UFP Magazine

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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Sean M. Lyden

Never Split the Difference

Negotiation is a significant part of your job as a fleet professional. You have to negotiate new supplier contracts, the fleet budget with senior management and job offers with top talent.

So, if you haven’t read “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It” by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, I recommend it.

I first listened to the book on Audible and got so much out of it that I bought the hard copy for a deeper dive. Here are my three biggest takeaways.

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Kate Wade

Air-Weigh Trailer Scales

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Air-Weigh, a global leader in electronic onboard scales, is launching a new generation of trailer-specific onboard scales. Advanced communication and integration capabilities along with increased durability are key elements of the new LoadMaxx Plus and QuickLoad Plus product lines. 

The LoadMaxx Plus model allows for third-party onboard software integration options when connected to a LoadMaxx Tractor Scale. In addition, both the LoadMaxx Plus and QuickLoad Plus scales are Bluetooth enabled and allow for communication to any smart device with the Air-Weigh app.

Utilizing the Air-Weigh app, drivers can view weight data on their smart device or easily email weights and location to a fleet manager or any email address. The scale features a user-friendly, icon-based touch-screen display and alarm functions that can be programmed for a warning and overweight trigger.

The new scales also feature a redesigned body and mounting system that provides increased durability and easier installation. The LoadMaxx Plus and QuickLoad Plus will be available for air-ride and most mechanical suspension axle options. Shipments of the new scales are slated for the end of the year. www.air-weigh.com

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Kate Wade

Hino Trucks Introduces New Models and Cab Configurations

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Hino has unified its entire lineup of trucks, including model names, to make it even easier for you to match the perfect Hino to you and your business’ needs. The company is excited to announce their new M Series Class 4/5 COEs and new L Series Class 6/7 Conventional trucks, which – combined with Hino’s recently launched XL Series Class 7/8 vehicles – create a cohesive family of commercial trucks.

The badges are not the only updates. Each vehicle now contains larger cab configurations and a full suite of features, adding safety, fresh designs, durability, flexibility and connectivity options.

The new COE truck models carry Hino M4 and M5 badging, with the number in the naming scheme representing the GVW class. For 2021MY, these trucks have been upgraded with an all-new grille design complete with optional LED headlights and HD six-speed Aisin automatic transmission with gear hold feature. They are available with the industry’s first OE fully integrated lane departure warning system in this vehicle segment. Interior upgrades include a new shifter layout, steering wheel controls, an all-new gauge cluster including a 4.2-inch LCD multi-information display, and a driver’s seat belt sensor.

The new Conventional line is represented by the Hino L6 and Hino L7 models, boasting a bolder front fascia with optional LED headlights. The cab interior has been re-engineered with an automotive-grade finish designed for commercial use and improved functionality, steering wheel controls, a large 7-inch LCD multi-information display, and more storage and leg room. There is now an array of safety systems available on the Hino L Series, including electronic stability control, collision mitigation system, lane departure warning, active cruise control and driver’s seat belt sensor. New wheelbase options and extended and crew cab configurations also are available. www.hino.com

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UFP Webmaster

DICA Cribbing and Pad Products

DICA Cribbing and Pad ProductsDICA recently debuted a new addition to the ProStack Cribbing product line designed for the types of equipment used in the electrical utility industry.

The new ProStack Cribbing product is a lighter-weight and lower-cost solution that was developed with customer input to meet the specific needs of this market. Utility crews often need additional height under stabilizers and outriggers to level equipment during operations. ProStack Cribbing Blocks are an engineered, integrated solution that resolves this critical problem. The interlocking blocks can be stacked for additional height to create a safer setup than traditional methods. ProStack Cribbing is made from a combination of post-consumer recycled and new materials to produce a strong and reliable finished product that interlocks into a SafetyTech Outrigger Pad.

SafetyTech engineered thermoplastic outrigger pads deliver proven performance, durability and ease of use for setting up mobile cranes, concrete pumpers, aerial lifts and digger derricks.

For situations that require greater outrigger pad rigidity and stability in a lighter-weight solution, the company’s FiberMax fiber-reinforced polymer outrigger pads provide an engineered alternative to heavy steel plate or excessive matting materials.

For higher-capacity cranes, FiberMax Crane Pads weigh 60% less than typical solutions and are designed for exceptional load distribution, stability and cost-effective operation. https://dicausa.com

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UFP Webmaster

Terex Spin Bottom Drill Bucket

Terex Drill BucketTerex Utilities has announced a new Spin Bottom Drill Bucket for use with digger derricks. It is designed to improve productivity when drilling in unstable ground conditions, such as wet or sandy environments.

As the tool drills into the ground, barrel teeth cut through the material while the bucket captures it, allowing the operator to dump the material outside of the hole. The spin bottom is simple to control with forward and reverse motions to open and close the tool.

While Terex Utilities has offered similar tools for auger drills, this is the first time this type of tool has been available for digger derricks.

The 18-inch-diameter Spin Bottom Drill Bucket recently was on display at the 2019 International Construction & Utility Equipment Exposition. Additional sizes up to 36 inches in diameter are available. The tool features 5/8-inch wall thickness, 30-inch barrel length and 104-inch overall length. Dirt teeth and pilot bit are standard. Hex hub options include 2 inches, 2.5 inches and 2.63 inches. www.terex.com/utilities

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Rigor and Discipline

The date was January 28, 1986. The event was the tenth and final flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Seventy-three seconds into flight, the booster rocket that was lifting Challenger into space exploded, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

When events like the Challenger explosion happen, you never forget where you were at the time. You remember the iconic photos and the national days of mourning for those lost. After the Challenger explosion, President Reagan appointed the Rogers Commission to investigate the disaster, and some of you may remember the news commentary on the Rogers Commission Report. If you didn’t study the reports from the incident, you likely aren’t aware of the stunning findings, the changes that were called for and, even more importantly, the effect the changes at NASA have had on industry – including the utility industry. It’s worth taking a look. You can read about lessons learned from the incident at https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/aeronautics-and-astronautics/16-891j-space-policy-seminar-spring-2003/readings/challengerlessons.pdf.

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Sean M. Lyden

Fairfax Water: Overhauling Crew Truck Specs to Improve Safety and Productivity

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In his classic bestseller, “Thriving on Chaos,” management expert Tom Peters put it best when he wrote, “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.”

Perhaps the same could be said about excellent fleets, where you never ultimately arrive at a destination called “excellence.” Instead, you remain on a journey of continuous improvement, making changes along the way to produce better results for your customers and the company.

This philosophy of constant improvement is what has driven Dale Collins, fleet services supervisor at Fairfax Water in Virginia, and his team to make significant changes with their new generation of crew trucks – to increase storage capacity, improve safety, boost productivity and reduce operational costs.

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Dan Brenden

Using Technology to Eliminate Aerial Device Overloads

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

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

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Kate Wade

ICUEE 2019 Set to be the Largest Demo Expo Ever

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The International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition – also known as ICUEE – The Demo Expo – heads back to the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville October 1-3. Owned and produced by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, ICUEE is the largest event for utility industry professionals seeking insight into the latest technologies, innovations and trends affecting the industry.

This year’s event features a number of new and noteworthy offerings for attendees. The UTV Test Track will put individuals in the driver’s seat with the opportunity to compare several models of utility terrain vehicles from Bobcat, Caterpillar and John Deere. In addition to the expanded Safety and Fleet Management pavilions on the indoor show floor, ICUEE 2019 attendees will also have access to a new Emerging Technologies Pavilion. Plus, more than 200 new exhibitors will be at the show to demonstrate their products and services.

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Sandy Smith

Investing in Garage Management Software

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Before the City of Springfield, Illinois, merged all of its fleet operations and implemented garage management software, the utility fleet used to log important information via a low-tech method.

“The utility garage relied on Post-it Notes,” said William McCarty, director of the Office of Budget and Management for the City of Springfield. “There were vehicles that were being missed in maintenance, including a brand-new vehicle that went 50,000 miles without ever being serviced.”

Opting to implement garage management software, then, was a relatively easy decision to make, especially as all five of the city’s fleet garages were brought into one centralized fleet operation. The fleet now has approximately 1,200 units, about one-third of which are utility assets. Utility is the largest aspect of the city’s fleet, McCarty said, and includes water, power generation and power distribution.

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Grace Suizo

What to Know When Spec’ing Service Vehicles for Utility Applications

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When it comes to spec’ing vehicles, the absence of an effective, proactive strategy often results in a significant number of units being purchased from dealer stock, rather than ordered from the factory. That drives up acquisition costs, delays delivery and hampers efficiency, according to Ted Davis, vice president of North American supply chain for fleet management company ARI (www.arifleet.com).

“Additionally, without a proactive approach to spec development, you may not be able to acquire units with the ideal upfitting in a timely manner, which may result in a wide range of operational challenges for your frontline employees,” he said.

So, what are the basics you need to know when spec’ing service vehicles – such as vans – for your fleet? Industry experts recently shared some tips to ensure both an efficient and quality specification process.

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Fiona Soltes

Bucket Trucks, Powered Up

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New Jersey-based Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G) has a little over 500 bucket trucks in its fleet. Of those, 327 have some degree of electrification. That might mean an original Bohlinger electric drive system from decades back, or perhaps a more current and elaborate work-up that operates the boom and provides climate control of the cab and exportable power for the crew.

“A lot of the technology [crews were] using, years ago, it would have been very hydraulically driven,” said Jay Marchitello, PSE&G transportation supervisor. “For instance, up at the pole top, they would use hydraulic tools to drill holes, screw conductors together and what have you. Now, however, that’s changed to battery-powered tools; they’re lighter, there’s less impact on the people, and less impact on the truck.”

The exportable power of the complete system, then, allows the crews to charge and use these battery-powered tools at the top.

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Sean M. Lyden

Recruiting for Fleet in a Tight Labor Market

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Ask utility fleet professionals about their biggest challenge, and many will say that it’s recruiting – and keeping – good, young mechanics.

That's because you have to compete with OEMs, local truck centers and other types of fleets for access to a shrinking pool of highly skilled mechanics.

So, how do you gain an edge in attracting top talent in a tight labor market?

Tell the best story.

That’s the advice from Paul Smith (http://leadwithastory.com), the bestselling author of several books on business storytelling, including his latest, “The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell.” The 10th story deals specifically with recruiting.

UFP recently caught up with Smith to get his take on how fleet managers can use stories to attract the best technicians. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

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