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UFP Magazine

Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Digging Machines for Utility Fleets

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Whether the job is digging trenches, drilling holes or digging in confined areas, you’re looking for machines and tools that can help your customers – the business units your department serves at your company – increase crew productivity at lower operating costs.

Those are also the goals that many heavy-equipment manufacturers have in mind as they design and develop new digging machines and accessories.

So, what’s new in digging machines for utility fleets this year? Here are six new developments to watch.

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Sean M. Lyden

An Electric Pickup to Watch: The Ford F-150 Lightning

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In May, Ford unveiled its all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup, joining GM, Tesla, Rivian and others racing to bring an affordable and practical battery-powered truck to the mainstream market.

The truck is expected to arrive in spring 2022 with four models and two battery options. Within three weeks of Ford’s announcement, the F-150 Lightning had surpassed 100,000 reservations (which can be made for $100 at www.ford.com/trucks/f150/f150-lightning/2022/).

So, what does this new entry in the electric truck race mean for utility fleets? Will it be practical for fleet applications? Here’s what we know about the F-150 Lightning so far.

What’s the price?
The Pro work truck model starts at $39,974 MSRP before any federal or state tax credits (or fleet incentives), while the mid-series XLT model starts at $52,974 MSRP.

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Sean M. Lyden

Electric Vehicle Roadblocks to Widespread Fleet Adoption

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There’s a ton of press right now about how the future of transportation is all-electric.

And all major automakers have signaled with big investments that they’re going all-in on electric vehicles (EVs).

But a number of things still need to come together to make electrification practical on a large scale. Plus, fleet managers have valid concerns about how to make the transition.

What are some of the biggest EV challenges to widespread fleet adoption? And what do fleets, utility companies, OEMs and policymakers need to think about to address those challenges?

UFP recently spoke with George Survant – the principal at Fleet Mace Consulting and a fleet leader in the utility and telecom industry for over four decades – to get his perspective.

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Grace Suizo

Spec’ing a Detachable Gooseneck Trailer

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Minnkota Power Cooperative, an electric generation and transmission cooperative headquartered in Grand Forks, North Dakota, recently replaced its antiquated mechanical detachable gooseneck semitrailer with a new unit.

The old trailer, used approximately 10 times a year for the past 20 years, was replaced by a new model from Felling Trailers (www.felling.com). UFP recently spoke with Keith Millette, fleet supervisor for Minnkota Power Cooperative, and Laurie Engle, sales representative for Felling Trailers, who shared how they worked together on the spec’ing process.

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

Use New Tech to Manage Fleet Fuel Costs More Effectively

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Despite all the technology available in today's utility trucks, the most critical connection is still between the driver's brain and foot.

But OEMs and the aftermarket are also offering tools to monitor driver and vehicle performance, and upgraded equipment can reduce the need for idling. Making smart fleet acquisition decisions can pay off as well.

American Idle
As fuel prices rise, cutting back on idling is low-hanging fruit that fleets can grab to make quick improvement. In the typical fleet, idling behavior accounts for 40% of engine hours, according to Ron Zima, founder and CEO of GoGreen Communications Inc. and a consultant known as the Idle Free Guy.

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Sandy Smith

Will Your Fleet Need to Rightsize in a Post-Pandemic World?

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When the pandemic hit the U.S. in early 2020, the impact on utility fleets was swift. Even though utility work continued as an essential service, fleets had to adapt. Social distancing meant crews could no longer pile into one vehicle safely. Many light-duty vehicles were parked as some employees switched to home bases.

Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) was not immune to these changes. “As much as we could, we took the vehicles that were not being utilized as much because their owner or assignee had started to telecommute, and we assigned them to crews so they didn’t have to have multiples in the vehicle often,” said Matt Gilliland, director of operations support for the publicly owned utility that covers at least part of 86 Nebraska counties. This shift was in addition to regular vehicle cleanings, deep cleaning whenever a vehicle was serviced and sending cleaning equipment stockpiles throughout the state for use.

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David Cullen

PG&E: Data-Driven Shop Operations

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In his role as senior director of shared services: transportation for Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), Michael Glover is responsible for everything from field operations and strategic planning to purchasing, telematics and information technology systems for the largest and most diverse utility fleet in the U.S.

The San Francisco-based utility provides natural gas and electricity to 5.2 million customers in an over 70,000-square-mile territory covering the northern two-thirds of California. Its operations are supported by more than 15,500 fleet assets, which are kept rolling by over 350 operational and maintenance employees working out of 63 locations. The asset count includes 10,000 Class 1 through Class 8 over-the-road trucks as well as construction and off-road equipment.

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Sean M. Lyden

The State of Fuel Prices

As of press time, the national average price of gasoline is $3.13 a gallon, up 44% from $2.18 a year ago, according to AAA, when the pandemic lockdowns were in full force, stifling fuel consumption.

And California, the most expensive market, is already at $4.31.

So, what’s driving the surge in fuel prices? There are several factors in play, but here are two of the big ones.

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Kate Wade

Terex General 65 MAX

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Terex Utilities has introduced a new generation of the General 65 digger derrick for utility transmission applications.

At a 10-foot radius and fully retracted, the General 65 MAX can lift 22,620 pounds. With the optional X-Boost, the machine features 25,000 pounds of capacity at high boom angles, which is 26% more power than its predecessor. X-Boost adjusts hydraulic pressure to increase load-handling capability and enables strong performance for lifting at high boom angles.

The General 65 MAX leverages many Terex pioneered digger derrick design features, such as trapezoidal dual hydraulic cylinders, a retractable rectangular boom and a filament-wound fiberglass third boom section.

Other common features will make life easier for technicians and operators. Radio controls and other control station options are available so controls can be customized. Technicians will also experience ease of maintenance working on a simple, full-pressure hydraulic system and overall maintenance access to features such as the collector block and extension cylinders.

The General 65 MAX can be equipped with a variety of tools and accessories to increase productivity. Options include several styles of transferable pole guide arms, a full lineup of Terex augers to match digging conditions and material-handling jibs. www.terex.com/utilities/en/product/commander-general-series/General-65

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Kate Wade

WEBFLEET Video Telematics Solution

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Webfleet Solutions, one of the world’s leading telematics providers and part of Bridgestone, has launched WEBFLEET Video into the market. With the technology of Webfleet Solutions and Lytx, a leading global provider of video telematics solutions for fleets, integrated on one platform, users can access and manage both their vehicles and their in-vehicle cameras from a single interface.

Road-facing and optional cabin-facing HD dashcam event footage is displayed alongside driving data to give users the full context of road incidents. Users can request video from a specific time and position of a previous trip or instantly livestream from the road to take action immediately when an incident occurs.

Accompanying WEBFLEET Video is the CAM 50 dashcam. This hardware uses artificial intelligence technology to automatically identify risky behavior, such as distracted driving and mobile phone usage. When it does so, it notifies the driver with a visual and audio alert, helping them avoid dangerous situations. www.webfleet.com

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Kate Wade

Reading Truck Group RM-45 Crane Body

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Reading Truck Group, a premier truck equipment manufacturer and distributor, has added an all-new crane body to its product lineup. The RM-45 is designed and built to deliver unsurpassed lifting capability, enhanced safety and lighting, and ease of accessory installations. All systems on the body have been thoroughly re-engineered and reimagined to deliver the most capable, best-performing Reading crane body ever.

One of the most notable enhancements to this crane body is the addition of the torsion box understructure, which provides the strength and resistance needed to enable a powerful 45,000-foot-pound lift at full 100% capacity rating throughout the lifting zone. Built from galvannealed steel to resist corrosion, the RM-45 also features a seamless wheelhouse panel, a redesigned workbench bumper with built-in grip steps and quick-mount brackets for easy accessory installation. A headache rack and rear compartment mounted work lights and strobes provide additional lighting and enhance safety for the operator. www.readingbody.com/rm-45-crane-body/

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Kate Wade

Xantrex No-Idle Solution

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Xantrex, a subsidiary of Mission Critical Electronics and a leading supplier of inverters and inverter/chargers, has introduced a no-idle solution to the work truck market. Freedom e-GEN is a lithium-ion battery-based power system that can be requested as an OEM install with most truck upfitters or as an aftermarket solution through Xantrex authorized dealers.

The heart of the Freedom e-GEN system is the dedicated lithium-ion battery bank that offers twice the power capacity in the same physical size as a traditional deep-cycle battery. Available from 125 Ahr to 1260 Ahr as part of a fully customizable power generation system, Freedom e-GEN batteries last six to eight times the life of traditional batteries, providing up to 6,000 charge-discharge cycles.

The Freedom XC Inverter/Charger converts DC electricity from the batteries into stable AC power. It is also power factor corrected to use AC current as efficiently as possible.

Further, the Freedom XC Inverter offers the added benefit of supplying up to 3,000 watts of continuous utility-grade, true sine wave power, which is especially important for proper function of sensitive electronics such as laptops, utility test equipment, and charging bases for power tools and two-way radios. https://xantrex.com

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Jim Vaughn, CUSP

A Practical Guide to Using Outrigger Pads

I’ve met a lot of people over the years while working in the utility industry. One of those people is in management with a respected manufacturer of aerial devices. Back when OSHA published 29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC, “Cranes and Derricks in Construction,” he and I and a few others were discussing how a utility operation could best comply with some of the standard’s requirements. The OSHA rules were formed with the perspective of typical construction sites in mind. In particular, we discussed the rule’s expectation that the site’s general manager will tell the crane operator about underground obstructions that might collapse and cause a crane to become unstable. It’s obvious that a crane operator setting structures on a right-of-way doesn’t have that luxury, so we were thinking about things we could do. The discussion landed on auxiliary outrigger pads. At the time, my friend from the aerial device company had this to say: “We have occasionally been sued by folks who turned over one of our cranes or aerial devices, but we have never been sued by anyone who had set up on auxiliary pads.”

I don’t know if that’s still the case with that company, but at the time I began to research why auxiliary pads appeared to be an important part of stable setup for aerial devices. Basically, it’s because sometimes even a few square inches of additional pad dimension can increase ground support by tons per square foot. When it comes to the four-point support of an aerial device that weighs in at tons, tons-per-square-foot increases are a good thing.

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Sean M. Lyden

Con Edison Orders All-Electric Class 8 Bucket Truck for Pilot Program

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In late March, Con Edison announced its partnership with electric truck OEM Lion Electric and Posi-Plus, an aerial device equipment manufacturer, to develop the first all-electric bucket truck in North America.

“Medium- and heavy-duty trucks are more challenging to electrify than cars, but the purchase of our first all-electric bucket truck shows the market is real today and it will only accelerate from here,” Tim Cawley, Con Edison’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. “While initially small in scope, this represents an important step in Con Edison’s journey toward fleet electrification.”

The truck will be built on the Lion8 all-electric 51,000-pound-GVWR chassis. Con Edison has spec’d the truck to be able to travel an estimated 130 miles on a single charge, with a charging time of about eight hours using two Level 2 chargers.

The production of an all-electric Class 8 bucket truck is a significant development, with zero emissions, lower maintenance costs and much quieter operations to improve safety in the field.

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Sean M. Lyden

New Best Practices for Post-Pandemic Fleet Operations

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In March 2020, longtime fleet professional and UFP editorial advisory board member Matt Gilliland was tasked to lead Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD) Infectious Disease Prevention and Control response team.

Gilliland’s team helped develop new COVID-19 policies and practices for the entire organization to reduce the risk and spread of infections and minimize operational disruptions from illness.

UFP recently spoke with Gilliland, NPPD’s director of operations support, to learn about some of the changes his response team recommended for the fleet department that employs 12 people and oversees about 1,200 total fleet assets. Specifically, we talked about the new fleet practices developed in the past year that he believes will likely continue beyond the pandemic.

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Gary L. Wollenhaupt

Fleets Embrace ADAS Technology to Make Drivers Safer

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While self-driving utility trucks are still a few years away, advanced driver assistance systems are here now. Most commercial vehicle manufacturers offer ADAS as standard or optional equipment on at least some vehicles, and fleet operators are figuring out how to train and manage drivers using these systems.

Commercial trucks offer many of the same safety systems found on passenger vehicles: lane departure warning and assist, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection, adaptive cruise control and others. With all the news about self-driving cars and trucks, there can be legitimate confusion about how these systems work.

That's why driver training is crucial – so drivers understand what the systems will do and what they don't do.

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Sandy Smith

The State of UTV Electrification

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There is at least one obvious reason for an electric utility to move toward adopting electric-powered vehicles into its fleet.

“We’re using our own product,” said Paul Jefferson, senior fleet manager for Oklahoma Gas and Electric, which serves more than 858,000 customers across 30,000 square miles in Oklahoma and western Arkansas.

Another reason for the move? “[The vehicles] are lower maintenance,” Jefferson said. “You don’t have to change the oil and do other types of maintenance as with gas engines.”

His fleet includes 101 UTVs, 58 of which are powered by electricity; the remainder are due to be replaced by electric UTVs in the coming years.

OG&E had long wanted to move to electric UTVs, Jefferson said, but it took a while for the industry to catch up. “Four years ago, we started adding electric UTV carts. Prior to that, you could buy a golf cart, but there weren’t really robust UTV options out there.”

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David Cullen

How Leasing May Smooth the Electric Transition

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It may be too early in the game for fleet operators to factor in the impact of battery-electric trucks on maintenance costs and resale values.

Some experts hold that the cost of maintenance may be lower thanks to fewer moving parts on electric vehicles, yet it may be higher for other aspects, such as future battery replacements. But they also contend that the savings generated from not consuming diesel fuel may make maintenance costs a wash initially, and then they will improve in favor of battery-electric vehicles as rising demand brings down acquisition costs. Another factor to consider is fear over accurately predicting future resale values for battery-electric trucks.

Will all that in mind, a utility fleet may want to consider leasing versus buying their first batches of medium- to heavy-duty electric vehicles, such as bucket trucks and Class 8 on-highway haulers.

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Grace Suizo

Fleet 2030: The Top Trends Utility Fleets Should Watch This Decade

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What do utility fleet managers need to keep an eye on over the next decade? What emerging trends will have the greatest impact on fleet operations? And what do fleet professionals need to have on their radar so they don’t fall behind the curve or get blindsided?

UFP recently spoke with George Survant, a former longtime fleet manager who currently serves as a consultant for Fleet Mace Consulting, and Charlie Guthro, vice president of business intelligence and analytics for fleet management company ARI (www.arifleet.com), to get their answers to these questions and insight on what the future has in store for utility fleets.

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Jason Julius

Repair Solutions for Common Fiberglass Damage

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Maintenance of insulated booms on aerial devices and digger derricks is critical to preserving the integrity of the insulating qualities of the machines. While insulated equipment is required to be dielectrically tested each year, daily and periodic inspections of fiberglass components should be performed as directed by the manufacturer.

There are two common types of damage and wear that may affect the integrity of a fiberglass boom. The first, structural damage, is classified according to the type of damage – cuts, bruises or overloads. The second type is wear that occurs where there is contact with other components, such as at boom rests or at fiberglass-to-steel joints.

In both cases, the damage must be assessed to see if it is repairable. Each manufacturer provides information specific to the type and shape of its boom designs. For example, Terex Utilities provides two charts for the equipment it manufactures, which break the damage into minor damage and major damage. The severity of the damage will determine the course of action. Major damage must be reported to the manufacturer for analysis to determine if it can be repaired. Examples include overload damage, complete penetration of the wall or major damage within 24 inches of previously repaired major damage.

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