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UFP Magazine

David Cullen

Damage Control

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Tracking collision damage limits vehicle downtime and repair costs.

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

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

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

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David Cullen

On the Road to Self-Driving Trucks

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

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

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

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David Cullen

EV Decision-Making: Telematics to the Rescue

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

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

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

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David Cullen

Smoothing the Technician Transition to EVs

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Once a utility opts to add electric vehicles to its fleet, the fleet manager must determine not only which vehicles are best suited to the operation, but also how best to smooth the transition in terms of shop equipment and – most importantly – EV training for technicians.

Even before EVs rolled onto the scene, techs were getting harder to find and keep. Adding EVs means installing new shop equipment and charging infrastructure as well as upgrading technicians’ expertise to service the vehicles. To keep techs on board with these changes, the fleet manager must successfully communicate why EVs are being added and how receiving related service training can only boost their careers.

So, what can fleet managers start doing now to ease the transition to new shop equipment and added tech training? Chris Hough, Penske Truck Leasing’s vice president of maintenance design and engineering, recently offered his perspective. A nationwide truck lessor, Penske (www.pensketruckleasing.com) is a recognized hands-on leader of fleet electrification in the trucking industry.

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David Cullen

Power Ahead: The Coming of Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Trucks

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Even as electric utilities and other fleet operators are embracing battery-electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks to move to zero-emission power, another wave of alternative power is rolling in: the hydrogen fuel cell. Just as a battery-electric vehicle (BEV) delivers zero-emission power, so does a fuel-cell vehicle (FCV).

Thanks to several key advantages of FCV design, expect to see heavy-duty trucks powered by fuel cells arrive on the market in the U.S. within the next five years – and maybe as soon as 2022.

The power drawn from a BEV’s onboard batteries is recharged by plugging in the vehicle as well as by regenerative braking. In contrast, a fuel cell generates electricity via an internal electrochemical reaction. When hydrogen and oxygen are combined, electricity, heat and water are generated. Because of that advantage, fuel-cell power is being developed for a wide range of vehicles, from forklifts to trucks.

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David Cullen

How to Retain Technicians in a Tight Labor Market

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Exactly when we can state with certainty that America has emerged from the coronavirus pandemic is yet unknown. But much of the country is opening again, albeit cautiously.

Businesses are taking stock of what they must do to get back up to speed. In some cases, that means looking to hire new workers to replace those who were laid off at the peak of the pandemic or who left jobs voluntarily for their health or to care for family members stricken with the virus.

As utility fleet managers know, well before the pandemic roared into the U.S., there was a technician shortage already impacting every type of truck operation, from bucket trucks to highway rigs. A good tech is hard to find, and once they’re on board, keeping them there is a constant responsibility for managers.

So, what can you do now to keep more techs happily employed – working for you, that is? The answer is that, if fleet managers pay attention to the individual concerns and attitudes of all techs in their shops and respond to any issues that arise, it’s highly likely the fleet department will not have retention issues.

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David Cullen

PG&E: Data-Driven Shop Operations

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In his role as senior director of shared services: transportation for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), Michael Glover is responsible for everything from field operations and strategic planning to purchasing, telematics and information technology systems for the largest and most diverse utility fleet in the U.S.

The San Francisco-based utility provides natural gas and electricity to 5.2 million customers in an over 70,000-square-mile territory covering the northern two-thirds of California. Its operations are supported by more than 15,500 fleet assets, which are kept rolling by over 350 operational and maintenance employees working out of 63 locations. The asset count includes 10,000 Class 1 through Class 8 over-the-road trucks as well as construction and off-road equipment.

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David Cullen

How Leasing May Smooth the Electric Transition

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It may be too early in the game for fleet operators to factor in the impact of battery-electric trucks on maintenance costs and resale values.

Some experts hold that the cost of maintenance may be lower thanks to fewer moving parts on electric vehicles, yet it may be higher for other aspects, such as future battery replacements. But they also contend that the savings generated from not consuming diesel fuel may make maintenance costs a wash initially, and then they will improve in favor of battery-electric vehicles as rising demand brings down acquisition costs. Another factor to consider is fear over accurately predicting future resale values for battery-electric trucks.

Will all that in mind, a utility fleet may want to consider leasing versus buying their first batches of medium- to heavy-duty electric vehicles, such as bucket trucks and Class 8 on-highway haulers.

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David Cullen

SoCal Edison: Taking a Hands-On Approach to Running Battery-Electric Trucks

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Even for an electric utility, converting to battery-electric trucks is no flip of a switch. At Southern California Edison, changing over from diesel to electric is a step-by-step process to determine how best to reduce harmful exhaust emissions from its commercial vehicles.

Rosemead, California-based SCE is steadily working toward the goals set by its parent, Edison International, to electrify 100% of its light-duty passenger vehicles, 60% of its forklifts, 30% of its medium-duty vehicles and pickup trucks, and 8% of its heavy-duty trucks by 2030.

Edison International estimates that by “pursuing its fleet electrification goals, it will save more than 620,000 gallons of fuel annually and eliminate close to 6,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year.”

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