UFP Magazine

Sandy Smith

Spec’ing Service Van Interiors with Safety in Mind

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When it comes to spec’ing service vans, utility fleet managers must consider several factors, including budget, vehicle performance, efficiency, and operator safety and comfort.

Take Alabama Power’s vans, for instance. About half of the 80 units that the company – a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co. – has on the road are outfitted for general maintenance tasks. The other half are “highly specialized” for meter testing, according to Cody Caver, an engineer in the utility’s fleet services group.

For that group of specialized vans in particular, Caver noted that “the cargo area … becomes a mobile workplace, so the interior must be kept at a reasonable working temperature.” In addition, the cargo area includes fixed windows, rather than panels, so the employee can be aware of their surroundings outside of the vehicle while working.

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Fiona Soltes

Charging Ahead: Integrating Telematics in Electric Vehicles

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Over the last decade, Southern California Edison has worked with a handful of telematics providers. That’s meant plenty of learning opportunities with both traditional and electric vehicles. The utility company’s fleet has roughly 6,300 units; about 10% of those are electrified. And it’s an ongoing challenge to be able to report the data that the company desires.

“The ability of telematics providers to provide data on EVs has increased, but the complexity of EV software and frequency of software updates can leave the telematics providers chasing data,” said Todd Carlson, principal manager for fleet asset management at SCE. “It’s a constant effort to keep providers current with what is offered in the EV space, and there’s generally a lag.”

Randy Scodellaro, technical specialist in telematics at SCE, is tasked with overseeing the telematics hardware performance across the utility’s fleet and providing technical assistance to field personnel for diagnostics and repair, among other things. He likened the transition of a telematics provider from a gas-powered vehicle to a plug-in hybrid or EV to a computer upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10: It may be more powerful and have better functionality, but more learning will still be required – every time.

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Sean M. Lyden

Leadership Strategies: Creating the Connections that Produce High-Performing Teams

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If you’re like many utility fleet leaders right now, you’re bracing for a significant brain drain in your organization as experienced technicians and other key people in the fleet department get ready to retire in the next few years, with fewer younger workers in the pipeline to take their place.

So, how can you get a leg up when competing for top talent to eventually replace your veteran workers? And how can you create a culture that makes the fleet department – and the company as a whole – a more attractive place for employees to work, learn and grow?

Become a Connector manager.

That’s the big idea from the book “The Connector Manager: Why Some Leaders Build Exceptional Talent – and Others Don’t,” based on a study of about 10,000 managers and employees by the research and advisory firm Gartner Inc.

UFP recently spoke with Sari Wilde, the book’s co-author and managing vice president at Gartner, where she advises executives at hundreds of Fortune 500 companies on their leadership and talent management practices.

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Sean M. Lyden

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

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

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

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

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Sean M. Lyden

Building – and Maintaining – a Strong Professional Network

A common trait I’ve seen in interviewing numerous successful fleet professionals over the years is that they’ve all learned how to cultivate a strong network.

Relationship-building is a critical skill for professional success because you never know when you’ll need to call on someone to help you get out of a jam, make an important connection for you, or expedite delivery of equipment or gear.

And the stronger and bigger your network, the more valuable you’ll become in your career.

But how can you keep in touch with people more efficiently and effectively, without consuming too much of your time or inconveniencing the other person?

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Kate Wade

Polaris Expands Utility Vehicle Line

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The Polaris Pro XD is now gas-powered. With the addition of two new gas models to its Pro XD lineup, Polaris Commercial has broadened the applications where the UTV can be used. Pro XD is built to withstand tough duty cycles and usage on the work site and enhance productivity.

Like the diesel models, the new Pro XD gas models provide seating capacity for up to four individuals, industry-leading payload of up to 2,075 pounds and towing capacity of 2,500 pounds. Designed for work across various off-road and on-road terrains and factory shipped at 26 mph, the gas-powered models are the ideal vehicle for increasing job site capabilities. The new models continue to provide the same best-in-class durability, serviceability and safety features with some additional model updates. https://polaris.com/commercial

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Kate Wade

WEATHER GUARD CabMax Composite Bulkhead

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WEATHER GUARD, an industry leader in truck and van equipment, has announced its new CabMax Composite Bulkhead. Designed to enhance drivers’ comfort and workspace, the single-piece design is strong yet weighs just 55 pounds. The CabMax Composite Bulkhead provides enhanced driver comfort, noise reduction, climate control and customization options.

In commercial vans, bulkheads are crucial to the safety of the user and the functionality of the vehicle. The bulkhead separates the driver from the cargo area, providing protection from shifting loads. In the past, van bulkheads have not been a great platform for mounting van storage components or other accessories, but the new CabMax Composite Bulkhead has transformed it into a usable part of van equipment. The new CabMax Composite Bulkhead has accessory panels that can be placed in 14 different attachment points. The accessory panels are designed to accompany WEATHER GUARD REDZONE accessories but also offer standard threaded inserts to use off-the-shelf attachments.

In addition to the CabMax Composite Bulkhead providing more space for accessories, tools and personal items, it also provides more room for the driver. Because commercial drivers spend a significant amount of their day in their van’s cab, comfort was especially important when designing the WEATHER GUARD CabMax Composite Bulkhead. The new bump-out design allows the driver’s seat to recline up to 35 degrees, the largest driver seat range of motion in the industry. www.weatherguard.com

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Kate Wade

Terex Technical Service and Support Tools

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In 2019, Terex Utilities released or updated more than 50 Tech Tips and service presentations. Some Tech Tips are applicable to specific Terex digger derricks, aerial devices or auger drills, while others address frequently asked questions or common challenges faced by customers. Following are descriptions of just a few of the topics Terex Utilities covered in 2019.

The Hi-Ranger TM Series is a heavy-duty transmission aerial device used by line crews, offering working heights to 125 feet, basket capacities of up to 800 pounds and material-handling capacities of 1,500 pounds. Three of the new Tech Tips released in 2019 provide practical troubleshooting assistance in addition to manuals. Tech Tip #57 explains how to use the manual letdown system; Tech Tip #82 provides guidance on how to set zero on the TM Leveling Controller; and Tech Tip #77 assists in evaluating the cause of top controls not working.

Load Alert, Terex Utilities’ aerial device technology for monitoring jib and platform capacity and boom position, was updated in 2019 with new screen notifications for the operator. Two Tech Tips – #118 and #119 – explain what to do if sensor communication is lost or inaccurate.

Terex’s evolving chassis controller system interfaces between Terex equipment and the OEM chassis computer system for DC pump control, throttle control and remote stop/start. If service personnel need help with programming or want to refer to an easy cheat sheet of fault codes, Tech Tips #78 and #81 are useful.

These and other technical support documents are available online at the Technical Support tab at www.terex.com/utilities, or users can sign up to receive email notifications at www.terex.com/utilities/en/links/preferences. www.terex.com/utilities

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Kate Wade

Premier Truck Brings Industrial ATV to the U.S.

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Premier Truck Rental, based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, will be among the first firms to bring the Fat Truck to the U.S. The Fat Truck is designed and assembled in Canada to move up to eight people or 2,200 pounds of payload across terrain that in the past might have required helicopter transport or been totally inaccessible – including on wet and flooded lands.

Premier Truck Rental has been serving multiple industries across the U.S., including those in the construction, electrical, oil and gas, and wind and solar sectors.

The Fat Truck is designed with safety foremost in mind. It is certified to the highest rollover protection structure standards, is compliant with Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, and offers 360-degree visibility to the driver, among other safety features.  

In addition to safety, the vehicle has built-in user interfaces designed to be easy to use. It has an intuitive joystick drive and dash display, automatic transmission, and can be driven on the left or right side of the vehicle depending on customer requirements. https://rentptr.com/fat-truck/

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Kate Wade

Chevrolet Silverado HD Carhartt Special Edition

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Chevrolet and Carhartt have revealed the ultimate hardworking truck designed to tackle the toughest jobs: the 2021 Silverado HD Carhartt Special Edition.

Based on the Silverado 2500 LTZ crew cab, the special edition is paired with the Z71 Off-Road Package, including tuned twin-tube Rancho shocks, hill descent control and skid plates.

It is offered exclusively in the Mosaic Black Metallic exterior color, which is complemented by pinstripe detailing in Carhartt gold, Carhartt badging on the doors and tailgate, 20-inch wheels with all-terrain tires and a soft rollup tonneau cover embossed with the Carhartt logo. Black vent hood detailing, tow hooks and a tailgate bowtie lend more dramatic styling, while a chrome grille surround and inserts, along with body-color front and rear bumpers, further add to the distinctive exterior styling and the truck’s overall presence.

A Carhartt-themed interior includes all-weather floor liners with the Carhartt badge, along with exclusive two-tone Jet Black and Carhartt Brown leather-appointed seats featuring unique stitching and Carhartt embroidered headrests.

The production Silverado HD Carhartt Special Edition will be available for sale at Chevrolet dealerships in fall 2020. www.chevrolet.com

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Kate Wade

WEATHER GUARD All-Purpose Van Rack

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WEATHER GUARD, an industry leader in truck and van equipment, introduces the WEATHER GUARD All-Purpose Steel Van Rack and GlideSafe Load Assist accessory. The new all-purpose van rack delivers a heavy-duty, versatile solution for storing and transporting materials and tools to the job site. The WEATHER GUARD van rack can be installed in under an hour and is compatible with all commercial cargo vans sold in the U.S. and Canada.

The new GlideSafe Load Assist System creates a safer, easier loading and unloading process and does not require a rolling motion to be functional or protect the vehicle and equipment from damage. But that is not the only van accessory that can be paired with the new WEATHER GUARD van racks. Ready-to-mount ratchet straps also can be integrated to provide an easy-to-use solution for securing loads to the rack. Accessories come with all the necessary mounting hardware and do not require drilling. www.weatherguard.com

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Protecting the Fleet Mechanic

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A number of years ago, I went to a construction job site to participate in the morning crew meeting tailboard. The construction project was a 90-mile double-circuit transmission pull. The new circuit was being constructed in an existing transmission line right-of-way that had two existing energized 345-kV circuits running parallel to the new circuit construction. The location where we met was a pulling site. Crews had already been pulling at the location for two days. The work that had been completed the day before left conductors pulled in about halfway. Both ends had been caught off with chain hoists overnight so that the conductor was still under tension on the tensioner near the location of our meeting. The conductors at the tensioner had been temporarily grounded to a driven ground rod for the protection of the lineworkers. Red barricade tape also was completely encircling the tensioner, the reel trailer and the 30-ton crane hooked to the reel trailer.

I was standing near the back of the assembled group of about 20 personnel, listening to the site superintendent who was conducting the safety topic on grounding for protection from induced voltages. While he spoke, I noticed movement some 100 yards past him at the front of the 30-ton crane that was anchoring the reel trailer and tensioner. It was a fleet mechanic. He was working on an oil leak, which is one of the things mechanics do. The problem was that while the mechanic was conducting that repair task, he was in a position that exposed him to electrocution. The mechanic was there working with the full knowledge of the superintendent who was delivering the safety talk. But while the superintendent spoke to the crews about isolation, grounding and the hazards of induction, the mechanic was doing exactly what the site superintendent was telling the line crews not to do.

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Sean M. Lyden

Women in Utility Fleet: Michele Davis

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Michele Davis has loved cars for as long as she can remember.

So, when her father bought her a 1968 Chevy Camaro for her 16th birthday, “I lost my mind,” she recalled. “I didn't expect anything like that. I mean, I just wanted a car to drive to school, go to work, see all my friends. But my dad said, ‘Well, I know how much you love cars, and I know you'll appreciate this more than your younger sister will when she turns 16.’”

Today, Davis still owns that Camaro. And she has become a successful leader in a career that taps into her lifelong passion for all things automotive. She’s the fleet manager at Washington Gas, a natural gas service provider headquartered in the District of Columbia, where she manages about 1,200 fleet assets and 30 employees.

But it took a long and winding road for Davis to discover that she could build a career around her favorite pastime.

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Sean M. Lyden

Driverless Vehicles are Closer Than They Appear

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You know the label on a vehicle’s sideview mirror that reads, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”?

Perhaps something similar could be said about autonomous vehicles (AVs): They’re closer than we expect.

Now, most industry experts agree that full SAE Level 5 driverless vehicles – which can drive themselves anywhere, at any speed, under any conditions – are more than a decade away. So, from a robots-ruling-the-road perspective, AVs appear to be far out.

But when you look at just one step down on the SAE scale, to Level 4, where vehicles can operate without a human driver but within particular limitations – such as geofenced areas, weather conditions and speed – those AVs are much closer to making an impact. In fact, Level-4-capable vehicles are already starting to operate on public roads in a growing number of U.S. cities.

Take, for example, the Beep (www.go-beep.com) autonomous shuttle program that launched with two vehicles in September in Lake Nona, Florida, a fast-growing master-planned community in southeast Orlando.

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Kate Wade

ATSSA’s Convention & Traffic Expo Celebrates 50 Years

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Early next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the ATSSA Annual Convention & Traffic Expo, produced by the American Traffic Safety Services Association. From January 24-28, more than 3,500 roadway safety and transportation professionals – from manufacturers and suppliers to government officials and legislative advocacy professionals – will convene at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans to view the latest industry products and services, attend educational and informational sessions, and network with peers. 

Attendees of the 2020 event will have access to over 200,000 square feet of exhibit space showcasing the latest industry products and services. A wide variety of cutting-edge traffic safety solutions, state-of-the-art roadway safety vehicles and heavy equipment, ranging from striping trucks to truck-mounted attenuators, will be on display. In addition, ATSSA’s New Products Rollout also is back and will be hosted on the trade show floor.  

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Grace Suizo

What’s New in All-Terrain Vehicles for Utility Fleets?

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Today, a wide range of options are available to help utilities get work done in hard-to-reach areas where conventional and even four-wheel-drive vehicles cannot go. Following are five new developments in the all-terrain vehicle space that can help utility companies get their crews and equipment across various terrains safely while also boosting productivity. 

ARGO
What’s New: 2020 updates to Frontier, Aurora and Xplorer lines
Website: https://argoxtv.com

ARGO has expanded its lineup to include six all-new Xtreme Terrain Vehicle (XTV) models, new 950- and 850-Series engines, and more innovative improvements. They’re joined by five all-terrain vehicles boasting improved suspensions, more features and added colors.

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Sandy Smith

The Impact of Electrification on Fleet Maintenance Operations

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CPS Energy, which serves approximately 820,000 electric customers and more than 345,000 gas customers in the San Antonio area, wanted to help convince its utility customers to explore electric and hybrid vehicles. But rather than roll out a marketing campaign touting the benefits of EVs, the company opted to roll out its own trucks.

Today, CPS Energy has 44 hybrid plug-in Ford F-150s and 15 hybrid Ford F-250s among its fleet of 2,000 vehicles. It also has plans to deploy 14 fully electric sedans. While the sedans will come from the OEM, the Ford F-150s and F-250s were upfitted by XL (www.xlfleet.com). XL offers two versions: a standard hybrid, which is available on several OEM platforms, including Ford, Chevrolet, GM and Isuzu; and a plug-in hybrid, currently available only for Ford F-150s and F-250s.

XL introduced the F-250 plug-in hybrid earlier this year. According to Eric Foellmer, XL’s marketing director, “That’s really generated a huge amount of interest in the utility community.” The plug-in hybrid makes sense for electric utilities in particular, Foellmer said, because “they have unlimited electricity access and a charging infrastructure.”

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Ed Renna

Top Technology Trends in the Utility Fleet Sector

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In a utility fleet environment, it’s critical to identify key barriers that impede the fleet’s efficient evolution. Once those barriers have been identified, data and safety technology use-cases can help to offer a framework for improvement.

Recent research conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute, for example, noted two meaningful ways to reduce severe injuries and fatalities: the use of wearables, sensors and new technology to improve safety, as well as driving safety initiatives in technology and benchmarking (visit www.esafetyline.com/eei/conference%20pdf%20files/2019spring/EPRIUpdate.pdf for more).

EPRI also singled out five promising approaches for increasing safety among utility fleets: improving traffic safety management, routes, vehicles, drivers, and post-crash/incident response and driver monitoring.

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Fiona Soltes

Improving Ergonomics through Better Truck Specs

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Small adjustments can sometimes make a big impact. For those who work with utility trucks, details like properly placed steps, strategically placed handles, appropriately grippy surfaces and convenient storage can mean the difference between safety and injury. A careful eye toward work truck specs, then, can aid in ergonomics – and result in a happier, healthier workforce.

Chris Jolly, director of operations, fleet services, for Duke Energy Carolinas West Region, said that at one point, some of the utility’s trucks didn’t have appropriate storage locations for orange safety cones, and other storage locations weren’t working due to company-mandated changes in cone sizes. So, cones often were picked up and thrown in the bed of a truck. Workers who did this job after job, day after day, could have been exposed to stress injuries in the shoulder and back. But now all of the trucks have cone storage capabilities on or near the front bumpers, and the next generation of trucks will include further improvements.

Jolly also reported that as of late September, his entire region – including nine garage locations – has been injury-free for five years. That kind of accomplishment takes a decided focus on the company safety culture, and proper truck and equipment specs play a role as well.

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Sean M. Lyden

3 Pitfalls to Avoid When Purchasing Automotive Lifts for Your Garage

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

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

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

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

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