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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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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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Digging Machines for Utility Fleets

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When you need to dig trenches to lay underground gas lines, or drill holes for setting transmission poles, or be able to dig in tight spaces, the objective is the same: to have crews get the most work done in the least amount of time, with the least amount of effort and cost. 

That’s the goal that has driven the development of several new products and upgrades released by top heavy-equipment manufacturers in the past few months. 

So, what new digging machines and tools have recently come to market? How can they equip utility companies and contractors to boost productivity and profit? Here are seven new developments to keep your eye on. 

CASE Construction Equipment
What’s New: Six New Mini Excavator Models
Website: www.casece.com

This spring, CASE Construction Equipment introduced six new mini excavator models: the CX17C, CX26C, CX33C, CX37C, CX57C and CX60C. Offered in zero tail-swing, short-radius or conventional configurations, C Series mini excavators feature an adjustable boom with the ability to offset left or right to work closer to buildings and obstacles. An auto-shift travel system offers greater ease and efficiency when operating the machine on varying terrain. 

All C Series mini excavators are built with an auxiliary hydraulic system that features standard proportional controls, shut-off valve and easy-to-select joystick control patterns to equip operators to get more done in less time. A spacious and comfortable operator environment – with ergonomic controls, adjustable seating and line-of-sight digital displays – helps minimize operator fatigue. 

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Sean M. Lyden

The State of the Fleet Telematics Market

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A lot has happened in the fleet telematics market the past year that could impact utility fleet operations. Major telecom firms have expanded their footprint in the fleet sector with Verizon’s acquisitions of Telogis and Fleetmatics, while AT&T has established key partnerships to provide branded telematics services such as AT&T Fleet Complete and AT&T Fleet Manager. And more and more telematics providers have inked deals with automakers in recent months.

So, what’s driving these trends? And how might they shape the future of telematics and connected fleets?

UFP spoke with experts from C.J. Driscoll & Associates, GPS Insight, Telogis and Element Fleet Management to get their market outlook.

Telecom Expansion
Why are major telecom firms expanding into the fleet telematics industry? Will this trend continue?

“With landline subscriber bases shrinking and the mobile phone market saturated with declining marginal value, the connected vehicle offers a new market opportunity that allows the telecom companies to capitalize on the need for the vehicle to communicate to the OEM, driver, surrounding infrastructure and other third-party services through cellular networks,” said Kimberly Clark, telematics product leader for Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com). “It also allows them to expand and sell additional products, including in-car applications and infotainment solutions, as this technology becomes mainstream within new vehicles.”

Clark said that telecom expansion into the fleet market will continue for the foreseeable future and “benefit utility fleets through new innovation possibilities, increased pressure on direct OEM connectivity solutions and lower communication costs as part of their service offering over time.”

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in Truck Bodies for Utility Fleets

What’s New in Truck Bodies for Utility Fleets

Some of the industry’s leading truck body manufacturers are developing new products that equip your crews to get more work done, with less strain and greater safety. They’re incorporating more advanced lightweight materials in their product designs so you can reduce fuel costs or increase a truck’s legal payload without bumping up to a larger vehicle. And they’re offering more electrified options so you can cut engine idle – and your fleet’s carbon footprint.

Who are these body companies and what are some of the products and design enhancements they’ve recently brought to market to help you achieve your business objectives? Here are five new developments to watch.

Terex
What’s New: HyPower IM
Website: www.terex.com/utilities/

Introduced last fall, the HyPower IM is a plug-in electric power takeoff (ePTO) efficiency system that manages the chassis engine for the greater horsepower required to operate the boom. It does this by automatically switching from plug-in battery-stored power when the truck is idling to engine-supplied power when hydraulic controls are engaged.

“Throughout an eight-hour workday, on a typical trouble truck, the aerial’s hydraulic controls are engaged about one hour total run time. By allowing the hydraulic system to switch to engine power during those brief intervals, HyPower IM is still able to provide emissions efficiencies plus optimum hydraulic control function,” said Tyler Henderson, product development manager with Terex. “The transition is seamless. Operators will experience no lag time in hydraulic responsiveness.”

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Sean M. Lyden

What Utility Fleets Can Do to Curb Distracted Driving Incidents

What Utility Fleets Can Do to Curb Distracted Driving Incidents

Your company has clearly communicated its distracted driving policy to all employees. And the safety department is doing its part by screening at-risk drivers, providing consistent driver training and building awareness throughout the organization of the dangers of distracted driving. But when employees are out on the road, how can management ensure that drivers actually comply with the policy – to protect their own lives, the public and your utility’s reputation and bottom line?

That’s where your fleet department can make a difference. How? By equipping vehicles with technologies that counteract a driver’s impulse to read a text message or scroll through social media feeds on their phone while driving – even when they know it’s the wrong thing to do.

All It Takes is One Time
No one is immune. Even the best, most conscientious drivers can succumb to the temptation to look at their smartphone while driving, at least every now and then.

Think about it. You’re driving a service truck through a residential area when you hear your phone buzzing in the console, notifying you of a text message. Because you know better, your initial instinct is to ignore the sound and keep focused on the road ahead. But then a few seconds later you hear the phone buzz again … and again.

Now you’re curious. Who could that be?

It’s been a long day, and you’re exhausted. You start justifying to yourself: I’m going pretty slow right now and there’s not much traffic; it won’t hurt to take a quick look.

You take your eyes off the road for what you think will only be a second. But by the time you look up from your phone, you see that a boy on a bicycle has darted out from behind a vehicle parked along the street, right in front of your truck. You slam on the brakes, but there’s not enough time to stop before your truck hits him.

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Sean M. Lyden

What’s New in All-Terrain Vehicles for the Utility Market

What’s New in All-Terrain Vehicles for the Utility Market

When it comes to all-terrain utility vehicles (UVs), there’s a wide range of capabilities available on the market. Some models are designed to haul people and heavy equipment over rugged, hilly terrain. Others are built to hover over swamplands or float and power across waterways in remote areas. And then there are lighter-duty UVs that handle both on- and off-road conditions at higher speeds.

So, what’s new in the UV market to help get utility crews, supplies and heavy equipment across various terrains with maximum efficiency and safety? Here are five developments to watch.

New Model: ARGO Conquest 8x8 Lineman XTi
http://argoutv.com/lineman

In July, ARGO unveiled its new Lineman model built specifically for utility workers. Whether the job is replacing utility poles, mending cables or laying underground pipe, the ARGO Lineman includes several custom enhancements to provide the optimal power, payload capacity, versatility and safety that best fit most utility applications.

With a payload capacity up to 1,340 pounds, the Lineman can haul transformers, pull cables or bore footings across a wide range of terrain, including rocks, hills and sand dunes, to reach the most remote worksites.

The machine is engineered to reduce risk of underbody damage, overheating and hang-ups on obstacles, resulting in less downtime for the vehicle – and for crews.

With add-on attachments ranging from cranes and augers to welding kits and hydraulic power supplies, crews can now bring their tool shop with them anywhere, across the most extreme terrains.

New Model: Terramac RT14R 360-Degree Rotating Carrier
www.terramac.com/rt14r-crawler-carrier

In April, Terramac – a manufacturer of rubber track crawler carriers – introduced the RT14R, a rotating crawler carrier.

Built with a heavy-duty upper frame that rotates a full 360 degrees, the Terramac RT14R crawler carrier hauls and dumps up to 28,000 pounds of material at any position, even while driving. The 360-degree rotation capability allows the RT14R to offload materials faster than a standard straight-frame unit because the machine’s tracks don’t need to be counter-rotated to drive another direction.

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Sean M. Lyden

Dirty Jobs: What’s New in Digging Equipment for Utility Fleets

Dirty Jobs: What’s New in Digging Equipment for Utility Fleets

Whether you need to dig trenches to lay underground gas lines or drill holes in which to set transmission poles, the goal is the same: to perform the job using the least amount of time, effort and financial resources, while providing the maximum amount of safety and comfort for equipment operators.

So, what are some of the new digging tools brought to market in the past few months that can help utility companies and contractors boost productivity and enhance operator safety? Here are four new products to keep your eye on.

Terex Texoma Spiral Bullet Tooth Auger
www.terex.com/utilities

What if there was a digging attachment that could reduce your drill time in extreme ground conditions from up to eight hours with a standard auger to as few as 30 minutes? That’s the value proposition for the new Terex Texoma spiral bullet tooth auger, according to Dale Putnam, Terex Utilities product manager.

He said that the cut pattern and tooth attack angle on the Texoma auger make the bullet teeth act like "fingers" that penetrate and lift up sand, dirt, cobble, cement, fractured or hard rock, compacted soil or frozen ground, in a way that achieves faster cycle times in and out of the hole, so that crews can get more jobs done in less time.

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Sean M. Lyden

Recruiting and Retaining Top Mechanics

Recruiting and Retaining Top Mechanics

A water main bursts. Power lines get damaged by severe weather. A major gas line leak is detected. Whatever type of utility you work for, your fleet vehicles and equipment need to be ready to roll in an instant to confront any emergency that impacts customers. And that’s what makes having dependable, top-flight mechanics so important. How can utility fleets more effectively prepare and position themselves to compete for the best technicians and keep them on board?

More Jobs, Fewer Candidates
The starting point is to address a key trend that you’re likely experiencing in your own fleet.

As baby boomer mechanics get set to retire, it’s becoming more of a challenge to find young qualified mechanics to fill those spots. And that’s a situation Dale Collins, CAFM, the fleet services supervisor for Fairfax County Water Authority (Fairfax Water) in Fairfax, Va., is experiencing firsthand. Collins manages the utility’s two maintenance facilities staffed by seven full-time mechanics.

“In the next five years, four out of our seven full-time staff are going to be retired,” Collins said. “So, what’s big on our radar right now is trying to put together a succession plan internally and hopefully find some good-quality applicants and backfill some staff members, so we can bring them up to speed before a lot of our retirements set in.”

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Sean M. Lyden

The State of Lightweight Material Technologies in Truck and Van Upfits

The State of Lightweight Material Technologies in Truck and Van Upfits

It wasn’t long ago when nearly $5 per gallon of gasoline and diesel was a reality, with most analysts predicting that this price, or even higher, would be the new normal for a long time to come.

And as fleets grappled with the impact of fuel cost spikes on their operating budgets, they began to look more earnestly into lighter-weight truck and van upfits – built with advanced lightweight materials, such as aluminum, fiberglass composites, plastics, advanced high-strength steel and carbon fiber – with the hopes of improving fuel efficiencies and uncovering other cost-savings opportunities in a volatile market.

This is because replacing conventional steel with lighter-weight materials wherever possible allows fleets to accomplish one of three objectives:
Achieve net fuel-efficiency gains. If you reduce the truck’s weight, without adding more payload, the vehicle requires less effort – and thus, fuel – to perform the same work.
Increase legal payload and productivity. If you take, for example, 1,000 pounds out of the construction of a truck body, that allows your crew to carry 1,000 pounds more in gear, parts and equipment per trip, while staying under gross vehicle weight limits pertaining to bridge laws, commercial driver’s license requirements or other Department of Transporation regulations, depending on the truck class.
Reduce acquisition costs. Selecting a lighter-weight upfit might enable you to downsize to a smaller, potentially less expensive chassis, without sacrificing net payload capacity.

But fast-forward a few years later and, as of press time, both gas and diesel have sunk below $2 per gallon in most of the U.S. So, does this mean lower demand for lighter truck and van upfits?

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Sean M. Lyden

Spec’ing All-Terrain Utility Vehicles for Maximum Safety

Spec’ing All-Terrain Utility Vehicles for Maximum Safety

All-terrain utility vehicles (UVs) are machines used by utility fleets to transport people, materials and equipment across potentially hazardous off-road environments to inspect or repair power lines or perform other tasks in remote areas. These vehicles go where four-wheel-drive pickups cannot, navigating steep slopes, trudging through heavy brush, hovering over swamplands or even floating and powering across creeks and rivers, depending on the make and model of the UV.

If the UV is not designed for the ground conditions of a particular job, you risk having crews stranded in a hard-to-reach area or, worse, injured from a rollover, debris falling onto the cab or unsecured cargo flying into the cab.

So, how should you spec your next UV to ensure the maximum safety of your crews in off-road environments? Keep these five points in mind.

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Michael Taylor

Propane Autogas Provides Sustainable Solutions

Propane Autogas Provides Sustainable Solutions

Approved as an alternative fuel under the Clean Air Act of 1990, propane autogas is certainly not new to the transportation industry. For several decades, many American fleets have used the fuel to reduce emissions and operating costs. But as the U.S Environmental Protection Agency tightens standards and regulations – a trend that is not likely to change in the foreseeable future – fleets across the country are ramping up their efforts to find more reliable, cleaner and more affordable fuel alternatives. And for utility fleets in particular, propane autogas is proving to be a viable option.

Vehicle Options
A growing number of OEMs now offer propane autogas vehicles that provide horsepower, torque and towing capacity comparable to gasoline and diesel versions of the same models. Most recently, medium-duty product offerings such as the ROUSH CleanTech Ford F-650 and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. S2G have entered the marketplace. Certified aftermarket propane autogas fuel systems from Blossman Services Inc. and ICOM North America have also emerged, providing utility fleet professionals with options that are ideal for service, bucket and crane trucks.

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Sean M. Lyden

Utilities Push Toward Fleet Electrification

Utilities Push Toward Fleet Electrification

Despite the recent trend toward lower fuel prices, vehicle electrification is a hot topic right now among utility fleets, as highlighted at the recent Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (EUFMC) held in Williamsburg, Va. The Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an association of investor-owned utilities, is leading the electrification effort and, according to some fleet managers we spoke to at the conference, many public utilities are following suit.

The EUFMC general session opened with a keynote address delivered by Jim Piro, president and CEO of Portland General Electric, who said that from the utility CEO perspective, expanding the electric vehicle (EV) market is a strategic initiative to increase demand for a specific utility product – electricity.

Piro went on to say that the challenge for electric utilities is slow growth in retail loads. If this trend doesn’t change, utilities may be forced to ask regulators for a rate increase, and such requests usually don’t go over well with the public. So, how can utilities increase retail demand and keep rates affordable?

The solution, Piro said, is to promote transportation electrification.

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Kate Wade

Using Virtual Tools to Create a Safer Reality for Utility Fleets

Using Virtual Tools to Create a Safer Reality for Utility Fleets

Successful organizations operate under the mindset that people are their most important assets, and they always take employee safety into consideration when making business decisions. Safe employees are happier, have greater rates of productivity, are more supportive of clients and contribute to the bottom line. Does your organization already have this mentality? Or is there some room for improvement?

For companies with vehicle fleets, the need for workplace safety extends beyond brick-and-mortar environments; avoiding on-the-job incidents is even more critical when an employee gets behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle and drives on public roads.

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Kate Wade

19 Exciting Utility Fleet Products and Services for 2015

Bigfoot

Product: Ultra Pad Safety Edge
Company: Bigfoot Construction Equipment
Web: www.outriggerpads.com

Bigfoot Construction Equipment offers the all-new Ultra Pad Safety Edge, which helps to prevent the outrigger from slipping off the outrigger pad. Call 888-743-7320 for more information.

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Curtis Marquardt Jr.

Sharing Knowledge: The Value of Joining a Utility Fleet Organization

Sharing Knowledge: The Value of Joining a Utility Fleet Organization

Have you ever heard of the Homebrew Computer Club (HCC)? How about Apple, the technology company? The odds are that all of you are familiar with Apple – with its ubiquitous iPhones and iPads – but very few of you have heard of the HCC. But did you know that without the HCC’s existence, Apple might never have existed? In fact, some credit the club as the birthplace of the personal computer revolution.

To give you some background, the HCC was created in 1975 to bring together like-minded electronics enthusiasts in order to talk shop and share ideas. It was during an HCC meeting that one of its members, Steve Wozniak, found inspiration to design a new kind of personal computer – the seed from which the Apple empire grew.

At this point you may be thinking, what does any of this have to do with utility fleet professionals? The answer is that belonging to an organized group of like-minded professionals – whether they’re focused on electronics or fleets – can have an incredible impact on personal success as well as the success of an industry.

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