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Maintenance

Karen Scallly

How a Major Utility Fleet Moved to Predictive Maintenance

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At first, Entergy’s plan was fairly simple.

Chris Morrow, fleet assets superintendent for the New Orleans-based electric utility, said the company knew they wanted to move away from time-based preventive maintenance for their 6,000-unit fleet to a service program that was more usage-based.

What they have since discovered is that the power of telematics and data analysis can unlock a predictive model for fleet maintenance.

Predictive maintenance has helped them flag problems prior to major equipment failures, reduce unplanned downtime and parts spending, and refocus technicians on diagnostic work instead of lengthy repairs. All of these benefits have resulted in significant savings.

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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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Jason Julius

Repair Solutions for Common Fiberglass Damage

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Maintenance of insulated booms on aerial devices and digger derricks is critical to preserving the integrity of the insulating qualities of the machines. While insulated equipment is required to be dielectrically tested each year, daily and periodic inspections of fiberglass components should be performed as directed by the manufacturer.

There are two common types of damage and wear that may affect the integrity of a fiberglass boom. The first, structural damage, is classified according to the type of damage – cuts, bruises or overloads. The second type is wear that occurs where there is contact with other components, such as at boom rests or at fiberglass-to-steel joints.

In both cases, the damage must be assessed to see if it is repairable. Each manufacturer provides information specific to the type and shape of its boom designs. For example, Terex Utilities provides two charts for the equipment it manufactures, which break the damage into minor damage and major damage. The severity of the damage will determine the course of action. Major damage must be reported to the manufacturer for analysis to determine if it can be repaired. Examples include overload damage, complete penetration of the wall or major damage within 24 inches of previously repaired major damage.

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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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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

Shop Talk: Reimagining the PM as Predictive Maintenance

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A thorough and consistent preventive maintenance (PM) program is a core best practice of any high-performing fleet.

But the challenge is that too many fleets still base their PM schedules on OEM recommendations and not on field-specific data that takes into account higher-idle scenarios, hilly terrain, extreme climate conditions and operator behaviors – all of which accelerate wear and tear on the vehicle.

As a result, you could achieve near 100% PM compliance per OEM schedules and still get blindsided by higher than acceptable failure rates that lead to costly downtime and productivity loss.

So, how can you improve maintenance performance?

George Survant, principal at Fleet Mace Consulting, recommended that fleets adopt a predictive maintenance model, which requires a different way of thinking and operating than traditional PM.

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Sean M. Lyden

Shop Talk: Verizon Communications

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In February, as the novel coronavirus spread overseas and cases began to trickle into the U.S., Verizon Communications, as a company, started grappling with how the pandemic might impact its operations.

“Before the media and most people were talking about what you should do, we’re thinking, ‘How would we operate? How do we keep our people safe?’” said Herb Pruitt, director of fleet operations for Verizon Communications.

UFP recently spoke with Pruitt to learn about the adjustments Verizon’s Fleet Operations team of over 400 employees, mostly mechanics, has made to ensure worker safety while maintaining a large fleet of about 29,000 vehicles during a pandemic. Here are the key takeaways from our conversation.

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Sean M. Lyden

Shop Talk: Developing Your Continuity of Operations Plan in a COVID-19 World

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If you were to lose one-third of your workforce in the fleet department at any given time due to COVID-19, what would your continuity of operations plan look like? What adjustments would you make?

Dale Collins, fleet services supervisor at Fairfax Water, which serves nearly 2 million customers in Northern Virginia, began posing these "wargaming" questions with his team in early March when it became clear that the pandemic presented a significant health risk to employees, especially the shop technicians who needed to be on-site to help keep the fleet running.

So, what changes have Collins and his team made as part of the water utility’s continuity of operations plan to ensure employee safety while maintaining high service levels for customers?

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Sean M. Lyden

Shop Talk: Creating Consistency for Dielectric Inspections Across a Global Enterprise

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As a utility fleet professional, you’re well-versed in ANSI’s requirement for annual dielectric inspections on aerial equipment to verify the nonconductivity of electricity through the boom. These inspections help you and your team identify and fix potential issues before they can cause injury or downtime.

But if you have bucket trucks, digger derricks and other aerial equipment spread across several locations and regions, how do you ensure those critical inspections are getting done on time, according to the right standards and at the best possible price?

That’s the challenge John Adkisson confronted in April 2019 when he became the director of fleet services at Asplundh Tree Expert LLC, the Willow Grove, Pennsylvania-based company that provides vegetation management and utility infrastructure services to utilities and municipalities throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

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Sean M. Lyden

3 Pitfalls to Avoid When Purchasing Automotive Lifts for Your Garage

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When operating heavy lifting equipment, like forklifts and cranes, there should be no one underneath the lifted load.

But there is one exception to that rule: automotive lifts.

“The automotive lift industry is the only one where operators are encouraged to go underneath a lifted load,” said R.W. “Bob” O’Gorman, president of the Automotive Lift Institute (www.autolift.org), a trade association of North American-based lift manufacturers that promotes the safe design, construction, installation, service, inspection and use of automotive lifts.

"For every other type of lifting equipment out there, the message is clear: 'Don't do it. Don't get under that load.' But in the automotive lift industry, the message is, 'Go forth and perform your job with 10,000 to 50,000 pounds above you,'" O’Gorman said. "That's why choosing the proper lift is so important – so that operators can feel comfortable in performing their jobs under such capacities."

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Jim Galligan

Winterizing the Shop

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Winters in the northern latitudes can be brutal. A utility fleet’s winter preparedness plan for the maintenance shop can improve safety for its technicians and helps to ensure that fleet equipment is ready to go when needed.

UFP spoke with Les Faul, operations manager with Commonwealth Edison Co., to find out how the Chicago-based utility has kept its 22 maintenance shops operating during winter. This was the second of two recent UFP interviews with Faul about utility operations. Visit https://utilityfleetprofessional.com/departments/fleet-profiles/the-low-hanging-fruit-for-greening-your-fleet for a discussion of biofuels.

UFP: What does winterizing a maintenance facility entail?

Les Faul: There are a few things that we do. Beginning in October, we have a winter preparedness plan that assigns certain corrective actions to different organizations. In the shop, we increase our stock of high consumables, such as snow brushes, scrapers, wiper blades, filters – those winter items.

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Sandy Smith

Invest in the Right Training for Your Fleet Technicians

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Matt Gilliland, director of operations support for Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), understands the value of investing in training for fleet mechanics.

“There is an old cliché that says, ‘The only thing more expensive than training is not training,’” he said. “Training is one of the most important tools in the technician’s toolbox.”

And it’s even more so these days in an industry that, according to Gilliland, “changes rapidly, and the technology within the industry grows ever more complex. Training is paramount for success.”

To stay on top of changes with OEM specs, NPPD sends its fleet team to training on an ongoing basis. That, said George Survant, senior director of fleet relations for NTEA – The Association for the Work Truck Industry (www.ntea.com), is necessary today.

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Grace Suizo

Operating a More Efficient Parts Management Program

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Making sure your shop is well-stocked to handle any issues that come your fleet’s way is a smart plan, but it also can be costly and inefficient if you overdo it and end up with bloated inventory. UFP recently spoke with two fleet professionals who shared some best practices about how to operate a more balanced and efficient parts management program.

The best starting point is to monitor what moves and then find a sensible minimum, according to Dale Collins, fleet services supervisor for Fairfax Water in Virginia.

“Maintain an inventory of items that move quickly and be sure that your suppliers are able to provide quick sourcing of less frequently used items,” he advised, noting that mission-critical parts are important to have in-house.

For Fairfax Water, consumables – including fluids, filters, brakes and tires – are the most important. The majority of other items can be sourced quickly, Collins explained.

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Jim Galligan

ADAS May Be a Mixed Bag in Your Shop

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More vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are showing up in utility fleet maintenance shops as vehicle manufacturers accelerate the introduction of these safety technologies into new models.

While there is little doubt that ADAS features – such as adaptive cruise control, radar-based collision avoidance systems and other technologies – can lower fleet costs by improving safety and reducing collisions, the issue for fleets is what effect these components will have on maintenance. Will these technologies increase maintenance costs by requiring more training or new equipment?

The early answer from fleet and industry consultants is that it is too soon to know definitively. Much depends on which components and features the fleet adds. In some cases, the technologies build on well-known foundation systems, so the need for training or additional equipment may be minimal, one supplier said. Some technologies, like radar, self adjust.

“Right now, it’s truly unknown what the expectations are,” said Darry Stuart, principal with DWS Fleet Management (www.darrystuart.com), a maintenance consulting firm. “It’s going to be challenging in the early days until it’s figured out.”

San Diego Gas & Electric added 10 small SUVs with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and emergency (crash avoidance) braking systems in early 2018. It’s still early, but so far results in the shop have been good, said Clint Marsh, fleet asset manager. “Maintenance for the radar-based systems is minimal and has not affected maintenance/parts costs for vehicles with this technology.”

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Grace Suizo

Choosing the Right Vehicle Lift for the Job

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Prior to purchasing a new vehicle lift, a fleet manager must understand exactly what is needed for their shop.

According to Steve Perlstein, sales and marketing manager for Mohawk Lifts (https://mohawklifts.com), fleet managers “need to do their homework in order to make an educated decision.”

So, what are some of the most important items to consider? UFP recently spoke to vehicle lift experts to find out.

Identify Your Needs
Maintenance is among the top factors fleet managers should think about before they buy, advised Doug Spiller, heavy-duty product manager for Rotary Lift (www.rotarylift.com).

“The best lifts will require minimal maintenance while offering years of safe, reliable service,” he said. “One of the first questions a fleet manager should ask themselves is, what vehicle maintenance am I going to perform, and will this lift help me do that faster, better and easier than I do it today?”

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Grace Suizo

Best Practices for Winterizing Your Fleet

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Winter is just around the corner, and it often brings with it less-than-ideal operating conditions for utility fleets in many parts of the U.S. and Canada.

UFP recently spoke with two industry professionals who shared some best practices for keeping operations up and running while facing harsh weather conditions including snow, ice and freezing temperatures.

Start Preparing Early
For many utility fleets, the biggest challenge during the winter season is keeping vehicles and equipment in peak operating condition to avoid unforeseen downtime when those units are needed most. Heavy use during emergent situations often results in unscheduled repairs and breakdowns – or worse yet, accidents, according to Charlie Guthro, vice president of global strategic services for fleet management company ARI (www.arifleet.com).

Michigan-based DTE Energy, which operates a fleet of more than 5,000 assets ranging from automobiles and SUVs to bucket trucks and construction equipment, experienced its snowiest month in January 2014, with 39 inches of snow. During that same winter, Southeast Michigan experienced 77 straight days with at least 1 inch of snow on the ground.

“Because of the snow, ice and colder temperatures, our challenges include an increased number of no-starts, de-icing windshields, door locks icing, increased towing and service calls, and increased response time due to icy and snowy roads,” said Mike Homan, DTE’s director of fleet.

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Grace Suizo

Mistakes to Avoid When Outsourcing Maintenance

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Outsourcing preventive maintenance and unscheduled repairs on light-duty units can help utility fleets minimize downtime and focus on the more complex mission-critical and specialized equipment in their operations.

It’s easy to rent a car or pickup truck if a light-duty asset is in the shop or down for a long period of time, explained Paul Jefferson, fleet manager for OG&E Fleet Services in Oklahoma. “Bucket trucks, trenchers [and] line trucks are a little more difficult to rent. We have tools and materials on pieces of equipment like that, so we can do maintenance in-house and control the timeline of the work,” he said.  

Keeping services in-house rather than outsourcing them also can help to ensure that safety remains a top priority when working on these assets.

“The utility industry as a whole requires a very high level of safety training, and this education extends to the in-house technicians,” said Charlie Guthro, vice president of global strategic services for fleet management company ARI (www.arifleet.com).

But if fleets determine they need to outsource some of their work, how do they make the most of it? UFP recently spoke with several industry experts who shared their tips, including mistakes to avoid.

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Grace Suizo

Best Practices for Managing Tire Costs

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Running a successful utility fleet operation requires fleet managers to, among other things, stay on top of any and every aspect of the business that will impact total operating costs.

A fleet’s tire program is one aspect that makes a significant impact. According to Gary Schroeder, director of global truck and bus tire business for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. (http://coopertrucktires.com), tire programs are the second-highest operating cost – behind fuel – for the majority of fleets.

So, what can utility fleets do in an effort to control those expenses?

“Helping fleets understand their total tire operating costs – and the role that tires can play in reducing these costs – is important,” said Dustin Lancy, marketing manager for The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (www.goodyear.com). “Some fleets consider tire price to be the driving factor, but we urge them to look beyond the upfront cost of a tire and instead … optimize the return on their tire investment.”

Focus on What Matters Most
Keeping tire costs in check requires a tire program that includes proper tire selection, timely maintenance and frequent inspections.

Fairfax Water, a utility headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia, maintains a selection of tires and tire/wheel assemblies at each of its maintenance facilities, replenishing as needed. Light-duty tires are mounted and balanced in-house, while the tire/wheel assemblies for the fleet’s larger heavy-duty trucks, trailers and equipment are sent out for servicing.

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Grace Suizo

Strategies for Addressing the Looming Technician Shortage

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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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Fiona Soltes

Choosing a Lift with Safety in Mind

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When selecting a new maintenance bay lift that’s safe for your fleet operation, there’s more to consider than the assets that will be lifted on it. It’s also essential to account for what will be under and above the lift – and how the weight will be distributed.

All too often, industry experts say, well-meaning fleet professionals and maintenance technicians choose a lift simply based on the weight of the largest vehicle or piece of equipment it will hold. But there’s more to the equation, and getting it wrong can have disastrous results.

First, noted George Survant, senior director of fleet relations for NTEA – The Association for the Work Truck Industry (www.ntea.com), it’s important to remember that the base weight of an asset is one thing, but the weight of that asset when it’s on the lift, fully loaded, is another.

Here are seven additional considerations from Survant and Steve Perlstein, president of auto lift supplier Mohawk Lifts (www.mohawklifts.com), on choosing a lift with safety in mind.

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