UFP Magazine

Fiona Soltes

Technology Tools to Ensure Proper Fuel Use

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Remember the days when fuel consumption was likely to be documented on a clipboard near the pump?

Chris Lindquist does, too. Lindquist, who spent almost 30 years managing fleet and fleet operations for Colorado Springs Utilities before other opportunities, said vehicle numbers and gallons used were marked, “but reconciling those wasn’t very accurate.”

Times have changed.

Fleet professionals now have access to telematics, employee and vehicle tracking technology, fuel card controls and more. Data is there for the taking – but a careful eye is still required to ensure proper fuel use.

“Fuel is the largest-volume operations and maintenance expense a fleet manager has,” Lindquist said. “It represents the most transactions in the month. It takes a tremendous amount of time to reconcile, but when you consider the amount spent on fuel in the overall budget, you have to allocate the associated amount of time to manage it.”

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Grace Suizo

Is Now the Time to Rightsize Your Fleet?

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The task of cutting fleet costs while remaining productive and providing quality service to customers can be challenging. Over time, rightsizing has become a go-to strategy to accomplish just such a task. To gain greater insight on the topic, UFP recently spoke with three fleet professionals about their take on rightsizing and the strategies that have worked for their organizations.

Dan Remmert, senior manager of fleet services for Ameren Illinois, said that rightsizing usually is driven by a need to reduce costs, but it’s important that fleet managers know exactly what they’re trying to achieve before they begin.

“Having the right number of vehicles or equipment is one aspect,” he said. “A second main driver is having the right type or size of vehicles. Before you start on a rightsizing effort, understand what you are trying to fix.”

A fleet also will want to consider what their business will look like in both the short and long term, advised Ed Powell, assistant manager of business intelligence and analytics for fleet management provider ARI (www.arifleet.com). For example, will more units be needed, or will shifts in your operating dynamic present opportunities to streamline your fleet?

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Sandy Smith

Invest in the Right Training for Your Fleet Technicians

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Matt Gilliland, director of operations support for Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), understands the value of investing in training for fleet mechanics.

“There is an old cliché that says, ‘The only thing more expensive than training is not training,’” he said. “Training is one of the most important tools in the technician’s toolbox.”

And it’s even more so these days in an industry that, according to Gilliland, “changes rapidly, and the technology within the industry grows ever more complex. Training is paramount for success.”

To stay on top of changes with OEM specs, NPPD sends its fleet team to training on an ongoing basis. That, said George Survant, senior director of fleet relations for NTEA – The Association for the Work Truck Industry (www.ntea.com), is necessary today.

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Sean M. Lyden

How to Get Buy-In on Your New Fleet Initiative

You’re planning to roll out a new telematics deployment or ask senior management for a bigger budget, expecting to encounter some resistance. How do you position your proposal to get buy-in from stakeholders?

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle offered insight into this topic with his work “The Art of Rhetoric,” which was published about 2,400 years ago. He introduced the three elements of influence that still serve as the foundation for effective leadership communications today.

The big takeaway from “The Art of Rhetoric” is that if you overlook any of the three elements when crafting and presenting your proposal, you’ll stack the odds against you being able to win over your audience.

What are those three elements?

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Kate Wade

Terex TL Series of Aerial Devices

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Terex Utilities has expanded its TL Series of aerial devices with three new telescopic and material-handling models designed for transmission work.

The series includes the TL80, TL100 and TL80/112, which provide 80-foot, 100-foot and 112-foot working heights, respectively. The new TL transmission aerial devices were developed to have strong working ranges when compared to similar transmission aerials. For example, the TL100 has more than 61 feet of horizontal reach and a maximum material-handling capacity of 1,000 pounds.

All three models feature end-mounted, two-person platforms with capacities up to 700 pounds. Self-leveling platforms rotate 180 degrees. The TL80 and TL80/112 also are available with an option of a side-mounted platform having a jib capacity up to 2,000 pounds.

Designed to provide ground access, the platform on all TL units can be lowered to within inches of the ground. In addition, the boom design increases bed space and bed access to the bucket. Use of high-grade, high-yield-strength steel in the upper and lower boom sections provides rigid operation while reducing weight in the boom. The lower boom comes with a fiberglass lower boom insert and an upper boom that allows the TL80 and TL80/112 Category B Dielectric to be rated for 138-kV work. The TL100 can be rated up to 69 kV. www.terex.com/utilities

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Kate Wade

Bridgestone Fuel-Efficient Trailer Tire

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Bridgestone Americas Inc. has announced a new addition to its fuel-efficient Bridgestone Ecopia commercial truck tire portfolio. The Bridgestone R123 Ecopia tire is a SmartWay verified trailer tire engineered to deliver low rolling resistance and exceptional wear in long-haul and regional service applications.

The Bridgestone R123 Ecopia tire is engineered with features such as an IntelliShape sidewall designed to reduce the overall tire weight and minimize rolling resistance. The tire also uses patented NanoPro-Tech polymer technology to limit energy loss and help improve fuel economy. Additional innovations include a fuel-efficient tread design to lower rolling resistance and improve fuel economy; an innovative tread pattern to increase traction and grip on wet roads, as well as absorption of tread edge stress to promote long, even wear; an optimized tread volume that allows for long removal mileage; and a specialized defense groove structure that helps establish even pressure at the tire shoulder and minimize tread edge wear.

Designed to maximize the total tire life cycle, the Bridgestone R123 Ecopia tire provides excellent retreadability and works together with Bandag FuelTech retreads to capitalize on tire performance potential, drive down fuel costs and make mobility more efficient for fleets. https://commercial.bridgestone.com

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Kate Wade

LockNClimb Ergonomic Safety Ladder

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LockNClimb, the world’s leading manufacturer of innovative ergonomic safety ladders for the trucking industry, has introduced the 42LNCTRKENG. This ladder rolls easily and sets up quickly around the tires, allowing unparalleled working access to all maintenance points on the engine via its stable, wide, slip-resistant platform. The ladder can be repositioned where needed to access running lights, windshields, mirrors and other components. The optional yellow safety handrails provide extra safety when ascending and descending.

LockNClimb ladders are made one at a time out of industrial-grade 6061 aluminum by skilled craftsmen in the USA and have been designed to exceed all applicable OSHA and ANSI standards. The patented LockNClimb base makes the 42-inch-high 42LNCTRKENG a freestanding ladder with no top rest support required. The ladder can easily be rolled on its commercial-quality hard rubber wheels and slides on replaceable brass feet to prevent sparks. www.locknclimb.com/trucking

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Kate Wade

TravelCenters of America TechOn-SITE Mobile Maintenance

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TravelCenters of America LLC has answered the call to provide more comprehensive heavy truck maintenance and repair services for fleet equipment that is idle with TechOn-SITE.

Trucks today are more complex than ever, equipped with advanced electronic components, sensors and emission controls that require state-of-the-art equipment to diagnose an issue and a highly skilled technician to complete the repair. TechOn-SITE, previously TA Truck Service OnSITE, better identifies the importance of the technical expertise required to fill a growing need in the industry for expanded remote maintenance and repair services. 

The TechOn-SITE mobile maintenance vehicle is custom designed to provide the technician access to the tools, equipment and parts needed to complete routine maintenance or a more complex repair. Some of the most frequently requested mobile services include DOT inspections, computer diagnostics, tire service, brakes, lighting and trailer maintenance. www.ta-petro.com

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

Manufacturer Warnings and OSHA-Compliant Safety Performance

Over the past few weeks I have received several inquiries regarding horizontal directional drilling (HDD). It’s not unusual in our industry for questions to make the rounds of utilities and contractors, generating interest and often controversy. I also have recently received several inquiries regarding OSHA allegedly canceling the digger derrick exemption in 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC, “Cranes & Derricks in Construction.” OSHA hasn’t done that, but somebody said they did, and folks started asking around. Soon after, I received calls for clarification on the matter. In the digger derrick case, there was nothing to it; OSHA has not changed anything about the exemption. However, concerning HDD, there is an issue that raises an interesting question for those who administer compliance.

The point of the rest of this article is not to recommend or criticize any safety procedure associated with HDD. The point is to examine the role of manufacturer warnings and OSHA-compliant safety performance in the workplace. There is no doubt that I will get emails from HDD machine manufacturers and adherents of overshoe use, as well as overshoe sales or manufacturing representatives. I invite your response. To be clear, both Utility Fleet Professional magazine and I are solely interested in providing an opportunity for perspective and analysis of a process that will help individuals learn how to deal with challenges in the workplace.

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Sean M. Lyden

Lessons Learned from a Telematics Deployment

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Cut fuel costs, promote safer driving behaviors and improve storm response – these are just a few examples of how fleet telematics that captures and tracks vehicle data can help you run your department more effectively.

But deploying telematics across hundreds or even thousands of fleet assets can be a daunting task if you don’t know what to expect.

UFP spoke with Paul Jefferson, fleet manager at Oklahoma City-based Oklahoma Gas & Electric, who oversees about 2,000 fleet assets, to learn about the utility's experience with telematics.

Jefferson and his team began working with the benchmarking and telematics provider Utilimarc (https://utilimarc.com) in 2015 with a pilot program that included 30 vehicles. To date, the company has installed telematics on about 1,200 vehicles.

What advice does Jefferson have for other utility fleet professionals when it comes to a telematics deployment? Here are five tips.

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Sean M. Lyden

The Low-Hanging Fruit for Greening Your Fleet

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What if you could convert the majority of your fleet to run on a cleaner-burning, renewable fuel with minimal capital investment. Would you do it?

According to NTEA’s 2019 Fleet Purchasing Outlook, a growing number of fleet professionals are saying they would, with survey participants naming biodiesel as their top alternative fuel choice – and their top choice for future interest.

Think of biodiesel as the low-hanging fruit for fleets to make a significant dent in their green initiatives without breaking the bank. That's because the fuel is relatively easy to get, and biodiesel blends up to B20 (20% biodiesel and 80% petrodiesel) can be used in most diesel engines without modification. Compared to petrodiesel, B20 reduces carbon emissions by 16% on average, according to the National Biodiesel Board. And you can use biodiesel in conjunction with your fleet electrification efforts, such as with hybrid-electric diesel trucks.

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Kate Wade

EUFMC Aims to Advance Strategies for Fleet Improvement

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After record-breaking attendance in 2018, the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference is heading back to Williamsburg, Virginia, June 2-5, where it will feature an educational program focused on “Advancing Strategies for Fleet Improvement.”

Earl C. “Duke” Austin Jr., president and CEO of Quanta Services, will deliver the 2019 keynote address. According to EUFMC, Austin has played a fundamental role in Quanta’s significant growth. He spearheads strategic development of the contractor company’s capabilities in assessment, planning, engineering and design, procurement, construction, commissioning, testing, operations and management of infrastructure systems.

Other event speakers are scheduled to include Mark Kelly and Jason Schechterle. Kelly, who has been chosen as the featured dinner speaker, is an American astronaut and retired U.S. Navy captain who will offer insights to attendees based on his life experiences. Schechterle is a former Phoenix police officer who will facilitate “Burning Shield,” a safety presentation that chronicles his life after a vehicle fire in which 40% of his body sustained severe burns.

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Sean M. Lyden

The State of Self-Driving Vehicles: Proceed with Caution

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Norman Vincent Peale, author of the classic self-help book "The Power of Positive Thinking," put it like this: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

Peale’s message is clear: Aim high. That way, even if you miss your target or it takes you longer than you had hoped, you’ll accomplish so much more than you could have if you had set your sights lower.

It appears that after a decade of shooting for the moon, the automakers and tech giants working in the self-driving space have realized that replacing human drivers with software is a much harder challenge – and will take longer – than anticipated to solve. But in their pursuit of full autonomy, OEMs have made significant progress in developing driver-assist systems and other technology that could pay significant dividends in saving lives until the day that "driverless" becomes a reality.

What has happened in the past year to change the trajectory and outlook for fully autonomous vehicles? Where does the industry stand today?

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Jim Galligan

Avoiding Costly Mistakes with ATUVs

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Prices can range upward of $300,000 for a ready-to-work all-terrain utility vehicle (ATUV), so fleet managers can ill afford missteps in spec’ing, maintenance or planning – mistakes that may end up costing unnecessary dollars or lost days on a remote site while waiting for repairs.

Fortunately, mistakes can be avoided with smart spec’ing and common-sense practices, according to ATUV chassis manufacturers.

Right-size spec’ing is the most important thing fleets can do, said Matt Slater, vice president of sales and marketing with Terramac (www.terramac.com).

“[Make] sure you are sourcing the right size unit for your application,” he said. “Problems [can] arise when you source too large an attachment to go on a unit or try to use a smaller unit to make it easier to transport. The inability to move [equipment] on a specific trailer or to get permits for it is something we see all the time.”

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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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