Sean M. Lyden

When Does it Make Sense to Outsource Maintenance?

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Even if you have a robust in-house repair shop, chances are that you still outsource portions of your maintenance operations – to save money, quickly fill gaps left by technicians who’ve recently retired or tap into specialized expertise to perform critical repairs.

But how do you determine which aspects of your maintenance operations make the most sense to outsource and which ones you should keep in-house?

UFP recently posed this question to Paul Lauria, who has worked with numerous government and utility fleets for more than three decades as president of Mercury Associates Inc. (www.mercury-assoc.com), a fleet management consulting firm based in Rockville, Md. He offered these four points to consider.

1. Cost
How much money will outsourcing actually save the organization?

“The only way that you're going to be able to determine if you're saving money is to know the costs of performing outsourceable fleet maintenance and repair activities in-house versus farming them out to a vendor or contractor,” Lauria said. “And that's one thing, in my experience, that a lot of organizations, including utilities, don't have a good handle on. What are the avoidable costs of operating its own garages or of performing a particular type of maintenance or repair activity, for example? If you were to shut down or downsize those garages and shift work to third-party service providers, what costs would go away? That establishes the baseline for determining whether or not you can save money by outsourcing.”

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Jim Galligan

Getting the Most Out of Your Tires

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As a utility fleet manager, you operate perhaps the most diversified vehicle fleet of any business, typically using all weight classes of trucks, from light- to heavy-duty, on the road and off, hauling aerial devices, digger derricks and a slew of other job-specific equipment on good pavement or through fields of debris.

Given these characteristics, getting the best value and performance from your tires may not be rocket science, but it does take planning, smart spec’ing and commitment to a maintenance program, according to tire manufacturers.

A fleet’s first step toward tire value is to determine its goals, said Bill Walmsley, product category manager with Michelin Americas Truck Tires (www.michelintruck.com). What do you want in your tires? Durable, trouble-free service and long, even wear? Additional features? Regardless, selecting the best tire for the application is key. Walmsley suggested that fleets start by looking at the same tire size they currently have on their equipment by wheel position and then explore available options in that size to meet the specific conditions under which the equipment will operate. “This might entail specific load-carrying requirements, weather conditions or environmental issues, such as off-road products or tires which operate well in field or snow conditions,” he said.

Calibrating the balance between load and appropriate tire pressure is critical, but it also is easy since every tire manufacturer publishes load and inflation charts for their tires. The only way to make sure the calibrations are correct is to know the loads being carried and use the charts, Walmsley said.

“Tires are designed and optimized to carry a desired load at a specified pressure. Proper pressure for the maximum load being carried is very important. Underinflation and overinflation for the loads being carried will affect tire and casing life and performance,” Walmsley said.

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Grace Suizo

What CK-4 and FA-4 Engine Oils Mean for Your Fleet

What CK-4 and FA-4 Engine Oils Mean for Your Fleet

Manufacturers have stepped up their technology efforts to meet rigorous fuel-efficiency and emissions standards. In doing so, many next-generation engines will need higher-performing diesel engine oils to protect them. This requires changes in engine oil composition to withstand more heat without sacrificing engine protection.

A new generation of diesel engine oils was rolled out in December 2016. One of those oils is CK-4, a high-temperature, high-shear (HTHS) oil that can be used in both new and existing engines. It is available in the same viscosity grades and oil types currently being used in fleet operations.

According to the American Petroleum Institute (API), CK-4 can be used in high-speed, four-stroke-cycle diesel engines designed to meet 2017 model-year on-highway and Tier 4 non-road exhaust emission standards, as well as previous model-year diesel engines.

As much as possible, minimize exposure between new and old engine oils to ensure the benefits of CK-4 as well as continued OEM warranty support, advised Mark Betner, heavy-duty product line manager for CITGO (www.citgo.com).

A second oil type that debuted in December – FA-4 – has limited backward compatibility and is better suited for 2017 model-year engines and beyond. This “low-HTHS” oil is offered in lower viscosity grades and is not recommended for use with fuels having greater than 15 parts per million sulfur, according to API (www.api.org).


What Are the Benefits?
Benefits of the new CK-4 and FA-4 oils include increased fuel economy and lower emissions.

“Lower-viscosity engine oils will improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases over [previous] engine oils,” Betner said. “FA-4 engine oils in an FA-4-compliant engine will offer even greater fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases.”

In addition, “Today’s lighter weights can deliver the equivalent or even better wear protection than a CJ-4 15W-40 oil, along with significantly improved oil drain performance,” according to Len Badal, global Delo brand manager for Chevron Lubricants (www.chevronlubricants.com).

Betner agreed, noting the advanced technology of these two engine oils provides significant improvements in deposit control, shear stability and oil aeration control. “These engine oils will also have a 60 percent better oxidation resistance compared to API CJ-4, which aids in extended service intervals,” he explained.

Badal mentioned that off-road equipment would reap significant rewards from CK-4. “CK-4 oils deliver many benefits that directly address major issues with off-road equipment, including extended drain intervals, reduced engine wear and ability to extend rebuild intervals,” he said. “Off-highway equipment operators stand to gain a lot of benefits from the new API CK-4 oils, with a direct impact on reliability, productivity and profitability.”

Based on reduced fuel consumption, and extended oil drain and engine rebuild intervals, potential cost savings are expected.

Fleets surveyed by CITGO reported improved fuel efficiency after converting to its new API CK-4 oils, with improvement ranging from 1.6 to 3.2 percent after 50,000 miles.

What’s the Next Step?
Identify the units in your fleet that will be most impacted, and always check the owner’s manual for the proper lubricant recommendation.

One particular area of concern is for fleets comprised of various makes and models. Some automakers have indicated that neither one of the new engine oils should be used in certain vehicles at this time.

Nebraska Public Power District is one utility that has been proactively addressing that issue. Matt Gilliland, NPPD’s director of transportation and facilities, said he has been communicating with internal staff and servicing vendors to address the diversity of units in the organization’s fleet.

About the Author: Grace Suizo has been covering the automotive fleet industry since 2007. She spent six years as an editor for five fleet publications and has written more than 100 articles geared toward both commercial and public sector fleets.

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OEM Specs for API CK-4 and FA-4 Oils
Major diesel engine and truck manufacturers recently provided their own OEM specifications that connect with the new API CK-4 and FA-4 categories for their new model GHG 2017 diesel engines, with several also citing backward compatibility as well as upgrades to support longer oil drain intervals. These initial specs are mainly focused on CK-4 but should include more FA-4 data in the future.

OEM Specs

Source: Len Badal/Chevron Lubricants

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Fiona Soltes

Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting Maintenance Bay Lifts

Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting Maintenance Bay Lifts

As Dale Collins, CAFM, has rightsized his fleet in recent years, the fleet services supervisor for Virginia-based Fairfax Water has discovered the need to rightsize his maintenance bay lifts as well.

When the vehicle maintenance facility was built, the fleet had a higher percentage of heavy-duty dump trucks and crew vans, so the emphasis was on lifts that could handle their 60,000-pound weight. These days, however, Collins can service 80 percent of his fleet with more efficient 12,000-pound-capacity cassette lifts.

“Anybody who is in the market for a lift has to know what it is they’re trying to lift, how much it weighs and what the lift’s wheelbase limits are – not only how small it will get, but how long you will need it to be,” Collins said. “A lot of times you can get into a jam with longer vehicles.”

Collins speaks from experience; one Freightliner in the utility’s fleet has a 328-inch wheelbase. But the fleet department was able to work with the lift manufacturer/distributor to secure lifts that can handle anything from the Freightliner down to the 125-inch wheelbase of a Ford Ranger pickup.

This story highlights a potential error some fleet managers make when choosing lifts: assuming that they are one size – or one style – fits all. Collins now has a diversified set of lifts for his diverse fleet, including a telescoping piston lift for heavy-duty assets as well as an in-ground scissor-type lift that utilizes only 7 gallons of fluid to operate.

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Sandy Smith

Best Practices for Winterizing Your Fleet

Best Practices for Winterizing Your Fleet

A 70-inch snowfall in Buffalo, N.Y. A polar vortex. An ice storm in the South. The last few winters certainly have been memorable, and this coming season looks to be more of the same. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov) is forecasting below-normal temperatures for much of the U.S., with some locations experiencing more precipitation than average.

While this may be good news for skiers and those who like to build snowmen, it can wreak havoc for utility fleets – those pressed to keep services operating no matter the weather.

“When you’re in our business, the power has to be on 24/7,” said Michael Donahue, manager of transportation and construction equipment for Omaha Public Power District (www.oppd.com). “The crews and vehicles and equipment have to be ready to respond for normal maintenance and when there is an emergency.”

Given that the average high temperature in Omaha, Neb., hovers around the freezing mark during the winter months, winterizing the utility’s fleet is a given. Historically, the OPPD fleet maintained its 1,000 licensed vehicles and 300 pieces of construction equipment by issuing preventive maintenance orders each September 1. “But what that did was put 1,000 PMs due on our list,” Donahue explained. Now the fleet garage incorporates winterization into the normal maintenance schedule. “It eases up on the guys in the shop and the crews, too,” he said.

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Grace Suizo

Factors to Consider When Making Outsourcing Decisions

Factors to Consider When Making Outsourcing Decisions

Deciding whether to outsource maintenance and repair work or perform it in-house can be a daunting task for fleet managers. To gain some industry insight, UFP recently spoke with Holly Giffrow-Bos, fleet supervisor for East Central Energy (ECE), and Dan Remmert, manager of fleet services for Ameren Illinois Company (AIC), about what’s worked for their operations and what to consider if you’re leaning toward outsourcing part or all of your maintenance and repair work.

According to Giffrow-Bos, about 15 to 20 percent of ECE’s fleet jobs are outsourced. These typically include body work, warranty work and any kind of heavy-duty engine or transmission replacement work. The electric distribution cooperative, headquartered in Braham, Minn., has a fleet of approximately 180 units.

Due to the level of training and the resources required to perform body work, Giffrow-Bos said ECE “never got into it because of the expense of having that specially trained person and equipment.” The fleet also doesn’t have a lot of jobs that require body work.

In general, ECE handles all diagnostics, repairs and preventive maintenance in-house. This work, too, comes at a significant expense; each of the cooperative’s in-house technicians must be trained on all vehicle makes and models used by the fleet, as well as a range of different tasks.

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Grace Suizo

Aftermarket vs. OEM Replacement Parts

Aftermarket vs. OEM Replacement Parts

Are you unsure whether to purchase aftermarket or OEM replacement parts for your fleet’s vehicles? Using a mix of both has proven to be an effective strategy for Ameren Illinois Company (AIC), Fairfax County Water Authority (Fairfax Water) and Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E), according to fleet representatives from the three utilities.

Safety, performance, availability and quality are among the factors that make OEM parts the best option for certain aspects of fleet operations.

“On critical components, it’s better to get the original equipment parts instead of taking a chance on questionable quality of the aftermarket materials,” explained Dale Collins, CAFM, fleet services supervisor for Virginia-based Fairfax Water, which maintains more than 400 fleet units. “Folks can easily replicate good-quality wiper blades, but not more sophisticated electronic parts.”

Several years ago Fairfax Water replaced the original brake pads on its heavy-payload pickup trucks with aftermarket pads that did not hold up well. The utility now relies on the durability of factory OEM brake parts that they have found to be superior to aftermarket products. Fairfax Water also depends on original equipment parts for engine management due to past performance issues with some of its construction equipment, and it uses OEM parts for auto body and crash repairs in critical areas of the vehicle in order to maintain “crashworthiness,” or the ability of a vehicle to protect occupants during an impact.

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Jim Galligan

Data is Driving Utility Fleet Maintenance Decisions

Data is Driving Utility Fleet Maintenance Decisions

Maintenance schedules based on “the way it’s always been done” are trending downward. Instead, more utility fleets are relying on the operational data they collect from onboard technologies to set maintenance intervals and equipment specs.

That’s the biggest trend today in fleet maintenance, according to Chris Shaffer, partner at Utilimarc (www.utilimarc.com), a Minneapolis-based consulting and benchmarking firm. “[Utility fleets] are using actual engine hours or miles to trigger service.”

That collected operational data also is driving changes in equipment specs with the goal of reducing maintenance costs and improving utilization, Shaffer added.

“There is pressure to rightsize the fleet, and to do that successfully [fleet managers] have to spec the vehicle to improve utilization. They’re trying to be leaner, meaner, and that means they have to better spec the vehicle,” he said.

Sherry Pinion, director of fleet services for Cobb EMC, an electric cooperative in Marietta, Ga., said that was the idea behind some of the changes the fleet made to its specs.

“We’re trying to do a better job designing the vehicle for the job use,” she said.

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Charlie Guthro

Maintenance Management Best Practices to Reduce Costs and Maximize Uptime

Maintenance Management Best Practices to Reduce Costs and Maximize Uptime

In many ways, effective fleet management is as much about reliability as it is about cost. It’s about making sure your vehicles stay on the road in optimal operating condition, minimizing unscheduled maintenance and downtime, using data to predict possible maintenance needs and ensuring you make the best decisions for your business and the bottom line.

With telematics devices and the big data they provide readily available to a wide segment of the marketplace, utility companies are faced with the same opportunities – and challenges – that any other modern, commercial fleet may have when it comes to maximizing performance. Managing and understanding a fleet’s data can lead to more efficient operations and lower overall total cost of ownership (TCO), but the challenge of truly understanding and drawing value from that data can be an overwhelming task. To gain true insight, fleet managers need to put their fleet data to work by:
• Developing and routinely analyzing the right set of key performance indicators.
• Regularly benchmarking their fleet’s performance to establish a roadmap for vehicle replacement, downtime and reliability.
• Establishing a solid maintenance management program that supports utilization, vehicle specifications and procurement.

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Cheryl Knight

3 Tips for Selecting Heavy-Duty Vehicle Lifts

3 Tips for Selecting Heavy-Duty Vehicle Lifts

For utility fleets that perform their own maintenance and repairs, heavy-duty vehicle lifts are an integral part of the process. So, when it comes time to purchase or lease a lift, it’s important that the decision is based on good research and a strong understanding of what kind of lift will work best in the fleet’s shop. Following are three tips in particular that fleet managers should consider when selecting heavy-duty vehicle lifts.

Tip 1: Invest in Safety
When buying or leasing a heavy-duty lift, one of the best ways to help ensure safety is to invest in certified equipment and options. “There is only one nationally recognized safety standard for lifts: ANSI/ALI ALCTV, administered by the Automotive Lift Institute,” said Steve Perlstein, sales and marketing manager for Mohawk Lifts (www.mohawklifts.com).

To determine if a lift and/or lift option is certified, visit www.autolift.org/ali-directory-of-certified-lifts/. If you can’t find the lift or lift option you’re looking for in the directory, it is not certified for use.

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Cheryl Knight

In-House Vehicle Maintenance vs. Outsourcing: What’s Right for Your Fleet?

In-House Vehicle Maintenance vs. Outsourcing: What’s Right for Your Fleet?

All utility fleet operations have to make one especially critical choice – whether to handle vehicle maintenance in-house, hire an outside vendor to take care of the work or use a mix of both. And it’s not an easy decision to make. There are many factors to consider, not to mention the wrong choice can lead to real problems such as increased vehicle downtime and higher operating costs.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter solution,” said Dave Fisher, a 28-year fleet industry veteran and fleet manager with PNM Resources, which includes subsidiaries Public Service Company of New Mexico and Texas-New Mexico Power. “Managers need to ask what the vehicles are worth. In-house maintenance can oftentimes provide far superior quality and less downtime, but outsourcing can cost less.”

Fisher oversees close to 1,300 utility vehicles: approximately 900 on-the-road vehicles and 400 trailers and pieces of equipment. Vehicles are used for anything from meter reading to transmission and distribution work, and include light-duty vehicles, medium-duty trucks with service bodies, small buckets and cranes, aerials and more. PNM’s vehicle maintenance program consists of both an in-house component for large trucks and big equipment and an outsource component for light-duty vehicles.

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Tom Gelinas

How to Maximize the Tire Life of Medium-Duty Trucks

How to Maximize the Tire Life of Medium-Duty Trucks

Because every fleet is different, what you spend on tires is going to be unique for your operation. One thing is certain, however: No matter what your operation, tires are going to make a significant contribution to your cost of doing business. Because of that fact, it's important for fleet professionals to do everything possible to minimize the cost of every 32nd of an inch of tread rubber they purchase.

Spec Tires Designed for Long Life
Although radials dominate the tire market in every commercial application, there are still some fleets using bias-ply designs. It's not the original price that should be considered when buying tires; what’s important is the total cost per mile the product delivers before it's scrapped. And a radial will win that contest every time.

There is less rolling resistance and heat generated as a radial rolls down the road because of its steel-supported tread and casing. This results in better fuel economy, longer casing life and lower cost per lifetime mile than bias-ply designs. Radials also offer bonuses of better road handling, improved driver comfort and less downtime.

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Tom Gelinas

Effective Preventive Maintenance Programs

Effective Preventive Maintenance Programs

A tool is anything used as a means of accomplishing a task or purpose. That being the case, few experienced fleet managers would argue with the idea that a good preventive maintenance (PM) program – properly performed and in a timely manner – is one of the best tools any shop can make available to its maintenance technicians.

If a fleet has an effective PM program, its vehicles likely will spend less time in the shop and experience far fewer road breakdowns. Additionally, its trucks will typically have longer service lives and greater disposal values than those of a shop that looks upon PM as a burdensome activity. The program will also save the fleet money.

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Tom Gelinas

Train for Efficiency

Today’s trucks and automobiles have hundreds of programmable features that can be used to customize these vehicles for a fleet, and today’s technicians need to understand how to program these parameters as well as how to utilize the many diagnostic modes in modern vehicles. Since technological change is one of the few constants in our industry, such demands make ongoing training critical to keep technicians efficient.

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Tom Gelinas

Using Benchmarks to Improve Fleet Operations

A benchmark is something that can be used to judge the quality or level of other, similar things. As such, a benchmark is a very nice thing for a fleet professional to have when some difficult questions are being asked. Are we competitive? When should we replace our equipment? Exactly how many technicians do we need to effectively maintain our equipment?

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Tom Gelinas

Managing Warranty Recovery

Even though warranty coverage is automatically included with each new vehicle and replacement part bought for your fleet, nearly every fleet professional fights with suppliers for more. It’s also a lot like accident insurance policies; good warranty coverage is nice to have, but it’s something that no one looks forward to using.

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Tom Gelinas

Cooling System Maintenance Considerations for Fleet Managers

Automotive engineers have made great strides in recent years in their attempts to increase the efficiency of engines. Their efforts, unfortunately, cause them to butt heads with various principles of physics. As good as they are, today’s gasoline engines are usually less than one-third efficient. Diesels do a bit better with efficiencies running generally just over a third. With the exception of post-combustion heat recovery systems, that leaves approximately two-thirds of the heat energy either going out the tailpipe or being handled by the cooling system.

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10443 Hits
Tom Gelinas

Shop Safety and Efficiency

Safety is a high priority of professional fleet managers. Fleets are known to spec their operating equipment to be the safest possible for the work they will be doing, and they train their operators to always work with safety in mind. In addition to safety, efficiency also is an important aspect of operations in well-run maintenance shops.

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Tom Gelinas

Tire Expenses: Manage to Minimize

Effective management of tire costs is more important now than ever and will continue to grow in importance, but if you are not able to accurately measure what your fleet spends on tires, there is no way you will be able to manage those expenses. Unfortunately, many fleets have not initiated a comprehensive tire management program, nor do they accurately know the expense they incur for tires.

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Jose Martinez

Up and Running

Goodyear-WebWho gets utility trucks that have been immobilized by tire problems up and running again so utility response crews can resume their important work of restoring gas, electricity and other services following severe weather incidents?

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