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Sean M. Lyden

Planning Your Fleet’s Transition to EVs

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All major automakers have recently announced their commitments to selling only electric-drive vehicles by 2035. And that shift will bring new opportunities and challenges for utility fleets.

It will force you to change how you spec vehicles, manage “fueling” infrastructure, train your technicians and support crews in storm response situations.

So, where do you start? How do you plan for such a large-scale change effort? What should you be thinking about today to set up your fleet for success in the next decade?

UFP recently spoke with Brent Johnson, principal and co-founder at Sage Energy Consulting Inc. (www.sagerenew.com), an energy planning and project management firm. He offered these six factors to keep in mind as you prepare your fleet for an all-electric future.

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Lifting Equipment for Utility Fleets in 2021

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Lifting height, capacity, stability and range – these are all critical factors utility fleet professionals consider when spec’ing aerial platforms, cranes and other heavy-lifting equipment. They’re also looking for enhancements to machine safety, longevity and efficiency.

So, what new products in the lifting equipment space have emerged in the past year to help fleet managers improve their fleet’s performance? Here are seven developments to watch.

Terex Utilities
What’s New: Hi-Ranger TL48 telescopic aerial device for trouble truck applications
Website: www.terex.com/utilities

Terex Utilities’ new Hi-Ranger TL48 telescopic aerial device achieves a 53-foot maximum working height on a medium-duty chassis for utility trouble trucks.

“Utility customers were looking for material-handling capability throughout the work zone to accomplish switch work, small transformer replacements, insulator maintenance and other tasks without having to reposition the truck. This need was not being met on super-duty class vehicles and current products that were in the market – until now,” said Joe Caywood, Terex’s marketing director.

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Sean M. Lyden

Making the Best of the Way Things Turn Out

The delta variant. Automotive plant shutdowns. Order-to-delivery delays.

So much is in flux right now. And that’s when uncertainty and anxiety often begin to deplete our energy and cloud our judgment.

But in times like these, I’m reminded of a powerful quote by the legendary basketball coach John Wooden, who said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Digging Machines for Utility Fleets

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Whether the job is digging trenches, drilling holes or digging in confined areas, you’re looking for machines and tools that can help your customers – the business units your department serves at your company – increase crew productivity at lower operating costs.

Those are also the goals that many heavy-equipment manufacturers have in mind as they design and develop new digging machines and accessories.

So, what’s new in digging machines for utility fleets this year? Here are six new developments to watch.

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Sean M. Lyden

An Electric Pickup to Watch: The Ford F-150 Lightning

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In May, Ford unveiled its all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup, joining GM, Tesla, Rivian and others racing to bring an affordable and practical battery-powered truck to the mainstream market.

The truck is expected to arrive in spring 2022 with four models and two battery options. Within three weeks of Ford’s announcement, the F-150 Lightning had surpassed 100,000 reservations (which can be made for $100 at www.ford.com/trucks/f150/f150-lightning/2022/).

So, what does this new entry in the electric truck race mean for utility fleets? Will it be practical for fleet applications? Here’s what we know about the F-150 Lightning so far.

What’s the price?
The Pro work truck model starts at $39,974 MSRP before any federal or state tax credits (or fleet incentives), while the mid-series XLT model starts at $52,974 MSRP.

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Sean M. Lyden

Electric Vehicle Roadblocks to Widespread Fleet Adoption

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There’s a ton of press right now about how the future of transportation is all-electric.

And all major automakers have signaled with big investments that they’re going all-in on electric vehicles (EVs).

But a number of things still need to come together to make electrification practical on a large scale. Plus, fleet managers have valid concerns about how to make the transition.

What are some of the biggest EV challenges to widespread fleet adoption? And what do fleets, utility companies, OEMs and policymakers need to think about to address those challenges?

UFP recently spoke with George Survant – the principal at Fleet Mace Consulting and a fleet leader in the utility and telecom industry for over four decades – to get his perspective.

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Sean M. Lyden

The State of Fuel Prices

As of press time, the national average price of gasoline is $3.13 a gallon, up 44% from $2.18 a year ago, according to AAA, when the pandemic lockdowns were in full force, stifling fuel consumption.

And California, the most expensive market, is already at $4.31.

So, what’s driving the surge in fuel prices? There are several factors in play, but here are two of the big ones.

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Sean M. Lyden

Con Edison Orders All-Electric Class 8 Bucket Truck for Pilot Program

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In late March, Con Edison announced its partnership with electric truck OEM Lion Electric and Posi-Plus, an aerial device equipment manufacturer, to develop the first all-electric bucket truck in North America.

“Medium- and heavy-duty trucks are more challenging to electrify than cars, but the purchase of our first all-electric bucket truck shows the market is real today and it will only accelerate from here,” Tim Cawley, Con Edison’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. “While initially small in scope, this represents an important step in Con Edison’s journey toward fleet electrification.”

The truck will be built on the Lion8 all-electric 51,000-pound-GVWR chassis. Con Edison has spec’d the truck to be able to travel an estimated 130 miles on a single charge, with a charging time of about eight hours using two Level 2 chargers.

The production of an all-electric Class 8 bucket truck is a significant development, with zero emissions, lower maintenance costs and much quieter operations to improve safety in the field.

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Sean M. Lyden

New Best Practices for Post-Pandemic Fleet Operations

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In March 2020, longtime fleet professional and UFP editorial advisory board member Matt Gilliland was tasked to lead Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD) Infectious Disease Prevention and Control response team.

Gilliland’s team helped develop new COVID-19 policies and practices for the entire organization to reduce the risk and spread of infections and minimize operational disruptions from illness.

UFP recently spoke with Gilliland, NPPD’s director of operations support, to learn about some of the changes his response team recommended for the fleet department that employs 12 people and oversees about 1,200 total fleet assets. Specifically, we talked about the new fleet practices developed in the past year that he believes will likely continue beyond the pandemic.

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Sean M. Lyden

Regain Your Focus

It’s easy to keep your focus when you have a rush of proverbial fires to put out. You know, like dealing with unexpected equipment breakdowns, handling complaints from business unit supervisors about delayed vehicle orders, or maintaining sufficient staffing levels in the shop during a pandemic as techs get sick or exposed and must stay out of work.

That’s because those issues are urgent. They’re emergencies screaming for your attention. And they won’t let up until you’ve solved them.

But what about when it comes to working on the important – but not urgent – projects or initiatives?

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Truck and Van Upfits for 2021

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The past year with the pandemic has been anything but normal with sporadic nationwide lockdowns, supply chain challenges and vehicle production delays. But there’s one thing we can still count on: Truck and van body manufacturers and upfitters are continuing to bring new products to market that equip your crews to get more work done in less time at lower operational costs.

Some companies have released new products with lighter-weight materials that increase a truck’s payload without bumping up to a larger vehicle. Some have added more versatile storage options to enhance accessibility and ergonomics for improved worker safety. And others have launched products that increase fuel economy and help fleets hit their sustainability targets.

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Sean M. Lyden

An Electric Pickup to Watch: The Lordstown Endurance

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A major bottleneck to large-scale fleet electrification is the electric pickup truck – because you can’t buy one right now.

That’s about to change.

Brands like Tesla Cybertruck, GMC Hummer, Rivian R1T and Ford F-150 are expected to launch a full-size all-electric pickup starting this fall to mid-2022.

But these models, at least initially, are being built with the high-end retail customer – not fleets – in mind.

So, does this mean fleets have a few more years to wait for a product that will be practical for work truck applications?

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Sean M. Lyden

Leadership Strategies: Negotiating as if Your Career Depends on It

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What’s a common trait among highly effective fleet professionals?

They’re skilled negotiators.

They get the best terms when purchasing vehicles, equipment and service. They persuade senior management to protect – and increase – their annual fleet budgets. And they gain top priority from OEMs to quickly address and solve critical equipment issues.

So, as you look for ways to advance in your fleet career, what can you do to take your negotiation game to the next level?

Consider reading “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It” by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss.

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Sean M. Lyden

Developments to Watch in Self-Driving Trucks

Just three years ago, the media was all abuzz about how a brave new self-driving world was right around the corner.

Today, the media and industry analysts have slow-rolled their predictions as technology companies and automakers still grapple with developing autonomous driving systems that are ready for prime time on a large scale.

As it turns out, humans still have the edge in making decisions in a wide range of challenging driving situations that continue to hamper the robots. 

But less hype does not necessarily mean a lack of momentum for vehicle automation. And self-driving technology developers and automakers have been making notable progress in recent months – especially in the heavy-duty truck segment. 

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Sean M. Lyden

CenterPoint Energy to Electrify 100% of Light-Duty Fleet by 2030

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In late September, CenterPoint Energy announced that, by the end of this decade, the company will replace 100% of its light-duty fleet – currently 134 cars, vans and SUVs – with plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles at CenterPoint’s electric operations facilities in Evansville, Indiana, and Houston.

Officials also said the company would electrify 5% of its heavy-duty fleet at those locations by 2025 and 10% by 2030.

So, what has led CenterPoint’s electric operations to go all-in on fleet electrification? What fleet applications will make the transition first? And what does the company see as the business case for electrified vehicles?

UFP recently spoke with Barb Varanauski, director of fleet, shop services and radio communications for CenterPoint Energy, to get her perspective. Here is an edited excerpt of our conversation.

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Sean M. Lyden

What Fleet Managers Should Know About Impact Attenuators

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An impact attenuator is a safety device, either mounted on the rear of a truck or towed as a trailer, that absorbs the force of a vehicle collision at speeds up to 62.5 mph to protect roadside crews working nearby.

While attenuators are not a new concept – they’ve been in use in the highway construction industry for decades – what is new is that they’ve started to become more prevalent in the utility industry.

“Utility companies are a new market for us,” said Brent Kulp, executive vice president at TrafFix Devices Inc. (www.traffixdevices.com), which builds both truck-mounted and trailer impact attenuators. “Typically, we sell to the highway departments. But beginning about five years ago, utility companies started coming to us, saying, ‘Hey, our guys are out on the highway, out on the city streets, fixing a gas line or doing a utility pole repair. We want to protect our crew working in front of that vehicle from distracted drivers.’”

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Sean M. Lyden

Freightliner: How Electric Trucks Will Change Your Garage Operations

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Numerous signs point toward an all-electric future in transportation.

But as more plug-in electric trucks become commercially available for fleets, how will the new technology impact your garage operations? What will change with technician training, equipment and other aspects of your shop?

Daimler Trucks North America plans to start production of its plug-in electric Freightliner eCascadia and eM2 models in 2022. So, UFP spoke with Gregory Bowen, the electric mobility developer and trainer at DTNA, and Jason Ascher, DTNA’s e-mobility engineer, to get their perspective on what you can expect as you prepare your shop to work on EVs in the coming years.

Here’s an edited excerpt of our conversation.

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Sean M. Lyden

Why California’s Ban on Gas and Diesel Vehicles Matters

In September, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that his state will ban the sale of new light-duty gasoline and diesel vehicles, effective in 2035. And by 2045, new medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold in California must also be zero-emissions.

So, what does this news mean for utility fleets?

It means that the transportation industry is trending toward an all-electric future, with vehicles powered by battery only, hydrogen or a hybrid of both “fuels,” depending on a vehicle’s range requirements and duty cycle.

But how does California’s ban impact vehicle sales – and your fleet – outside the state?

Think about it. If California were a sovereign nation, it would rank as the world’s fifth-largest economy. And the state accounts for a massive share of U.S. auto sales. This means that when California talks, the automakers listen.

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Sean M. Lyden

3 Factors to Consider When Retrofitting LED Lights on Work Trucks

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It makes sense that most truck OEMs, body manufacturers and upfitters have made the switch from conventional incandescent bulbs to light-emitting diode (LED) lighting for their latest models.

After all, LEDs last exponentially longer, shine brighter, burn cooler and draw less power. And although LEDs are more expensive upfront, the cost drops significantly over the bulb’s life.

But what about the older vehicles in your fleet that still use incandescent bulbs? Would it pay to retrofit those lights with LEDs? How do you decide? And what factors should you consider before you make the switch?

UFP recently caught up with Ken Gillies, senior work truck consultant at Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com), who offered these three considerations.

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Sean M. Lyden

The Impact of COVID-19 on Order-to-Delivery Time Frames – and How to Respond Effectively

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In early March, the coronavirus caused automakers to shut down production completely for two months. But even after reopening in late June, they’ve still had to deal with temporary plant closures as positive cases emerge.

As you can imagine, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on vehicle and equipment production schedules and supply chains, causing significant delays that have put many utility fleets in a bind.

So, what exactly is the current state of order-to-delivery (OTD) time frames? What can you expect to see over the next several months? And how can you minimize any disruption to your fleet operations?

UFP spoke with Cindy Gomez, vice president of vehicle acquisitions services at Donlen (www.donlen.com), a fleet management company, to get her outlook on OTD time frames and advice on how you can handle the issue.

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