UFP Magazine

Sean M. Lyden

The State of Electrified Pickup Trucks in the North American Market

The State of Electrified Pickup Trucks in the North American Market

While a growing number of utility fleets are purchasing electrified passenger cars – like the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf – and bucket trucks with plug-in electric power takeoff capabilities, one vehicle segment still seems out of reach for electrification for most fleets: light-duty pickup trucks.

But there have been some new developments in this space that could have important implications for utility fleets. Workhorse Group says that it will unveil a concept electric truck this May at the ACT Expo in Long Beach, Calif. Earlier this year, Ford announced that it would offer a plug-in hybrid-electric version of the F-150 pickup. And XL Hybrids recently introduced a plug-in hybrid system designed for half-ton pickups.

So, what exactly are the prospects for electrified pickup trucks in North America? What are some of the key challenges to widespread fleet adoption? And when can we expect electrified pickups to become more cost-competitive with conventional-fueled trucks?

UFP recently spoke with Scott Shepard, senior research analyst with global market research and consulting firm Navigant Research (www.navigantresearch.com), to get his outlook.

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Partha Ghosh

Determining the Optimal Vehicle Replacement Cycle

Determining the Optimal Vehicle Replacement Cycle

Developing an effective approach when it comes to a strategic replacement cycle is a challenge that every fleet manager faces, regardless of the kinds of vehicles or equipment they may manage. The ability to gather and analyze data about your fleet and understand exactly how your fleet is performing has made the run-a-vehicle-into-the-ground approach not only woefully out of date, but it also has revealed just how expensive it is when compared to a well-designed replacement cycle.

The goal for every fleet should be to replace a vehicle before maintenance costs and downtime begin to rise, and at a time in the vehicle’s life when resale values remain meaningful. Determining how to reach that goal can vary from fleet to fleet, but by implementing an optimal replacement cycle for each vehicle or segment of vehicles in a fleet, a fleet manager can realize tremendous benefits and advantages, ranging from minimizing downtime and lowering operating costs, to keeping up with the fast-changing safety and technology features in more recent models, ensuring the safety and comfort of the fleet’s drivers in the process.

So, what considerations and best practices should you adopt in order to get the most from your replacement cycle strategy and experience the benefits of lower operating costs and optimal total cost of ownership?

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Grace Suizo

What CK-4 and FA-4 Engine Oils Mean for Your Fleet

What CK-4 and FA-4 Engine Oils Mean for Your Fleet

Manufacturers have stepped up their technology efforts to meet rigorous fuel-efficiency and emissions standards. In doing so, many next-generation engines will need higher-performing diesel engine oils to protect them. This requires changes in engine oil composition to withstand more heat without sacrificing engine protection.

A new generation of diesel engine oils was rolled out in December 2016. One of those oils is CK-4, a high-temperature, high-shear (HTHS) oil that can be used in both new and existing engines. It is available in the same viscosity grades and oil types currently being used in fleet operations.

According to the American Petroleum Institute (API), CK-4 can be used in high-speed, four-stroke-cycle diesel engines designed to meet 2017 model-year on-highway and Tier 4 non-road exhaust emission standards, as well as previous model-year diesel engines.

As much as possible, minimize exposure between new and old engine oils to ensure the benefits of CK-4 as well as continued OEM warranty support, advised Mark Betner, heavy-duty product line manager for CITGO (www.citgo.com).

A second oil type that debuted in December – FA-4 – has limited backward compatibility and is better suited for 2017 model-year engines and beyond. This “low-HTHS” oil is offered in lower viscosity grades and is not recommended for use with fuels having greater than 15 parts per million sulfur, according to API (www.api.org).


What Are the Benefits?
Benefits of the new CK-4 and FA-4 oils include increased fuel economy and lower emissions.

“Lower-viscosity engine oils will improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases over [previous] engine oils,” Betner said. “FA-4 engine oils in an FA-4-compliant engine will offer even greater fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases.”

In addition, “Today’s lighter weights can deliver the equivalent or even better wear protection than a CJ-4 15W-40 oil, along with significantly improved oil drain performance,” according to Len Badal, global Delo brand manager for Chevron Lubricants (www.chevronlubricants.com).

Betner agreed, noting the advanced technology of these two engine oils provides significant improvements in deposit control, shear stability and oil aeration control. “These engine oils will also have a 60 percent better oxidation resistance compared to API CJ-4, which aids in extended service intervals,” he explained.

Badal mentioned that off-road equipment would reap significant rewards from CK-4. “CK-4 oils deliver many benefits that directly address major issues with off-road equipment, including extended drain intervals, reduced engine wear and ability to extend rebuild intervals,” he said. “Off-highway equipment operators stand to gain a lot of benefits from the new API CK-4 oils, with a direct impact on reliability, productivity and profitability.”

Based on reduced fuel consumption, and extended oil drain and engine rebuild intervals, potential cost savings are expected.

Fleets surveyed by CITGO reported improved fuel efficiency after converting to its new API CK-4 oils, with improvement ranging from 1.6 to 3.2 percent after 50,000 miles.

What’s the Next Step?
Identify the units in your fleet that will be most impacted, and always check the owner’s manual for the proper lubricant recommendation.

One particular area of concern is for fleets comprised of various makes and models. Some automakers have indicated that neither one of the new engine oils should be used in certain vehicles at this time.

Nebraska Public Power District is one utility that has been proactively addressing that issue. Matt Gilliland, NPPD’s director of transportation and facilities, said he has been communicating with internal staff and servicing vendors to address the diversity of units in the organization’s fleet.

About the Author: Grace Suizo has been covering the automotive fleet industry since 2007. She spent six years as an editor for five fleet publications and has written more than 100 articles geared toward both commercial and public sector fleets.

*****

OEM Specs for API CK-4 and FA-4 Oils
Major diesel engine and truck manufacturers recently provided their own OEM specifications that connect with the new API CK-4 and FA-4 categories for their new model GHG 2017 diesel engines, with several also citing backward compatibility as well as upgrades to support longer oil drain intervals. These initial specs are mainly focused on CK-4 but should include more FA-4 data in the future.

OEM Specs

Source: Len Badal/Chevron Lubricants

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Sean M. Lyden

Self-Driving Systems Present Opportunities and Challenges for Fleets Today, Not Just in the Future

In early February, I moderated a panel of OEM reps from Ford Motor Co. and Daimler Trucks North America on the topic of “Connectivity, Autonomy and the Future of Mobility in Fleet” at the Washington, D.C. Auto Show. As I reflected on our discussion, this was my biggest takeaway: The emergence of self-driving systems is not just a trend to watch in the next five to 10 years; there’s a lot going on right now that utility fleets should be thinking about.

For example, the new 2018 Ford F-150 pickup, expected to go on sale this fall, will feature an available Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Warning system and an advanced adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality that uses radars and cameras to maintain a set distance behind a vehicle – and even follow that vehicle down to a complete stop.

Then there’s the new 2018 Freightliner Class 8 Cascadia, set to release this summer, which offers a full suite of semiautonomous technologies, including adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation with automatic braking. But perhaps the most interesting system is the fourth-generation Intelligent Powertrain Management that’s available on models equipped with Detroit Diesel powertrains. It operates like a predictive cruise control system, using GPS connectivity that enables the truck to anticipate upcoming road terrain and automatically adjust transmission shifting, engine acceleration and braking in a way that maximizes fuel economy as the vehicle approaches each hill, climbs it and coasts on the other side.

The bottom line is that, on some level, autonomous vehicles are already here – from cars and light-duty pickups all the way up to Class 8 tractors. But I’m curious: How are these developments impacting your fleet operations today?

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Kate Wade

Terex HyPower IM

Terex HyPower IM

Terex Utilities now offers customers another option to meet their green fleet needs with the new HyPower IM, the latest innovation in the HyPower hybrid solutions offering.

HyPower IM is an idle mitigation and cab comfort solution. It provides benefits similar to those of the HyPower Hybrid System, including reduced fuel usage and reduced exhaust emissions, but at a lower price point. The system automatically switches from plug-in battery-stored power when the truck is idling to engine-supplied power when hydraulic controls are engaged.

In addition, HyPower IM enables the truck cab to be heated or cooled without the engine running, utilizing the truck’s heating and cooling vents.

HyPower IM is currently available for Class 5 chassis – such as Ford, Dodge and GM trucks – used with Terex Hi-Ranger telescopic aerial devices, such as the LT, LTM and TL series aerial devices. http://info.terex.com/hypoweriminfo

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Kate Wade

Milwaukee Tool and Equipment Tracker

Milwaukee Tool and Equipment Tracker

Milwaukee Tool has introduced the TICK, a professional-grade Bluetooth tool and equipment tracker. Designed to withstand the harshest job site environments, the TICK can be easily attached and hidden from sight on any product, regardless of brand, providing users an invaluable way to track anything in their inventory through the ONE-KEY app.

With its low-profile design, the TICK can securely attach to anything through glue, screw, rivet or strap. Its flat back enables a snug fit to a variety of surface types, and its circular shape fits into a range of places hidden from view (e.g., the underside of a ladder or miter saw stand). Each TICK also is laser engraved with a serial number so users can easily identify and assign multiple TICKs. Once attached and hidden from view, the TICK makes tracking tools and equipment as simple as pulling out your phone.

Products with a TICK attached are paired via the ONE-KEY app. Tool records and locations are updated when any device with the ONE-KEY app comes within 100 feet of the TICK. These location updates are transmitted through any ONE-KEY app that’s in range, regardless of whether the app is open or not, allowing users to pinpoint missing tools more quickly. In addition, users can easily manage all of their tools through the app’s Simplified Tool and Equipment Management features. These features allow users to assign and store detailed information for all of their tools and equipment, whether it’s a tool equipped with a TICK, a ONE-KEY enabled tool or any other tool or piece of equipment. www.milwaukeetool.com

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Kate Wade

ALL Expands Fleet and Customer Choice

ALL Expands Fleet and Customer Choice

The ALL Family of Companies recently announced the acquisition of an equipment package consisting of large-capacity crawlers and aerial lift equipment, including boom lifts and telescopic forklifts. The two separate deals with leading-brand manufacturers Manitowoc and JLG will include 30 new machines.

The Manitowoc purchase includes two 275-USt Manitowoc 999 crawler cranes, which are a combination of capacity, reliability and versatility. Also joining the crawler fleet is a new 220-USt Manitowoc 14000. With its long reach – up to 462 feet with the luffing jib attached – this is an extremely versatile crane.

ALL Aerials, the company’s nationwide aerial equipment division, continues to experience strong demand for their varied inventory of equipment. The company’s new JLG package includes 17 telescopic boom lifts, with horizontal outreach ranging from 33 to 80 feet, as well as 10 JLG telescopic forklifts (telehandlers). These range from the JLG 642, with a maximum capacity of 6,600 pounds, to the heavy-duty JLG G15-44A, the largest of JLG’s telehandlers, with a maximum capacity of 15,000 pounds. Telehandlers and boom lifts are maneuverable, efficient machines that offer real advantages on crowded job sites. Their power, versatility and ability to work at awkward angles can directly and positively affect productivity. www.allcrane.com

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Kate Wade

Ditch Witch Tier 4 Drill Upgrades

Ditch Witch Tier 4 Drill Upgrades

To provide horizontal directional drilling operators with the power and performance to conquer any job, Ditch Witch, a Charles Machine Works Company, has introduced Tier 4 emission standard upgrades to the JT60 and JT60 All Terrain directional drills.

With new Tier 4 engine upgrades, these drills offer contractors 60,000 pounds of thrust and 9,000 foot-pounds of rotational torque – the right combination for superior productivity on large installations in rural or urban environments. Drilling with 200-gross-hp Tier 4 Cummins engines, the JT60 and JT60 All Terrain deliver the power to bore through the most challenging underground obstacles, including rock and other hard, fractured soils.

The two-pipe drilling system featured on the JT60 All Terrain drill delivers more raw power to the drill bit than any other rock-drilling system in its class. The combination of simultaneous drilling and steering through rock allows horizontal directional drilling contractors to get jobs done faster and more efficiently.

Both drill models feature an automated, easy-to-use pipeloading system, designed to save contractors time and money, as well as an optional new wireline platform. Heavy-duty anchor systems provide the stability necessary during drilling and backreaming to use the machines’ full thrust capabilities when navigating challenging underground conditions, keeping the drill operating efficiently and the bore path stable. With the smallest footprint in its class, the machines drill through the toughest conditions even in hard-to-reach, tight job sites. www.ditchwitch.com

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Kate Wade

Mohawk Lift Accessory

Mohawk Lift Accessory

Mohawk Lifts has announced a new lift accessory for 10,000-pound through 30,000-pound two-post lifts. The swing arm head guard prevents technicians from hurting or cutting their heads on hard, steel swing arms while they are working under a vehicle. Easily applied to the lift’s swing arm with a peel-and-stick application, the head guard decreases workplace injuries and increases worker safety. www.mohawklifts.com

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Kate Wade

Sherman + Reilly PTV-6013

Sherman + Reilly PTV-6013

Sherman + Reilly, a Textron Inc. company, has a new PTV-6013 that operates equally well as a puller, tensioner and V-groove reconductorer, providing utilities and contractors performing a wide variety of jobs with versatility on the job site.

The new PTV-6013 unit can pull out old conductor, wind on a scrap reel, unload with the 18,000-pound self-loading reel carrier and tension out new conductor all with one machine. The V-groove reconductoring channel permits easy handling of splicing sleeves, all in a wide range of conductor or rope diameters.

This unit addresses the market need for expanded pulling and tensioning capacities by offering 13,000 pounds of pulling capacity for transmission, subtransmission and distribution applications with tensioning capabilities of up to 8,000 pounds. The PTV-6013 simplifies the job site by reducing setup time for loading and splicing of cable reels, all within a compact 26-foot footprint. By combining puller/tensioner capabilities with an 18,000-pound self-loading reel carrier, the PTV-6013 eliminates the need for additional equipment on the job site.

The PTV-6013 features a Safe-Zone cab providing ultimate safety and comfort for the operator. The Safe-Zone cab employs a floor-to-ceiling polycarbonate front window for maximum visibility while providing protection against impact. The cab includes climate control, a fully adjustable ergonomic seat and all required electronic controls and gauges. The Safe-Zone cab is designed to reduce operator fatigue, and provide an off-ground envelope for greatly reducing the risk of touch potential in energized environments. www.sherman-reilly.com

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Kate Wade

Gabriel FleetLine Ride Control Products

Gabriel FleetLine Ride Control Products

Gabriel (Ride Control LLC) has introduced new FleetLine ride control products for a wide range of heavy-duty vehicle makes and models, including Western Star, Kenworth, Thomas School Bus, Mack and more. In total, Gabriel is announcing 15 new product introductions, including some that are first to market.

FleetLine shocks are designed as a direct replacement for commercial OE shocks, and are built to meet or exceed OE specifications and quality standards. They feature valving rates that compensate for initial truck suspension softening to deliver top performance, as well as a preloaded piston ring that compensates for wear.

The recently updated FleetLine product line now features an improved anti-corrosion coating and a drastically improved misting reduction seal, thereby reducing maintenance downtime and extending service life. With Gabriel’s improved misting reduction seal technology, oil loss will be reduced by 70 percent over time, leading to longer life as compared to competing technologies. www.gabriel.com

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Kate Wade

TRP Lubricant Program

TRP Lubricant Program

Available in the U.S., Canada and Latin America, TRP Engine Oil, TRP Synthetic Transmission Oil and TRP Synthetic Gear Oil are the newest additions to the TRP global catalog of over 110,000 parts.

Formulated to guard against wear and corrosion in demanding applications, the products in the TRP Lubricant Program protect axle components, transmissions and engines for longer life and smoother operation across a wide range of operating conditions.

Perfect for a mixed fleet, TRP Engine Oil (SAE 15W-40 and SAE 10W-30) protects today’s four-stroke diesel and gasoline engines, and keeps older engine models running smoothly as well. Made to combat the sludge, varnish and ash deposits that can occur at high operating temperatures, TRP Engine Oil protects against oxidation, corrosion and rust. It also provides diesel particulate filter protection.

For all-climate, year-round protection of heavy-duty manual transmissions, TRP Synthetic Transmission Oil (SAE 50 Synthetic) offers exceptional performance. Recommended for a broad range of heavy-duty truck transmissions including Eaton and Meritor, TRP Synthetic Transmission Oil has a high viscosity index and low pour point for easy shifting in low temperatures. Its formulation protects against gear wear and copper corrosion, while providing thermal and oxidation stability.

TRP Synthetic Gear Oil (SAE 75W-90 Synthetic) is recommended as a rear axle and differential oil in over-the-road and off-road vehicles and is as crucial to the reliability of a heavy-duty vehicle as its engine or transmission lubricant. TRP Synthetic Gear Oil is a multigrade gear lubricant designed for the extreme pressure of heavy-duty applications. TRP Synthetic Gear Oil reduces operating temperatures when compared to conventional gear lubricants. www.trpparts.com

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Kate Wade

Roadmaster RM234

Roadmaster RM234

The RM234 from Roadmaster is a SmartWay-verified premium regional all-position tire for high-scrub applications. The tread compound provides excellent treadwear and increased resistance to cutting and chipping. The curb bars on the sidewalls help to protect the tires from curbing damage, and preserve the casing for retreading. The tire design and compound provide low tire rolling resistance and contribute to fuel efficiency, to help keep you on the road longer. www.roadmastertires.com

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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

Eversource Energy’s New Approach to Change Management in Fleet

Eversource Energy’s New Approach to Change Management in Fleet

About a year ago, the fleet team at Eversource Energy (www.eversource.com) launched an initiative to standardize vehicle and equipment specifications across their three-state service area that includes Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Their objective: Cut fleet costs by limiting vehicle configurations to specific job descriptions. This would enable the fleet to strengthen its buying power (by purchasing a higher volume of same-spec units); streamline parts inventories across all their locations (by operating more equipment from fewer OEMs); and benefit from shorter order-to-delivery cycles (by ordering from fewer vendors).

“If you're a lineworker, the function of a material-handling truck is going to be the same whether you’re in New Hampshire, Connecticut or Massachusetts,” said Steve Driscoll, vice president of operation services for Eversource, which is New England's largest electric and gas utility, with about 6,500 fleet assets, including trailers. “In the past, we allowed for differences and customization in equipment, based on an operator’s personal preferences. We recognized the need for going to a standard vehicle across the board to be more efficient and reduce costs.”

But the Eversource team also recognized that many of their end users might not like the change. After all, operators had become accustomed to having their vehicles a certain way for years. And they would likely feel resentment toward fleet, especially if no one clearly explained the why behind the changes.

Effective Change Management
So, to help ease the transition, Eversource decided to take a new approach to introducing new vehicle and equipment models to operators. Beginning earlier this year, the Eversource fleet team began conducting comprehensive in-service events, each lasting about two to three hours, with classroom instruction and hands-on demonstrations.

The events are led by each of the key vendor partners involved with the build-out of the truck, including the chassis manufacturer, body manufacturer and equipment upfitters. The utility’s insurance agency, Liberty Mutual, also sends an expert, who typically opens the event by teaching safe driving and equipment operation practices during the classroom portion of the agenda.

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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 Michael Rorison, director of fleet operations at Eversource Energy (www.eversource.com), New England's largest energy provider. The utility serves more than 3.6 million electric and natural gas customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, with about 6,500 assets, including trailers, in its fleet.

#1. Build strong relationships with your team and your customers.
“This is the hardest thing and one of the most important things you can do. The relationships you build today will play a major role in your success as a fleet manager. Employee engagement through developing relationships and team-building initiatives will help you retain good, productive employees. And your relationships with drivers will help them better understand the value of a vehicle’s safety features, with greater appreciation for how those features help the organization achieve its overall safety goals.”

#2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
“The key to successful communication is to listen to all stakeholders who are involved and impacted by your business plan to ensure it supports your customers’ needs. And you must be able to clearly convey everything to your team. Consistent communication with team members and customers can solve or prevent most issues before they escalate into time-consuming crises.”

#3. Be a planner.
“Do you have a strategy that supports your organization’s business plan? And are you prepared for the inevitable crisis? Make planning a part of your standard operating procedure, with daily targets and goals to keep you on track. This way, you can reduce the number of ‘fires’ you need to put out on a daily basis, while putting yourself in a position to handle the inevitable crisis more effectively when it does happen.”

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Jim Galligan

The Pros and Cons of Driver-Facing Cameras in Utility Fleets

The Pros and Cons of Driver-Facing Cameras in Utility Fleets

In-cab cameras have gained a foothold and acceptance among numerous service and freight delivery fleets for the technology’s ability to improve safety and lower accident and claim costs.

Utilities, however, perhaps because of their different operational model and high system costs, appear to be relying on more traditional methods to manage risk and improve driver skills. In calls to six electric utilities across the U.S., only one – National Grid, which provides electric and gas delivery in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – is using the technology as of press time.

National Grid uses about 3,600 recorders fleet-wide. For Frank Prost, director of downstate gas construction, the 316 units in his department’s trucks have worked as advertised: They’ve helped to boost safety by improving driver skills, assigning accountability and preventing accidents.

The group has seen a significant improvement in driving, according to Prost. “We’re in a much, much better place with our driving,” he said. “It’s a safer environment for employees and the public. [The cameras have] helped us numerous times. We’d get complaints about incidents but didn’t have any proof. If there’s an event, now you have a video telling us what the driver was doing. Now you can prove it.”

The cameras also have all but eliminated backing-up insurance scams, Prost said. People would intentionally back into a National Grid truck at a traffic light and claim the driver hit them. Now, drivers can get out of their truck, point to the camera and say that the video will show the truth. “The people drive off,” he said.

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Sandy Smith

3-Point Checklist for Spec’ing the Right Backhoe

3-Point Checklist for Spec’ing the Right Backhoe

A backhoe is not likely to be the asset most often purchased for a utility company’s fleet. For example, Duke Energy – which has more than 15,000 fleet assets – “may only purchase three or four a year,” said Chris Jolly, Duke’s director of regional operations for Carolinas West.

That means a purchaser may not be as familiar with the required specs for a backhoe as he or she may be with, say, the specs for a standard pickup truck used by the utility.

But it is just as important to get the specs right, said Eric Zieser, NAFTA product manager for backhoes at CASE Construction Equipment. “Buyers really do need to understand their entire fleet and how a backhoe plays into it. By under-specifying a machine, you may actually be creating more work and cost for yourself in the future by having to bring in/rent/transport additional equipment to do the job.”

So, when spec’ing the next backhoe for your fleet, keep these three points in mind.

1. Know what you need.
At Duke Energy, an acquisition team works closely with crews in the field, despite having a corporate agreement with one manufacturer for a standard backhoe, according to Jolly. Even with that standard equipment, there are options.

“Listen to your customers and work closely with the manufacturer. They’ve got the history of what the product can do,” Jolly said.

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Sean M. Lyden

Could Cutting the Cord Accelerate Electric Vehicle Growth?

Could Cutting the Cord Accelerate Electric Vehicle Growth?

If your fleet operates plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) – or is planning to do so – there’s an emerging technology you’ll want to put on your radar that could impact your vehicle selection and charging infrastructure decisions within the next year or two.

It’s wireless EV charging, which proponents believe holds the key to widespread transportation electrification.

That’s because one of the friction points of operating EVs is the inconvenience of charging with a conventional cord and plug-in system, said David Schatz, vice president of business development and sales for WiTricity (http://witricity.com), a firm that develops wireless charging systems for EVs, headquartered in Watertown, Mass.

Schatz cites a major automaker’s internal study that found that 70 percent of all plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) owners never plug in and opt for fueling only with gas because of the “inconvenience” of plugging in their vehicle.

The idea here is that if you cut the cord, you make EV charging more acceptable to a larger market because you’re not forcing users to change their behavior. “PHEV and EV drivers simply park over a charging pad in their garage, or at work, or at a shopping center and charge up with no hands, no effort,” Schatz said.

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Bill Doman

Leasing vs. Purchasing: Making the Right Choice for Your Utility Fleet

Leasing vs. Purchasing: Making the Right Choice for Your Utility Fleet

When the time comes to add new vehicles to your fleet, the question of whether to lease or buy can seem daunting. The challenge of determining the best financial fit for your organization may feel overwhelming, but historically low interest rates have made leases increasingly attractive. Low interest rates are really just one consideration, however; cash flow and budget considerations, tax advantages, warranty coverage, cycling considerations and even concerns over a company’s image can factor into the overall decision. While utility fleets – especially regulated ones – traditionally have opted to purchase, more and more are successfully venturing into the world of leasing, allowing them to redirect capital expenditures in support of other revenue generating activities. So, how can you decide if leasing is right for your fleet? And if it is, what factors and strategies do you need to consider when deciding whether to lease or buy?

Before you make any decisions, it is important to understand your options, the benefits and limitations of leasing or purchasing, and the effect each will have on how you budget and plan. In the most general terms, when you are making the choice, the question comes down to how much money you will need to finance. When you purchase, you are choosing to finance the entire cost of the vehicle. With a lease, you are only paying for use of the vehicle, which is determined by the difference between the purchase price and the projected value of the vehicle at lease-end. This typically means that if you purchase, the monthly payments will be higher because the amount you are financing will be larger. If you want cash flow flexibility, leasing may be a better option for your fleet. It may also give you potential tax advantages and allow for cash preservation. Unlike a purchase, however, you will not own the asset at the end of the lease term.

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