Special Focus

Sean M. Lyden

Storytelling for Fleet Safety

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If you’re rolling out a new fleet safety initiative, you can expect some pushback from crews in the field or technicians in the shop. That’s a given because people tend to resist change.

But what if you could improve the odds that your message will get past that resistance and be more memorable and impactful – that it will actually change behavior?

You can … by telling stories.

Think about it. Even if your organization equips vehicles with all the latest safety systems and provides extensive driver training, you can’t be with operators every day, 24/7, to make sure that they remember to follow through on company policies. But a good story will stick with those employees, reminding them of lessons learned, long after it has been told.

So, what makes storytelling a powerful leadership tool to increase your influence? Why do stories work? Here are three reasons.

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Dan Brenden

Using Technology to Eliminate Aerial Device Overloads

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Knowing bucket capacity and understanding how to read a jib load chart are two critical elements of aerial device operation. While both tasks are fairly straightforward, it is crucial to stay within the allowable capacity of the unit. The platform capacity and material-handling capacity provided by the manufacturer are not recommendations – they are absolute maximum capacities that ensure the machine is not overloaded. Overloading equipment can result in overturning or boom failure. Equipment damage also may occur, resulting in costly repairs and a shortened usable life for the aerial device.

A fully equipped lineworker with PPE plus tools and materials for typical line maintenance can quickly add up to 700 pounds or more for distribution work, and upward of 1,000 pounds for transmission work. Bucket capacity is identified on the ID plate and inside of the basket on most aerial devices. In addition, be aware of dual-rated buckets with different capacities based on configuration and use as a material handler; these types of buckets are available from some manufacturers. Before climbing in, lineworkers should verify that their weight – in addition to the platform liner, if used, and all of their tools and equipment – doesn’t exceed the bucket’s capacity.

“Don’t forget to account for boots, harness, tools and any components you may add to the bucket once you are elevated,” said Kyle Wiesner, aerial products engineering manager for Terex Utilities. “Tools such as phase lifters, crimpers, hydraulic drills or chain saws all add up. Weight of personal clothing can change with the weather, so don’t forget to recalculate come winter. If a component is in the bucket while work is being performed, that weight needs to be factored in as well.”

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Sean M. Lyden

Making the Switch to LED Lighting in Utility Fleets

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Lighting via the use of light-emitting diodes – more commonly known as LEDs – has been around for over five decades. But only in recent years has the technology surged in popularity, especially among utility fleets.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LEDs use 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than conventional incandescent lighting. That’s a big difference in terms of energy consumption and longevity. But historically, LEDs have been too expensive for fleets to justify making the switch.

That is, until the past five years or so, as the price gap has narrowed significantly, presenting a more compelling business case for fleets to convert to LEDs.

Getting Started
Take PPL Electric Utilities based in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for example. The fleet department began to expand its use of LEDs in 2014 for safety reasons.

“Our initial push was the safety factor of the brightness of the LEDs for better visibility when working at night,” said John Adkisson, transportation manager at PPL. “And the prices were starting to come down at that time, making LEDs more prevalent. So, we decided to give it a shot and see how it goes. So far, the change to LEDs has been well-received by the operators and the crews.”

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Digging Machines for Utility Fleets?

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Whether the job is to dig trenches to lay underground power lines, to drill holes to set poles, or to dig in tight spaces, such as next to buildings or in residential backyards, the objective remains the same: to enable crews to get the most work done in the least amount of time, with the least amount of effort, in the safest way possible.

That's the goal that has driven the design of new products and upgrades released by heavy-equipment manufacturers in recent months.

So, what’s new in digging machines for 2018? How can they help utility companies and contractors improve worker productivity and safety? Here are six new developments to consider.

CASE Construction Equipment
What’s New: TV370 compact track loader
Website: www.casece.com

CASE Construction Equipment introduced the TV370 compact track loader (CTL) that offers utility contractors a smaller 74-horsepower option in a large-frame vertical CTL with a 3,700-pound operating capacity for earthmoving, load and lift applications, and heavy attachments.

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Sean M. Lyden

5 Smart Ways to Use Telematics to Drive Fleet Safety

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What does a litigator want to know after a commercial vehicle crash?

Here’s how Jeff Burns, an attorney with the Kansas City, Missouri-based law firm Dollar, Burns & Becker LC, put it in his presentation to fleet managers at the NTEA Work Truck Show in March: “How did the company try to prevent this crash?”

After all, the plaintiff’s attorney is looking for a defendant that offers the highest potential settlement award – and a company is a much more lucrative target than the individual driver who may be at fault in an incident.

One of the things Burns said that companies could do to demonstrate a commitment to preventing incidents is to deploy vehicle tracking technology, like telematics, and make sure it's being used in ways that support safer driving and equipment operation practices throughout the organization.

So, how can utility fleet leaders use telematics to drive greater safety – and reduce risk exposure for their employers?

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Truck and Van Upfits for Utility Fleets

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As you evaluate the specs for your truck and van fleet this year, where do you see the best opportunities for improvement?

Could you take weight out of a truck to reduce fuel costs or increase legal payload?

Could you upgrade equipment so that crews could get more work done in less time with improved safety?

Or, could you electrify certain vehicles to cut both fuel consumption and your fleet’s carbon footprint?

Here are six new developments from truck and van equipment manufacturers that could help you uncover and capitalize on opportunities to improve your fleet specs and performance.

XL Hybrids
What’s New: XLP plug-in hybrid-electric upfit for F-150 SuperCrew; CARB approval
URL: www.xlhybrids.com

XL Hybrids Inc. recently announced that its XLP plug-in hybrid-electric system is now available for the Ford F-150 SuperCrew. The company also announced its newest approval from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which gives California-based organizations assurance that XL-equipped fleets will meet the Golden State's rigorous testing and restrictions for carbon emissions.

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Sean M. Lyden

4 Leadership Lessons from Utility Fleet Conference 2017 at ICUEE

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Highly effective fleet professionals are also great leaders. That’s because the job of fleet manager is about more than managing assets; you also have to work through people to get things done.

And that was one of the key themes discussed at Utility Fleet Conference 2017, an intensive three-day fleet education and networking event held October 2-4, produced by Utility Fleet Professional magazine and co-located with the International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition in Louisville, Ky.

If you missed the conference, here are four leadership lessons that were shared over the course of the event that can help you become a more influential and effective fleet leader.

1. Avoid generational stereotypes.
In today’s utility fleet work environment, there could be as many as five generations represented – with ages ranging from 18 to 80 – each bringing a substantially different perspective toward their work and life. And this dynamic is likely causing a degree of generational tension and conflict on your team. So, how can you more effectively manage employees across multiple generations to create a positive, highly productive work environment?

The starting point is to resist the urge to see employees through the lens of generational stereotypes, said Jim Finkelstein, author of the book "Fuse: Making Sense of the New Cogenerational Workplace," in his keynote address that kicked off the conference.

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Luann Dunkerley

Meeting the Rising Safety Challenge

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U.S. roads are becoming increasingly dangerous, despite a great number of vehicles having some of the most advanced safety technology available. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.gov), more than 37,000 fatal traffic accidents occurred in 2016, rising 14 percent since 2014. And while accident rates were in decline throughout the past 10 years, they are now nearly identical to 2007’s numbers; that year also saw more than 37,000 fatal accidents.

So, what are some of the underlying causes of the rise in fatal accidents? And what can utility fleets do to promote driver safety and effect positive change in our industry?  

The simple truth is it’s not easy to pinpoint what is causing all of these accidents; however, it’s no secret that road rage and distracted driving are two of the greatest challenges today’s drivers must contend with.

Road Rage and Distracted Driving
In a study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (www.aaafoundation.org) in July 2016, nearly 80 percent of drivers admitted to engaging in aggressive driving techniques, such as tailgating, blocking a vehicle or cutting off another driver. In a separate survey completed by EverQuote (www.everquote.com), 96 percent of drivers rated themselves as safe motorists, but 61 percent of those surveyed then admitted to using their phone behind the wheel in the last month.

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Ted Barron

A Recovering Fleet Manager’s Guide to ICUEE

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In just a few weeks, thousands of field operators and fleet managers will visit the International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition (www.icuee.com) in Louisville, Ky., with one thing on their minds: finding cost-effective equipment solutions that will make their crews more productive and enhance their emphasis on safe operation. Held every other year, ICUEE – The Demo Expo is perhaps the biggest equipment show for the electric utility industry.

After 30 years of working for an investor-owned utility, I’ve sat through my share of meetings with executives seeking to identify business plans and core values. But never did those efforts adequately convey the central concern of most fleet managers as this prayer a veteran mechanic once said before a monthly safety meeting: “Lord, don’t let us miss something that could cause someone to get hurt.”

Those simple words capture better than any corporate mission statement the true desire of fleet managers. Properly trained personnel and properly maintained equipment contribute to safe and productive work performance. Every person in an operation’s chain plays a critical role in achieving that goal. From stocking the right equipment, to thorough inspections and maintenance, to selecting the right equipment for your fleet, each is equally important.

ICUEE is an equipment show. More than 900 exhibitors will be there. When I’ve attended ICUEE in the past, my focus was becoming familiar with the latest technology and building relationships with peers, service providers and manufacturers. There’s much to compare. Often, I discovered that the lowest-cost option was not always the best option.

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Jim Olson

3 Tips for Site-Conscious Aerial Device Setup

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Aerial devices are among the most important pieces of equipment in a utility company’s fleet. They are another tool in the utility’s toolbox and – like any other tool – must be properly used and maintained.

While it's the responsibility of the employer to ensure that each individual operator is correctly trained and qualified to operate an aerial device, it takes the whole crew to contribute to safe and efficient operations. Following are three important steps crews should take before work starts on any project that requires use of an aerial device, plus real-world tips from Garry Christopherson, director of safety and security for Dairyland Power Cooperative in La Crosse, Wis.

Step 1: Conduct a site survey.

  • Identify potential hazards, such as buildings, ditches, drop-offs, holes, debris, sewers, overhead obstructions, electrical conductors and underground utilities.
  • Evaluate the ground conditions. The ground must be firm enough to bear the pressure produced by the bucket truck – including the maximum platform and jib loads – during operation. You may need to use pads under the outriggers to distribute the weight over a greater surface area. If your bucket truck does not have outriggers, or if it is equipped with only one set, make sure all the tires and axle suspension springs are equally loaded. If the ground is slippery, snowy or icy, consider how to prevent the vehicle from sliding.
  • Consider the terrain. If the vehicle must be parked on a slope, keep the boom on the uphill side, chock the wheels and work off the rear of the truck. Per ANSI A92.2, bucket trucks are stability-tested on firm, flat surfaces up to a 5-degree slope. Never work on a slope greater than what is allowed by the manufacturer. Use your bucket truck’s chassis level indicator to make sure the truck is always set within the manufacturer’s operational limits. Most aerial truck manufacturers, including Terex, equip their vehicles with an inclinometer that is used to determine if the truck is set up within the allowable limits. Follow the instructions for your vehicle, and recognize that some trucks must be leveled before raising the booms.
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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Digging Machines for Utility Fleets

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When you need to dig trenches to lay underground gas lines, or drill holes for setting transmission poles, or be able to dig in tight spaces, the objective is the same: to have crews get the most work done in the least amount of time, with the least amount of effort and cost. 

That’s the goal that has driven the development of several new products and upgrades released by top heavy-equipment manufacturers in the past few months. 

So, what new digging machines and tools have recently come to market? How can they equip utility companies and contractors to boost productivity and profit? Here are seven new developments to keep your eye on. 

CASE Construction Equipment
What’s New: Six New Mini Excavator Models
Website: www.casece.com

This spring, CASE Construction Equipment introduced six new mini excavator models: the CX17C, CX26C, CX33C, CX37C, CX57C and CX60C. Offered in zero tail-swing, short-radius or conventional configurations, C Series mini excavators feature an adjustable boom with the ability to offset left or right to work closer to buildings and obstacles. An auto-shift travel system offers greater ease and efficiency when operating the machine on varying terrain. 

All C Series mini excavators are built with an auxiliary hydraulic system that features standard proportional controls, shut-off valve and easy-to-select joystick control patterns to equip operators to get more done in less time. A spacious and comfortable operator environment – with ergonomic controls, adjustable seating and line-of-sight digital displays – helps minimize operator fatigue. 

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Sean M. Lyden

The State of the Fleet Telematics Market

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A lot has happened in the fleet telematics market the past year that could impact utility fleet operations. Major telecom firms have expanded their footprint in the fleet sector with Verizon’s acquisitions of Telogis and Fleetmatics, while AT&T has established key partnerships to provide branded telematics services such as AT&T Fleet Complete and AT&T Fleet Manager. And more and more telematics providers have inked deals with automakers in recent months.

So, what’s driving these trends? And how might they shape the future of telematics and connected fleets?

UFP spoke with experts from C.J. Driscoll & Associates, GPS Insight, Telogis and Element Fleet Management to get their market outlook.

Telecom Expansion
Why are major telecom firms expanding into the fleet telematics industry? Will this trend continue?

“With landline subscriber bases shrinking and the mobile phone market saturated with declining marginal value, the connected vehicle offers a new market opportunity that allows the telecom companies to capitalize on the need for the vehicle to communicate to the OEM, driver, surrounding infrastructure and other third-party services through cellular networks,” said Kimberly Clark, telematics product leader for Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com). “It also allows them to expand and sell additional products, including in-car applications and infotainment solutions, as this technology becomes mainstream within new vehicles.”

Clark said that telecom expansion into the fleet market will continue for the foreseeable future and “benefit utility fleets through new innovation possibilities, increased pressure on direct OEM connectivity solutions and lower communication costs as part of their service offering over time.”

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Truck Bodies for Utility Fleets

What’s New in Truck Bodies for Utility Fleets

Some of the industry’s leading truck body manufacturers are developing new products that equip your crews to get more work done, with less strain and greater safety. They’re incorporating more advanced lightweight materials in their product designs so you can reduce fuel costs or increase a truck’s legal payload without bumping up to a larger vehicle. And they’re offering more electrified options so you can cut engine idle – and your fleet’s carbon footprint.

Who are these body companies and what are some of the products and design enhancements they’ve recently brought to market to help you achieve your business objectives? Here are five new developments to watch.

Terex
What’s New: HyPower IM
Website: www.terex.com/utilities/

Introduced last fall, the HyPower IM is a plug-in electric power takeoff (ePTO) efficiency system that manages the chassis engine for the greater horsepower required to operate the boom. It does this by automatically switching from plug-in battery-stored power when the truck is idling to engine-supplied power when hydraulic controls are engaged.

“Throughout an eight-hour workday, on a typical trouble truck, the aerial’s hydraulic controls are engaged about one hour total run time. By allowing the hydraulic system to switch to engine power during those brief intervals, HyPower IM is still able to provide emissions efficiencies plus optimum hydraulic control function,” said Tyler Henderson, product development manager with Terex. “The transition is seamless. Operators will experience no lag time in hydraulic responsiveness.”

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Sean M. Lyden

What Utility Fleets Can Do to Curb Distracted Driving Incidents

What Utility Fleets Can Do to Curb Distracted Driving Incidents

Your company has clearly communicated its distracted driving policy to all employees. And the safety department is doing its part by screening at-risk drivers, providing consistent driver training and building awareness throughout the organization of the dangers of distracted driving. But when employees are out on the road, how can management ensure that drivers actually comply with the policy – to protect their own lives, the public and your utility’s reputation and bottom line?

That’s where your fleet department can make a difference. How? By equipping vehicles with technologies that counteract a driver’s impulse to read a text message or scroll through social media feeds on their phone while driving – even when they know it’s the wrong thing to do.

All It Takes is One Time
No one is immune. Even the best, most conscientious drivers can succumb to the temptation to look at their smartphone while driving, at least every now and then.

Think about it. You’re driving a service truck through a residential area when you hear your phone buzzing in the console, notifying you of a text message. Because you know better, your initial instinct is to ignore the sound and keep focused on the road ahead. But then a few seconds later you hear the phone buzz again … and again.

Now you’re curious. Who could that be?

It’s been a long day, and you’re exhausted. You start justifying to yourself: I’m going pretty slow right now and there’s not much traffic; it won’t hurt to take a quick look.

You take your eyes off the road for what you think will only be a second. But by the time you look up from your phone, you see that a boy on a bicycle has darted out from behind a vehicle parked along the street, right in front of your truck. You slam on the brakes, but there’s not enough time to stop before your truck hits him.

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in All-Terrain Vehicles for the Utility Market

What’s New in All-Terrain Vehicles for the Utility Market

When it comes to all-terrain utility vehicles (UVs), there’s a wide range of capabilities available on the market. Some models are designed to haul people and heavy equipment over rugged, hilly terrain. Others are built to hover over swamplands or float and power across waterways in remote areas. And then there are lighter-duty UVs that handle both on- and off-road conditions at higher speeds.

So, what’s new in the UV market to help get utility crews, supplies and heavy equipment across various terrains with maximum efficiency and safety? Here are five developments to watch.

New Model: ARGO Conquest 8x8 Lineman XTi
http://argoutv.com/lineman

In July, ARGO unveiled its new Lineman model built specifically for utility workers. Whether the job is replacing utility poles, mending cables or laying underground pipe, the ARGO Lineman includes several custom enhancements to provide the optimal power, payload capacity, versatility and safety that best fit most utility applications.

With a payload capacity up to 1,340 pounds, the Lineman can haul transformers, pull cables or bore footings across a wide range of terrain, including rocks, hills and sand dunes, to reach the most remote worksites.

The machine is engineered to reduce risk of underbody damage, overheating and hang-ups on obstacles, resulting in less downtime for the vehicle – and for crews.

With add-on attachments ranging from cranes and augers to welding kits and hydraulic power supplies, crews can now bring their tool shop with them anywhere, across the most extreme terrains.

New Model: Terramac RT14R 360-Degree Rotating Carrier
www.terramac.com/rt14r-crawler-carrier

In April, Terramac – a manufacturer of rubber track crawler carriers – introduced the RT14R, a rotating crawler carrier.

Built with a heavy-duty upper frame that rotates a full 360 degrees, the Terramac RT14R crawler carrier hauls and dumps up to 28,000 pounds of material at any position, even while driving. The 360-degree rotation capability allows the RT14R to offload materials faster than a standard straight-frame unit because the machine’s tracks don’t need to be counter-rotated to drive another direction.

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Sean M. Lyden

Dirty Jobs: What’s New in Digging Equipment for Utility Fleets

Dirty Jobs: What’s New in Digging Equipment for Utility Fleets

Whether you need to dig trenches to lay underground gas lines or drill holes in which to set transmission poles, the goal is the same: to perform the job using the least amount of time, effort and financial resources, while providing the maximum amount of safety and comfort for equipment operators.

So, what are some of the new digging tools brought to market in the past few months that can help utility companies and contractors boost productivity and enhance operator safety? Here are four new products to keep your eye on.

Terex Texoma Spiral Bullet Tooth Auger
www.terex.com/utilities

What if there was a digging attachment that could reduce your drill time in extreme ground conditions from up to eight hours with a standard auger to as few as 30 minutes? That’s the value proposition for the new Terex Texoma spiral bullet tooth auger, according to Dale Putnam, Terex Utilities product manager.

He said that the cut pattern and tooth attack angle on the Texoma auger make the bullet teeth act like "fingers" that penetrate and lift up sand, dirt, cobble, cement, fractured or hard rock, compacted soil or frozen ground, in a way that achieves faster cycle times in and out of the hole, so that crews can get more jobs done in less time.

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Sean M. Lyden

Recruiting and Retaining Top Mechanics

Recruiting and Retaining Top Mechanics

A water main bursts. Power lines get damaged by severe weather. A major gas line leak is detected. Whatever type of utility you work for, your fleet vehicles and equipment need to be ready to roll in an instant to confront any emergency that impacts customers. And that’s what makes having dependable, top-flight mechanics so important. How can utility fleets more effectively prepare and position themselves to compete for the best technicians and keep them on board?

More Jobs, Fewer Candidates
The starting point is to address a key trend that you’re likely experiencing in your own fleet.

As baby boomer mechanics get set to retire, it’s becoming more of a challenge to find young qualified mechanics to fill those spots. And that’s a situation Dale Collins, CAFM, the fleet services supervisor for Fairfax County Water Authority (Fairfax Water) in Fairfax, Va., is experiencing firsthand. Collins manages the utility’s two maintenance facilities staffed by seven full-time mechanics.

“In the next five years, four out of our seven full-time staff are going to be retired,” Collins said. “So, what’s big on our radar right now is trying to put together a succession plan internally and hopefully find some good-quality applicants and backfill some staff members, so we can bring them up to speed before a lot of our retirements set in.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The State of Lightweight Material Technologies in Truck and Van Upfits

The State of Lightweight Material Technologies in Truck and Van Upfits

It wasn’t long ago when nearly $5 per gallon of gasoline and diesel was a reality, with most analysts predicting that this price, or even higher, would be the new normal for a long time to come.

And as fleets grappled with the impact of fuel cost spikes on their operating budgets, they began to look more earnestly into lighter-weight truck and van upfits – built with advanced lightweight materials, such as aluminum, fiberglass composites, plastics, advanced high-strength steel and carbon fiber – with the hopes of improving fuel efficiencies and uncovering other cost-savings opportunities in a volatile market.

This is because replacing conventional steel with lighter-weight materials wherever possible allows fleets to accomplish one of three objectives:
Achieve net fuel-efficiency gains. If you reduce the truck’s weight, without adding more payload, the vehicle requires less effort – and thus, fuel – to perform the same work.
Increase legal payload and productivity. If you take, for example, 1,000 pounds out of the construction of a truck body, that allows your crew to carry 1,000 pounds more in gear, parts and equipment per trip, while staying under gross vehicle weight limits pertaining to bridge laws, commercial driver’s license requirements or other Department of Transporation regulations, depending on the truck class.
Reduce acquisition costs. Selecting a lighter-weight upfit might enable you to downsize to a smaller, potentially less expensive chassis, without sacrificing net payload capacity.

But fast-forward a few years later and, as of press time, both gas and diesel have sunk below $2 per gallon in most of the U.S. So, does this mean lower demand for lighter truck and van upfits?

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Sean M. Lyden

Spec’ing All-Terrain Utility Vehicles for Maximum Safety

Spec’ing All-Terrain Utility Vehicles for Maximum Safety

All-terrain utility vehicles (UVs) are machines used by utility fleets to transport people, materials and equipment across potentially hazardous off-road environments to inspect or repair power lines or perform other tasks in remote areas. These vehicles go where four-wheel-drive pickups cannot, navigating steep slopes, trudging through heavy brush, hovering over swamplands or even floating and powering across creeks and rivers, depending on the make and model of the UV.

If the UV is not designed for the ground conditions of a particular job, you risk having crews stranded in a hard-to-reach area or, worse, injured from a rollover, debris falling onto the cab or unsecured cargo flying into the cab.

So, how should you spec your next UV to ensure the maximum safety of your crews in off-road environments? Keep these five points in mind.

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Michael Taylor

Propane Autogas Provides Sustainable Solutions

Propane Autogas Provides Sustainable Solutions

Approved as an alternative fuel under the Clean Air Act of 1990, propane autogas is certainly not new to the transportation industry. For several decades, many American fleets have used the fuel to reduce emissions and operating costs. But as the U.S Environmental Protection Agency tightens standards and regulations – a trend that is not likely to change in the foreseeable future – fleets across the country are ramping up their efforts to find more reliable, cleaner and more affordable fuel alternatives. And for utility fleets in particular, propane autogas is proving to be a viable option.

Vehicle Options
A growing number of OEMs now offer propane autogas vehicles that provide horsepower, torque and towing capacity comparable to gasoline and diesel versions of the same models. Most recently, medium-duty product offerings such as the ROUSH CleanTech Ford F-650 and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. S2G have entered the marketplace. Certified aftermarket propane autogas fuel systems from Blossman Services Inc. and ICOM North America have also emerged, providing utility fleet professionals with options that are ideal for service, bucket and crane trucks.

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