Luann Dunkerley

Meeting the Rising Safety Challenge

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U.S. roads are becoming increasingly dangerous, despite a great number of vehicles having some of the most advanced safety technology available. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.gov), more than 37,000 fatal traffic accidents occurred in 2016, rising 14 percent since 2014. And while accident rates were in decline throughout the past 10 years, they are now nearly identical to 2007’s numbers; that year also saw more than 37,000 fatal accidents.

So, what are some of the underlying causes of the rise in fatal accidents? And what can utility fleets do to promote driver safety and effect positive change in our industry?  

The simple truth is it’s not easy to pinpoint what is causing all of these accidents; however, it’s no secret that road rage and distracted driving are two of the greatest challenges today’s drivers must contend with.

Road Rage and Distracted Driving
In a study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (www.aaafoundation.org) in July 2016, nearly 80 percent of drivers admitted to engaging in aggressive driving techniques, such as tailgating, blocking a vehicle or cutting off another driver. In a separate survey completed by EverQuote (www.everquote.com), 96 percent of drivers rated themselves as safe motorists, but 61 percent of those surveyed then admitted to using their phone behind the wheel in the last month.

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Grace Suizo

3 Ways Telematics Can Help Improve Fleet Safety

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One benefit of implementing a telematics solution is that it can help create a safer environment for utility fleet employees. How? UFP recently reached out to several industry experts, who provided three of the most valuable ways telematics data is currently being used to strengthen fleet safety.  

1. Telematics solutions can be used to monitor driving behavior and coach drivers.
Each day, fleet managers are tasked with ensuring the safety of their drivers as well as the public. Analyzing telematics data can help reveal driving trends and behaviors – such as speeding, hard braking, rapid acceleration, hard turns and unauthorized usage – that may be contrary to a company’s safety policies. 

“The data available through telematics is much more than maintenance and fuel transactions; it can track or predict behaviors that impact fleet costs,” said Spero A. Skarlatos, CTP, senior consultant, truck solutions for Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com).

And once an undesirable trend or behavior is discovered, some telematics providers, such as GPS Insight (www.gpsinsight.com), provide real-time and post-incident coaching for drivers on ways they can improve. Feedback can come in the form of text messages to the driver that tell them to slow down, or a buzzer that goes off to coach drivers in the cab in real time. In addition, according to Ryan Driscoll, GPS Insight’s marketing director, the company also supplies “actionable data for managers to coach their drivers after the fact to help educate drivers on how to improve behavior behind the wheel.”

Telematics-based driver coaching also leverages gamification, informing drivers of how they compare to their peers in terms of safe driving behavior and related areas, such as deployment of onboard scales integrated into telematics systems to make sure vehicles are not loaded beyond their weight rating, according to Geoff Scalf, director of global oil and gas business development for Telogis (www.telogis.com).

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Kate Wade

Sherman + Reilly Four Drum Turret Pilot Line Winder

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Sherman + Reilly, a Textron Inc. company and a leading manufacturer of power-line stringing and installation equipment, recently introduced the PLW-200X four drum turret pilot line winder. The all new PLW-200X offers customers an ergonomic operator’s station, 360-degree turret rotation, braking system with electric over hydraulic activation and a galvanized finish option. The design team at Sherman + Reilly turned customer feedback into action with the added safety and efficiency in the new PLW-200X. 

The Sherman + Reilly PLW-200X features an optimized operator’s station with a new ergonomic layout. Equipped with real-time self-diagnostics and CANbus technology, the operator can access all major controls from the seated operator station. The four-drum turret is capable of rotating 360 degrees for optimal structure approach to drive efficiency on the job site. The braking system, with electric over hydraulic activation, allows for controlled articulation of braking pressure distributed to each of the pilot line drums. The PLW-200X also offers a new galvanized finish for a more durable and weather-resistant finish, the first of its kind for Sherman + Reilly equipment. The equipment also features newly positioned tie-off points to allow for quicker line/phase changeover and securing of drum-specific pilot lines.

All Sherman + Reilly equipment is backed by a one-year warranty and a dedicated Sherman + Reilly service team. www.sherman-reilly.com

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Kate Wade

DICA’s ProStack Cribbing Line Expands

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DICA’s new ProStack Cribbing products have been expanded to include smaller Medium Duty interlocking blocks and pad sizes. The reduced size is specifically designed for aerial bucket trucks and digger derricks where additional cribbing height is needed to support and stabilize the equipment in unlevel environments.

Like the original Heavy Duty ProStack Cribbing, the smaller Medium Duty size has an engineered interlocking design that safely provides additional height under outrigger floats for increased cribbing height.

Both Medium and Heavy Duty ProStack Cribbing setups are made up of three basic parts: a base SafetyTech Outrigger Pad, ProStack Interlocking Cribbing Blocks and a ProStack, high-friction top Grip Pad. The base SafetyTech Outrigger Pad is manufactured with an interlocking pyramid surface. Operators then stack layers of ProStack Cribbing Blocks to the desired height. Lastly, a ProStack Grip Pad is placed on top of the stack to provide a high-friction surface for the outrigger foot, and to protect the pyramid surface on the cribbing blocks.

The new Medium Duty ProStack Cribbing is 6” thick 12”x12” – that’s half the size and weight of the Heavy Duty 6” thick 12”x24” cribbing blocks. The Medium Duty blocks weigh just 27 pounds each and are intended to be used with 24” SafetyTech Outrigger Pads. www.dicausa.com

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Sean M. Lyden

Tips for Spec’ing Truck-Mounted Compressors

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Utility fleets use truck-mounted compressors to power air tools that break pavement, pressurize gas or water mains, blow in fiber optic cable and perform numerous other jobs depending on the type of utility.

And these compressors are available in a wide range of configurations that directly impact your initial cost, ongoing maintenance expenses, the truck’s payload capacity and cargo area, and worker productivity.

So, how do you filter through all the options to select the optimal compressor for the job? Use these “3 P’s” as a guide.

1. Purpose
Begin with the end in mind. What exactly are the jobs you will need an onboard compressor to perform? What air tools will you be attaching to the system to do that work? And will you ever need that system to power multiple tools simultaneously?

Also consider the environmental conditions the compressor will be operating in, said Ralph Kokot, chief executive officer at Vanair Manufacturing (https://vanair.com), a mobile power system provider based in Michigan City, Ind. “Is the truck going up to the Alaska North Slope? Then you’d want to have a cold-weather kit on [the compressor] versus if the system is being operated in South Florida.”

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s Accelerating Electric Vehicle Growth?

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It wasn’t long ago that relatively low fuel prices put the brakes on momentum for alternative fuels. But electric vehicles (EVs) appear to be defying that trend, even as conventional fuel prices remain low.

Consider the recent headlines. Norway intends to ban the sale of new diesel- and gas-powered cars and trucks in favor of EVs by 2025. China is planning to follow suit by 2030, with France and the U.K. each setting their targets for 2040. And, as of press time, the state of California is considering its own ban on non-EVs, which could have a huge ripple effect throughout the U.S. market.

Then there are major automakers – beyond Tesla – pushing the pace toward electrification. In October, General Motors announced that it’s pursuing an “all-electric future,” with 20 new fully electric models to be launched by 2023. Volvo, Aston Martin and Land Rover have introduced similar plans.

And according to a recent report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, EVs could represent the majority – 54 percent – of new car sales by 2040.

So, what’s driving this momentum toward EVs? Here are three factors.

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Sandy Smith

The Driver Safety Challenge in an Era of Advanced Driver-Assist Systems

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When he’s off the clock, John Doyle, senior health and safety adviser at Florida Power & Light, drives a Ford Explorer as his personal vehicle. The SUV is equipped with a backup camera that audibly alerts him when he gets too close to an object.

When Doyle sometimes drives his wife’s car – which has a backup camera but no audible alerts – he still finds himself “waiting for the backup camera to tell me to slow down.”

Doyle’s experience provides a good example of an issue utility fleet drivers across the country are facing these days. They may have all sorts of tools and options on their personal vehicles that aren’t available on their work vehicles, which can potentially lead to a habit of relying on the tools and options – even when they’re not there. 

“People are gravitating towards using the technology to support the way they drive,” said Art Liggio, president and CEO of driver training company Driving Dynamics (www.drivingdynamics.com). “We see people come into our training programs who are looking at the backup camera monitor instead of the mirrors. If the monitor hesitates, they freeze. They don’t know what to do.”

Recent statistics back up the idea that the wealth of technology and safety features in today’s newer vehicles isn’t lowering accident rates. In 2016, 37,461 people died on U.S. highways, while 2015 saw the biggest jump in accident deaths in 50 years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.gov).

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Fiona Soltes

Choosing a Lift with Safety in Mind

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When selecting a new maintenance bay lift that’s safe for your fleet operation, there’s more to consider than the assets that will be lifted on it. It’s also essential to account for what will be under and above the lift – and how the weight will be distributed.

All too often, industry experts say, well-meaning fleet professionals and maintenance technicians choose a lift simply based on the weight of the largest vehicle or piece of equipment it will hold. But there’s more to the equation, and getting it wrong can have disastrous results.

First, noted George Survant, senior director of fleet relations for NTEA – The Association for the Work Truck Industry (www.ntea.com), it’s important to remember that the base weight of an asset is one thing, but the weight of that asset when it’s on the lift, fully loaded, is another.

Here are seven additional considerations from Survant and Steve Perlstein, president of auto lift supplier Mohawk Lifts (www.mohawklifts.com), on choosing a lift with safety in mind.

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Sean M. Lyden

How Will You Adapt?

Our story begins in 2009.

It was only eight years ago, but so much has happened since then.

At that time, we were in the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The idea of calling an Uber using your smartphone was still about a year away from happening. And a niche electric carmaker, Tesla, had just received a major cash infusion to pull the struggling company from the brink of bankruptcy.

That’s also when search engine giant Google launched its self-driving car project.

If you recall, at the time, the idea of robot cars still seemed like science fiction – a long way out in the future. And any work being done in this space was primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

That’s what makes Google’s foray into this space so remarkable. Here was this young private-sector company willing to put significant resources into what the firm has described as a “moon shot.” This bet on autonomous vehicles represented an unprecedented level of commitment by the private sector for an unproven, highly expensive technology.

But today that bet is starting to pay off with wide-ranging ramifications.

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Kate Wade

XL Hybrids Introduces Hybrid Electric Upfit for Ford F-250 Pickups

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XL Hybrids Inc. has announced that the company will begin production on the XL3 Hybrid Electric Drive System for Model Year 2018 Ford Super Duty F-250 pickups in the first quarter of 2018.

XL Hybrids has adapted its XL3 technology for Ford F-250 trucks based on demand from fleet customers who are seeking even better fuel efficiency from Ford’s popular three-quarter-ton work trucks. This will be the first time that Ford F-250 trucks can be ordered by fleet customers with hybrid-electric drive technology. Now fleets can enjoy up to a 25 percent increase in miles per gallon – and accompanying reductions in CO2 emissions – on trucks used for rugged towing, hauling capacity and utility applications.

The XL3 system will be the first offered as a ship-thru upfit on Model Year 2018 F-250 pickups. XL3 will be upfit on the Ford Super Duty 6.2-liter V-8 gasoline engine compatible with a range of wheelbases, cab and bed configurations in both 4x2 and 4x4 options. As with each XL3 installation, all components are installed under the vehicle, allowing the pickup bed’s full capacity. www.xlhybrids.com

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Kate Wade

MAHLE ShopPRO Jacks and Lifting Equipment

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To supplement its offering of A/C, fluid, diagnostics and nitrogen service equipment, MAHLE Service Solutions has partnered with Gray Manufacturing to offer ShopPRO, a full line of the highest-quality hydraulic and pneumatic equipment for the commercial vehicle market.

The ShopPRO product line includes 12 product categories: air lifts, axle jacks, component lifts, engine stands, fluid handling, forklift jacks, service jacks, shop cranes, shop presses, support stands, vehicle lifts and wheel service equipment.

Gray Manufacturing has been designing, manufacturing and selling lifting equipment since 1952. Each product is built to meet or exceed the ASME PASE 2014 standard. After manufacturing, each part is put through complete testing for rated load and range of motion, providing the customer with assurance that each jack or lifting device meets the standards of excellence. www.servicesolutions.mahle.com

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Kate Wade

Allison Transmission xFE Models

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Allison Transmission has announced availability of its latest fuel economy technology for its 1000 Series and 2000 Series. Referred to as xFE, designating extra fuel economy, the fully automatic bus and truck transmissions have demonstrated improvements up to 7 percent when compared to baseline models.

The 1000 Series and 2000 Series xFE transmissions have the same space claim and ratings as current models, but incorporate a redesigned torque converter damper coupled with the FuelSense 2.0 Max package. The damper enables first range lockup, delivering significantly more lockup operation and operating at lower engine speeds in higher ranges to further improve fuel economy. All xFE transmissions are compatible with alternative fuel engines.

First announced in 2015, xFE transmissions were exclusively available in the 3000 Series for bus applications. The new models represent the first expansion of the xFE portfolio and come standard with FuelSense 2.0.

Announced in March, FuelSense 2.0 with DynActive Shifting delivers additional fuel savings beyond original FuelSense software. Through a set of proprietary software enhancements, the new FuelSense 2.0 uses DynActive Shifting to provide an infinitely variable combination of shift points and uses a learning algorithm to continuously find the ideal balance of fuel economy and performance. Available in three packages, FuelSense 2.0 allows fleets to optimize fuel economy and performance to their specific needs. www.allisontransmission.com

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Kate Wade

MDI Compact Sign System

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Collapse to tow. Wrap to stow. Offering quick and easy deployment, the patented MDI Compact Collapse & Wrap Sign System consists of an MDI Compact sign and a WindMaster sign stand (each sold separately). Once the sign is mounted to the stand, it becomes one unit; if desired, the sign can stay in place in the stand. In addition to the renowned WindMaster technology, the sign’s flexible cross-brace enhances wind performance. To store, the sign quickly collapses using the single-trigger release button and wraps around the upright on the stand. The sign and sign stand set up in under 20 seconds. Rapid deployment significantly improves safety and efficiency in the work zone. www.mditrafficcontrol.com

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Ted Barron

A Recovering Fleet Manager’s Guide to ICUEE

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In just a few weeks, thousands of field operators and fleet managers will visit the International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition (www.icuee.com) in Louisville, Ky., with one thing on their minds: finding cost-effective equipment solutions that will make their crews more productive and enhance their emphasis on safe operation. Held every other year, ICUEE – The Demo Expo is perhaps the biggest equipment show for the electric utility industry.

After 30 years of working for an investor-owned utility, I’ve sat through my share of meetings with executives seeking to identify business plans and core values. But never did those efforts adequately convey the central concern of most fleet managers as this prayer a veteran mechanic once said before a monthly safety meeting: “Lord, don’t let us miss something that could cause someone to get hurt.”

Those simple words capture better than any corporate mission statement the true desire of fleet managers. Properly trained personnel and properly maintained equipment contribute to safe and productive work performance. Every person in an operation’s chain plays a critical role in achieving that goal. From stocking the right equipment, to thorough inspections and maintenance, to selecting the right equipment for your fleet, each is equally important.

ICUEE is an equipment show. More than 900 exhibitors will be there. When I’ve attended ICUEE in the past, my focus was becoming familiar with the latest technology and building relationships with peers, service providers and manufacturers. There’s much to compare. Often, I discovered that the lowest-cost option was not always the best option.

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Sean M. Lyden

Joining Forces to Accelerate Green Fleet Adoption

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If you’re looking to green your fleet in a way that’s good for both the environment and the business, you don’t have to go about it alone.

That’s the message of Clean Cities (https://cleancities.energy.gov/), which was formed in 1993 by the U.S. Department of Energy and, today, has nearly 100 local coalitions that bring together businesses, fuel providers, vehicle fleets, government agencies and community organizations all pursuing the same goal: cutting petroleum use in transportation. Some of the program’s recent utility fleet success stories include Pacific Gas and Electric, Public Service Company of New Mexico and Atlantic County Utilities Authority in New Jersey.

The idea behind Clean Cities is that investing in green technologies at a meaningful scale can be a high-risk, high-cost endeavor for most fleets to shoulder alone. But what if you could connect with other fleet managers and experts who have real-world experience with vehicle electrification, natural gas, propane autogas, biodiesel or whatever technology you’re looking to deploy?

You could significantly reduce risk and tap into economies of scale that make your green initiative more affordable – and more compelling to the business.

It’s Clean Cities that helps make those connections happen at the local level and across the country, said Dennis Smith, Clean Cities national director, who, prior to joining the program in 2001, served as director of energy services at Atlanta Gas Light Co., a large Atlanta-based utility.

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Jim Olson

3 Tips for Site-Conscious Aerial Device Setup

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Aerial devices are among the most important pieces of equipment in a utility company’s fleet. They are another tool in the utility’s toolbox and – like any other tool – must be properly used and maintained.

While it's the responsibility of the employer to ensure that each individual operator is correctly trained and qualified to operate an aerial device, it takes the whole crew to contribute to safe and efficient operations. Following are three important steps crews should take before work starts on any project that requires use of an aerial device, plus real-world tips from Garry Christopherson, director of safety and security for Dairyland Power Cooperative in La Crosse, Wis.

Step 1: Conduct a site survey.

  • Identify potential hazards, such as buildings, ditches, drop-offs, holes, debris, sewers, overhead obstructions, electrical conductors and underground utilities.
  • Evaluate the ground conditions. The ground must be firm enough to bear the pressure produced by the bucket truck – including the maximum platform and jib loads – during operation. You may need to use pads under the outriggers to distribute the weight over a greater surface area. If your bucket truck does not have outriggers, or if it is equipped with only one set, make sure all the tires and axle suspension springs are equally loaded. If the ground is slippery, snowy or icy, consider how to prevent the vehicle from sliding.
  • Consider the terrain. If the vehicle must be parked on a slope, keep the boom on the uphill side, chock the wheels and work off the rear of the truck. Per ANSI A92.2, bucket trucks are stability-tested on firm, flat surfaces up to a 5-degree slope. Never work on a slope greater than what is allowed by the manufacturer. Use your bucket truck’s chassis level indicator to make sure the truck is always set within the manufacturer’s operational limits. Most aerial truck manufacturers, including Terex, equip their vehicles with an inclinometer that is used to determine if the truck is set up within the allowable limits. Follow the instructions for your vehicle, and recognize that some trucks must be leveled before raising the booms.
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Jim Galligan

The Future of Drones in the Utility Market

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Darting about inside one of Consolidated Edison’s 10-story steam boilers in Manhattan, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) looks like a hobbyist’s dream, a multirotor mini-helicopter outfitted with a megapixel camera mounted inside a gyroscopically balanced geodesic sphere. But don’t look for it at your local hobby store. It’s a custom-built UAV – also known as a drone – that ConEd’s engineers are testing as they explore the potential benefits of this new and growing technology.

To say that utility executives are excited about the possible uses of drones is a significant understatement. Most utilities are exploring the possibilities at one level or another, said Chris McMurtry, solutions architect with Sharper Shape (http://sharpershape.com), a supplier of UAV services for utilities. “Of the major utilities, probably 80 percent have some sort of drone initiatives going right now, and almost all [utilities] have put in a lot of hours thinking about this,” he said.

The most common use to date has been to provide safer and more economical inspections of transmission and distribution infrastructure.

When inspecting a tower or other vertical infrastructure that’s within sight, “a drone will beat just about any other method you’ve got, whether it’s a bucket truck, binoculars, helicopter or climbing that asset,” said Dexter Lewis, senior research engineer with Southern Company Services. “It doesn’t matter how big the structure, that use case will probably return value.” Southern Co. is the parent of several utilities.

But the potential of UAVs goes well beyond that.

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Sean M. Lyden

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

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All-terrain utility vehicles (UVs) enable utility crews to get work done in hard-to-reach areas where four-wheel-drive pickups and other conventional vehicles cannot go. And there are a wide range of capabilities available, with some models designed to haul people and heavy equipment across rugged and hilly terrain, while others are built with amphibious capabilities to cross deep waters in flooded lowlands.

So, what’s new in the UV market to help get your crews and equipment across various terrains with maximum safety and productivity? Here are six developments to keep your eye on.

Argo
What’s New: 2018 Conquest Series models
Website: www.argoxtv.com

Argo has unveiled the company’s 2018 Conquest Series commercial models with custom improvements that help boost worker productivity, no matter the terrain, weather or fleet application.

From the hydraulic rear-power dump box of the heavy-duty Conquest 8x8 XT-X to the Lineman package of the Conquest 8x8 XT-L, the new models equip utility workers to transport transformers, pull cables or bore footings to the most remote worksites – to make their jobs easier and get them home safe. 

Production of the new models has begun, and vehicles will soon be available in dealerships across North America and around the world.

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Grace Suizo

Using Technology to Reduce Engine Idle

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In the U.S., roughly 3 billion gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline are consumed each year by idling engines on medium- and heavy-duty trucks, according to Argonne National Laboratory (www.anl.gov). So, improving fuel economy – and thus lowering fuel expenses – without sacrificing performance is a must for utility fleets that often have to idle assets during working hours. 

UFP recently reached out to industry experts to gain some deeper insight about this issue and discover possible idling solutions for utility fleet operations.

A Changing Landscape
For a long time, technology selections for medium-duty trucks were very limited, according to George Survant, senior director of fleet relations for NTEA – The Association for the Work Truck Industry (www.ntea.com).

But that’s changing. And while many fleets take a driver-behavior-based approach to idle reduction, one advantage of an equipment-based solution is that the change typically is good for the life of the equipment, said Survant, who also spent more than 25 years as a telecom fleet manager.

“We, as fleet operators, are becoming more sophisticated in our acceptance of new technology and sensitive to the need for better solutions,” he said. “Consequently, the market is producing more viable solutions that are made for an increasing number of applications.”

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Fiona Soltes

Strategies for Hiring and Retaining Skilled Technicians

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It’s no secret that today’s utility fleets have encountered difficulty finding job candidates with the appropriate training, experience and technical skills. And not only that – once qualified candidates are hired, those workers can be wooed by other companies offering greater salary and benefits packages.

So, how can you find and keep the right candidates for your fleet job openings?

Those in the know recommend partnering with area technical schools and colleges to ensure the right skills are being taught – and the right candidates are being snapped up early. On the other end of the spectrum, they recommend providing current employees with training and career development opportunities to keep them engaged.

“There’s a lot of poaching going on, especially on the utility side,” said Jason Ball, who worked as both a heavy-duty mechanic and fleet manager before taking the helm of Utility Training Group (www.utilitytraininggroup.com) less than two years ago. Specialized on-the-job training – delivered by someone like Ball or an OEM representative – sweetens the pot by helping workers learn new skills, gain confidence and stay up to date on the latest technologies.

But it’s important, Ball said, to make sure those conducting the training have the right experience, in addition to good references.

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