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UFP Magazine

Gary L. Wollenhaupt

The State of Electric Vehicle Order-to-Delivery Times

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Despite manufacturers' reassurances, vehicle delivery delays are expected.

In February, Ford began deliveries of its E-Transit EV van to fleet customers, one of the earliest of the highly anticipated commercial-grade battery-powered vehicles to have its orders fulfilled. It's a bright spot in the electric vehicle market as fleet managers keep an eye on shifting EV delivery dates.

Some delays are out of the manufacturers' control as the supply chain, including semiconductor manufacturers, struggles with its own set of challenges.

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

Top Trends to Watch in Fleet Technologies

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As electric light-duty trucks and vans begin to be delivered to customers, fleet managers are keeping a close eye on emerging technologies that could reshape operations over the next year or two.

Battery-electric vehicles are some of the hottest tech to hit the market, especially for utilities that have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. But they’re in short supply, as are gas and diesel vehicles, due to the semiconductor shortages that have hampered vehicle production worldwide.

Another top trend is analyzing the billions of data points from connected vehicles to help guide not only fleet acquisition and rationalization but driver performance as well.

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

14-Point Checklist for Spec’ing Impact Attenuators

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Work zone intrusions are a fact of life, and utility fleets are turning to attenuators to protect employees.

One utility recently bought a truck-mounted attenuator vehicle from Royal Truck & Equipment after two of the utility’s employees were injured in an accident.

“Unfortunately, sometimes it takes an incident for people to realize they need protection for their work zones,” said Theresa Delgado, marketing manager for Royal Truck & Equipment (https://royaltruckandequipment.com), an attenuator dealer based in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania.

In a recent survey, 60% of highway contractors reported motor vehicle crashes in a work zone in 2020. As distracted driving incidents rise, even though overall traffic has been lower due to the pandemic, utilities are investing in attenuators to safeguard their employees.

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

Best Practices for Training Utility Fleet Drivers to Cut Engine Idling

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Most fleet professionals understand the benefits of idle reduction. It's the lowest of the low-hanging fruit.

Unfortunately, too many fleet managers and drivers still believe certain old-school conventional wisdom, like starting a truck uses more fuel than letting it idle.

Up-to-date research pokes holes in those old beliefs, but it can be hard to change minds. Various programs are available to help fleets build new policies and procedures to make the training stick. Yet it's difficult to break old habits and create new ones.

For fleet managers, there doesn't seem to be a downside to reducing idling. There's a direct correlation between reducing carbon dioxide pollution and fuel use. Each gallon of fuel burned produces about 20 pounds of CO2. Reducing emissions also lowers fuel costs.

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

Use New Tech to Manage Fleet Fuel Costs More Effectively

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Despite all the technology available in today's utility trucks, the most critical connection is still between the driver's brain and foot.

But OEMs and the aftermarket are also offering tools to monitor driver and vehicle performance, and upgraded equipment can reduce the need for idling. Making smart fleet acquisition decisions can pay off as well.

American Idle
As fuel prices rise, cutting back on idling is low-hanging fruit that fleets can grab to make quick improvement. In the typical fleet, idling behavior accounts for 40% of engine hours, according to Ron Zima, founder and CEO of GoGreen Communications Inc. and a consultant known as the Idle Free Guy.

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

Fleets Embrace ADAS Technology to Make Drivers Safer

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While self-driving utility trucks are still a few years away, advanced driver assistance systems are here now. Most commercial vehicle manufacturers offer ADAS as standard or optional equipment on at least some vehicles, and fleet operators are figuring out how to train and manage drivers using these systems.

Commercial trucks offer many of the same safety systems found on passenger vehicles: lane departure warning and assist, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control and others. With all the news about self-driving cars and trucks, there can be legitimate confusion about how these systems work.

That's why driver training is crucial – so drivers understand what the systems will do and what they don't do.

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

Fleet Management Gets Smarter with Remote Diagnostics

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If the last time your utility bought medium-duty trucks was eight to 10 years ago, the advancements in remote diagnostics available on new vehicles could be a game-changer for fleet maintenance.

Today, every OEM offers some level of remote diagnostic capability in their commercial trucks. Those diagnostics use onboard electronic sensors and connections to monitor and communicate components' performance and status to fleet managers in real time. There are aftermarket solutions that provide a deeper level of management capabilities as well.

The original telematics technology captured the diagnostic trouble codes or fault codes generated by a vehicle's onboard diagnostics required for emissions control beginning in 2005. As the technology and regulations developed, manufacturers deepened the level of information available from transmissions and other components.

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

Wireless Charging Unleashes Electric Vehicle Fleets

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If your utility operates electric vehicles – or is planning to do so – the emergence of wireless charging technology could impact vehicle selection and charging infrastructure decisions.

Currently, wireless charging is available for smartphones and other small electronics. But wireless EV charging could be a key to widespread transportation electrification.

In the utility industry, EV adoption is just beginning to take off. This September, Duke Energy announced an EV initiative that will convert 100% of its light-duty vehicles to electric and 50% of its combined fleet of medium-duty, heavy-duty and off-road vehicles to EVs, plug-in hybrids or other zero-carbon alternatives by 2030. The utility company already has about 600 EVs in its 10,000-vehicle fleet.

Duke will deploy new Level 2 plug-in charging stations at operations centers, field offices and power generation facilities – essentially, "wherever we are deploying the bulk of the EV fleet at any given time," according to Jennifer Sharpe, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy. "As we see growth in the fleet, we'll deploy additional fast-charging facilities for longer-distance travel of any fully electric vehicles."

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

Top Trends in Commercial Truck Tire Technologies

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A number of tire manufacturers are developing high-tech solutions for the truck and bus radial market segment, which includes tires for the Class 4, 5 and 6 trucks that are the backbone of many utility fleets. Tires and related items typically are among the top three costs of running a fleet, so even incremental improvements can slash expenses.

Smart Tires
Tire makers are developing intelligent tires that communicate information about performance in real time, including wear, temperature, pressure and speed. Each tire has a sensor that sends information to the cloud, where fleet managers can access it for individual vehicles or the overall fleet.

Fleet managers also can benefit from interactivity with other smart environments – like fleet telematics – to improve sustainability and efficiency. So far, Goodyear (www.goodyear.com) has collected more than 3 million miles of data in its intelligent tire testing.

"As vehicles become smarter and more autonomous, intelligent tires – as the only part of the vehicle that actually touches the ground – will become even more critical," said Johnny McIntosh, director of integrated solutions and tire management for Goodyear.

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

Gas vs. Diesel: Which is Better for Your Medium-Duty Truck Applications?

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Diesel has been the traditional engine for medium-duty utility trucks. But with Ford, GM, Isuzu and other OEMs recently launching new gas-powered models, utility fleet professionals have more options than ever to consider. Recent volatility in fuel prices has changed the equation as well.

So, which is better – gas or diesel? The answer is, of course, "It depends."

Diesel engines use about a third less fuel than comparable gasoline engines and are particularly well-suited for high-idle situations where gasoline engines don't perform as well.

But gas-engine trucks cost less to purchase, and maintenance is usually less expensive. On the other hand, diesels tend to have a longer useful life and retain more value at high mileages when they are released from the fleet, according to George Survant, an experienced fleet consultant.

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

Does Your Fleet Need a Data Analyst?

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When Nebraska Public Power District added telematics capabilities to 200 of its work trucks, a few surprises lurked in the early reports.

The data showed the work trucks spent much more time idling than anecdotal evidence from drivers and fleet managers had suggested, according to Matt Gilliland, director of operations for the largest public utility in Nebraska, which serves 91 counties in the state.

That's the kind of insight that utility fleet managers hope to see from adding telematics to their fleet. A vehicle equipped with a telematics device can record and transmit a wide array of information, from engine fault codes to idle time to driver behaviors – like speeding and hard braking – as well as vehicle location.

However, utilities may not have staff with the right skill set to manage and analyze all the data flooding in. Will utilities have to hire new staff to fill those roles, or can the work be tackled in-house? Keep in mind, experts say a continuously connected vehicle generates about 20 GB of data every hour.

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