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Equipment

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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Grace Suizo

What’s New in All-Terrain Vehicles for Utility Fleets

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Utilities have a number of different options available to help their crews get work done in hard-to-reach areas, in harsh weather conditions and on rough terrain. Since new equipment is regularly being introduced to the marketplace, it’s important for utilities to stay up to date about what they have to choose from. Check out these new developments from four manufacturers in the all-terrain vehicle space.

Hydratrek
What’s New: Engine and system updates for the D2488B and XTB66
Website: https://hydratrek.com

Built for the power, oil and gas, and public safety industries, the D2488B recently had its engine updated to the 115-horsepower Kubota V3800-TEF4. The Tier 4 Final diesel engine is controlled by a Murphy PowerView 485 LCD display that allows the operator to access a multitude of information for the engine system, including maintenance intervals.

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Grace Suizo

Spec’ing a Detachable Gooseneck Trailer

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Minnkota Power Cooperative, an electric generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Grand Forks, North Dakota, recently replaced its antiquated mechanical detachable gooseneck semitrailer with a new unit.

The old trailer, used approximately 10 times a year for the past 20 years, was replaced by a new model from Felling Trailers (www.felling.com). UFP recently spoke with Keith Millette, fleet supervisor for Minnkota Power Cooperative, and Laurie Engle, sales representative for Felling Trailers, who shared how they worked together on the spec’ing process.

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Sandy Smith

The State of UTV Electrification

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There is at least one obvious reason for an electric utility to move toward adopting electric-powered vehicles into its fleet.

“We’re using our own product,” said Paul Jefferson, senior fleet manager for Oklahoma Gas and Electric, which serves more than 858,000 customers across 30,000 square miles in Oklahoma and western Arkansas.

Another reason for the move? “[The vehicles] are lower maintenance,” Jefferson said. “You don’t have to change the oil and do other types of maintenance as with gas engines.”

His fleet includes 101 UTVs, 58 of which are powered by electricity; the remainder are due to be replaced by electric UTVs in the coming years.

OG&E had long wanted to move to electric UTVs, Jefferson said, but it took a while for the industry to catch up. “Four years ago, we started adding electric UTV carts. Prior to that, you could buy a golf cart, but there weren’t really robust UTV options out there.”

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Grace Suizo

Spec’ing the Right Truck-Mounted Air Compressor for the Job

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Today’s utility fleet managers have numerous options to choose from when it comes to truck-mounted air compressors. But how do you go about spec’ing the right one for the job?

One of the biggest mistakes that utility fleets make is using bid specs from previous years, according to Dean Gary, national sales representative for VMAC (www.vmacair.com), which designs and manufactures mobile air compressors and multipower systems.

Ralph Kokot, CEO of mobile power solutions provider Vanair Manufacturing (https://vanair.com), agreed. “Don't assume what you put on your truck last time is what you should put on this time,” he said. “Before you start working on a bid specification for your fleet, reach out to the experts for guidance. Advancements are happening every day that increase ROI and productivity for your fleet.”

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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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Sandy Smith

New Developments in All-Terrain Vehicles for Utility Fleets

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Utility work occurs rain or shine, day or night, and whether we’re in the midst of a pandemic or not. Often, that work takes place on rugged terrain and in other challenging environments. All-terrain vehicles provide solutions to safely move utility crews, tools and equipment in and out of these environments, and ATV manufacturers continue to introduce new and improved products to meet the needs of utility fleets. Here’s a roundup of six products that have been introduced so far in 2020.

Hydratrek
What’s New: Smaller CM66 model
Website: https://hydratrek.com

Hydratrek has been experimenting with going smaller for the last five years, according to Craig B. Simonton, vice president of sales and marketing for the amphibious ATV manufacturer. “We’ve built at least three prototype versions to find the right combination of power, torque, comfort, stability and reliability in this model. This has resulted in the new CM66 model that features a gasoline engine, seating for four persons and a smaller chassis.”

The CM66 is made in the USA and features many of the same characteristics that customers expect from Hydratrek, Simonton said, including aluminum construction, a hydrostatic drive, a rubber track option and an available water propulsion system.

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Sandy Smith

Mistakes to Avoid When Spec’ing Cable Reel Trailers

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With his crew focused on downtown Austin, Texas, and several substations, size was an important consideration for Bobby Dahl, network construction supervisor for community-owned Austin Energy, when selecting a new cable reel trailer.

The new trailer upgraded outdated equipment, making work safer and more efficient. “We used to pull cable out with a one-ton truck and sit there and roll it up,” Dahl said. “During the daytime, that’s inferior. But we have a lot of cable failures at night, and that made it a safety concern.”

He settled on a self-propelled hub drive cable reel puller from Dejana (https://dejana.com) and has a second one on order. It has multiple benefits, Dahl said, including strong pulling torque and an ability to navigate tight alleyways.

“We didn’t have to have a bigger footprint to do the job,” Dahl said, which can mean less traffic control needed on the job site because fewer intersections are blocked.

That maneuverability – and all the benefits it has brought – also was among the top considerations for Dahl when spec’ing a new cable reel trailer.

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Sandy Smith

Spec’ing ATUVs for Optimal Performance and Safety

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Cooperative Energy, which generates and transmits energy to 11 member systems in Mississippi, recently doubled its line crews to four. It’s no surprise, then, that they’ve “had to have more equipment,” according to Wayne Owens, the company’s fleet maintenance supervisor.

Serving 55 of Mississippi’s 82 counties, Cooperative Energy crews must deal with hills, hollows and swampland, which means that it’s crucial to have an all-terrain utility vehicle (ATUV) that’s right for the diverse terrain.

“You’ve got to have a machine that will be adequate to get where you need to get,” Owens said. “The specs have to start with the terrain.”

Scott Merrill, vice president at tracked vehicle manufacturer PowerBully (www.powerbully.com), agreed that the application drives a lot of spec decisions for ATUVs, which can include wheeled, tracked and amphibious vehicles. “Fording depth is important, too,” he said. “If [the user has] to go through 3- or 4-foot streams and rivers, we make sure that the machine is set up for the ground clearance and the fording depth to get in and out of those situations.”

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Sandy Smith

Spec’ing Service Van Interiors with Safety in Mind

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When it comes to spec’ing service vans, utility fleet managers must consider several factors, including budget, vehicle performance, efficiency, and operator safety and comfort.

Take Alabama Power’s vans, for instance. About half of the 80 units that the company – a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co. – has on the road are outfitted for general maintenance tasks. The other half are “highly specialized” for meter testing, according to Cody Caver, an engineer in the utility’s fleet services group.

For that group of specialized vans in particular, Caver noted that “the cargo area … becomes a mobile workplace, so the interior must be kept at a reasonable working temperature.” In addition, the cargo area includes fixed windows, rather than panels, so the employee can be aware of their surroundings outside of the vehicle while working.

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Grace Suizo

What’s New in All-Terrain Vehicles for Utility Fleets?

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Today, a wide range of options are available to help utilities get work done in hard-to-reach areas where conventional and even four-wheel-drive vehicles cannot go. Following are five new developments in the all-terrain vehicle space that can help utility companies get their crews and equipment across various terrains safely while also boosting productivity. 

ARGO
What’s New: 2020 updates to Frontier, Aurora and Xplorer lines
Website: https://argoxtv.com

ARGO has expanded its lineup to include six all-new Xtreme Terrain Vehicle (XTV) models, new 950- and 850-Series engines, and more innovative improvements. They’re joined by five all-terrain vehicles boasting improved suspensions, more features and added colors.

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Grace Suizo

What to Know When Spec’ing Service Vehicles for Utility Applications

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When it comes to spec’ing vehicles, the absence of an effective, proactive strategy often results in a significant number of units being purchased from dealer stock, rather than ordered from the factory. That drives up acquisition costs, delays delivery and hampers efficiency, according to Ted Davis, vice president of North American supply chain for fleet management company ARI (www.arifleet.com).

“Additionally, without a proactive approach to spec development, you may not be able to acquire units with the ideal upfitting in a timely manner, which may result in a wide range of operational challenges for your frontline employees,” he said.

So, what are the basics you need to know when spec’ing service vehicles – such as vans – for your fleet? Industry experts recently shared some tips to ensure both an efficient and quality specification process.

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Jim Galligan

Watch Your Overhang: Spec’ing Utility Pole Trailers for Maximum Safety

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“Mind your lengths and weights” could be the mantra for any utility spec’ing a new utility pole trailer. Pole lengths and weights, as well as the operating terrain and tie-down options, are some of the safety-related factors to consider when ordering a new trailer, industry experts said.

At the top of the safety spec’ing list is determining the length of the longest pole that will be transported and how much overhang is considered safe, said Mark Rapp, utility/telecom product manager with Felling Trailers (www.felling.com). The legal standards for overhang vary by state, and it’s up to the utility to know and abide by the regulations.

Additionally, fleets need to think about how mixing different pole lengths and classes on a trailer will affect performance and safety.

“A Class 1 pole is more rigid than a Class 5 pole and therefore can tolerate more overhang,” Rapp said. “[It’s] up to the end user or the pole supplier to determine how much overhang they can tolerate.”

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Jim Galligan

Avoiding Costly Mistakes with ATUVs

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Prices can range upward of $300,000 for a ready-to-work all-terrain utility vehicle (ATUV), so fleet managers can ill afford missteps in spec’ing, maintenance or planning – mistakes that may end up costing unnecessary dollars or lost days on a remote site while waiting for repairs.

Fortunately, mistakes can be avoided with smart spec’ing and common-sense practices, according to ATUV chassis manufacturers.

Right-size spec’ing is the most important thing fleets can do, said Matt Slater, vice president of sales and marketing with Terramac (www.terramac.com).

“[Make] sure you are sourcing the right size unit for your application,” he said. “Problems [can] arise when you source too large an attachment to go on a unit or try to use a smaller unit to make it easier to transport. The inability to move [equipment] on a specific trailer or to get permits for it is something we see all the time.”

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Grace Suizo

What to Consider When Spec’ing Onboard Scales

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Operating an overloaded truck is categorized as a misdemeanor in most U.S. states. Aside from putting the safety of the operator and the public at risk, overloading also can increase fines and lead to premature vehicle wear and tear.

Fortunately, the availability of today’s onboard scale technology can help utility fleet managers ensure trucks operate at a safe weight.

So, what exactly should fleet managers consider when spec’ing onboard scales? Utility Fleet Professional connected with industry professionals who shared insight into selecting the right applications for your fleet.

Benefits of Technology
Nebraska Public Power District has been using onboard scale systems for more than 10 years and currently has approximately 20 scale systems in use between tractor-trailer units and dump trucks.

NPPD’s primary reason for installing the scale systems was to verify loaded axle weights to ensure they were compliant with DOT bridge laws.

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Jim Galligan

Tips for Spec’ing Impact Attenuators

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Highway construction and maintenance worker fatalities have been on a steady decline for decades thanks to improved safety measures in and around worksites, including the use of following vehicles – also known as shadow vehicles – with truck- or trailer-mounted impact attenuators.

These highly visible vehicle buffers add another layer of protection for road and highway work crews by absorbing the impact of a crash from an errant vehicle. However, the industry has recognized that the current safety guidelines for these truck-mounted attenuators (TMA) and truck-trailer-mounted attenuators (TTMA) are outdated for today’s heavier vehicles and faster highway speeds, and new crash rating guidelines are due in 2020 (See “New TMA Guidelines Effective January 2020” sidebar). But in the meantime, industry executives offered several guidelines to consider when spec’ing a TMA or TTMA for today’s conditions.

The effectiveness of a TMA truck – its stopping power – depends on three core elements: the attenuator itself, the braking force of the TMA truck and the ballast used to increase the truck’s weight if necessary, said Samantha Schwartz-Lenhart, marketing and business development manager with TMA supplier Royal Truck & Equipment (https://royaltruckandequipment.com).

Attenuators – the actual buffers – are measured by their test level (TL) ratings. A TL-2 attenuator, for example, is qualified and tested to stop an impacting vehicle of a certain weight at a speed of 70 kmh (approximately 45 mph). A TL-3 attenuator is rated for 100 kmh (62 mph). “TL-3 is the maximum test level rating currently available on the market, and is the top tier for what is required when operating on highways where the average speed of traffic often exceeds those speed ratings,” Schwartz-Lenhart said.

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Jim Galligan

Compact Cargo Vans Find a Home in Cities

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Since their introduction to the U.S. market, the small size and maneuverability of compact cargo vans (CCV) have made them appealing options for utility and telecom fleets serving customers in congested city environments.

CCVs were popular options in European and Asian cities before rolling into the United States in 2010, when Ford introduced the Transit Connect. Nissan followed with the 2013 model year NV200, and Ram introduced the ProMaster City in the 2015 model year.

These smaller versions of the manufacturers’ full-size vans give fleet operators a low-cost entry vehicle option in select, well-defined applications, such as for technicians and service personnel and light cargo.

Charter Communications, the second-largest cable operator in the U.S., has about 22,000 vans in its fleet, 1,000 of which are CCVs. The company uses them in cities – 600 in New York City alone – for their size and maneuverability, said Michael Cullen, Charter’s director of fleet management.

CCV use is limited because most cable and telecom operations still need the capacity of full-size vans to handle today’s equipment, but that may change as the market shifts away from set-top boxes to smaller technologies, Cullen noted. That would dramatically change how much space cable companies need in their vans and may drive a shift to compact vans.

“I suspect, over the long haul, you may see cable companies move to that vehicle, but we’re probably a few years from that,” Cullen said.

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Jim Galligan

Spec’ing the Right Cable Reel Trailer

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Capacity, safety and flexibility top the list of features that manufacturers say should be on a utility’s spec sheet for any new cable reel trailer. But a good spec doesn’t end there. How many reels will be hauled or needed each time? Where will the trailer be used? Will loading be manual or automated? What type of operation is being performed? Is it an underground conductor? Overhead? The list of spec’ing considerations can be a yard long.

“[Spec’ing] reel trailers is one of the hardest things to do just because there are so many variables,” said Mark Rapp, product manager for utility and telecom products with Felling Trailers Inc. (www.felling.com). “Reel trailers are very customizable.”

But if there is one piece of advice manufacturers said they give utilities, it is to spec for capacity.

“By far the biggest mistake when specifying a trailer is [under-spec’ing] reel weight,” Rapp said. A reel-carrying assembly rated to haul a 60-inch-wide reel that weighs 6,000 pounds may not be rated to haul a 48-inch-wide reel that weighs the same because the narrower reel puts more weight on the center of the reel bar whereas the wider reel's weight is closer to the carrier.

“So, it's important to know the range of reels sizes that are going to be hauled,” Rapp said.

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Jim Galligan

Going Where Wheeled Vehicles Can’t

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Whether they’re used in hauling materials up steep hills, when accessing remote locations to perform inspections and construction, or for ferrying emergency crews and materials through marshes and over creeks, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) play a small yet vital role in many utility fleets.

“As [distribution systems] continue to grow, it’s more important for utilities to be able to get into areas where wheeled vehicles can no longer access,” said Scott Merrill, vice president of PowerBully (www.powerbully.com). “There is a greater need for a lot of ground pressure tracked vehicles to carry attachments into a remote place.”

In addition to PowerBully, several other ATV suppliers have recently introduced new products and product upgrades to the market. Keep reading for more details.

Hydratrek Redesigns D2488B 
Amphibious vehicles typically are used for inspections and supply service through wetlands, but they’ve also seen more recent use in flooded areas after natural disasters, according to Craig Simonton, vice president of sales and marketing with Hydratrek (https://hydratrek.com). “They’re used for moving people and material up and down right-of-ways, and utilities tell us it’s the most versatile unit they have,” he said.

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Jim Galligan

The State of Lightweight Materials for Utility Fleet Vehicles

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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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