Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt

The State of Electric Vehicle Order-to-Delivery Times

Despite manufacturers’ reassurances, vehicle delivery delays are expected.

In February, Ford began deliveries of its E-Transit EV van to fleet customers, one of the earliest of the highly anticipated commercial-grade battery-powered vehicles to have its orders fulfilled. It’s a bright spot in the electric vehicle market as fleet managers keep an eye on shifting EV delivery dates.

Some delays are out of the manufacturers’ control as the supply chain, including semiconductor manufacturers, struggles with its own set of challenges.

“The EV segment is in a similar situation to the rest of the industry, with the ongoing microchip shortage continuing to limit vehicle production and supply,” said Emily Graham, director of sustainability at Holman ( “That being said, as electric vehicles continue to become increasingly popular with both consumers and vocational fleet operators, many manufacturers are prioritizing the limited allocation of microchips available to the production of EV units.”

As Ford began deliveries of the E-Transit in February, the first 2,000 of the hotly anticipated Lightning Pro version of the F-150 rolled off the assembly line in late April, with a full rollout coming later this year.

“I don’t have a specific date available, but we’re still putting it out there as spring 2022, which we announced last May,” said Mark Poll, Ford Pro Charging manager.

To some extent, fleet orders compete with consumer demand for vehicles in short supply. Chevrolet has well over 140,000 reservations for the 2024 Silverado, including the WT (Work Truck) model. Deliveries are scheduled to start in spring 2023. In comparison, the standard Silverado sold more than half a million units in 2021.

GMC’s electric Hummer pickup and SUV, with more than 60,000 consumer reservations, won’t see deliveries before 2024.

Rivian has delayed deliveries of its R1T pickup until September, and the R1S SUV won’t see the light of day until sometime this fall.

The much-hyped Tesla truck does not seem to be gaining traction among fleet operators, and its delivery date is shrouded in mystery at this point. It’s still possible to place a reservation on the Tesla website, with no hint of a production schedule.

Medium-duty EVs are also on the way, but most are in pilot-project stages and not ready for wide-open order books.

Delays are Expected
Despite manufacturers’ reassurances, vehicle delivery delays are expected. Ford has stockpiled thousands of all types of vehicles awaiting semiconductors. Still, company representatives are publicly standing by the spring delivery time frame, but the definition of spring could be stretched by a few months. In online industry forums, fleet managers are talking about delivery dates in November 2022.

Nevertheless, commercial and governmental fleets are ordering EVs to add to their vehicle mix.

In February, officials in Round Rock, Texas, ordered 10 Ford Lightnings as part of the scheduled fleet replacement process. City officials said they expect delivery in six to 12 months. In the meantime, the city will complete the first phase of its charging infrastructure installation at municipal locations around the city.

In British Columbia, Canada, the city of Richmond ordered four Lightning EV trucks and three F-150 hybrid trucks. The city expects to take delivery of the Lightning trucks in the second quarter of 2022.

A number of police departments have adopted Tesla Model 3 and Model Y into their fleets, including New York City, Boulder, Colorado, and Spokane, Washington.

Duke Energy is going all in on EVs, pledging to convert 100% of its nearly 4,000 light-duty vehicles to electric and 50% of its approximately 6,000 medium-duty, heavy-duty and off-road vehicles to EVs, plug-in hybrids or other zero-carbon alternatives by 2030.

No Time to Waste
Even as fleet managers await deliveries, there’s no time to waste in developing a charging infrastructure plan. Ford and GM are offering turnkey and custom solutions that include charging systems and fleet analytics tools.

Software can boost battery performance through smart charging, pre-conditioning and remote monitoring. Companies will be able to track energy use and reimburse employees for home charging. Fleet telematics can help maximize vehicle efficiency and uptime. With 150-kW fast charging, the standard range Ford Lightning can recharge from 15% to 80% charge in 44 minutes, about the time of a typical lunch break, Poll said.

GM has tapped eTransEnergy, a Duke Energy company, to help GM fleet customers integrate EVs using the GM Ultium Charge 360 service. Through eTransEnergy, fleet operators can take advantage of infrastructure planning, smart charging technology, on-site solar energy generation, battery backup options and other aspects of EV fleet management.

The Ford Pro Charging system offers a similar program, including infrastructure assistance to help integrate charging hardware into fleet depots alongside charge management software. One new twist is the possibility of installing charging stations at employees’ homes for take-home vehicles.

“Some fleets are buying a few vehicles to try out in different parts of their business, and others are planning larger deployments and aggressive transitions to electric within their fleet,” Poll said.

Even if EV deliveries fall behind schedule, it’s critical to plan for the charging infrastructure to be ready before the vehicles arrive. It can take six to 12 months to go through the process of planning, designing, building and commissioning charging at a commercial facility, especially with large deployments. Electric utilities may also be advising their customers on EV integration at the same time as they are preparing for their own EV fleets.

“We advise fleets they can’t order the vehicles and then start thinking about charging; they need to plan them hand in hand,” Poll said. “And they need to have a plan ready for take-home fleets.”

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series June 2022

Top Trends to Watch in Fleet Technologies

As electric light-duty trucks and vans begin to be delivered to customers, fleet managers are keeping a close eye on emerging technologies that could reshape operations over the next year or two.

Battery-electric vehicles are some of the hottest tech to hit the market, especially for utilities that have committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. But they’re in short supply, as are gas and diesel vehicles, due to the semiconductor shortages that have hampered vehicle production worldwide.

Another top trend is analyzing the billions of data points from connected vehicles to help guide not only fleet acquisition and rationalization but driver performance as well.

Electric Vehicles
The Rivian R1T is one of the first battery-electric pickups to go from prototype to production, with trucks hitting the streets late last year. The Ford F-150 Lightning is expected to roll off the assembly line this spring. The Tesla Cybertruck launch has been delayed, but don’t count Elon Musk out of the race just yet. And other manufacturers have announced or are already producing hybrid versions of pickups and SUVs to improve gas mileage and reduce environmental impact. Electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks are still a few years away from widespread availability.

Some fleet drivers could take home light-duty vehicles like a plug-in hybrid Prius or an F-150 Lightning pickup, but that could also present a challenge.

According to Jeremy Dewey, manager of EV operations for Holman Enterprises (, a fleet management provider based in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, “You have to look at the infrastructure for charging – can the employee’s home accommodate the installation of a charging station?”

Dewey also said that overreliance on public charging infrastructure could be a dangerous and costly proposition as drivers may find it challenging to find a working charger where and when they need one.

The chip shortage won’t last forever, and when it eases, manufacturers will ramp up EV production, so it’s a good idea to prepare. Utilities should assess their EV readiness and replacement needs to support the company’s overall sustainability goals, said John Wuich, vice president of strategic consulting services for Donlen (, a Bannockburn, Illinois-based fleet management company.

“Map out your charging infrastructure before your EVs hit the ground and keep an eye and an ear to federal tax credits and state and local rebates that may be available,” Wuich said.

Data Analytics
With a flood of data from fleet telematics, it’s easy to get caught in analysis paralysis. Fleet managers can track power-takeoff usage, unproductive idle time, route optimization, seat-belt usage and high-risk driving behavior, such as harsh braking and aggressive cornering.

It’s tempting to try to home in on the perfect solution for every problem, but that’s not realistic. Instead, Dewey recommended fleet managers use the data to make quick, actionable decisions.

“If you’re seeking perfection in the data, I would caution you against it; strive for ‘close enough’ and then work on incremental improvements from there,” he said.

Fleets need the right tools and analytics professionals to make the best use of the data they already have and will generate using EVs.

“The fact that most companies seem unable to identify an actual return on telematics investments or seem to use telematics as an asset tracker may be an indication that data is not being used to the full benefit,” Wuich said.

Fleet Utilization
Fleets can track assets to make actionable decisions to repair, replace or redeploy assets where needed. Assets that are overutilized tend to lead to higher maintenance costs. It may make sense to redeploy underutilized assets from elsewhere to reduce operational expenses. Given the rising costs in the used vehicle market, underutilized assets could be liquidated for a high return on value.

Fleets may also have surplus vehicles because their driver population has decreased due to the pandemic and other factors.

“With telematics, maintenance and other data, it’s a quick assessment to decide which vehicles to sell off and capitalize on that given the state of the U.S. vehicle market today,” Dewey said. “Suppose you have vehicles that are no longer necessary to support your business. In that case, there’s an opportunity to liquidate them for top dollar, money that can be reinvested into other areas of your business.”

Fleets are under pressure to commit to carbon emissions reduction and other sustainability measures in the coming years. It will take time to develop a strategy based on real-life data and a plan to adopt electric or alternative fuel vehicles to meet those goals. What once seemed like science fiction with EVs is rapidly becoming a reality.

“You have to start with a plan today because this is not an evolution, it’s a revolution,” Dewey said. “Identify your goals and determine the incremental steps it will take to achieve those goals over the next three, five, 10 years. Transitioning to EVs and hybrids won’t happen overnight, so it is best to plan for a gradual transition over the course of multiple vehicle life cycles.”

A utility’s ability to meet its goals is dependent on how well its fleet transitions from gas or diesel to EVs.

“The key will be good replacement forecast planning, so setting a goal now gives you a target at which to shoot as you plan your transition,” Wuich said.

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.


Prepare for the EV Transition
Industry experts recommend these steps to plan for your utility fleet’s transition to electric vehicles:

  • Set sustainability goals.
  • Assess current EV readiness.
  • Forecast replacement needs.
  • Understand EV availability.
  • Map availability to needs.
  • Assess total cost of ownership and carbon reduction relative to goals.
  • Map out charging infrastructure.
This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series March 2022

14-Point Checklist for Spec’ing Impact Attenuators

Work zone intrusions are a fact of life, and utility fleets are turning to attenuators to protect employees.

One utility recently bought a truck-mounted attenuator vehicle from Royal Truck & Equipment after two of the utility’s employees were injured in an accident.

“Unfortunately, sometimes it takes an incident for people to realize they need protection for their work zones,” said Theresa Delgado, marketing manager for Royal Truck & Equipment (, an attenuator dealer based in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania.

In a recent survey, 60% of highway contractors reported motor vehicle crashes in a work zone in 2020. As distracted driving incidents rise, even though overall traffic has been lower due to the pandemic, utilities are investing in attenuators to safeguard their employees.

An impact attenuator is a device designed to protect utility work crews in high-speed traffic locations and reduce the damage to vehicles or trailers by absorbing the colliding vehicle’s kinetic energy. The attenuator is placed in the oncoming traffic lane ahead of the work zone so a vehicle would be stopped before it could impact workers, equipment or hazards in the work zone.

Mobile impact attenuators come in two varieties: the truck-mounted attenuator (TMA) and the towable attenuator. The following checklist reviews some of the factors managers should consider when selecting attenuators to add to their fleets.

1. MASH certification. Attenuators must meet the minimum requirements of the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware from the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials.

2. Performance record. Ask how long the attenuator has been in the marketplace. Research how many crashes it’s been involved in and the results for the utility employees and the drivers.

3. MUTCD requirements. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices governs traffic control requirements for public roadways. Some states may have requirements in addition to the MUTCD. Fleet managers should follow guidelines for using TMAs in work zones.

4. Work profile. Attenuators are rated according to the speed limits on the roadways where they will be used to provide protection. A TL-3 device is rated for 62.5 mph, suitable for highway speeds. A TL-2 device is rated for up to 45 mph. San Clemente, California-based TrafFix Devices Inc. ( developed the TL-2 Plus TMA for speed limits up to 50 mph. “In many urban areas, utilities are exposed to 50-mph traffic, so this device reflects that reality,” said Jim Marshall, the company’s vice president of marketing.

Devices rated for lower speeds can be attached to smaller vehicles. TrafFix pioneered the TL-2 Plus rating with their Scorpion Metro device that’s 8 feet long, compared to the TL-3 option that’s 13 feet long.

5. Truck-mounted or towable. TMAs and towable attenuators must meet the same standards, so a TL-3 rating performs the same in either configuration. Towables provide flexibility and allow trucks to be freed up for other duties once the attenuator is in place.

6. Truck type. A TL-3 device may have to be installed on a medium-duty truck like a Freightliner or a Hino with counterweights that could reach 20,000 pounds gross vehicle weight. A TL-2 device can be attached to a lighter, less expensive truck – like a Ford F-550 – with a 7,500-pound curb weight. Utility managers have the flexibility to spec a TMA truck that fits their budget and the fleet’s needs.

7. Size. A TL-3 attenuator is around 13 feet long. The Scorpion line from TrafFix Devices hydraulically folds up and over the truck when not in use. In urban areas with narrow roads and alleys or areas with low clearances, the smaller TL-2 or TL-2 Plus option at 8 feet might be a better fit. It folds up at the rear but does not extend over the back of the truck bed, so it can fit in lower clearance situations and doesn’t take up as much space on the street.

8. New vs. retrofit. An upfitter like Royal Truck & Equipment can install an attenuator on a new cab and chassis, or a utility can deliver a new chassis for the upfit. Existing vehicles can be retrofitted as well. In any case, the truck must be fitted with the proper amount of ballast weight to reduce roll-ahead distance if the attenuator is struck, Delgado said.

9. Multipurpose use. Some states allow attenuator trucks to perform other duties, such as carrying plastic drums, cones and lane delineators. Some states do not allow anything to be carried in the bed of an attenuator truck because those items could become missiles in the case of an accident. Trucks can be outfitted with buckets for deploying traffic control equipment, barrel racks, sign cages and storage compartments.

10. CDL requirement. Most TMA vehicles don’t require a commercial driver’s license to operate them. However, some users specify equipment that may put a truck over the weight limit, so drivers must have the appropriate license in those cases.

11. One-touch deployment. Royal Truck & Equipment offers a system that deploys the attenuator and arrow boards with one touch to ensure all the safety measures are in use. That function improves safety and reduces liability risk, Delgado said.

12. Training. Work with a vendor that provides training or will train the trainer for the fleet and that offers videos and documents to ensure proper attenuator use.

13. Life cycle. The useful life of an attenuator could be five minutes or 15 years, depending on whether it’s involved in an accident, Marshall said. With proper maintenance, there’s really no limit to the life of an attenuator. Units that are involved in minor accidents can be repaired, recertified and returned to use.

14. Connectivity. Royal Truck & Equipment offers a connected arrow board kit that transmits work zone information to popular apps like Waze, Google and Apple maps. A connected hazard light kit performs the same function on trucks without an arrow board.

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series December 2021

Best Practices for Training Utility Fleet Drivers to Cut Engine Idling

Most fleet professionals understand the benefits of idle reduction. It’s the lowest of the low-hanging fruit.

Unfortunately, too many fleet managers and drivers still believe certain old-school conventional wisdom, like starting a truck uses more fuel than letting it idle.

Up-to-date research pokes holes in those old beliefs, but it can be hard to change minds. Various programs are available to help fleets build new policies and procedures to make the training stick. Yet it’s difficult to break old habits and create new ones.

For fleet managers, there doesn’t seem to be a downside to reducing idling. There’s a direct correlation between reducing carbon dioxide pollution and fuel use. Each gallon of fuel burned produces about 20 pounds of CO2. Reducing emissions also lowers fuel costs.

“You have a double win because if you reduce fuel consumption, you reduce your fuel cost, and you proportionately reduce the emissions,” said Linda Gaines, transportation system analyst at Argonne National Laboratory. She has conducted extensive research on idling and helped design the IdleBox idling reduction training curriculum (see The IdleBox curriculum includes an idling reduction pledge form that drivers can sign, attesting that they will commit to limiting vehicle idling for a designated amount of time, usually set by their organization.

Idle reduction is also free. Technology like telematics, automatic start-stop engines and hybrid vehicles can play a role. But fleets can see a real-time reduction through establishing policies and improving driver behavior using the vehicles already in the fleet.

Sure, some idling is unavoidable, depending on the work profiles of the trucks. That’s why it’s essential to understand the duty cycles of different types of vehicles, according to Gaines.

“From a technical standpoint, it depends on what you’re trying to minimize,” she said. “If you want to minimize carbon dioxide emissions overall, you might make different decisions than if you want to minimize NOx emissions.”

Some fleets have established idling policies with strict time limits. For example, Multnomah County, Oregon, established an idling limit of 20 seconds for county and commercial vehicles on county property, except for vehicles used in public safety or emergency response situations. The policy also limits warmup idling to 20 seconds. City officials in West Palm Beach, Florida, have set an idling limit of five minutes to support the city’s goal of reducing emissions.

Get Personal
According to Ron Zima, founder and CEO of GoGreen Communications Inc. and a consultant known as the Idle Free Guy, two factors will make or break the success of an idle reduction program. First is senior management buy-in. Second, drivers must be engaged at a personal level.

“You have to get drivers to care about reducing idling,” Zima said.

He recommended talking to drivers about what’s important to them: their families, hobbies like cars, and their wallets. GoGreen’s training covers the impact of emissions on families’ health as well as the cost of wasted fuel and idling in their personal vehicles.

“We believe that idle reduction behavior begins at home,” Zima said. “When you engage drivers about things they really care about, it’s amazing how enthusiastic the vast majority of the operators become.”

Idle reduction programs can take many forms, including workshops, meetings or online sessions. The training can include tips for improving fuel efficiency, including reducing aggressive acceleration and braking in addition to reducing idling.

Gaines noted that positive reinforcement is usually more effective than negative feedback. The IdleBox toolkit includes tools to help fleets gamify the program or offer incentives, rewards and recognition for drivers who reduce idling.

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.


Idle Thoughts
Vehicles that idle unnecessarily are simply wasting resources. “Remember, you get zero miles per gallon when the truck is sitting still with the engine on,” said Linda Gaines, transportation system analyst at Argonne National Laboratory.

There are two types of idling that fleet managers can target for training – choice idle, which is within the driver’s control, and induced idle, which is outside their control.

1. Choice Idle

  • Engine/cabin warming: All vehicle types (today’s vehicles warm up faster by being driven rather than by idling – see manufacturer guidance).
  • Waiting: Delivery trucks, utility trucks, transit buses, shuttle buses and personal vehicles.
  • Vehicle as an office: During lunch breaks, to complete paperwork, to make phone calls.

2. Induced Idle

  • Running scene and emergency lights and other auxiliaries: Emergency vehicles, utility vehicles.
  • Powering HVAC for passengers or cargo: All vehicle types for operator and passenger comfort in extreme weather.
  • Performing non-propulsion work: Bucket trucks, sewer-line maintenance trucks, woodchippers. 

Source: Clean Cities Coalition Network

This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series October 2021

Use New Tech to Manage Fleet Fuel Costs More Effectively

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

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

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

Utility supplier Altec found utility vehicles idle in park for 65% of their engine-on time, and each hour equals 25 miles of driving. Overall, idling vehicles consume 6.6 billion gallons of fuel in the U.S. and Canada each year. Every hour of idle time decreases fuel efficiency by 1%, so fleets could save thousands of gallons of fuel each year.

Of course, in a utility fleet, a certain amount of idling is unavoidable, or so most people believe.

Not only does unnecessary idling burn fuel, but it increases maintenance costs and reduces the engine’s life cycle. There’s also a penalty in greenhouse gas emissions, which many utilities have pledged to reduce. 

Gear Up Now
While more electric vehicles are coming to market, there’s no need to wait for trucks like the new Ford F-150 Lightning to start improving fuel economy. OEMs and the aftermarket offer technology now for internal combustion engines to help fleets curb their fuel budgets.

Start-stop technology is widely available on lighter-duty vehicles, such as pickups, SUVs and sedans. The car senses it’s at a stoplight and turns off automatically. When the driver presses the accelerator, it roars to life. In heavy traffic, fuel savings can add up to 8% or more, according to SAE International.

Fleets can also connect existing vehicles to smart systems to track fuel performance. Fairfax Water in Fairfax, Virginia, handles all fueling in-house and tracks fuel use with a system that downloads updated vehicle data every time the vehicle pulls up to the pump.

“We track truck mileage and flag any huge discrepancies, and that also drives our maintenance plan,” said Dale Collins, the utility’s fleet services supervisor.

Fairfax Water operates in the notoriously bad traffic of the Washington, D.C., metro area, so idle time can be high. Overall, the utility averages about 2 million miles a year for its fleet that includes Class 1 through Class 8 vehicles.

“Our mileage reports help us stay on top of fuel economy and how many miles we’re driving and where we’re working,” Collins said.

The utility doesn’t have a telematics system to monitor driver behavior, but it is considering one for the future. Instead, there’s an aggressive driver training system.

“We make sure the drivers understand they are in a company vehicle, and they are a representative of this organization,” Collins said.

Tracking Performance
While some vehicles offer real-time indications of fuel consumption, that doesn’t help fleet managers track performance. Newer vehicles like Ford’s commercial trucks offer telematics and data services to monitor vehicle and driver performance. The data can be used with the OEM system or integrated with an aftermarket solution such as Geotab to monitor vehicle performance and driver behavior.

With Geotab, utilities can set rules, such as no idling longer than five minutes. The in-cab device will alert the driver to turn off the vehicle, said Steven Berube, the company’s senior business development manager for off-road and vocational vehicles.

The system can adjust for the local climate – a user can run the air conditioner in Phoenix and keep the cab toasty in Ontario. With Geotab, fleets can save 10% or more on fuel costs by managing engine-on time.

“Fleets who are interested in saving fuel costs will have a good idle policy and reward drivers who idle least,” Berube said.

Smart telematics systems distinguish between a stop at a traffic light and an hours-long traffic tie-up on Interstate 95. And they can monitor speeding and hard acceleration that guzzle fuel, especially as vehicles get larger.

“Having drivers accelerate in a normal fashion helps tremendously,” Berube said.

Choose the Right Vehicles
Choosing the right vehicles with the right engines cuts fleet fuel use as well. Fairfax Water tested two Ford F-150s with turbocharged EcoBoost engines that returned 30% higher fuel economy than a truck with a standard engine.

They also looked at engine specs and downsized both diesel and gas engines. For three-quarter-ton pickups, they dropped from 7-liter gas engines to 6 liters and bought medium-duty trucks with 7-liter diesels instead of 9 liters.

“We fit the vehicle to the task it’s expected to do, and that’s helped out a bunch,” Collins said.

It’s easy to overcome some long-standing reasons for idling, like powering scene lighting and climate control. Fairfax Water has added LEDs for scene and traffic control lighting that uses little battery power so that drivers can shut down a truck and be confident it will start.

“In a test, we’ve turned on all the safety lights and vehicle lights for three hours and the truck started up and drove away,” Collins said.

In the near future, power centers on the truck will run climate controls and small tools while the engine is turned off to further reduce the need for idling.

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.


Succeeding at an Idling Reduction Initiative
Idling is the third rail of fleet management because nobody wants to touch it, according to Ron Zima, aka the Idle Free Guy. He said the success of an idling reduction initiative requires two things:

1. Management must be visible champions of the strategy.
2. Drivers must care at an emotional level about reducing idle time.


Idling Myths
Some fleet managers and drivers still think idling is good due to myths that may have been true decades ago but are no longer relevant. Here are a few of those myths:

  • Restarts are bad.
  • Long warmups are necessary.
  • Idling is good for the vehicle.

In each case, modern engines don’t perform as well during long idle times.

“Idling is probably the worst operating condition for any engine built in the last 20 years,” said Ron Zima, aka the Idle Free Guy.


Fleets Embrace ADAS Technology to Make Drivers Safer

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

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

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

Driving Dynamics (, a fleet driver training provider, has included advanced safety systems in its fleet training classes for more than a year, according to Art Liggio, president and CEO. The company has discovered some uninformed expectations while training about 12,000 drivers per year.

“Drivers are assuming the vehicle technology will do things for them that it actually does not, or in some cases, they think they have technology in the vehicle that they do not have,” Liggio said.

So, a driver may think they do not have to brake in traffic if the truck is equipped with emergency braking assist, for example. The technology can also provide a false sense of security where drivers feel like they don’t have to pay as much attention to the road. They may rely on blind-spot detection and not be as diligent in looking at traffic when changing lanes.

“When people think that their vehicle is going to do more things to keep them safe, they take on more risky behavior,” Liggio said.

Also, drivers need to understand how the systems function and what it feels like if lane-keeping assist activates to keep a vehicle between the lines. If the driver is caught off guard and tries to intervene, they may actually compound the issue, Liggio explained.

Isuzu rolled out a suite of advanced safety features on the new N-Series diesel commercial trucks, and the company expects to add it to the gas-engine version in the future, said Tim Ellsworth, product manager for Isuzu Commercial Truck of America (

Commercial fleet buyers are spec’ing trucks equipped with advanced safety features, especially those that can’t be disabled by the driver. “Fleet operators believe they’re a major benefit for the safety of the driver,” Ellsworth said.

One of the most requested features at Isuzu is automatic emergency braking, where the driver receives a warning based on proximity to another vehicle. The system can automatically brake to avoid or lessen the impact of a crash if the driver does not react in time.

A limiting factor in the availability of advanced systems is the upfitting process for commercial trucks. Forward-facing cameras and sensors are built in at the factory. But systems like blind-spot monitors or 360-degree cameras that use cameras and sensors mounted on the rear of the vehicle must be integrated during the upfit. On Ram trucks, kits with rear parking sensors are shipped with the trucks for the upfitter to install on the body.

Tracking Driver Behavior
With the manufacturers’ ADAS offerings, managers can’t track driver habits for training and coaching purposes. So, fleets are turning to in-cab monitoring systems to track driver behavior. Certarus (, a low-carbon energy supplier, uses the Samsara ( dash camera and telematics device for in-cab monitoring in more than 200 light- and heavy-duty vehicles. The system uses a camera, accelerometer and other technology to (1) capture the driver’s actions and the vehicle’s performance and (2) send alerts through the vehicle’s telecommunications gateway. When the system senses hard acceleration or braking events, a rolling stop or going over railroad tracks without slowing down, it sends a 20-second video to the safety team for review.

Certarus recently started monitoring distracted driving, said Kaylee Stach, the company’s lead transportation compliance coordinator. The system sends a five-second video clip if it senses the driver taking their eyes off the road or the vehicle’s instruments. With real-time updates, the team can respond to a hard-braking alert to see if the truck hit a deer, for example. “We check with the driver to see if they’re OK and if there’s any damage,” Stach said.

When the systems were first installed, the average driver score was 90 out of 100 based on the length of the trip and their performance. In the first quarter of 2021, the average had risen to 95, Stach noted. “We’ll give the drivers a gift card reward when they hit 100 for a month,” she said. “It’s really improved their driving habits, and speeding has gone way down,” she said.

Initially, drivers weren’t thrilled about being monitored, but it helped to know that only the health and safety team was reviewing the video, Stach said. “We tell them, ‘If you’re a great driver, we will never have to review a video from you.’” The drivers get to see the video as well, so they understand the process.

Fleets and drivers are still adjusting to the new technology, so for some fleets, the results are mixed.

“From what we’re hearing from our clients, they’re not experiencing the return on investment they expected from the more sophisticated driver assistance systems,” Liggio said. “In fact, some of our fleet operators have experienced a slight increase in crash rates.”

Hopefully, safety results will continue to improve as drivers acclimate to vehicles that help them drive.

“Fleet operators need to re-engineer their drivers for the new methodologies and operational control that they have to navigate their vehicle safely,” Liggio said. “It really is a partnership between the driver and the technology.”

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.


Common ADAS Technology*

  • Adaptive brake assist
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Auto high-beam headlamps
  • Blind-spot warning
  • Distance alert
  • Forward collision warning with brake support
  • Lane-keeping alert and assist
  • Pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking

*Names vary by OEM


Fleet Management Gets Smarter with Remote Diagnostics

If the last time your utility bought medium-duty trucks was eight to 10 years ago, the advancements in remote diagnostics available on new vehicles could be a game-changer for fleet maintenance.

Today, every OEM offers some level of remote diagnostic capability in their commercial trucks. Those diagnostics use onboard electronic sensors and connections to monitor and communicate components’ performance and status to fleet managers in real time. There are aftermarket solutions that provide a deeper level of management capabilities as well.

The original telematics technology captured the diagnostic trouble codes or fault codes generated by a vehicle’s onboard diagnostics required for emissions control beginning in 2005. As the technology and regulations developed, manufacturers deepened the level of information available from transmissions and other components.

A few years ago, truck telematics and remote diagnostics were considered separate functions. Today, with technology advancements and widespread adoption, they’re essentially the same, said Steven Berube, senior business development manager of off-road and vocational for Geotab (, a remote diagnostics provider.

“The technology continues to become more and more effective, and you have more and more connected components on vehicles,” he said.

Like the system available on Ford medium-duty trucks, most telematics allow fleet users to monitor locations via GPS tracking and geofencing, get live vehicle health alerts to plan and limit downtime, set reminders for vehicle service, analyze driver behavior and help manage fuel usage to reduce costs.

Moving to Condition-Based Maintenance
Using real-time data from vehicles, fleet managers can move from interval-based maintenance to condition-based maintenance.

“Instead of changing the oil every six months, you can monitor the performance of a vehicle and not bring in trucks that don’t need to come in, or if a truck gets worked harder than others, you can bring it in sooner,” Berube said.

The Detroit Connect system on suitably equipped Freightliner and Western Star trucks diagnoses fault codes into service information, service soon or service now categories, said Len Copeland, product manager.

“It allows the fleet manager to determine whether he should call a tow truck or allow the truck to do its work,” he said.

For fleets that sign up for the plan, the Detroit Connect call center can diagnose the vehicle and locate the nearest service center with the necessary parts. It can even capture engine performance 60 seconds before the fault code, during the fault code and 15 seconds afterward for more diagnostics information.

“The system is geared toward the elimination of unplanned downtime, or converting unplanned downtime into planned downtime,” Copeland said.

More vehicle systems – such as transmissions, tires and even fluid filters – are being connected to the diagnostics systems. Knowing the temperature of the tires and wheel hubs can help manage tires, one of the highest costs for fleet operators.

“As more components on vehicles are connected through connected solutions, condition-based maintenance becomes more effective,” Berube said.

Managing the regeneration cycle for diesel trucks can help reduce maintenance costs for vehicles that spend a lot of their life at idle speeds.

“There’s a lot of attention focused on the diesel regeneration system because if it’s not managed properly, it’s going to cause challenges,” Berube said.

Fleets also look to telematics and remote diagnostics to manage fuel economy. With a properly spec’d truck, fleet managers can monitor idle time, driving behavior and other factors. The data also can help to make sure trucks are properly spec’d for their use, such as choosing the right transmission for the job.

“Fleet managers can have some actionable insights into how they can save money on fuel consumption,” Copeland said.

Fleets can partner with analytics companies and mine data based on engine and vehicle conditions for prescriptive maintenance information. The analytics could focus on an individual vehicle as well as vehicle models or use cases.

“Plenty of fleets are already proactively consuming fault code data from their remote diagnostic partner and then feeding that into a maintenance application to identify major critical faults to prevent catastrophic failure,” Berube said.

With two-way connections to the vehicle, manufacturers will be able to update firmware on engines and other components, similar to how Tesla can manage the programming on its cars remotely. Monitoring tire pressures and oil filter health in real time are coming soon as well.

Improved Failure Forecasting
As more connected vehicles enter fleet use, there will be a more extensive database to support machine learning, leading to more sophisticated algorithms for predictive maintenance. Based on millions of miles worth of data, systems will improve the ability to forecast when a component will fail according to the sensor data and any fault codes that are generated.

“If you can predict with better than 75% certainty that the component will probably fail, the system can identify that and notify the customer to eliminate unplanned downtime,” Berube said.

Fleet data is becoming a valuable commodity as manufacturers and vendors are vacuuming up engine and component diagnostics information as well as driver behavior and environmental conditions that feed into the analytics models.

“Big data companies are wanting to partner with fleets and ingest their data and effectively predict fault codes,” Berube said. “Fleets will know when they have a dangerous condition before it happens.”

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.


Wireless Charging Unleashes Electric Vehicle Fleets

If your utility operates electric vehicles – or is planning to do so – the emergence of wireless charging technology could impact vehicle selection and charging infrastructure decisions.

Currently, wireless charging is available for smartphones and other small electronics. But wireless EV charging could be a key to widespread transportation electrification.

In the utility industry, EV adoption is just beginning to take off. This September, Duke Energy announced an EV initiative that will convert 100% of its light-duty vehicles to electric and 50% of its combined fleet of medium-duty, heavy-duty and off-road vehicles to EVs, plug-in hybrids or other zero-carbon alternatives by 2030. The utility company already has about 600 EVs in its 10,000-vehicle fleet.

Duke will deploy new Level 2 plug-in charging stations at operations centers, field offices and power generation facilities – essentially, “wherever we are deploying the bulk of the EV fleet at any given time,” according to Jennifer Sharpe, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy. “As we see growth in the fleet, we’ll deploy additional fast-charging facilities for longer-distance travel of any fully electric vehicles.”

The turnover in the fleet will be gradual, so Duke will build out any infrastructure required. Sharpe said there wouldn’t be a compromise in operational integrity in transitioning to an EV fleet.

The company also will keep an eye on developing technologies – like wireless charging – that provide better performance than what’s available in the marketplace today.

“We don’t know what might come up in the next few years, but when it does, we’re going to take advantage of it because our goal is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” Sharpe said.

Addressing Shortcomings
Wireless charging could address some of the shortcomings of EVs, like range anxiety. That’s the fear of running out of power, which is like running out of gas for more traditional vehicles. But with EVs, there aren’t charging stations along the way.

However, many fleet vehicles travel within EV range, about 250 miles a day. There’s enough range to return to the charging station at the service depot. Wireless charging stations dotted throughout a city also could top up the charge on a utility truck in its service area.

Momentum Dynamics ( is working to make wireless charging a viable option for commercial vehicles. The Malvern, Pennsylvania-based company has pilot projects with transit authorities to install wireless charging infrastructure for city bus routes and Jaguar I-PACE taxis in Norway.

The technology is primed for vehicles that run a regular route or return to a central location every day. Each vehicle is equipped with receiver pads, and charging pads are built into the pavement. For a bus, that could be at bus stops. For a utility truck, the charging pads could be installed where the vehicle is likely to be stopped for a few minutes.

Momentum Dynamics’ proprietary technology charges much faster than standard plug-in charging does, said Michael McHale, a spokesman for the company. Standard plug-in chargers max out at 50 kW, whereas Momentum Dynamics’ technology can charge up to 300 kW with modular pads.

A utility could design a system where trucks are charged 25% to 50% during the day and topped up overnight. Or, a utility fleet could use charging pads for passenger vehicles from startup charging companies such as HEVO ( and WiTricity (

If a fleet has 10 to 20 EVs, plug-in charging overnight is not a burden. But when the number reaches several hundred, the costs skyrocket for infrastructure installation and maintenance. The electrical demand also spikes if hundreds of vehicles require full charging at the same time, McHale said.

Greater Efficiency
Wireless charging can be much more efficient for fleet technicians who won’t have to manage cables for numerous vehicles. Cables and charging stations also are subject to wear and tear that add to upkeep costs. Wireless charging helps break the one-vehicle, one-plug paradigm.

EVs can have both systems so they can be plugged in when necessary. But vehicles equipped for wireless charging can carry smaller batteries because they can be charged throughout the day.

“If you think you need 300-mile range and you charge only once a day, you’re essentially carrying enough capacity to avoid a catastrophe,” McHale said. “But you can send out a smaller battery that gets charged on the way, and you’re not lugging around twice as much battery as you need.”

Keeping vehicles on the road with wireless charging means the fleet doesn’t have to account for wired charging time. And that means the fleet can purchase fewer EVs and still maintain service levels.

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.


Wireless Charging Technology

  • Momentum Dynamics uses proprietary resonant magnetic induction technology to move electricity through the air gap between the charging plate on the vehicle and the charger installed in the pavement.
  • The charging process is silent and there’s no danger of shock, said Michael McHale, a spokesman for Momentum.
  • Momentum Dynamics’ charging technology is 94% efficient and isn’t reduced in hot or cold weather.
  • Charging batteries in short bursts to keep them at 75% to 85% capacity helps extend the life of the battery, compared to daily deep cycling that shortens useful life.

Top Trends in Commercial Truck Tire Technologies

A number of tire manufacturers are developing high-tech solutions for the truck and bus radial market segment, which includes tires for the Class 4, 5 and 6 trucks that are the backbone of many utility fleets. Tires and related items typically are among the top three costs of running a fleet, so even incremental improvements can slash expenses.

Smart Tires
Tire makers are developing intelligent tires that communicate information about performance in real time, including wear, temperature, pressure and speed. Each tire has a sensor that sends information to the cloud, where fleet managers can access it for individual vehicles or the overall fleet.

Fleet managers also can benefit from interactivity with other smart environments – like fleet telematics – to improve sustainability and efficiency. So far, Goodyear ( has collected more than 3 million miles of data in its intelligent tire testing.

“As vehicles become smarter and more autonomous, intelligent tires – as the only part of the vehicle that actually touches the ground – will become even more critical,” said Johnny McIntosh, director of integrated solutions and tire management for Goodyear.

Connected tires combine with algorithms tweaked to predict replacement intervals and maintenance, which allows for scheduling of services before a tire fails.

The intelligent tires use an RFID tag, a sensor that transmits tire information to a cloud-based application that enables fleet operators and drivers to identify and resolve potential repair issues that might result in vehicle downtime.

For example, if a tire on a truck suddenly lost air pressure, a fleet operator would be notified immediately, even before the driver had time to pull over.

When a tire needs replacement, real-time data – including the tire brand, model and size, as well as the speed and traction ratings of each tire – is available on one screen for fleet operators to review.

All Michelin ( commercial truck tires are manufactured with RFID technology, but it’s currently limited to inventory use, said Brandon Gray, operational marketing manager – B2B Services for Michelin North America. Connected tires help fleet managers control inventory to reduce losses and ensure tire availability.

Fleet Services
Another current tire trend is Tires as a Service, similar to Software-as-a-Service and other X-as-a-Service offerings. For example, Goodyear’s Tire Management suite offers management and monitoring for fleet operators. The TireReady service manages the life cycle of a tire using a subscription model. Another option provides active on-vehicle monitoring that can identify leaks and high temperatures in real time. Other tools – such as a drive-over reader device and a digital inspection toolset – offer efficient, digitally based tire-monitoring solutions that give fleet managers more information at a faster rate.

Michelin’s Tire Care is a predictive tire program in which tires are inspected on-site for low pressure, irregular wear and uneven tread depths. Fleet managers get customizable reporting to track immediate needs, performance data, forecasting and even cost per mile, Gray said. 

Tire Design
Utility fleet managers look for tires that last a long time and help improve fuel economy with every mile. Class 4-6 truck tires need to carry a 25,000-pound truck over the harshest roads and terrains in the country, from servicing power lines in the middle of Vermont forests to fighting wildfires throughout California. They need to be tough enough to endure the cutting and chipping of unpaved access roads and then roll the truck comfortably and safely down the highway.

Strength and durability are of utmost importance to a good tire in this vehicle class, said Phil Mosier, Cooper Tire’s commercial tire development manager. Cooper ( is working on compounds to balance treadwear characteristics, such as cut and chip resistance, handling and life cycle.

“The latest tread compounds improve handling and reduce rolling resistance of the tires for better fuel economy,” Mosier said.

Goodyear’s Fuel Max RTD, a regional drive tire, was designed with a low rolling resistance compound, helping to increase fuel efficiency, traction and long miles to removal, according to Dustin Lancy, commercial product marketing manager for Goodyear. The tire, which bears the three-peak mountain snowflake badge for winter traction, is built to provide a high level of traction as it wears, allowing the truck to stay on the road longer before it’s time to change the tire.

Michelin’s advanced compounds use two layers, the top one that provides long life and the bottom layer that dissipates heat to improve tire casing life, Gray said.

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.


4 Tire Performance Factors

1. Removal mileage. It’s a measure of the miles per 1/32 inch of tread depth that a tire should run before it should be replaced. Some fuel-efficient tires may be constructed with less tread depth to reduce weight and rolling resistance. New designs can improve removal mileage by 15%.

2. Low rolling resistance. Tires with low rolling resistance can save a lot of fuel over the life of the tire. However, there may be tradeoffs with durability and traction, depending on the truck’s work profile.

3. Driver behavior. Improving driver behavior can boost tire mileage up to 35% through reducing wear and spotting signs of trouble before they lead to failure.

4. Tire pressure. Maintaining proper air pressure is the simplest step to improving tire life. Follow manufacturer recommendations for tire size and load range.


Gas vs. Diesel: Which is Better for Your Medium-Duty Truck Applications?

Diesel has been the traditional engine for medium-duty utility trucks. But with Ford, GM, Isuzu and other OEMs recently launching new gas-powered models, utility fleet professionals have more options than ever to consider. Recent volatility in fuel prices has changed the equation as well.

So, which is better – gas or diesel? The answer is, of course, “It depends.”

Diesel engines use about a third less fuel than comparable gasoline engines and are particularly well-suited for high-idle situations where gasoline engines don’t perform as well.

But gas-engine trucks cost less to purchase, and maintenance is usually less expensive. On the other hand, diesels tend to have a longer useful life and retain more value at high mileages when they are released from the fleet, according to George Survant, an experienced fleet consultant.

Element (, a national fleet management company, has seen a rising interest in gas-engine trucks from fleets that have used diesels in the past.

“Recent fleet experiences are suggesting very strongly that gas engines – besides being less costly on acquisition – can be more easily and cost-effectively maintained, and that overall their lifespan is about equal to diesel depending on the application,” said Mark Stumne, Element’s director of truck services.

Fleet replacement cycles typically are around nine years, so the choice between gas and diesel can have a long-term impact on a utility’s costs. And with rapidly advancing technology, the answers may change by the next time a fleet invests in new vehicles.

Beyond the Fuel Pump
The ramifications of the gas-vs.-diesel decision go beyond which fuel pump the driver uses. Maintenance and life-cycle costs should be part of the decision tree as well.

In some use cases, diesel trucks are still the clear winner. If the truck will be towing heavy loads, such as excavators on a trailer, or covering many highway miles, the diesel’s high torque and fuel mileage make the most sense. Diesels are still the go-to option for power-takeoff operations for snowplows, generators and hydraulic accessories, like bucket lifts.

However, the two-stage emissions control system on modern diesels presents some challenges. A diesel in a high-idle application, such as operating a PTO system, doesn’t reach a high enough temperature to properly activate the diesel particulate filter. The DPF emissions system can then become clogged with ash, leading to breakdowns. Preventive maintenance could include running a forced regeneration cycle to ensure the emissions system is cleaned properly, Survant said.

Gas-powered engines don’t operate as well as diesels in high-idle situations, and manufacturers are beginning to recommend additional preventive maintenance, including more frequent oil changes to prevent problems.

Historically, a rule of thumb said diesels would last about 250,000 miles compared to gas trucks that were good for around 150,000 miles. Improvements in gas-engine durability mean the life-cycle gap between gas and diesel is closing. Survant noted that if the rest of the truck is ready to be taken out of service at 100,000 miles, it doesn’t make sense to invest in a 250,000-mile engine.

In addition to the lower cost of acquisition, opting for gas engines can pay off in daily operations. They use fewer, less expensive filters and consume less oil, which is cheaper than oil for diesel engines.

“Switching at least some vehicles to gas can simplify maintenance and may actually reduce training costs for technicians,” Stumne said.

Lastly, fleet managers should understand the reliability of their fleet – how often vehicles break down and how long they’re out of service. Unscheduled downtime can lead to using contractors or unreliable backup trucks at a critical time. Every hour an electric or water line is out of service can cost thousands of dollars.

“You may discover that the cost to repair the vehicle in many cases is far less than the impact to your core business,” Survant said.

About the Author: Gary L. Wollenhaupt is a Phoenix-based freelance writer who covers the transportation, energy and technology sectors for a variety of publications and companies.


5 Factors to Consider
Picking the right gas or diesel vehicle for the task will help to minimize downtime, repair costs and fuel costs while enabling drivers/operators to perform their roles effectively and efficiently. Don’t just look at the acquisition but also the entire life cycle of the asset. Here are five specific factors to consider before you invest. 

1. First cost. Diesels carry a higher MSRP than gas-engine trucks.

2. Work mission. Road mileage, towing/hauling capacity, idling time, PTO usage and other factors can tip the scales in one direction.

3. Maintenance and repair. Diesels tend to fail less frequently but are more expensive to fix when they do break down. Maintaining diesels requires adequately trained technicians and the appropriate tools, spare parts and lubricants. Looking at costs per gallon of fuel burned is a useful way to analyze maintenance costs.

4. Vehicle life. Examine replacement cycles to see how long trucks last. Invest in diesels when it makes sense for the work mission.

5. Local regulations. State and local regulations in California and other places discourage the use of diesel fleet vehicles or recommend using biofuels.

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