UFP Magazine

Sean M. Lyden

Dominion Virginia Power’s Drone Program Takes Flight

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Unmanned aerial vehicles – also known as UAVs or drones – offer the utility industry the promise of lower costs and improved worker safety with regard to line inspections, storm damage assessments, and other tasks that are traditionally performed using manned helicopters and third-party inspection services.

And the market appears ripe for rapid expansion, as drone technology becomes more advanced and hardware costs continue to plummet. In fact, global annual revenue for drone and robotics technologies for transmission and distribution is expected to grow from $131.7 million in 2015 to $4.1 billion in 2024 – about a 30-fold increase – according to Navigant Research (www.navigantresearch.com).

But the U.S. market still has regulatory hurdles to overcome before utilities can deploy drones at a level where they can effectively realize the full business benefits of the technology. Federal Aviation Administration restrictions, such as having to maintain visual line of sight, have prevented utilities from being able to fly drones over longer distances and inspect large sections of power lines at a time – the holy grail for utility drone programs.

Yet despite these constraints, a growing number of U.S. utility companies, like Dominion Virginia Power, which launched its drone program in 2013, are getting into the drone business and seeing promising results. And there could be huge implications for fleet.

What exactly is involved with starting a utility drone program? How are these programs managed? And what’s the potential impact on fleet? Will drones replace certain types of ground vehicles? Will they eventually become fleet assets?

UFP recently spoke with Steve Eisenrauch, manager of transmission forestry and line services for Dominion Virginia Power and the leader of his department’s drone program, to explore these questions and more.

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Sean M. Lyden

Confronting the Human Dilemma in a Brave New Self-Driving World

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In his speech at the AutoMobili-D Conference in Detroit this past January, John Krafcik, the CEO at Waymo – formerly the Google self-driving car program – cited this compelling statistic: “Each year, more than 1.2 million people die on the roads around the world.”

He then put that number in context: “That’s equivalent to a 737 [airliner] falling from the sky every hour of every day all year long.”

Krafcik’s point is clear. Society would never tolerate having a major airline crash every day; so, how can it accept the same number of people dying in automotive crashes? If self-driving systems could prevent the vast majority of fatalities on the road, wouldn’t it be a moral imperative for society to adopt that technology?

That’s the argument that Krafcik, several Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and most automotive executives have been making in recent months as they present a vision of a “crash-less” society made possible by fully autonomous vehicles. After all, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 94 percent of crashes can be tied to human error. Remove the driver, eliminate human error – right?

But despite bold predictions by industry executives and analysts that fully autonomous vehicles will be available for sale in the U.S. within the next four years, human psychological barriers could put the brakes on societal adoption of this technology.

How?

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Grace Suizo

3 Problems to Avoid When Spec’ing a Cable Reel Trailer

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When it comes to installing cables, pipes and the like, cable reel trailers can help utility and telecom crews boost productivity and efficiency so they can get more done in less time and for a lower cost of operation. That is, of course, assuming that they’ve selected the right equipment for the job.

Considering most cable reel trailers can last at least 10 years – or possibly even up to 20 if properly maintained – careful thought and consideration should be put into spec’ing the right unit prior to purchase. Not doing so could mean the difference between spending thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars.

According to Mark Rapp, product manager for utility and telecom products for Felling Trailers (www.felling.com), the price of reel trailers varies greatly depending on weight-carrying requirements and the options the trailers are equipped with.

For example, a simple single reel trailer that can haul a 3,000-pound reel can start as low as $3,000, while a three-reel trailer – set up to haul 10,000-pound reels and loaded with options such as hydraulic payout/take-up assemblies and tensioning brakes – can be $65,000, he explained.

Donnie Bright, business development manager for Sherman + Reilly (www.sherman-reilly.com), had a similar response, noting that cost is influenced by the scope of work desired.

“Cost of ownership is very minimal if the cable reel trailer is sized and used correctly,” he said. “Keep your trailer properly maintained per the manufacturer's maintenance schedule. The life cycle will vary, but if properly maintained and only slightly abused, you should see a minimum 10 to 20 years of service on a quality-built trailer.”

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Sandy Smith

How Easy is it to Hack a Utility Fleet Vehicle?

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hackers may be able to access a vehicle’s systems via a phone or tablet connected to the vehicle by USB or Bluetooth. The vehicle’s diagnostic port is another access point.

But a vehicle’s biggest vulnerability may be behind the wheel. According to a November 2016 blog post published by Promon (see https://promon.co/blog/tesla-cars-can-be-stolen-by-hacking-the-app/), a Norwegian firm that specializes in app hardening, the company’s researchers demonstrated just how easy it is to trick a Tesla driver into giving a hacker access to the car’s systems. Tesla, like many vehicle manufacturers, offers a remote app that allows the driver to unlock the vehicle. During the experiment, Promon employees:
• Created a free Wi-Fi hotspot.
• Developed an ad for Tesla drivers that offered a free hamburger at a local restaurant if the driver downloaded a particular app.
• Used the app to gain access to the Tesla driver’s username and password.
• Located the car and used the Tesla app – and the previously captured username and password – to access the vehicle.
• Drove away in the Tesla.

Get Ahead of the Curve
When UFP spoke with Matt Gilliland, director of transportation and facilities for Nebraska Public Power District, he indicated that cybersecurity in vehicles was not historically a fleet management “care about,” but change is definitely on the horizon.

“The connectivity of our fleet is very limited,” he said, before noting that NPPD uses telematics and GPS intelligence, and that the fleet contains a limited number of new vehicles with Bluetooth capabilities. All of those are potential entry points for hackers and cyberattacks. In 2016, 3.6 million vehicles were recalled to fix cybersecurity issues; that figure is double the number recalled in 2015, according to the NHTSA, and this comes before vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity has really taken off.

“Technology grows and advances so fast that a lot of utilities and fleets are going to find themselves behind the curve,” Gilliland said. “I think it’s going to be a significant concern and will maybe catch a lot of us unaware.”

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Fiona Soltes

Will Solar Drive the Future of Electrified Trucks?

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Several years ago, when gas prices were higher and an industry need arose to reduce costs and seek alternative solutions, conversations about harnessing the sun intensified. Combined with advances in electric vehicle technology, the possibilities of what manufacturers and fleets could do in this realm began to grow.

Solar power began to be used to extend the range of some electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. And a full-size electric pickup truck using solar to extend its range was introduced at the 2014 North American International Auto Show.

Given the evolution of solar power use in vehicles over the years, where are we today?

As it turns out, on a slightly different course than one may have assumed. Rather than focus on the use of solar to add range to electric vehicles, utility fleets are, for example, adding panels as components of larger energy management systems. Solar power may be used to recharge vehicle starting and auxiliary batteries. It also can supplement battery charging while a vehicle is being driven or while it’s stopped – a valuable feature where legislation may prohibit idling. Additionally, solar power paired with an inverter system converts DC battery power to AC household power to charge cordless tools, laptops, test equipment and other work truck loads that require AC power without draining the battery.

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Jim Galligan

Getting the Most Out of Your Tires

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As a utility fleet manager, you operate perhaps the most diversified vehicle fleet of any business, typically using all weight classes of trucks, from light- to heavy-duty, on the road and off, hauling aerial devices, digger derricks and a slew of other job-specific equipment on good pavement or through fields of debris.

Given these characteristics, getting the best value and performance from your tires may not be rocket science, but it does take planning, smart spec’ing and commitment to a maintenance program, according to tire manufacturers.

A fleet’s first step toward tire value is to determine its goals, said Bill Walmsley, product category manager with Michelin Americas Truck Tires (www.michelintruck.com). What do you want in your tires? Durable, trouble-free service and long, even wear? Additional features? Regardless, selecting the best tire for the application is key. Walmsley suggested that fleets start by looking at the same tire size they currently have on their equipment by wheel position and then explore available options in that size to meet the specific conditions under which the equipment will operate. “This might entail specific load-carrying requirements, weather conditions or environmental issues, such as off-road products or tires which operate well in field or snow conditions,” he said.

Calibrating the balance between load and appropriate tire pressure is critical, but it also is easy since every tire manufacturer publishes load and inflation charts for their tires. The only way to make sure the calibrations are correct is to know the loads being carried and use the charts, Walmsley said.

“Tires are designed and optimized to carry a desired load at a specified pressure. Proper pressure for the maximum load being carried is very important. Underinflation and overinflation for the loads being carried will affect tire and casing life and performance,” Walmsley said.

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Sean M. Lyden

The Future of Utility Fleets is Here … Are You Ready?

As a utility fleet professional, you have to wear numerous hats – engineer, purchasing agent, manager, IT person, recruiter, counselor, accountant, salesperson – and are constantly bombarded with “fires” to put out, leaving you with little time to think about your future.

But as you read about and see the rapid change going on in the industry, you’re realizing that you need the time to start thinking about how to adapt. Emerging technologies like self-driving systems, the internet of things, connected vehicles, artificial intelligence and drones are already here and just beginning to make an impact on how fleets – and fleet professionals – do business, setting the stage for major industry disruption in the next three to five years.

And as more and more older fleet workers and technicians get ready for retirement, there’s a looming shortage of younger workers who are willing and qualified to fill the gap, raising the stakes for utility fleets as they compete for technical talent and expertise.

So, what if there was a three-day boot camp during which you could set aside everything else and focus your energy and attention on learning and thinking about the strategies, tactics and leadership tools that can help you successfully navigate the challenges ahead?

Now there is, and its name is Utility Fleet Conference 2017.

UFC 2017 is an intensive three-day fleet education event from October 2-4, 2017, produced by Utility Fleet Professional magazine (www.utilityfleetprofessional.com) and co-located at the International Construction & Utility Equipment Exposition (www.icuee.com) in Louisville, Ky.

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Kate Wade

Air-Weigh LoadMaxx Trailer Scale

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Air-Weigh has released the next-generation LoadMaxx Trailer Scale. The new scale combines the best of previous LoadMaxx and Quickload trailer scales into one trailer scale with two options: LoadMaxx base model, and LoadMaxx with ComLink.

The updated LoadMaxx scale continues to offer the same great features customers have come to love about previous-generation scales, including an icon-based touch-screen display; built-in LED alarm lights; dual-point calibration and high-precision pressure sensor for weight accuracy; compensation for temperature and altitude change; PIN-protected calibration; and English, Spanish and French language options.

The ComLink option now available for the LoadMaxx trailer scale enables drivers to view steer, drive, trailer, GVW and net payload on an in-cab LoadMaxx tractor display. Tractor/trailer weight information can also be sent to the fleet's management software via the built-in data communication interface. When used with the Bluetooth-compatible LoadMaxx Tractor Scale, weight data is also available on any smartphone or tablet through Air-Weigh’s LoadMaxx App. www.air-weigh.com

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Kate Wade

Sherman+Reilly PT-3000 Puller/Tensioner

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Sherman+Reilly, a Textron Inc. company, has launched the new PT-3000, a single-drum, multipurpose distribution puller/tensioner capable of pulling up to 3,000 pounds overhead and up to 7,500 pounds underground.

Addressing overhead and underground applications, the unit offers a suite of accessories that make the PT-3000 a true workhorse. The frame is outfitted with a curbside motor mount for pilot line winding that utilizes Sherman+Reilly’s Spider System, an integrated set of special equipment, reels, rope and accessories for fast and easy installation of pulling lines with distribution class conductors.

Sherman+Reilly has added an optional hydraulically actuated Pad Mount Transformer Attachment in the underground package to address tough approach angles and allow for optimized setup for underground pulling applications. www.sherman-reilly.com

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Kate Wade

DewEze Releases Battery-Powered Electric System

DewEze Releases Battery-Powered Electric System

Reduce, reuse and recharge with the battery-powered electric (BEH) driven system by DewEze Hydraulics. Known for its innovative roots, DewEze continues that tradition with the release of this BEH package for medium-duty truck applications.

The steel-constructed cabinet houses a 12-volt motor, two 100/110-amp class batteries and a charge monitoring system to power hydraulic needs. This green technology offers a turnkey solution for no-idling regulations that improves noise reduction, decreases operator fatigue and reduces costs for utility fleet trucks.

The BEH power house is available in two packages: Lithium Ion at 200 amp hours and AGM at 220 amp hours. The DewEze-designed package – 24 by 16.5 by 11.5 inches – conveniently fits into any tail shelf frame rails. www.deweze.com

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Kate Wade

BrandFX Launches UltimateFX and UtilityFX

BrandFX Launches UltimateFX and UtilityFX

BrandFX, a leader in lightweight composite work truck bodies, launched the all-new UltimateFX and UtilityFX at the NTEA Work Truck Show 2017. The UltimateFX is the industry’s first all-composite body and understructure for the work truck market. The UtilityFX is the all-composite body for cutaway work van applications.

A crash test video was screened at the event, revealing no permanent deformation or structural damage to the UltimateFX body/understructure after a simulation of a frontal crash in excess of 30 mph.

Like other advanced composite bodies from BrandFX, the UtilityFX was built to withstand up to 20 years of continual use. The engineered space in the UtilityFX allows for an increase in mobile operation efficiency by providing optimal access to all storage areas and organizational compartments.

Both products use advanced composite construction that is lighter than aluminum, designed to withstand the same rigors and working conditions of a steel body, and ultimately corrosion and oxidation free. The UltimateFX and UtilityFX are the first of their kind on the market. www.brandfxbody.com

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Kate Wade

Fleet-Ready Truck Solution from XL Hybrids

Fleet-Ready Truck Solution from XL Hybrids

Utility fleets have been seeking a reliable, fleet-ready plug-in hybrid electric pickup truck for years. XL Hybrids Inc. will begin production of its new XLP plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) upfit solution in the fourth quarter of 2017. XLP, rolling out on the Ford F-150, will be an industry-first, Fleet-Ready solution offered as a ship-thru upfit on half-ton pickup trucks. The system will provide a 50 percent improvement in miles driven per gallon for major fleets across the U.S., as well as significant reductions in CO2 emissions.

Benefits for utility fleets include a PHEV pickup truck with immediate applications across a wide range of drive cycles; based on proven technology with 40 million road miles; plug-in technology to meet EEI mandates for investment in fleet electrification; by adopting PHEV pickups, utility fleets set an example for rate-paying constituencies, encouraging them to use the increasing number of public, utility-installed vehicle charging stations; allows utility fleets to use the increasing amount of charging infrastructure being installed; and increases sustainability by offsetting fossil fuel use to reduce CO2 and NOx emissions.

NV Energy and DTE Energy are among the newest utility and municipal fleets who say they intend to purchase XL Hybrids’ XLP PHEV system. They join previously announced fleets San Diego Gas & Electric Co., Liberty Utilities and Hawaiian Electric Co. www.xlhybrids.com

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Kate Wade

PRINOTH PANTHER T22 Now Available with Altec Cranes

PRINOTH PANTHER T22 Now Available with Altec Cranes

Altec Industries recently announced that two of their biggest cranes – the AC40-152S and AC45-127S – are now available mounted on the PRINOTH PANTHER T22. This provides customers access to hard-to-reach areas and employ the unit in the aerial mode of operation with 222 feet of working height and 1,200 pounds of platform capacity.

PRINOTH and Altec worked closely together on developing the unit to ensure both systems, the carrier and the unit, would have best-in-class safety, reliability and off-road performance. The quick-attach platform can be used on the main boom, the 49-foot telescopic jib or the 6-foot composite reach extension. The unit was designed to optimize deck space and allow easy access to the cab from anywhere in rotation. The workhorse AC45 is also available on the T22. More specifications can be obtained by contacting Altec directly.

The PANTHER T22 is Tier 4 Final, offers 46,000 pounds of payload and is undoubtedly one of the largest tracked carriers on the market. Equipped with the innovative Rapid Attach Design chassis, a PRINOTH exclusivity first designed specifically for the power utility industry, this vehicle can receive large cranes or other sizable implements. With a ground pressure of only 4.39 psi at the maximum GVWR, the unit will easily travel through mud or other soft soils to allow power utility companies to reach even the hardest terrains. www.prinoth.com, www.altec.com

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Sean M. Lyden

The Final 3

The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Todd Carlson, principal manager for fleet asset management at Southern California Edison (www.sce.com), one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving nearly 15 million customers in Central, Coastal and Southern California, with about 6,100 assets, including trailers, in its fleet.

#1. Learn from other utility fleet professionals.
“Leverage your peers in the industry to benchmark how they configure and utilize their utility trucks. And study their best practices and alternative work methods for crews. This way, you can shorten your own learning curve and put your fleet in the best position to succeed.”

#2. Avoid excessive customization.
“While most utility trucks are custom-configured for the buyer and their work methods, new fleet managers should be aware of all the costs of excessive or unique customizations not typically offered by OEMs. These costs can include longer lead times, engineering issues, trade-offs and unintended outcomes.”

#3. Track fleet performance so you can make smart business decisions.
“A good telematics solution can help you capture performance data – such as days utilized, idle time, boom utilization and driver performance – to equip you with the insight you need to make informed business decisions about your fleet.”

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Kate Wade

Havis Mobile Solutions

Havis Mobile Solutions

Havis Inc. has announced the launch of vehicle-specific and universal mobile office mounting solutions for a wide range of 2017 vehicles. Havis consoles, equipment mounting and computer device docking solutions are specifically designed with vehicles and mobile professionals in mind to create a comfortable mobile office built to the highest safety standards.

Havis’ broad portfolio of rugged products provides secure mounting solutions for 2017 vehicles across a variety of markets, including utility and energy services, public safety and material handling. Mounting solutions are available for Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Freightliner, GMC, International, Isuzu, Jeep, Honda, Nissan and more. Havis works directly with OEM partners to develop vehicle-specific equipment mounting and computing solutions that maximize productivity in mobile offices.

Havis equipment mounting solutions are tested to the industry’s highest safety standards, including vibration and environmental testing to ensure quality performance in the most rugged conditions. www.havis.com

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Kate Wade

Bigfoot Internal and Plastic Handles

Bigfoot Internal and Plastic Handles

Bigfoot Outrigger Pads is now offering their new Internal Handles, which are machined out of solid plastic. The company also is offering their all-new Plastic Handles that never get sopping wet. Founded in 1995 and incorporated in 1996, Bigfoot has grown from building wood outrigger pads for a few local concrete pumping and crane companies to being a leading wood and plastic outrigger pad manufacturer for OEMs, machine dealers and end users throughout the U.S. and Canada. www.outriggerpads.com

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Sean M. Lyden

3 Takeaways from Southern California Edison’s Fleet Electrification Initiative

3 Takeaways from Southern California Edison’s Fleet Electrification Initiative

Conventional wisdom says that as fuel prices drop, so does market demand for alternative-fuel vehicles – such as those powered by compressed natural gas, propane autogas and plug-in electric systems. That’s because the lower the price of gasoline and diesel, the longer it takes to recoup the premium for alt-fuel technologies through fuel-cost savings.

Yet despite fuel prices in the low two-dollar range per gallon as of press time, a growing number of electric utilities in the U.S. are making substantial investments to green their fleets – specifically in plug-in electric vehicle (EV) systems.

A major driver of this trend has been Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) Transportation Electrification Initiative, which in late 2014 garnered commitments from more than 70 investor-owned electric utilities to devote at least 5 percent of their annual fleet acquisition budgets to purchase plug-in EVs and equipment.

But for one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, Southern California Edison (SCE), the push for fleet electrification began nearly two decades ago, in 2000. And today, SCE (www.sce.com) operates 644 electrified units, comprising 11 percent of its total fleet. Last year, the utility invested 18.7 percent of its fleet spend in EVs, nearly quadruple the EEI annual target.

UFP recently spoke with Todd Carlson, principal manager for fleet asset management at SCE, to get more details about their fleet electrification initiative and uncover some of the lessons that Carlson and his team have learned in the process. Here are three takeaways that emerged from our conversation.

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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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Fiona Soltes

Putting a Lock on Lost Keys

Putting a Lock on Lost Keys

Keeping track of keys in a utility fleet environment – which may have thousands of assets, from pickups to bucket trucks and beyond – can be a costly endeavor. In fact, the price tag associated with maintaining fleet vehicle keys and replacing those that are lost can hit well into five figures each year.

“Keys are pretty much a nightmare for every utility,” said Gary Lentsch, CAFM, fleet manager at Eugene (Ore.) Water & Electric Board. With roughly 350 pieces of equipment, he has a lot to keep up with. Two keyboards – one master with keys that never leave the property and another keyboard for the shop to use – help some. In addition, two more keys for each vehicle go directly to the department receiving the equipment. But problems still arise.

The biggest culprit? When departments make their own additional keys, not realizing that for some vehicles, OEMs will only allow eight keys to be programmed the same.

“And if you’ve got four, and then someone goes back and makes a couple more, you’re at five and six, then we hit seven and eight, and when you go to make the ninth key, the number one key drops off,” Lentsch said. “It’s deactivated. That could be the one on your master keyboard. … It’s actually happened quite a bit.”

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Sandy Smith

3 Ergonomic Upfits to Combat Work-Related Injuries

3 Ergonomic Upfits to Combat Work-Related Injuries

When Dan Remmert, manager of fleet services for Ameren Illinois Company, explored the reasons behind his group’s work-related injuries, one issue kept coming up: getting in and out of a vehicle or piece of equipment.

“We’ve had many issues over time related to getting to the back of a bed, a bucket or aerial device,” he said. He also noted that recent vehicle changes have resulted in chassis being taller, “which causes ergonomic challenges for loading, moving and working.”

Complicating matters is the fact that his workers can choose the size ladder they prefer, but Remmert is expected to standardize the fleet’s trucks, including ladder racks. “We use some of the fold-down products on the market, but they just never seem to fit everybody.”

While combatting injuries caused by stepping out of or lifting materials from vehicles is a growing problem for utilities, there are several ergonomically friendly products now on the market that can help prevent some of the most common injuries. Here are three that may benefit your fleet operators.

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