UFP Magazine

Sandy Smith

How Utility Fleets Use Telematics for Preventive and Predictive Maintenance

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When utility fleets use telematics as intended, the benefits of the technology can be wide-ranging. Each asset, each mile driven and each minute spent idling generate data and insight that tell a story about the fleet.

And telematics data can be analyzed to determine not only what is currently happening with fleet assets, but also what could happen in the future. That’s why some utility fleets have begun to use the data for both preventive and predictive maintenance. However, where predictive maintenance is concerned, there are some operational hurdles to overcome.

At Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., telematics was implemented in heavy-duty vehicles in 2011 and in all light- and medium-duty vehicles in 2014 when the utility was acquired by Exelon Corp. Now, telematics is available on 1,289 vehicles and about 40 other assets, according to America Lesh, manager of fleet at BG&E.

Every three hours, Verizon provides the mileage, engine hours and GPS coordinates of all enabled BG&E vehicles and equipment. That data is uploaded to BG&E’s fleet management system.

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Fiona Soltes

The Fleet Manager of the Future

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Being a utility fleet manager today can be tough. How much tougher will it be tomorrow?

With the constant advancement of technology, the increasing need for communications savvy and leadership acumen, ever-decreasing budgets, and an aging workforce being replaced by a younger cohort lacking institutional knowledge and experience, it’s a nail-biter of a time.

So, how does a utility fleet manager prepare for the future?

Gary Lentsch, CAFM, fleet manager for the Eugene Water & Electric Board in Eugene, Oregon, said that people skills are huge, especially when it comes to the ability to “hold yourself accountable and focus on the things that matter most to the operation.”

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Grace Suizo

Operating a More Efficient Parts Management Program

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

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

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

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

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Sean M. Lyden

Electric Outlook for the Work Truck Industry

My biggest takeaway from this year’s NTEA Work Truck Show? The industry appears to be headed toward an electric future. But a lot of work still needs to be done for that future to become a mainstream reality anytime soon.

Here’s what I mean: Electrification is building momentum because the cost of battery technology has been trending downward to the point where electrified trucks are becoming a more attractive and financially viable option for fleets to try.

According to Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance report, lithium-ion battery prices have fallen 73% per kilowatt-hour since 2010. That trend is expected to continue until EVs become cheaper to buy than their fossil-fuel-powered counterparts by 2025 to 2029.

As battery costs have dropped, this has allowed for more affordable power that extends the battery range between charges, making it comparable to the range of conventional-fueled vehicles – and thus more acceptable for more fleet applications.

That's why we’re seeing a growing number of OEMs like Tesla, Freightliner, Mitsubishi Fuso and now Ford – with its recent $500 million investment in Rivian to produce an all-electric pickup truck – entering the fray.

But here’s the challenge: charging infrastructure. There's not enough of it.

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Kate Wade

Design Interactive Augmented-Reality Training Solution

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Design Interactive Inc., providers of augmented- and virtual-reality training solutions for fleet maintenance personnel, vendors and OEMs, recently announced that the company’s AUGMENTOR transportation-focused, augmented-reality training solution is now available on Android and iOS mobile devices.

The new mobile applications for AUGMENTOR include an augmented-reality mode that lets technicians visualize procedure steps where they are conducted. For example, if a vehicle requires an inspection of its tires or brakes, the step is placed near or on that component or system. Users also can see 3D virtual representations of parts for reference during inspection or repairs. The mobile app includes videos, audio messages and text instruction. 

For fleets, AUGMENTOR helps lower training, labor and parts costs, and increases vehicle uptime and shop productivity. Especially as new technologies continue to increase the complexity of the repairs, tools and skills needed by technicians, this transportation-focused solution ensures training consistency by enabling access to updated content. http://designinteractive.net

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Kate Wade

Rock Mills’ Lifter PLUS

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Rock Mills Enterprises is pleased to introduce The Lifter PLUS, the next generation of vehicle-mounted, automated manhole cover removal tools.

The Lifter PLUS has been designed to address the need for a more powerful tool to remove very heavy, large-diameter manhole covers commonly found in electric utility and telecom networks. The Lifter PLUS delivers 3,500 pounds of magnetic gripping capacity to powerfully remove covers that are not only heavy but also may have raised lettering and designs on the cover.

The Lifter PLUS and the newly introduced Folding Swing Arm offer a unique, innovative, industry-leading solution to support worker safety and work performance for high-challenge removal tasks. www.rockmillsent.com

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Kate Wade

VMAC PTO Driven Air Compressor

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VMAC has released its newest Direct-Transmission Mounted PTO Driven Air Compressor, designed specifically for RAM trucks. The DTM70 is the world’s first direct-transmission-mounted PTO-driven air compressor, currently available for Ford F-250 to F-750 Power Stroke Diesel trucks, and now for RAM 3500 to 5500 chassis cab Cummins Diesel trucks.

The DTM70 Air Compressor produces up to 70 CFM at 100 psi (175 psi max). It is powerful enough to use for OTR tire inflation, 1-inch impact wrenches, 60-pound jackhammers and pavement breakers, vertical/horizontal grinders and sanders, and other small- to medium-sized air tools with high air demand.

The VMAC DTM70 is a popular choice for those looking to save space on their truck decks, as it is installed under the truck. The complete DTM70 system weighs just 150 pounds, making it a lightweight choice compared to traditional deck-mount air compressors or other underdeck systems. www.vmacair.com/dtm70

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Kate Wade

ALI Lift Safety Training Course

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It’s easier than ever to make sure every technician in a shop receives training on the proper use of vehicle lifts. Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) is now offering an annual subscription option for its popular “Lifting It Right” online lift safety training course. An annual facility-wide subscription allows everyone in a single location to take the course as often as needed throughout the year.

This option makes it easier for facilities to train new employees, provides a significant cost savings for larger organizations and simplifies payment. Another new pricing option for the online course is a lower rate for vocational students and schools.

An annual subscription is $240 per facility location. The new student rate is $10 per person. Standard pricing is $16 per participant for the English version of the course and $24 per participant for Spanish.

“Lifting It Right” covers proper lifting practices for all types of vehicle lifts. The online course can be taken on a computer or mobile device. Most people finish it in an hour or less. At the end, a certificate of completion is stored online for easy access if a shop needs to produce training records. The course helps facilities comply with national and local safety training requirements. www.autolift.org/ali-store/

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Kate Wade

ASA Proximity Sensor System

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ASA Electronics has expanded its line of sensor systems with the CVPS18 four-channel system. The CVPS18 is an easy, economical way to outfit virtually any vehicle with the latest safety technology. The four ultrasonic, weatherproof sensors are easy to install and can be painted to match the color of the vehicle, making them a universal solution for aftermarket application.

The CVPS18 sensors are designed to detect objects within a 5-foot range of the rear bumper without requiring any calibration to aid in backing up or parking the vehicle. When the vehicle is in reverse, the sensors will trigger a speaker in the cab to emit an audible alert if an object should happen to get too close.

As the vehicle continues to back up, or as the object moves closer, the beeping will become more frequent. If the object comes within 16 inches of the bumper, a solid tone will sound. The audio speaker has three volume levels – low, high and off – to suit driver preferences. 

The CVPS18 sensor system can be used in conjunction with other Voyager observation products, like backup cameras and monitors, to create a comprehensive safety system. www.asaelectronics.com

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Kate Wade

Transfer Flow Replacement Fuel Tank System

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Transfer Flow has introduced a 50-gallon high-capacity midship replacement tank for 2018-19 Ford F-150 Power Stroke diesel crew cab short-bed trucks.

The 50-gallon replacement tank is perfect for F-150 Power Stroke owners who want to maximize their fuel capacity and driving range without sacrificing truck bed space. It is crafted from ReliaSteel 12-gauge U.S. high-yield aluminized steel and includes internal baffles for strength and reduced fuel slosh. Installation is easy: Drop the plastic stock fuel tank, replace it with the larger steel fuel tank in the same location, fill up and hit the open road. Transfer Flow has more than 300 qualified installers throughout the U.S. and Canada who are ready to install your new tank.

All Transfer Flow fuel tank systems ship complete with every component needed for installation and are covered by a six-year, unlimited mileage warranty. The F-150 diesel replacement tank is powder-coated for a durable black finish, with the optional upgrade to add a spray-on textured coat for extra durability. www.transferflow.com

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Kate Wade

Bar’s Leaks Professional-Strength Hydraulic Seal

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Bar’s Leaks, the market leader in stop-leak products for over 70 years, has introduced Hydraulic Seal (P/N H60), a professional-grade formula to repair leaks, reduce friction and wear, and renew seals and O-rings in hydraulic systems. It’s designed to work in trucks, tractors, construction and agricultural equipment, as well as industrial applications.

Developed for both low- and high-pressure hydraulic systems, Hydraulic Seal Stop Leak and Conditioner contains a high-quality, durable, field-proven zinc-based additive package along with viscosity modifiers to restore thermal stability and anti-wear additives in the hydraulic system.

Bar’s Leaks Hydraulic Seal works with 32, 46, 68 and all other petroleum and synthetic hydraulic fluids, pump seals, control valve seals, actuators, rams, cylinders, O-ring boss fittings and hydrostatic transmissions.

The product is available in 32-ounce, 1-gallon, 5-gallon and 55-gallon sizes. For normal usage, add 1 ounce of Bar’s Leaks Hydraulic Seal for every quart of hydraulic fluid capacity. In extremely worn systems, use up to 2 ounces per quart of fluid capacity. For preventive maintenance, use a half-ounce per quart of fluid capacity.

Bar’s Leaks Hydraulic Seal starts working right after installation. Most leaks are sealed within a few hours of application and usage. Some leaks can take up to a few days to stop. https://barsleaks.com

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

If it’s Not About Trucks, Does it Concern Me?

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you work in a fleet management role. Your mechanics and drivers don’t do line work, install phone lines, bury gas lines or dig up high-pressure water lines. But what if they service equipment in the vicinity of craft workers who do perform those tasks? Are they exposed to hazards not related to their direct responsibilities? If so, what is your responsibility as their manager? This article is about educating supervisors regarding hazard evaluation. Where your people work and the hazards they face while on the job are your responsibility. So, following is an example that demonstrates how OSHA’s expectations with regard to your responsibility to your employees may exceed the agency’s written rules in ways you may not be aware of.

There is an employer who is a transmission-distribution contractor; the business also has a telecommunications (telcom) division. The employer’s lineworkers must wear arc flash protective clothing required by OSHA, but as far as he knows, his telcom employees are not required by the OSHA rules to wear arc flash protective clothing. However, because of an incident involving some of his telcom employees, the employer became concerned. He wondered, why don’t telcom employees have to wear arc flash protective clothing, and should they be wearing it? Keep in mind that arc flash protective clothing is not the same thing as flame-resistant (FR) clothing. Welders, wrecker operators and traffic control professionals wear safety vests and bibs that are considered flame-resistant. Flame resistance is the quality of a material designed for protection from exposure to fire or flame, not electrical arcs. OSHA requires that arc flash protective clothing also must be flame resistant to ensure clothing does not continue to burn after exposure to an electrical arc. In addition, flame resistance is required for the outer layer of clothing worn by a worker who could be exposed to a heat source that could ignite that outer layer. There has been confusion over the years, so it is important to recognize that use of the term “FR” on a traffic vest label does not mean the vest is arc protective; it is only flame resistant. It’s a habit to use the term FR when referring to arc flash protective gear, but we all need to understand the difference in labeling.

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Sean M. Lyden

New Truck and Van Upfits for Utility Fleets in 2019

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As you review the current specs for your truck and van fleet, where are your best opportunities for improvement? Could you decrease the size of your fleet vehicles while improving functionality and usability? Could you upgrade your service bodies for enhanced fuel efficiency and more eco-friendly operations? Or, could you add more versatile service tool storage options to boost accessibility and safety for your crews?

Here are eight new developments from truck and van equipment manufacturers that could help you find and maximize opportunities to strengthen your fleet specs and performance.

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What’s New: PHEV System for Ford F-250 Pickup
URL: www.xlfleet.com

XL has introduced a new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) system for the Ford F-250 pickup truck. This product expands the company’s PHEV line that also includes the PHEV Ford F-150, which the company began shipping in 2018 to utilities such as CPS Energy, Tacoma Public Utilities and City of Palo Alto.

The PHEV F-250 includes a driveshaft-mounted electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged using standard Level 2 and Level 1 plugs. The system also features regenerative braking, enabling the vehicle to store energy while stopping and transfer that energy back into the drivetrain to assist the vehicle during acceleration.

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Sean M. Lyden

Budget Talks: Why Fleet Needs a Seat at the Table – And How You Can Earn It

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When it comes to fleet, senior leadership may not fully appreciate all that the job entails.

"What I would often hear from folks either in finance or in the senior leadership groups was something along the lines of, ‘Every year, fleet costs go up. But I have a 2004 Honda with 300,000 miles on it. It costs me 421 bucks a year to operate. How come you can't do the same thing?’” said Chris Lindquist, a 30-year fleet veteran from Colorado Springs Utilities and Xcel Energy, who retired in 2018.

Sound familiar?

“People think they understand fleet, but they really don't,” Lindquist said. “The reality is that most folks in the higher echelons of utility companies tend to view fleet strictly as an expense that's large and assume that their fleet must be underperforming because, well, the costs keep going up.”

If leadership doesn’t understand the value that your department brings to the overall business, your budget becomes a prime target for cuts.

“At the beginning of the year, that budget you fought for the previous year would be set in stone,” Lindquist said. “But in the spring, all of sudden there would be an edict that came from the budget officer or the finance department that basically said, ‘Budgets are X. We're going to have to start cutting from Y.’ Fleet was always one of those departments on the cut side of the budget.”

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Kate Wade

Work Truck Week Keeps Growing

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Over the years, Work Truck Week has grown bigger and more robust, providing those in the vocational truck industry with more and more opportunities to discover new products, attend industry-focused educational courses and gain access to professionals who can help them answer pressing questions.

2019 is proving to be no exception. This year’s Work Truck Week – which takes place March 5-8 in Indianapolis – will include The Work Truck Show, Green Truck Summit, Fleet Technical Congress and the very first Manufacturer and Distributor Innovation Conference.

In total, more than 100 companies have already announced plans to introduce new work trucks and equipment at Work Truck Week, and at least 15 OEMs will deliver chassis updates. During these update sessions, company representatives will provide insights into future plans, share technical information, and review body and equipment installation options.

Ninety exhibitors are showcasing new products online prior to the event as part of The Work Truck Show’s New Product Spotlight and Green Product Showcase programs. Offerings range from transmissions and suspensions to trucks and bodies. To learn more, visit the featured exhibitor section at www.worktruckshow.com/floorplan.

Fleet Technical Congress – designed for both established fleet managers and those moving into more senior fleet management roles – will help fleet professionals learn how to leverage new technologies and processes to find sustainable, creative solutions to enhance fleet operations. General education session topics include restoration and disaster recovery planning, work truck design and securing fuel during supply disruptions.

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Fiona Soltes

Making the 5G Connection

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In late 2018, AT&T announced a standards-based, mobile 5G network in parts of 12 U.S. cities, with seven more areas to follow. The company also said it was on the verge of bringing 5G Evolution technologies to 400 markets, enabling faster speeds, wider coverage and lower latency, which improves streaming capabilities. Verizon, meanwhile, has been making strides of its own, announcing Verizon 5G Home – billed as “the world’s first commercial 5G broadband internet service” – last fall.

Some have eagerly awaited these advances and their impact on connectivity, communication and possibility. Others? They may be impressed that what’s long been talked about appears to finally have arrived.

Lou Vella, telematics product development manager for fleet management company ARI (www.arifleet.com), said it’s still difficult to say how 5G will impact operations for utility fleets. But possibilities are beginning to emerge – and not just in terms of autonomous and semiautonomous vehicles.

“As the technology continues to evolve, companies are finding new, innovative ways to leverage increased network speeds,” Vella said. “These higher speeds make it viable and affordable to implement technology, such as in-cab video, as a means to supplement traditional telematics data and provide further insights into driver performance. As 5G networks become more widely available, I believe the immediacy of data, combined with the amount of data available, will fuel further innovations that will be leveraged to improve performance of both the vehicles and their drivers.”

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Grace Suizo

What to Consider When Spec’ing Onboard Scales

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

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

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

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

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

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Sandy Smith

Where are EVs Headed in 2019?

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Even if you closely follow the news, it’s difficult to pin down which direction electric vehicles (EVs) will be heading over the coming year. Production of certain hybrid models is ending, while other OEMs have promised to roll out more all-electric vehicles. Some car enthusiasts have proclaimed 2019 as the “year of the electric.”

Scott Shepard, senior research analyst/energy for market research and advisory company Navigant Research (www.navigantresearch.com), believes there’s plenty worth watching in the coming year – but not necessarily for fleets. “It looks like most of the conversation is going to be around long-range SUVs coming onto the market,” he said.

Jaguar, Audi, BMW, Hyundai and Kia are among the automakers with a U.S. presence that will be introducing new electric SUVs in 2019. A number of Chinese startup manufacturers also are expecting a big year ahead. “That’s all a big deal,” Shepard said. “These are the first vehicles that are competitive with a Tesla, with similar range characteristics as well as purchase price characteristics.”

For his part, Ted Davis, vice president, North American supply chain for fleet management company ARI (www.arifleet.com), pointed to California OEM Chanje Energy, which is “already taking orders for its Euro-style electric van.” Others, like ROUSH CleanTech, with its all-electric Ford F-650, and Mitsubishi Fuso, with its eCanter, should be taking orders later this year, pending road tests. Shepard pointed to Rivian, the talk of the Los Angeles Auto Show, for its sport pickup truck. “As the first models hit the road, we’ll begin to see how these units perform in real-world scenarios, and hopefully this insight will encourage more fleets to embrace this ever-evolving trend,” Davis said.

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Sean M. Lyden

To Lease or Not to Lease

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The conventional wisdom for most utility companies is to purchase their fleet assets outright.

And there are some advantages to that approach: potentially lower vehicle acquisition costs, no debt added to the balance sheet, and greater control over resale timing and pricing.

But as utilities see their profit margins getting squeezed, their fleet departments are becoming bigger targets for budget cuts.

So, when you’re under mounting pressure to do more with the same money as last year – or even less – how do you manage? How can you work within tighter financial constraints without sacrificing your fleet’s performance and reliability?

One option is leasing at least a portion of your fleet. But how do you decide which assets to lease? When does leasing make financial sense? And when doesn’t it?

UFP recently spoke with Charlie Guthro, vice president of global strategic services at ARI (www.arifleet.com), a fleet management company that works with several utility companies in North America, to get his perspective. Here is an edited version of our conversation.

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Jim Galligan

ADAS May Be a Mixed Bag in Your Shop

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

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

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

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

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

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