigation, and they discovered three enabling elements that – had any of them been changed – would have prevented the accident from occurring. The driver would not have died, the truck would not have been totaled and the financial loss would have been avoided.

These three elements won’t be common to all incidents, but I’ve detailed them here to demonstrate to readers that most incidents are avoidable. In addition, I’ve also identified some cultural initiatives that can prevent the enabling of future incidents.  

Element 1: The Route
The truck was a Freightliner twin-axle, 20-ton digger derrick. There were three main routes from the yard to the project site. It was 7:45 a.m., and the driver voiced concerns about traffic. According to his crewmates, he knew a faster route that was rarely used and would bypass the morning traffic. So, what was the value of the time saved? The incident investigation indicated the backroad route could have saved time only if the 35-mph speed limit was exceeded by 30 mph. The other two routes – an interstate and a four-lane highway – had fewer turns, fewer stops and speed limits of 55 to 65 mph. Perhaps more important was the construction of the roadways. In addition to having fewer turns, the two higher-speed highways had shoulders that varied from 26 inches at the narrowest to 96 inches at the widest. The shoulders became the most important issue because the rural road the driver had chosen had no shoulder. In several places, the road dropped off into rocky ruts just inches off the white line. The highway patrol’s analysis of the cause of the incident was that the right front wheel of the digger derrick dropped off the road into a rut, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

Element 2: Seat Belts
There was never any doubt that the truck driver lost control of the vehicle. A FedEx driver following the truck prior to the crash said the truck lurched to the right and continued to pull farther down the slope until it careened left back toward the highway. The crash analysis indicated the truck’s path clearly followed the FedEx driver’s description. When the truck re-entered the highway, it entered at an angle almost 15 degrees out of line. The re-entry was so hard and fast that the truck went airborne for 22 feet, and then bounced and careened onto its side before plowing into the trees. Evidence from the crash analysis also indicated that the driver never touched the brakes and that, once the turn back toward the road was made, no effective driver control was maintained. Because the driver was not wearing a seat belt, the movement of the cab dislodged him from behind the seat at some point after the vehicle had left the road.

Element 3: Driver Fitness
The autopsy of the driver indicated he likely was impaired by drug use at the time of the incident. The yard where the driver worked from was a small operation in a small town. Everyone knew each other, and in fact, three of the office employees, including the local manager’s secretary, were related to the driver who died in the crash. That may have played a role in the employer’s failure to remove the driver from safety-sensitive functions when it was discovered that he had become addicted to opiates following a back injury the year before. The manager of the operation learned that the driver was abusing opiates when police had come to serve warrants a month earlier. A local pharmacist had discovered that the driver was seeing several doctors and getting hydrocodone prescriptions from each of them. Had the manager reported the discovery to the employer’s DOT manager, the driver would have been removed from safety-sensitive duties and would not have driven on the job again until he had received the help he needed for his condition. It is certain that, had the proper action been taken, he would not have been driving that day.

Driver Safety Training
This sad story becomes even more unfortunate when we realize that simple pre-emptive steps could have prevented it. How many drivers do you have who don’t use seat belts? How many of them know that if you can’t stay behind the wheel, you can’t maintain control of the vehicle? How many of them realize how violent a ride becomes when a truck gets out of control? There is no reason for any employer not to have control of seat-belt use by drivers, but it is one of the top driver-safety deficiencies found in third-party safety audits of utility drivers.

Drivers and DOT compliance officers know the rules, but do your managers? Managers, supervisors and foremen should be given annual refreshers on DOT policies beyond the required reasonable-suspicion training. Supervisory staff also should be aware of DOT requirements for carrier registration, driver qualification and employer/driver policies. Your supervisory staff is the front line. They are the ones who interface with the workforce and are more likely than anyone to be the first to witness risk behaviors that indicate problems.

Driver safety training is key at companies with the best driver performance. This training is not about smooth shifting, inspections or hours-of-service logs. Driver safety programs can be as rigorous as the Smith System or as simple as offerings from your insurance company. Your drivers may be professionals, but that doesn’t mean they have a natural capacity for recognition of risks that can be avoided. Good choices by drivers improve the safety aspects of operating on the road. Drivers need to operate in an environment of control and avoidance. Training to achieve that in your driver force is not difficult or expensive. In the long run, it will be far less of an expense than the next avoidable crash.

About the Author: After 25 years as a transmission-distribution lineman and foreman, Jim Vaughn, CUSP, has devoted the last 20 years to safety and training. A noted author, trainer and lecturer, he is a resident subject matter expert for the Incident Prevention Institute. He can be reached at [email protected].

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3 Ergonomic Upfits to Combat Work-Related Injuries

When Dan Remmert, manager of fleet services for Ameren Illinois Company, explored the reasons behind his group’s work-related injuries, one issue kept coming up: getting in and out of a vehicle or piece of equipment.

“We’ve had many issues over time related to getting to the back of a bed, a bucket or aerial device,” he said. He also noted that recent vehicle changes have resulted in chassis being taller, “which causes ergonomic challenges for loading, moving and working.”

Complicating matters is the fact that his workers can choose the size ladder they prefer, but Remmert is expected to standardize the fleet’s trucks, including ladder racks. “We use some of the fold-down products on the market, but they just never seem to fit everybody.”

While combatting injuries caused by stepping out of or lifting materials from vehicles is a growing problem for utilities, there are several ergonomically friendly products now on the market that can help prevent some of the most common injuries. Here are three that may benefit your fleet operators.

1. Liftgates with ergonomic features.
It’s no secret to utility fleet workers that getting in and out of a vehicle can cause injuries. Maybe a worker steps off incorrectly and twists something, or constant repetitive motion results in long-term injuries. Add in heavy equipment that must be wrestled out of the back of the vehicle, and the odds of back injuries increase.

But there are solutions available. “We’ve seen ease of use and dependability increase greatly with ramps and liftgates,” said Spero Skarlatos, manager of truck excellence for Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com).

He noted that some liftgates now have a cantilever design that allows a platform as wide as the van itself. Some of those are hinged to the vehicle’s rear doors so they easily swing out. “Liftgates and ramps relieve the driver of having to physically lift a box so they can use a cart instead,” Skarlatos said.

Maxon Lift (www.maxonlift.com) makes nothing but liftgates and is constantly innovating to meet customer needs. An interlocking handrail on the liftgate is one recent enhancement. That was developed in conjunction with Smithfield, a large meat packer.

“While it’s not a utility fleet, the concerns are the same,” said Anton Griessner, Maxon’s vice president of marketing and business development. “It’s about the safe handling of loads and avoiding having the operator lifting heavy things.”

Of course, the liftgate itself can bring its own challenges, with the worker trying to maneuver the heavy gate into position, often from the ground. Maxon’s latest solution allows the worker to raise the lift about halfway up so that it can then be folded in.

“When you manipulate the liftgate, you can do it at an angle, which is as efficient and ergonomic as possible and at the level that offers the best leverage,” Griessner said.

2. Shelving that puts needed materials in reach.
Skarlatos said that vans and pickup trucks now include a cabinet with multiple shelves that are accessible from the ground level outside the vehicle. It’s akin to a catering operation; vehicles used for that purpose typically contain multiple racks that slide in and out. In the utility fleet environment, the shelves can store tools and products that the driver uses regularly. “Instead of accessing the back of the van, the trays keep the driver outside the vehicle, standing on both feet,” Skarlatos said.

3. New vehicle styles.
While it’s not an upfit per se, one of the biggest current industry trends is changes in vehicles themselves, according to Skarlatos. Euro-design vans are a game changer because they offer easier access and prevent drivers from crouching while in the back of a van. “You can stand up from the driver’s seat, walk into the back of the van and then step out the rear doors by using the step bumpers,” Skarlatos said. “This has been an evolution of the vans to help with ergonomics.”

And when the shelves that put needed materials in reach are included, this eliminates the need for the driver to get back inside the vehicle. “Anytime you limit the times that you’re stepping in or stepping down, reaching and pulling, we’re increasing the driver’s quality of life at work,” Skarlatos said.

Of course, no two fleet needs are the same, even within the utility industry. That’s why working with suppliers is critical. “You have to really explain what you do and how you do it,” Griessner said. “And there still can be a big difference between what the fleet and safety managers try to achieve and what the operators do. Out of this trust in a vendor can come a very good end product.”

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

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Ergonomics Issues Can Be Costly
OSHA issued ergonomics mandates in the early 2000s, which were subsequently voided by Congress. Nonetheless, there are common-sense reasons to pay attention to ergonomics in utility fleets. For instance, in 2011 – the most recent year for which statistics are available – workers’ compensation paid out $29.6 billion in medical bills and another $30.3 billion in lost wages, according to the Social Security Administration. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
• Musculoskeletal disorders – the broad term for sprains and strains from overexertion – accounted for three in 10 of the total work-related injuries in 2015.
• The average loss of work for a musculoskeletal disorder was 12 days in 2015. That compares with an average of eight days for all injuries that resulted in days off work.
• Falls, slips and trips were the second-largest category of work-related injuries, at 27 percent.
• Workers aged 45-54 had the highest number of missed days due to work-related injuries.

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Upfitting Cargo Vans with Ergonomics in Mind

In order to keep employee health costs and downtime to a minimum, ergonomics – or fitting a job to the person performing the job – must play a big role in upfitting fleet vehicles.

Many of today’s fleet administrators are tuned in to the importance of employee ergonomics, and an ever-increasing number are focused on keeping their utility fleet vehicle drivers safe and efficient, rather than simply giving them the tools to do their jobs. The mindset has evolved from determining vehicle shelf capacity and how ladders will be stored to asking questions of individual drivers such as:
• Do you need to carry all of your inventory and multiple ladders at all times?
• Which frequently used items can be located near the doors so you don’t need to climb into the vehicle?
• Is there a safer way to transport and access your ladders?
• How can you stay safe on the job without sacrificing productivity?

For cargo van drivers, one of the primary ergonomic issues associated with using that type of vehicle is climbing in and out of it, often while stepping over items on the floor with their arms full of gear. To minimize the need to enter the van – as well as the risk of back or joint injury – drivers should determine the tools and inventory they frequently use and place those items near the doors for easy access from outside the van. This can be accomplished using shelving and bins located within arm’s reach, drawers that open out through the cargo door and hooks for quick grab-and-go items.

Another major safety concern that stems from the use of cargo vans is the accessibility and use of ladders. Ladders have traditionally been carried on the roof of service vehicles, posing great risk to employees’ shoulders and backs when they attempt to retrieve, carry and stow these heavy pieces of equipment. Today, the goal of fleet administrators and upfitters alike is to find a way to make ladder use less of a liability. One solution is drop-down ladder racks. On a cargo van equipped with a drop-down rack, ladders are still carried on the vehicle’s roof, but a mechanized rack raises and lowers the ladders up and down the side of the van, delivering improved ergonomics for loading and unloading.

A second option to consider is keeping ladders inside the van. Workers can store short ladders upright on the partition or shelf end, hang them from the ceiling, or stow them under a subfloor or on a ladder shelf. By determining the ladder or ladders that need to be carried first, and by considering the vehicle being used, a utility fleet’s upfitter can suggest the best ladder storage options for optimal ergonomics.

Education is Essential
In order to create the most ergonomic vehicle work interiors, it is critical for utility fleet managers to research options, interview drivers and collaborate with the fleet’s upfitter. But what happens if – after the vehicles have been upfitted – driver feedback is still less than ideal? What’s missing? Is it possible that the drivers don’t fully understand how to make the upfit work for them?

Driver education is an essential part of the process of upfitting vehicles for improved ergonomics. When the vehicles are first delivered, fleet managers should be sure to lead a walk-around with their drivers to explain in detail why a shelf or drawer is located in a specific place and what cargo it is intended to hold. Recommend that frequently used items be positioned near the door, while other items can be stored deeper in the van. Demonstrate how to safely load and unload ladders. In addition to being an ergonomics and a safety imperative, training drivers is key to getting the most out of the fleet’s upfit investment.

And make no mistake, it is an investment. Fleet managers invest time and money upfront to create a work environment that suits employees, with the goal of improved efficiency and minimized downtime. When upfits and employee training are properly executed, the utility’s return on investment will include greater driver satisfaction, increased productivity and more satisfied customers.

About the Author: Tricia Singer has been writing for the commercial vehicle market for more than 18 years and has extensive experience within the commercial van equipment and upfitting industry. Her background includes marketing and graphic design for the Adrian Steel Co. (www.adriansteel.com).

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Make Your Current Vehicles Work Better for You
If new vehicles or upfits aren’t in your immediate future, here are a few ideas to improve the ergonomics of your current interiors.
• Re-evaluate the cargo you are carrying. Do you need everything?
• Items that are used on most jobs should be stored near the van’s doors so you don’t have to climb into the van to reach them. Add storage hooks or removable totes to these areas for additional organization.
• Store items that aren’t accessed every day – but must be kept on hand – deeper in the van. They’ll be easy to locate without getting in the way of other items you need to access more frequently.
• Store large and heavy items on the floor or as close to waist-high as possible to ease in lifting.
• Learn the proper, most ergonomic way to load and unload ladders from the roof racks you are using.

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Keeping Crews Warm in Winter

Winter is approaching, and for utilities operating in the Frost Belt, keeping crews warm isn’t just a good thing to do – it’s a safety imperative.

For vehicle cab comfort, the choices fall between keeping the engine running and using the truck’s HVAC system, or using an auxiliary heater. As always, the choice depends on the fleet’s desires.

The simplest solution is to keep the engine running, but that’s a costly option for fleet managers focused on keeping down fuel costs. Idle-limiting systems help fleets get over that hurdle. With numerous choices available on the aftermarket, these systems automatically shut down the engine at a work site, periodically turning it on for a few minutes to recharge the batteries to power the PTO and hydraulics. They significantly reduce fuel use, and the length of time the engine runs can be adjusted to ensure the truck’s heater keeps the cab comfortable.

Avista Utilities, based in Spokane, Wash., is testing a system from ZeroRPM (www.zerorpm.com) that has a cab comfort setting to maintain temperatures when the truck is on-site. The system automatically starts the engine and will run an average of five to seven minutes every hour, depending on the level of heat needed, according to Evan Miller, ZeroRPM’s vice president of sales. “The system can provide full HVAC service if [the fleet] wants. There are different applications for heat,” he said.

Avista’s primary goals are to reduce fuel costs while keeping the crew’s safety at the forefront, and the ZeroRPM system suits their needs, said Greg Loew, fleet manager. “We do burn a sizable chunk of fuel a year idling vehicles, but you have to think about how to take care of the guys who are out there,” he said. “It’s a safety thing and it’s a critical thing to consider. You need systems that allow the guys to be comfortable.”

If the idle mitigation system performs well this winter, Avista will consider adding more during the next buying cycle, Loew said.

Don’t want – or need – to run the engine, even periodically? Auxiliary air and coolant heaters from companies such as Eberspaecher Climate Control Systems (www.eberspaecher.com) and Webasto (www.webasto.com) will handle cold-weather needs while saving engine use. These systems operate independently of a truck’s temperature control system and typically use a fraction of the fuel a truck would use while idling, according to the manufacturers.

If all you need to heat is the air inside the cab, auxiliary air heaters are the way to go. These are mounted inside the cab and tied into the truck’s fuel line.

Hydronic (coolant) heaters are integrated in series or parallel to the existing coolant lines and will preheat the engine and also supply warm air into the cab via the vehicle’s heat exchanger, explained John Dennehy, Eberspaecher’s vice president of marketing and communications. The heaters are mounted inside the engine compartment or along the frame rail.

Detroit-based DTE Energy uses a variety of systems to keep trucks operating and crews warm in winter temperatures that often hit below zero, said Gerard Huvaere, procurement specialist. The hydronic system from Eberspaecher (formerly Espar) heats the coolant to help engine starting, ensure cab comfort and warm the aerials’ hydraulic oils. DTE also uses Eberspaecher space heaters as well as Altec’s JEMS (Jobsite Energy Management System), an auxiliary battery-based system that provides power for job site needs and cab comfort systems.

DTE is looking for “startability and employee comfort” in its heating systems, Huvaere said. “All closed work spaces have some sort of heating.”

Crews like a system that gives them the ability to set the start time, but in the end, Huvaere said, it’s “any system that keeps them warm.”

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

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Selecting Auxiliary Heaters
The first decision utility fleet managers have to make when considering an auxiliary heating system is which type fits their needs: hydronic or air.

The simple answer is that if all the fleet needs to heat is the vehicle’s cab, an air heater will do the job. Air heaters consume a fraction of fuel per hour compared with an idling truck. The Air Top 2000 ST from Webasto, for example, will use about 1 gallon of fuel per 22 hours, according to the company. Air heaters also are easier to install and cost less than hydronic systems.

Size depends on the space to be heated, but John Dennehy, vice president of marketing and communications for Eberspaecher Climate Control Systems, said the company’s smaller model would be appropriate for most utility cabs.

Hydronic systems, on the other hand, are used to preheat the engine coolant, provide heat to the cab and warm the aerial hydraulics, if needed. Suppliers offer multiple sizes depending on engine sizes and the fleet’s needs, but the smaller sizes may suffice for most utility fleet needs.

The principal benefit of auxiliary heaters is lower fuel costs. Suppliers have simple fuel-saving calculators on their websites, but beyond direct fuel savings, the total cost savings from using an auxiliary heater in lieu of idling the engine may also come from longer service intervals, longer engine life and improved startability on cold mornings.

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Assessing and Enforcing Distracted Driving Policies

Policies that prohibit employees from using cellphones or being otherwise distracted while driving are so common today that it would be hard to find a utility company without one.

In fact, in 2011 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration banned the use of all hand-held mobile devices by commercial vehicle drivers. This includes anyone driving a vehicle heavier than 10,000 pounds during interstate business, not just heavy-duty truck drivers with commercial driver’s licenses. Penalties can range from driver disqualification to fines for both the driver and the carrier. Additionally, as of press time, 14 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving.

The real issue for utility fleets, and for any company with vehicles for that matter, is how to measure a policy’s effectiveness. How do companies know if their policy is working?

It’s not easy to figure out, partly because most distracted driving policies are one piece of a company’s larger employee safety program. Aside from post-accident investigations, which should turn up any ill-timed use of a mobile device, measuring the efficacy of distracted driving policies is a little tricky, executives acknowledged.

A 2011 study of distracted driving issues by the Governors Highway Safety Association noted simply that distracted driving communications campaigns and company policies and programs are widely used but have not been evaluated.

Houston-based CenterPoint Energy established its distracted driving policy in 2010. Al Payton, the company’s director of safety and technical training, said he did not have specific data about the efficacy of the program separate from the company’s overall employee safety program, but noted that CenterPoint has had a steady decrease in its number of total incidents. More to the point, the company has seen a change in the types of incidents since CenterPoint implemented a distracted driving policy. “There’s been a decrease in rear-end collisions … which may indicate that our drivers are less distracted,” he said.

Southern California Edison’s policy “prohibits a litany of actions” on hand-held devices, according to Don Neal, the utility’s director of corporate environmental, health and safety. That includes texting and talking and covers smartphones, tablets, PDAs and more. The exceptions are push-to-talk radios and Bluetooth wireless headsets.

“If we have any incident and find that the employee was using a hand-held device, that employee goes into a progressive disciplinary program where the result could be anywhere from a note to termination,” Neal said.

Bill Orlove, spokesman for Florida Power and Light Co., said the company does not have data on its policy’s efficacy but noted that the fleet communicates with drivers throughout the year and at safety meetings.

FPL’s distracted driving policy prohibits all employees from using any hand-held device while behind the wheel on behalf of the company, he said.

“That means no texting, no emailing, no accessing the Internet, etc.,” he said.

Technology’s Role
Technologies that control and limit the use of mobile devices by drivers are giving fleet managers more proactive ways to enforce policies.

The most common systems plug in to the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port and work with Bluetooth-enabled devices to block texting or most any use of a mobile device once the vehicle is in motion.

Telogis’ DriveSafe program, for example, is an add-on option that can be used in conjunction with Telogis’ telematics applications and connect to a driver’s device. It works with Android and iOS applications.

“It ensures that the driver is not distracted,” said Erin Cave, vice president of product management.

FleetSafer, from Aegis Mobility, and Kyrus Mobile are two other systems. Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission has a Distracted Driving Information Clearinghouse that provides additional sources and services. Visit www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/distracted-driving-information-clearinghouse.

The issue, executives said, comes down to balancing employee safety and productivity. Fleets are going to have to find the balance between the productivity opportunities available with today’s communication technologies and the obligation to provide their employees a safe workplace. And for those who spend their days on the road, a safe workplace means a safe vehicle.

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

Photo: Courtesy of Jean Anderson/Southern California Edison

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Using Virtual Tools to Create a Safer Reality for Utility Fleets

Successful organizations operate under the mindset that people are their most important assets, and they always take employee safety into consideration when making business decisions. Safe employees are happier, have greater rates of productivity, are more supportive of clients and contribute to the bottom line. Does your organization already have this mentality? Or is there some room for improvement?

For companies with vehicle fleets, the need for workplace safety extends beyond brick-and-mortar environments; avoiding on-the-job incidents is even more critical when an employee gets behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle and drives on public roads.

Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of occupational fatalities and cost fleet owners more than $60 billion each year. A three-year study published in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (see www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Commercial_Motor_Vechicle_Facts_March_2013.pdf) reported that on average, more than 30,000 lives were lost annually in vehicle-related traffic crashes from 2009 to 2011. Of those deaths, nearly 10 percent directly involved large trucks, which are defined as vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds. Additional crash statistics drawn from the study can be found in the chart below.

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Although there are myriad factors that contribute to motor vehicle traffic crashes, a better-educated driver is arguably a safer, more alert and more defensive driver. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that your company’s driver training program isn’t in need of its own corrective action.

“Delivering targeted safety training is critical for educating drivers on hazards and defensive techniques, potentially avoiding incidents and managing risk overall,” said Bill Doman, department head at ARI (www.arifleet.com), a fleet management company headquartered in New Jersey. “But as a fleet professional, how do you accomplish this when your workforce is already trying to do more with less?”

A Balanced Training Approach
Going virtual is a large part of the answer to that question, according to Doman, who works with driver-facing programs at ARI. “Virtual training can help overcome logistical challenges, get more drivers trained faster and help protect your organization both proactively and post-incident.”

Compared to other fleet types, utilities have unique training requirements due to the additional responsibilities of most drivers. For certain educational needs, behind-the-wheel or direct classroom training is the most effective way of preparing personnel to safely operate vehicles and equipment. The logistics and planning involved with these training methods, however, can be costly, result in downtime or not cover all applicable drivers.

For certain training needs, a virtual learning management system (LMS) can be the quickest and most effective way to deliver important safety education to as many drivers as possible. An LMS is a software application for the administration, tracking and delivery of electronic educational technology.

For example, instead of sitting operators in a classroom or at individual kiosks to passively watch videos, an online module can deliver the same content in an interactive fashion with a quiz at the culmination of the module to test for comprehension. Drivers might even dread training less if there’s a little more variety at play.

“A balanced training approach will include an assortment of classroom, behind-the-wheel and virtual methodology,” Doman said. “We’re finding that an increasing number of fleet owners are taking a fresh look at how they train their drivers to determine where virtual modules can be a good fit.”

How Virtual Training Works
Virtual training is delivered via online modules that engage drivers in a variety of interactive exercises and activities. Common topics include aggressive driving, avoiding crashes, distractions, speeding, limited visibility, towing and parking lot safety. Training recipients are prompted throughout the module to click and participate with the lesson at hand.

“Drivers aren’t just bombarded with text and statistics to passively memorize,” Doman explained. “They interact with the content and complete a comprehension test at the end to help ensure they retain the information.”

Training can be done on a desktop computer, laptop and even mobile devices. This means that drivers can go through training simultaneously in an infinite number of locations. What’s even better is that this also means more employees are receiving safety training faster and more frequently, instead of having to wait for a scheduled class.

Many virtual training providers will also supply proactive skill assessments to help identify at-risk drivers before there is an incident. Based on assessment results, drivers can be matched with the appropriate modules. Targeted modules can also be assigned to drivers who have recently been involved in a collision or received a violation.

Ensuring compliance with your vehicle policy is another good use for these modules. Your organization invested time and effort in assembling a thorough policy, and it’s imperative to verify that the drivers are actually reading it.

“After reviewing an online version of the company’s fleet policy, the drivers electronically acknowledge that they read the policy and take a comprehension quiz,” Doman said. “These modules can be customized with special touches to reflect the company’s culture, such as a video message from senior management demonstrating the organization’s commitment to safety.”

The Real Value Proposition
Adopting a robust blend of training content and delivery to help keep your drivers and others on the road safe just makes sense. It’s the right thing to do. But there are many more reasons to invest in a diversified safety approach, most of which have a measurable, positive financial impact for your organization. Among these reasons are:
• Decreased crash rate. Crashes are expensive. The crash that never happened can potentially pay for an entire year of training for all of your drivers.
• Positive community image. Safe drivers are typically courteous drivers who will reinforce a positive association with the branding on your fleet vehicles.
• Goodwill among clients. Your clients appreciate patronizing a company that values its employees and has a reputation for safety. It’s simply good business.
• Reduced liability exposure. Trained drivers help mitigate risk through better driving behaviors. And, by offering training to those who operate company assets, your organization is demonstrating a culture of safety.
• Decreased fuel spending. Teaching drivers more efficient driving techniques can lower your overall fuel expenses.
• Reduced maintenance expenses. Behaviors such as hard stops can increase premature wear on vehicle components. Training reminds drivers that every decision can have a long-term impact.

Above all, the most important reason to invest in safety training is because crashes can take lives. “Getting your drivers home safely is the most compelling reason to take another look at your training regimen,” Doman emphasized. “Safety is the best example of where trying to cut upfront spending can be exorbitantly more costly in the event of a fatal incident. The harshest reality is that you can’t replace a life at any cost.”

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Selling Safety to Utility Fleet Drivers

Despite the ubiquity of technology in almost everyone’s world today, drivers may resent the introduction of a GPS or telematics system by company management if they feel the technology is going to be used to spy on them. But explaining that these systems can improve safety, enhance driving skills and even reduce paperwork can go a long way to getting driver buy-in, said several fleet managers and industry executives.

Pacific Gas and Electric already had a fleet management system in place, but the company decided to look to technology as a way of improving driver safety and performance. In particular, they wanted to test telematics systems that fed performance data back to operations. Before doing that, however, fleet representatives first met with the union drivers and explained that the systems were being designed to improve their driving, not to discipline them.

“Drivers are always concerned about Big Brother and being disciplined for their behavior,” said David Meisel, senior director of transportation and aviation services for the San Francisco-based utility. “We explained that this is for their safety, to improve their driving so they can be safer drivers.”

The utility giant tested three systems that featured an in-cab coach, either a tone or voice that alerted the drivers when they exceeded some preset parameter. The test was a success, Meisel said. Drivers cut their speeding by 90 percent and their unsafe actions by 80 percent. As a result, the company is rolling out the system to 1,000 more units.

“Folks took it for what it was: a way to improve safety. It’s hard to say becoming a safer driver is a bad idea,” Meisel said.

Union drivers at Tanner Electric Cooperative in North Bend, Wash., were wary that a system from GPS Insight would be used to spy on them, but again, safety was a big selling point, said Jim Anderson, manager of operations and engineering. The co-op has remote locations, including one crew on an island in Puget Sound, and the ability to quickly locate units in emergencies is crucial.

“Once it was explained like that, they accepted it. And they’re doing very well with it,” Anderson said.

Keep Drivers Involved
It’s important to keep drivers updated about their performance and reward good driving behavior, said Frank Cottone, group manager of support services at Pepco in Washington, D.C. In 2013, the company started a program to cut vehicle idling using data collected from their Telogis onboard system. Cottone said Pepco shares the results – positive or negative – each month so that drivers can see where they stand compared with other drivers. Cottone credits the program for reducing unnecessary idling by 19 percent.

“Although some drivers still had privacy concerns, we diminished those concerns with constant communications about the program and by keeping our employees safe,” Cottone said.

Today’s technologies can benefit drivers through better communication, reduced paperwork and a more accurate accounting of their day, noted Ryan Driscoll, marketing director for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based GPS Insight. Even something as simple as knowing which vehicle is closest to the next job helps the driver.

“It means smarter allocation of the driver’s work,” he said.

The pervasiveness of tablets, smartphones and onboard technologies is connecting the worker with the employer and the employer’s mission, and that can make drivers more accepting of change, said Tim Taylor, chief success officer for Telogis.

“Excellent companies have something dynamic in their culture, a vibrant culture that they share with the workers,” he said. “These systems can connect the worker with this culture. It spreads accountability and responsibility [and] connects the workers with the mission of the company.”

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

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Sidebar: Survey Says
The use of GPS and/or telematics systems is helping fleets cut costs, improve operations and increase productivity, according to a study by management and research firm ARI.

By far, most fleets – 92 percent – report they are using the data from these systems to monitor speeding, ARI reported in its 2014 Utility Fleet Benchmark Study. The next two most common uses for these technologies are to monitor vehicle utilization (77 percent of the responding fleets) and for dispatching (69 percent). Fleets also are using the systems to plan routes and capture odometer readings (46 percent each), capture engine hours (39 percent), monitor hard braking and diagnose engines (31 percent each) and monitor hard cornering (15 percent).

With these technologies, 77 percent of fleets said they reduced vehicle idle time and 69 percent said they saw improved driver behavior. Other gains included decreased transit times, increased driver productivity and increased vehicle utilization (31 percent each), improved preventive maintenance interval accuracy (23 percent) and reduced accident rates (15 percent).

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The Latest Developments in Crash Avoidance Systems

In July, Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, debuted its fully autonomous Future Truck 2025 with an on-highway test drive on the Autobahn near Magdeburg, Germany.

And while a production model of the self-driving truck may be more than a decade away, many of the technologies required to make autonomous driving a reality are available today. They’re known as crash avoidance systems, which serve as an extra set of eyes to help keep drivers and the public safe.

Considering that 90 percent of all accidents in the U.S. are caused by human error, according to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, crash avoidance technologies could make a major impact on reducing accidents – and the costs associated with those crashes.

This is especially important to utility fleets because drivers of large aerial platform, digger derrick, and service trucks often must navigate congested roads and parking areas in residential and urban areas. These areas may have numerous potential blind spots to parked cars, property and even children who might dart in the way of the truck. All it takes is one preventable accident that causes a major injury or fatality to ignite a potential public relations firestorm.

How can you reduce preventable accidents to protect your drivers and your company’s reputation? Following are three crash avoidance technologies available today for commercial trucks.

Collision Avoidance Systems
www.collisionavoidancesystems.net
What if your truck could see an obstruction as you drive in reverse and, as you get closer and closer, tell you the precise distance from potential impact so that you can effectively maneuver the vehicle and avoid damage?

That’s what the Collision Avoidance Systems Vehicle Reversing Aid is designed to do. Using ultrasonic echo location sonar, the system alerts the driver to potential obstacles, with an audio pulse alert that changes frequency as the vehicle backs closer to the obstacle.

The system also offers a Voice Distance Indicator module, which employs an audible voice to inform the driver how close the rear of the vehicle is from the obstruction. The voice calls out the distance in feet, starting at 12 feet. Then, as the vehicle reverses toward an obstacle, you hear the system say, “9 feet … 6 feet … 5 feet … 4 feet … 3 feet … 2 feet …18 inches …12 inches.” When the system senses the vehicle is fewer than 12 inches from an obstacle, the voice issues the urgent warning, “CRASH!”

Additionally, when a detected object suddenly moves outside the system’s sonar zone, the system issues a loud “OBJECT IN BLIND AREA!” warning message.

OnGuard Collision Mitigation System
www.meritorwabco.com
Even with the best reflexes, you can’t always sense when traffic ahead of you will come to a sudden stop – until it may be too late. But what if your truck had the ability to automatically detect the danger and apply brakes as necessary to help you avoid a crash?

Enter OnGuard, a radar-based active safety system developed by Meritor WABCO, a joint venture between Troy, Mich.-based Meritor Inc. and WABCO Holdings Inc., which is headquartered in Piscataway, N.J.

OnGuard uses radar sensors and advanced algorithms to measure your truck’s position relative to other vehicles, alerting you to possible danger of collision using audible and visual warnings – through an in-cab display – so you can take corrective action.

If the system senses that a potential collision is impending, and the driver hasn’t adjusted course, OnGuard automatically de-throttles the engine and applies both the engine and foundation brakes to decelerate the truck.

Mobileye
www.mobileye.com
Imagine that your truck had an extra “eye” that never got distracted and could see danger, even when you couldn’t, to alert you in time to do something about it.

That eye is Mobileye, which uses an intelligent camera system mounted on the vehicle’s dashboard to identify objects in your vehicle’s path that may pose threats, such as other vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians. The system continuously measures the distance and relative speeds of these objects to calculate the risk of your vehicle colliding with them.

The system can also detect lane markings and traffic signs, alerting drivers when they veer out of their lane or when they go over the speed limit. When Mobileye detects imminent danger, it issues visual and audio alerts in real time that warn the driver and give him or her sufficient time to make necessary corrections.

The Bottom Line
The promise of self-driving vehicles may be not be fully realized for another 10 to 20 years. However, fleets can at least begin to incorporate some of the component technologies available today to equip their vehicles – and drivers – to more effectively avoid crashes.

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

Crash Course on Collision Avoidance Terminology

Front Crash Prevention System: Uses various types of sensors – such as cameras, radar, or light detection and ranging – to detect when the vehicle is getting too close to one in front of it, issuing a warning and precharging the brakes to maximize their effect if the driver responds by braking.

Lane Departure Warning and Prevention System: Uses cameras to track the vehicle’s position within the lane, alerting the driver if the vehicle is in danger of inadvertently straying across lane markings.

Blind Spot Detection System: Uses sensors to monitor the side of the vehicle to detect vehicles approaching blind spots.

Park Assist and Backover Prevention System: Uses cameras and sensors to help the driver avoid objects behind the vehicle when backing up.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org)

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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.

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Four Technologies That Curb Distracted Driving

Bing! A new text message. Your phone is facedown on the passenger seat. You know you should ignore it and keep your eyes on the road, but you’re curious. Is it urgent? Is it my boss? A quick look won’t hurt, right? I’m a good driver; I can handle this!

But the research says otherwise.

Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting – enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded at 55 mph, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).

VTTI also says that visual-manual tasks such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting increase the risk of getting into a crash by three times.

That’s why, as of press time, 44 states have banned text messaging for drivers. And 12 states prohibit any use of hand-held cell phones while driving. (For the latest information about state laws on distracted driving, visit www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/state-laws.html.)

Mobile devices are powerful tools to boost productivity for workers in the field. But they also can put your drivers – and the public – in danger if used while driving, increasing your company’s exposure to lawsuits and the likelihood of costly negative publicity.

It’s not enough to craft a strong policy to curb distracted driving; you also have to be able to effectively enforce that policy. But how can you ensure drivers won’t put themselves and your organization at risk when you can’t be in the cab to monitor their behavior? Following are four technologies designed to help solve that problem.

Origo
www.driveorigo.com 
The Origo system requires drivers to place their phone in a docking station to start the vehicle. The driver can then engage hands-free technology, with allowable phone capabilities configured by the administrator.

If the phone is removed from the docking station at any time during a trip, the system will sound an alarm until the phone is replaced. The next time the driver tries to start the vehicle, he or she will be forced to contact the administrator in order for the phone to be reauthorized.

If the phone is lost or stolen, a one-time use code can be obtained from the administrator to start the vehicle. If the vehicle is taken to be serviced, the administrator would provide the guest driver with a PIN, and the technician would be able to normally operate the vehicle.

Cellcontrol
www.cellcontrol.com
Cellcontrol has developed an enterprise mobile enforcement technology for fleets that directly integrates with the vehicle and installs on mobile phones, laptops and tablets. Once the system is installed, no driver interaction is required.

The company’s new DriveID module, which is placed on the vehicle’s windshield, can automatically detect who sits in the driver’s seat and only applies the safety policy to that individual’s mobile devices, leaving passengers free to talk, text and browse the Web on their devices.

As the account administrator, you set the policy. So, if you want to allow drivers to make calls and use navigation, but not browse or text, you can configure the system accordingly.

FleetSafer
www.aegismobility.com
FleetSafer works with most smartphones and tablets. When employees start to drive, the system senses vehicle movement – through GPS, an onboard diagnostics (OBD) port device or telematics – and locks the phone’s screen, preventing access to text, email and browser applications. Inbound text and email alerts are suppressed and a custom reply is automatically sent informing others when the employee is busy driving.

With FleetSafer, the administrator sets the policies, defining how many or how few of the phone’s features are available while driving. Options include hands-free phone operation, white-listing – which allows inbound calls from authorized phone numbers, while blocking others – and select application permissions, such as enabling navigation.

Kyrus Mobile
www.kyrusmobile.com
The Kyrus Mobile solution is installed on each cell phone or mobile device and then paired with a Bluetooth module that is plugged into the vehicle’s OBD-II port (for cars and light trucks) or J1939 port (for heavy trucks and buses). When the vehicle starts to move, the system enables a safe mode that prevents the driver from using the cell phone until the vehicle stops.

Users cannot type or read text messages or emails, nor can they surf the Web or use other distracting applications. Administrators have the option of banning all voice calls or permitting voice calls, if done through a Bluetooth earpiece and using voice-based dialing. If drivers attempt to tamper with the system, management is notified through email alerts.

Eliminate Temptation 
Oftentimes, the urge to pick up a mobile device while driving is too strong to resist. So, why not eliminate the temptation altogether? That’s what these four technologies are designed to do, empowering you to effectively manage and enforce your company’s distracted driving policy across your entire fleet.

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

Distracted Driving Facts
• Ten percent of fatal crashes, 19 percent of injury crashes and 16 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in 2012 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
• In 2012, there were 3,328 people killed and an estimated additional 421,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
• Drivers under 25 are two to three times more likely than older drivers to send text messages or emails while driving.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Halo-V2-Web

Latest Developments in Self-Inflating Tires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does AMT work?

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

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

What fleet applications will benefit from AMT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duke4-Web

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 www.duke-energy.com.

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

Shop Safety and Efficiency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lyden-SageQuest-1-Web

Driver Behaviors that Waste Fuel – and How to Correct Them

As utility fleets look for ways to blunt the impact of rising fuel costs on their bottom line, one opportunity for substantial cost savings can be found in training and motivating their drivers to operate their vehicles with more fuel efficiency.

According to a 2011 study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/86074/102758.pdf?sequence=1), the cumulative impact of neglecting good eco-driving practices can take a highly fuel-efficient vehicle with baseline performance of 36 mpg down to 19.8 mpg, a 45 percent drop in efficiency. Considering that commercial trucks are used in much harsher duty cycles and conditions than passenger vehicles, there’s potential for even greater negative impact on fuel economy if drivers aren’t managed effectively.

Biggest Fuel Wasters
Three driver behaviors tend to be the biggest fuel wasters.

1. Unnecessary Idle
Engine idle wastes 0.25 to 0.5 gallons per hour depending on engine size and air conditioning operation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.shtml). “Whether it’s the guy that eats lunch in his vehicle or, in some cases, we see people who leave the vehicle running almost the entire the day [to keep it cool during hot summers], that’s a significant waste of fuel, as well as additional wear and tear on the vehicle,” said Karl Weber, vice president of enterprise sales for SageQuest (www.sage-quest.com), which is owned by Fleetmatics Group (NYSE: FLTX) and a provider of GPS fleet tracking and management technology designed to improve mobile workforce efficiency.

As a frame of reference, if only one driver excessively idles the vehicle for two hours per day, that adds up to a nearly $1,000 annual hit to the bottom line assuming $3.75 per gallon. Spread that over 10, 20, 50 or more drivers and the loss compounds.

Not all idle can be avoided, however – especially in utility applications. “In some types of vehicles, you have equipment on them that requires the engine to run,” Weber said. “If you take a vehicle in the utility industry that’s equipped with a bucket, often the engine has to be running for the bucket to be engaged and go up [via a PTO provision]. In that instance, organizations are going to be interested in tracking their drivers’ PTO idle versus non-PTO idle.”

2. Speeding
“For every 5 mph you travel over 65 mph, you reduce your efficiency by 7 percent,” said Nick Ehrhart, telematics vice president of business development for Donlen (www.donlen.com), a full-service fleet management company headquartered in Northbrook, Ill., and a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Hertz Corp. (NYSE: HTZ). “So, slowing down when it’s safe to do so will greatly increase your vehicle’s fuel economy.”

This is because as speed increases, so does the aerodynamic drag (wind resistance), which forces the engine to work harder and consume more fuel to operate at the higher speed.

3. Aggressive Driving
Rapid acceleration and harsh braking reduce fuel economy by as much as 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent in town, according to the EPA. Therefore, if you have multiple drivers who make it a habit to “punch” the accelerator “off the line,” weave through traffic or slam on the brakes, their behavior is eating a chunk out of your organization’s bottom line.

Correcting These Behaviors
What can fleets do to help drivers break these habits so they become more fuel-conscious? Here are three tips.

1. Hold drivers accountable. “By far the most critical strategy to changing driver behavior is to create a driver policy [that clearly states expectations and consequences for noncompliance] and enforce it,” Ehrhart said. “You want all drivers to have a chance to be recognized or given a token of thanks [for improving behavior], but for those that don’t try and continue to behave poorly, there needs to be some type of repercussion.”

2. Educate drivers on the big-picture consequences of fuel-wasting behaviors. “I think most people realize that aggressive driving is not good, whether it’s from a safety perspective, or wear and tear of the vehicle, or fuel economy,” said Art Liggio, president of Driving Dynamics (www.drivingdynamics.com), a Newark, Del.-based driver training firm for corporate fleets. “We focus on challenging the drivers to think about the responsibilities they have when they’re on the road, getting a little bit deeper into the person’s psyche. Instead of just saying, ‘It’s because you’re going to reduce your gas mileage by 5 miles per gallon,’ the focus is more about how this activity, action or behavior has even deeper consequences, drilling down all the way to how much these [driver behaviors] affect the financial viability of the employer.”

3. Incentivize positive driver behaviors. Weber referred to one client that implemented a driver incentive program, based on vehicle data captured by SageQuest’s GPS/telematics system, that helped reduce daily idle per vehicle from two hours to 45 minutes, saving the company nearly $1,000 in fuel costs per day. “They said, ‘All right, we’re going to rank our drivers every week based on the average idle time per day. And if you hit a certain threshold, you go into a bucket. Once a week, we’re going to pull a name out of that bucket with drivers that qualify based on appropriate behavior. We’re going to give away prizes, such as Xboxes or 40-inch LCD TVs.’ They’ve significantly reduced their idle and maintained it with this [incentive] program.”

Learning Moments
When it comes to correcting driver behaviors, Liggio summed it up this way: “If you want to change behavior, it’s not about throwing facts and figures at your drivers. You have to give them a 360-degree view into how their behavior actually affects others, and their employer in particular. And that opens their mind. Then they have this learning moment where they say, ‘Hmm. Maybe being an aggressive driver gets me to appointments faster or on time, but maybe being three or four minutes late is not as painful as the other things my behavior can cause.’”

Said Weber, “Fleets are realizing that they’re not just going to be able to eliminate the behavior, they need to manage it. They need to help drivers understand the benefit to them – ‘If we can cut this [idle] down, we’ll have more money to do other programs.’”

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

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