Kate Wade

Palfinger PAL Pro 20


Omaha Standard Palfinger released their newest mechanics body, the PAL Pro 20, at the NTEA Work Truck Show in March.

Accommodating service cranes up to 20,000 foot-pounds of lifting capacity, the reinforced PAL Pro 20 mechanics body is designed to maximize field performance in both on- and off-road applications. All compartment tops and raised compartments are reinforced with internal gussets, which prevents cracking and allows for mounting of welders, compressors and toolboxes.

Every PAL Pro 20 body comes standard with two-piece steel doors featuring internal C-channel stiffeners, automotive adhesive bonding and 316 marine-grade stainless steel hinges. The PAL Pro 20 also features a full-length channel drip rail to divert water away from the compartment openings, and three-point compression latches for improved security and sealing. To maximize storage and payload, aluminum shelving and rollout drawers are available with four longitudinal dividers and padded floors.

The PAL Pro 20 is offered in 9-foot and 11-foot standard configurations, with over 30 bumper and outrigger combinations. For a complete package, PAL Pro 20 is available with Palfinger’s PSC 3216, PSC 4016 and PSC 4025 service crane models and Palfinger’s PRC 45V rotary screw compressor. www.palfinger.com

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Kate Wade

Bigfoot Slide Pad


The Slide Pad – a new item from Bigfoot Construction Equipment – is built for rear-lot carts, backyard machines and small manlifts. The back stop bar is removable; you then place the outrigger pad on the machine’s boot/float/shoe and reinstall the back stop bar. This allows the outrigger pad to stay on the equipment for multiple setups at one job location. This is not intended for road transportation. www.outriggerpads.com

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

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.

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Truck and Van Upfits for Utility Fleets


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

Could you take weight out of a truck to reduce fuel costs or increase legal payload?

Could you upgrade equipment so that crews could get more work done in less time with improved safety?

Or, could you electrify certain vehicles to cut both fuel consumption and your fleet’s carbon footprint?

Here are six new developments from truck and van equipment manufacturers that could help you uncover and capitalize on opportunities to improve your fleet specs and performance.

XL Hybrids
What’s New: XLP plug-in hybrid-electric upfit for F-150 SuperCrew; CARB approval
URL: www.xlhybrids.com

XL Hybrids Inc. recently announced that its XLP plug-in hybrid-electric system is now available for the Ford F-150 SuperCrew. The company also announced its newest approval from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which gives California-based organizations assurance that XL-equipped fleets will meet the Golden State's rigorous testing and restrictions for carbon emissions.

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Sean M. Lyden

Utility Fleets to the Rescue in Puerto Rico


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

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

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

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

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Fiona Soltes

What Do AI and Machine Learning Mean for Utility Fleets?


There are some people who still believe artificial intelligence (AI) is no more than sci-fi wizardry. And there are others who tend to view it with blind optimism, as a kind of be-all, end-all for industries of all types. But somewhere in between, AI has taken its true place as just one piece of a much broader technology transformation.

Both AI and machine learning – a field of computer science that enables computers to think intelligently and even “learn” from historical data without specifically being programmed – eventually will make their way to utility fleets, perhaps through relationships with other industries. David Groarke, managing director of Indigo Advisory Group (www.indigoadvisorygroup.com), a new-energy/utilities consulting firm, ticked off some possibilities. These might involve, for example, electric fleet vehicles automatically being charged during off-peak times. Or, they might include the use of telematics to better predict and adjust driver behaviors. Examples abound in other industries, too, such as supply chain and logistics.

As a result, Groarke and others have said, now is the time for utility fleet professionals to take notes, ask questions, be willing to share data for more accurate and strategic insights – and keep pushing the envelope by exploring what-if applications.

“More information is always better,” said Paul Millington, vice president of technology products for Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com). “As experts who are dedicated to fleet, we make it our job to anticipate what insights our customers would be looking for. I’d say keep asking the questions of your fleet management company and others on whether your objectives could be achieved with machine learning.”

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Jim Galligan

The State of Lightweight Materials for Utility Fleet Vehicles


High fuel prices 10 years ago were a big reason for the surge in sales of lightweight materials and components for utility vehicles. Although fuel prices have dropped significantly since then, lightweight alternatives to steel are still popular and have found a solid niche within the market.

“While lightweight components are often associated with fuel reductions and are a significant contributor to advances in reducing fuel burned, they have other equally important uses,” said George Survant, senior director of fleet relations for NTEA – The Association for the Work Truck Industry (www.ntea.com). “They can be used to increase discretionary payload on an existing chassis, help keep a truck under bridge law restrictions, extend effective body life and help keep medium-duty trucks under the federal excise tax (FET) weight ranges.”

For decades, aluminum has been the popular, albeit more expensive, lightweight option to steel, both inside and outside vehicles. Its weight advantage can total up to 50 percent savings compared with steel, according to F3 MFG Inc. (http://f3mfg.com), a Waterville, Maine-based upfitter specializing in aluminum bodies.

Aluminum bodies stand up well in certain applications, and aluminum’s corrosion-resistance property can make it a viable, maintenance-free replacement for steel.

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Sandy Smith

Should Your Utility Fleet Consider Using Biodiesel?


Sustainability is a goal for many utility fleets, but there may not be enough money in the budget – or full stakeholder support – to do all it takes to meet that goal, including overhauling infrastructure, adding new vehicles to the fleet and training staff.

That’s where biodiesel can come into play.

“Biodiesel can be burned in any vehicle, and you don’t have to make infrastructure changes,” said Patti Earley, fleet fueling operations specialist for Florida Power & Light Co. “The fuel tanks don’t need modifications. The fuel equipment isn’t different. It’s very easy. And with biodiesel, you can burn B20 one day and use ultralow sulfur diesel the next without any problems.”

Biodiesel – a fuel made from feedstocks including recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats – typically is named based on the percentage of biodiesel found in a particular blend. B20, for instance, is 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel; it also is the most common blend. Florida Power & Light has used biodiesel since 1999, up to B35. The utility runs all of its diesel equipment on biodiesel and has logged more than 150 million miles.

Proving just how seamless the conversion is, Earley noted that crews from other utilities who have helped out in storm recovery efforts have used biodiesel from Florida Power & Light and “weren’t aware” they were doing so.

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Sean M. Lyden

Is Cash Still King?


The potential for lower acquisition costs, greater control over resale pricing, no debt added to the balance sheet – these are a few advantages of purchasing vehicles outright, which traditionally has been the prominent fleet acquisition strategy for many utility companies.

But according to Paul Lauria, president of Mercury Associates (www.mercury-assoc.com), a fleet management consulting firm based in Rockville, Maryland, there’s also a big downside to cash: It can lead to “suboptimal decision-making” that undermines your fleet’s performance, especially in an era of low interest rates. Lauria contends that paying for equipment over time – whether with a loan or lease – or as needed with short-term rentals creates a more flexible structure where fleet departments can improve the age, condition and performance of their vehicles at a significantly lower total cost of ownership.

“Any organization that wants to optimize the total cost of ownership of its fleet has to figure out the right balance of capital and operating expenditures,” Lauria said. “A lot of organizations don’t do this; they underspend on fleet replacement costs, with the result that they overspend on fleet operating costs.”  

So, why has the utility industry traditionally resisted financing equipment purchases? In what ways does cash purchase impact fleet decision-making? And how can fleets strike a more optimal balance between capital and operating expenditures? During UFP’s recent conversation with Lauria, who has advised hundreds of government and utility fleets since 1985, we dug deeper into these questions. Here are edited highlights.

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Grace Suizo

Strategies for Addressing the Looming Technician Shortage


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

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

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

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

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Sean M. Lyden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kate Wade

Bigfoot BIG GRIP Outrigger Pads


The BIG GRIP outrigger pad from Bigfoot Construction Equipment has multiple uses. If used facedown, the teeth installed bite into the surface area of contact, reducing slipping and providing a great option for work in ice, mud, snow and similar environmental conditions. If used face-up, the teeth bite into cribbing/dunnage used to make the equipment level and reach the height needed (never higher than the base outrigger pad). When used face to face, these pads bite into each other; this application is designed for vertical pressure only. www.outriggerpads.com

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Kate Wade

Barko Back-of-Cab Loaders


Barko’s 80XL and 80XLE back-of-cab knuckleboom loaders offer low installation weight with high payload capacity for a variety of material-handling needs. Built with reliability in mind, the loaders are ideal for a wide array of industrial applications, including logging, tree service and maintenance, storm cleanup, scrap pickup and construction.

Powered by the carrying vehicle’s power takeoff, the loaders feature a robust hydraulic system that provides exceptional functionality. A triple gear pump produces up to 62 gallons per minute, with one section dedicated to the planetary swing drive that allows simultaneous operation of the boom and swing system without losing flow. A rotary manifold allows for 360-degree continuous rotation and provides electrical and hydraulic power to the lower frame. Sectional control-type valves come with folding mechanical joysticks.

The 80XL offers a standard 22-foot straight boom and delivers a maximum lift capacity of 9,880 pounds; a 26-foot straight boom is optional. The 80XLE is equipped with a telescoping boom that extends from 22 to 25 feet and provides lift capacity up to 10,450 pounds. www.barko.com

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Kate Wade

E3 Natural Gas Spark Plugs


E3 Spark Plugs now offers a natural gas spark plug that provides greater durability and ignition capacity for CNG- and LNG-powered vehicles. The E3 Natural Gas Spark Plug is a modification of plugs developed for race applications where heat and extreme use can affect durability and ignition capacity.

Low-emission natural gas vehicles require a much higher ignition point. The ignition point for CNG and LNG is almost double that of traditional gas-powered vehicles. To achieve low NOx and carbon emissions, the plug must be able to achieve robust ignition while also withstanding extreme heat. E3’s experience and years of research and development for race applications led to the development of the E3 natural gas spark plug that delivers higher spark voltage, and protects and insulates with a superior ceramic insulator and iridium metal for long-lasting durability.

E3 natural gas spark plugs are recommended for use in all CNG- and LNG-powered vehicles where repeated use and idling is standard. The spark plugs are supported by E3 with a line of natural gas ignition products, including plug-on coils, coil packs and oxygen sensors. www.e3sparkplugs.com

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Kate Wade

Prestone Triple Seal Protection Products


The Triple Seal Protection product line by Prestone Products Corp. is a breakthrough stop-leak treatment that allows users to avoid paying thousands for engine repairs. With just one bottle of Triple Seal Protection, leaks are sealed from the inside of the affected area without blocking or corroding the cooling system.

The Triple Seal Protection line includes three products: Prestone Triple Seal Protection Engine Block Stop Leak, Prestone Triple Seal Protection Head Gasket Stop Leak and Prestone Triple Seal Protection Radiator Stop Leak.

Each product is designed for the unique heat and pressure of the specific leak location (engine block, head gasket or radiator). The product is delivered through three proprietary technologies that work together to repair the source of the leak. Effervescent beads flow straight to the source of the leak while a DuPont Kevlar resin forms a web that binds to the surrounding metal. Finally, the seal is secured by an acrylic polymer in the Radiator Stop Leak and an acrylic polymer and sodium silicate (liquid glass) in the Engine Block Stop Leak and Head Gasket Stop Leak that harden the seals.

Both the Engine Block Stop Leak and Radiator Stop Leak products do not require a cooling system flush, while the Head Gasket Stop Leak requires a flush and fill one to two weeks after adding to the system. All three Triple Seal Protection products are safe to use with all colors of antifreeze. They also are competitively priced and offer a high-quality solution to protect today's sophisticated engines. www.prestone.com

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Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3


Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is John Adkisson, transportation manager at PPL Electric Utilities (www.pplelectric.com), based in Allentown, Pa. The company serves 1.4 million residential, commercial and industrial customers in central and eastern Pennsylvania and has about 1,800 total assets in its fleet.

#1. Build relationships.
“One of the most important keys to success for any fleet manager is having good relationships with internal stakeholders [fleet/transportation personnel, field management, finance, executive leadership] and external stakeholders [vendors, regulatory agencies]. Your success as a fleet manager will be tied directly to your effectiveness at building these key relationships.”

#2. Don’t be afraid of change.
“Ever-changing conditions both within and outside of your control will require you to adapt the way you manage your fleet. Instead of wasting energy fighting to keep things the same – and possibly destroying the relationships you’ve built – focus that energy to manage the change and build on the new.”

#3. Communicate.
“And I don’t mean email, either. In today’s technology-driven environment, it is easy to lean heavily on email and other electronic communications to get things done. However, the effective fleet manager will take the extra effort to make the phone call or do the face-to-face visit with key stakeholders. The time you invest in this one area will pay huge dividends when you need buy-in from your stakeholders for a required spec change or when you need help answering a question on a topic outside of your comfort zone.”

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Sean M. Lyden

4 Leadership Lessons from Utility Fleet Conference 2017 at ICUEE


Highly effective fleet professionals are also great leaders. That’s because the job of fleet manager is about more than managing assets; you also have to work through people to get things done.

And that was one of the key themes discussed at Utility Fleet Conference 2017, an intensive three-day fleet education and networking event held October 2-4, produced by Utility Fleet Professional magazine and co-located with the International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition in Louisville, Ky.

If you missed the conference, here are four leadership lessons that were shared over the course of the event that can help you become a more influential and effective fleet leader.

1. Avoid generational stereotypes.
In today’s utility fleet work environment, there could be as many as five generations represented – with ages ranging from 18 to 80 – each bringing a substantially different perspective toward their work and life. And this dynamic is likely causing a degree of generational tension and conflict on your team. So, how can you more effectively manage employees across multiple generations to create a positive, highly productive work environment?

The starting point is to resist the urge to see employees through the lens of generational stereotypes, said Jim Finkelstein, author of the book "Fuse: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace," in his keynote address that kicked off the conference.

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Luann Dunkerley

Meeting the Rising Safety Challenge


U.S. roads are becoming increasingly dangerous, despite a great number of vehicles having some of the most advanced safety technology available. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.gov), more than 37,000 fatal traffic accidents occurred in 2016, rising 14 percent since 2014. And while accident rates were in decline throughout the past 10 years, they are now nearly identical to 2007’s numbers; that year also saw more than 37,000 fatal accidents.

So, what are some of the underlying causes of the rise in fatal accidents? And what can utility fleets do to promote driver safety and effect positive change in our industry?  

The simple truth is it’s not easy to pinpoint what is causing all of these accidents; however, it’s no secret that road rage and distracted driving are two of the greatest challenges today’s drivers must contend with.

Road Rage and Distracted Driving
In a study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (www.aaafoundation.org) in July 2016, nearly 80 percent of drivers admitted to engaging in aggressive driving techniques, such as tailgating, blocking a vehicle or cutting off another driver. In a separate survey completed by EverQuote (www.everquote.com), 96 percent of drivers rated themselves as safe motorists, but 61 percent of those surveyed then admitted to using their phone behind the wheel in the last month.

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Grace Suizo

3 Ways Telematics Can Help Improve Fleet Safety


One benefit of implementing a telematics solution is that it can help create a safer environment for utility fleet employees. How? UFP recently reached out to several industry experts, who provided three of the most valuable ways telematics data is currently being used to strengthen fleet safety.  

1. Telematics solutions can be used to monitor driving behavior and coach drivers.
Each day, fleet managers are tasked with ensuring the safety of their drivers as well as the public. Analyzing telematics data can help reveal driving trends and behaviors – such as speeding, hard braking, rapid acceleration, hard turns and unauthorized usage – that may be contrary to a company’s safety policies. 

“The data available through telematics is much more than maintenance and fuel transactions; it can track or predict behaviors that impact fleet costs,” said Spero A. Skarlatos, CTP, senior consultant, truck solutions for Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com).

And once an undesirable trend or behavior is discovered, some telematics providers, such as GPS Insight (www.gpsinsight.com), provide real-time and post-incident coaching for drivers on ways they can improve. Feedback can come in the form of text messages to the driver that tell them to slow down, or a buzzer that goes off to coach drivers in the cab in real time. In addition, according to Ryan Driscoll, GPS Insight’s marketing director, the company also supplies “actionable data for managers to coach their drivers after the fact to help educate drivers on how to improve behavior behind the wheel.”

Telematics-based driver coaching also leverages gamification, informing drivers of how they compare to their peers in terms of safe driving behavior and related areas, such as deployment of onboard scales integrated into telematics systems to make sure vehicles are not loaded beyond their weight rating, according to Geoff Scalf, director of global oil and gas business development for Telogis (www.telogis.com).

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Kate Wade

Sherman + Reilly Four Drum Turret Pilot Line Winder


Sherman + Reilly, a Textron Inc. company and a leading manufacturer of power-line stringing and installation equipment, recently introduced the PLW-200X four drum turret pilot line winder. The all new PLW-200X offers customers an ergonomic operator’s station, 360-degree turret rotation, braking system with electric over hydraulic activation and a galvanized finish option. The design team at Sherman + Reilly turned customer feedback into action with the added safety and efficiency in the new PLW-200X. 

The Sherman + Reilly PLW-200X features an optimized operator’s station with a new ergonomic layout. Equipped with real-time self-diagnostics and CANbus technology, the operator can access all major controls from the seated operator station. The four-drum turret is capable of rotating 360 degrees for optimal structure approach to drive efficiency on the job site. The braking system, with electric over hydraulic activation, allows for controlled articulation of braking pressure distributed to each of the pilot line drums. The PLW-200X also offers a new galvanized finish for a more durable and weather-resistant finish, the first of its kind for Sherman + Reilly equipment. The equipment also features newly positioned tie-off points to allow for quicker line/phase changeover and securing of drum-specific pilot lines.

All Sherman + Reilly equipment is backed by a one-year warranty and a dedicated Sherman + Reilly service team. www.sherman-reilly.com

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