Sandy Smith

3-Point Checklist for Spec’ing the Right Backhoe

3-Point Checklist for Spec’ing the Right Backhoe

A backhoe is not likely to be the asset most often purchased for a utility company’s fleet. For example, Duke Energy – which has more than 15,000 fleet assets – “may only purchase three or four a year,” said Chris Jolly, Duke’s director of regional operations for Carolinas West.

That means a purchaser may not be as familiar with the required specs for a backhoe as he or she may be with, say, the specs for a standard pickup truck used by the utility.

But it is just as important to get the specs right, said Eric Zieser, NAFTA product manager for backhoes at CASE Construction Equipment. “Buyers really do need to understand their entire fleet and how a backhoe plays into it. By under-specifying a machine, you may actually be creating more work and cost for yourself in the future by having to bring in/rent/transport additional equipment to do the job.”

So, when spec’ing the next backhoe for your fleet, keep these three points in mind.

1. Know what you need.
At Duke Energy, an acquisition team works closely with crews in the field, despite having a corporate agreement with one manufacturer for a standard backhoe, according to Jolly. Even with that standard equipment, there are options.

“Listen to your customers and work closely with the manufacturer. They’ve got the history of what the product can do,” Jolly said.

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Jason Yunck

Spec’ing Step Vans for Utility Fleet Applications

Spec’ing Step Vans for Utility Fleet Applications

Step vans have become a popular vehicle option for utility fleets, offering distinct safety and productivity advantages over traditional service bodies.

With a step van, the driver can quickly enter from or exit onto the curbside, staying a safe distance from vehicle traffic on the road. Curbside entry and exit are also more ergonomically friendly for drivers, who may make 30 to 60 stops each day. The cab door design on step vans offers advantages, too. While traditional commercial vehicles are built with swing-out driver and passenger doors, a step van’s sliding doors allow the driver to more easily move in and out of the vehicle with materials or tools in hand. Here, sound ergonomics influence productivity and drive down costs.

In contrast to service bodies, step vans are built from a bare chassis, with cabs that allow full access to the cargo area. Some also have side cargo access doors, and nearly all step vans allow outside cargo entry from rear roll-up or hinged doors. This means that service tools and materials are easier to get to, which ultimately results in faster service calls.

To reduce weight and eliminate corrosion, step vans are constructed with aluminum sheet and extrusions. Fleet managers can expect these durable vehicles to provide a service life in excess of 15 years.

Another feature of step vans is that because they are highly customizable, with various interior configurations and workspaces available, configuring a mission- or company-specific solution is easy and economical. And, a full-height cab and cargo area, with inside storage, allows drivers to use the vehicle as either a mobile office or prep space for outdoor work.

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Amber Reed

Important Considerations When Spec’ing Lift Controls

Important Considerations When Spec’ing Lift Controls

The lift control panel on an aerial device is an important element for effectively running the unit, enabling the working platform to be propelled into a desired location. Similar to how a steering wheel gives a truck-mounted aerial device mobility to get to and from a job site, the lift control panel gives the machine’s operators the ability to quickly and easily position the platform into the work area.

But because the operator control station is relatively small, it’s not always top of mind when new units are being spec’d. Given the importance of lift controls on aerial devices, however, following are some insights to consider when spec’ing them.

The foundation of every control panel is the ability for operators to use it to control the aerial device’s vertical longitudinal (or extend-and-retract) and rotational (or side-to-side) movements. For instance, most aerial device control stations are equipped with a single joystick. The joystick is designed to give operators control of the machine’s boom functions from one handle. “A common industry standard on an aerial device’s lift control panel is a three-function joystick,” said Dan Brenden, director of engineering for Terex Utilities (www.terex.com/utilities). “This type of joystick allows operators to move the individual booms up and down, as well as to rotate the unit.”

Four-function single joysticks are available as an option. This type of joystick enables operators to extend and retract the boom on articulating models, or it can operate elevator sections, if equipped, giving users even more control and functionality from one joystick. According to Brenden, “Terex uses similar single joystick designs across its entire aerial device product line, keeping uniformity within the brand, so from the smallest to largest machines, all controls function the same for the operator.”

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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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Sean M. Lyden

Spec’ing Digger Derricks for Maximum Productivity

Terex-2-WebA truck-mounted digger derrick is designed to enable utility companies to dig holes and set poles for electric power transmission and distribution systems.

In an ideal scenario, the derrick should be able to perform both functions – digging and lifting – without your crew having to reposition the truck. This way, your team can get more jobs done in less time, improving service to customers and bolstering your bottom line.

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Sean M. Lyden

Five-Point Checklist for Selecting the Right Service Van for the Job

Nissan-NV-Full-Size-Cargo-Van-WebThe cargo van landscape has undergone an extreme makeover the last few years, providing more options than ever for utility fleet managers to consider when purchasing new vans.

In 2008, there was only one small van available in the U.S. – the Ram C/V Tradesman, a stripped-down version of the Dodge Caravan. But then came the Ford Transit Connect in 2009, with the Nissan NV200, Chevrolet City Express and Ram ProMaster City (expected 2015 model year) also entering the fray.

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Seth Skydel

Worthwhile Investment

CLP1-Web“Like many utility fleets, we have gone down the rebuilding path before and then moved away from it,” said Al Mascaro, fleet manager at Connecticut Light & Power Co. “Today, however, several key factors caused us to rethink our aerial replacement practices.

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Sean M. Lyden

Shedding Weight of Utility Fleet Upfits to Boost Payload and Productivity

ETI-1-WebNew diesel emissions aftertreatment devices – including diesel particulate filters, selective catalytic reduction systems and diesel exhaust fluid tanks – have added considerable weight to medium- and heavy-duty truck chassis in recent years. This has contributed to a payload challenge for many fleet managers, especially for those utility fleets operating Class 7 and 8 digger derrick and aerial platform trucks. They’re looking to keep their trucks within a certain weight range to comply with federal bridge laws and, if possible, avoid having to bump up to a larger chassis that may require a federal excise tax.

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Sean M. Lyden

Spec’ing Medium-Duty Chassis for Utility Applications

Daimler-2-WebFleet managers dread receiving a call from an upfitter who says that the chassis delivered to their shop won’t work with the original body design and will require expensive changes to make it right.

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Sean M. Lyden

Selecting Cargo Management Systems for Work Vans

Lyden-3-WebA van’s cargo management system – which may include a partition, shelving, bins, drawers, reel holders, a ladder rack and other accessories – not only secures the payload to protect drivers from unintended projectiles, but also provides technicians with greater visibility and easier access to their tools and equipment. This translates into quicker turnaround on service calls, enhancing customer satisfaction and profit per job.

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Sean M. Lyden

What to Consider When Selecting All-Terrain Vehicles for Utility Applications

Trooper PJH6094-WebAll-terrain utility vehicles (ATVs) are built to go where four-wheel-drive pickups and other conventional vehicles cannot, whether on steep hills, through soft mud or over water, to transport workers, supplies, and tools to remote areas for servicing and repairing power lines and other equipment along the right-of-way.

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Sean M. Lyden

Three Mistakes to Avoid When Spec’ing Aerial Platform Trucks

Lyden-Altec-1-WebConsidering that aerial platform trucks, also known as boom or bucket trucks, often carry a hefty six-figure price tag, it pays to confirm that the chassis, body and aerial equipment specifications fit the job before issuing the purchase order. The stakes are high because spec errors result in disruptive downtime, lost productivity and increased safety risks, taking a chunk out of a fleet’s bottom line.

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Sean M. Lyden

Gas vs. Diesel in Utility Fleet Applications – Which is Better?

Ford-F-650-WebA decade ago, the choice between gasoline and diesel engines in most Class 3 to 7 truck applications was a no-brainer – diesel, of course. At that time there were few gasoline engine options available in heavier trucks and diesel held a significant advantage in terms of fuel efficiency, low-end torque and longevity, for only $3,000 to $4,000 more up front.

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Sean M. Lyden

Spec’ing Service Bodies to Boost Productivity and Profit in Utility Fleets

Lyden-4-WebService bodies, also known as utility beds, mounted onto light- and medium-duty truck chassis provide utility contractors with easy and secure access to their tools, equipment and parts to do their work more efficiently – and profitably.

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Seth Skydel

Right Tool for the Right Job

Ford-WebNear-, mid- and long-term alternative fuel technologies are available and under development at Ford Motor Company, reported Jim Michon, truck fleet marketing manager, during a presentation at the 2012 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference. “In the near term,” he said, “we are migrating to advanced technology. In the midterm we plan full implementation of known technology, and long term we will continue to leverage hybrid technologies and deploy alternative energy sources.”

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Seth Skydel

Doing It Right

dsc01553Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS), headquartered in Rutland, is one of the largest businesses in Vermont and the state’s largest electric company. The utility, which was organized in 1929 with the consolidation of eight electric companies, traces its roots to more than 100 companies, including one dating back to 1858.

A shareholder-owned electric utility, CVPS serves one of the most rural territories in the country, with just 18 customers per mile of line. Its customer base, however, numbers more than 159,000 in 163 communities. Due to the size of its operating territory, CVPS utilizes 617 miles of transmission line and 8,806 miles of distribution line to meet customer power needs.

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