Author: Sean M. Lyden

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Will Hydrogen Electrify the Future of Heavy-Duty Trucks?

An industry executive says that hydrogen fuel-cell trucks – and the fueling infrastructure to support them – will become more practical and affordable in the not-so-distant future.

Most discussions around fleet electrification today focus on battery-electric vehicles. And for good reason. More EV models are becoming available, costs are getting closer in line with conventional vehicles, and charging infrastructure continues to expand.

But when it comes to electrifying the Class 8 truck segment, battery power remains impractical and insufficient to meet the performance and range requirements for most heavy-duty truck applications.

That’s where hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles come in. They’re also electric vehicles but offer longer-range capabilities for Class 8 trucks – in some cases, over 500 miles – at a significantly lower weight and with a much shorter “refueling” time than their battery-powered counterparts.

Yet the knock against fuel-cell trucks has been the exorbitant cost of both the vehicles and the fueling infrastructure to support them.

That’s changing, however, said Craig Knight, CEO at Hyzon Motors (, a startup headquartered near Rochester, New York, that installs hydrogen fuel-cell systems and electric propulsion in existing truck brands.

The company delivered 87 trucks globally in 2021 and announced during the fourth-quarter earnings call that it expects to deliver 300 to 400 units by the end of this year. And it launched a pilot program in California in March, with Hyzon-equipped Freightliner Cascadias.

UFP recently spoke with Knight to get his outlook on the fuel-cell vehicle market. He pointed to the following five advantages he believes will position hydrogen fuel cells as the prominent power source in heavy-duty truck electrification in the not-so-distant future.

1. Lighter weight.

According to Knight, a fully fueled hydrogen-powered truck with about 500 miles of range is anywhere from 400 kilograms (881 pounds) to 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds) heavier than a comparable conventional diesel truck. That’s a small percentage loss of cargo capacity for an 80,000-pound heavy-duty chassis.

But the weight of batteries required to achieve a similar range? That’s where the numbers get big.

“With the current state-of-the-art battery technology, you’re talking about an extra 5, 6 or even 7 metric tons,” Knight said.

That translates to about 11,000 to 15,000 pounds – a substantial jump.

“When the truck’s tare weight goes up by that much, every movement the truck makes is a lot less efficient. The fact of the matter is that if you’re going toward heavy vehicles, batteries are very inefficient because you’re carrying around all this extra weight,” Knight said.

2. Faster “fueling.”

It can take at least an hour or more to fully fast-charge today’s light-duty electric vehicles.

Now, imagine how much more time would be required to fully charge the much larger batteries in Class 8 trucks. Even if the charge time was only an hour, that’s still expensive downtime for a commercial truck that only makes money when the wheels are rolling.

What about hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles?

Knight said that the refueling time for hydrogen is similar to comparable diesel trucks.

3. Smaller infrastructure footprint.

Hydrogen refueling stations can support significantly more trucks per day than charging stations, Knight said.

He provided this frame of reference: “One piece of hydrogen infrastructure can make 50 or 100 trucks work every day, whereas one piece of electric truck infrastructure can make maybe half a dozen or 10 trucks work in a day – if you’re really lucky and plan very well. The electric vehicle infrastructure that’s out there is good for cars and a small battery. But it doesn’t work for 35 or 40 metric tons of combined vehicle mass.”

4. Greener “fuel” production.

Knight said that Hyzon is focused on producing hydrogen fuel from renewable sources – such as waste, renewable gases, solar and wind – in the local areas of the fleets the company serves.

This approach ensures the fuel’s sustainability, aligns hydrogen production capacity with local demand and drives down the high costs of transporting hydrogen.

5. Longer battery life.

The recyclability of electric vehicle battery packs remains a challenge. But fuel cells can help with that.

“A fuel-cell vehicle uses a lot less battery power,” Knight said. “And whether the truck is driving or sitting, the fuel cell preserves, protects and charges the battery. So, if you switched everything from battery electric to fuel-cell electric, we’d likely see a reduction in the number of batteries needed by eight to 10 times. That’s significant, and especially so as the supply constraints on rare earth minerals [such as nickel, cobalt and lithium used in batteries] continue to tighten.”

Knight envisions a future where hydrogen could become more than a niche fuel for electrifying the heavy-duty truck segment.

“We have this view in our business plan that, in the next three to four years, we’ll bring to market, for example, Class 3 type vehicles,” Knight said. “Right now, Class 8 drives the availability of hydrogen because it’s such a compelling use case. But that investment could bring hydrogen at scale to areas that have a lot of trucks, a lot of logistics activities, a lot of warehouses, a lot of fresh food deliveries, et cetera. And what does that do? That provides access to adjacent markets – like the lighter-class vehicles – that weren’t the low-hanging fruits for hydrogen on round one.”

This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series June 2022

Electrifying Heavy-Duty Trucks with Hydrogen

Any fleet pursuing a goal of 100% electrification will need to plan to include hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in their mix, specifically for their Class 8 truck segment.

That was the overarching theme of a Green Truck Summit panel session – “How Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Will Affect Work Trucks” – that I attended in March at NTEA Work Truck Week.

The panelists included Morgan Andreae, executive director of the Growth Office at Cummins Inc.; Craig Knight, CEO at Hyzon Motors; and George Rubin, chief commercial officer at Loop Energy.

Here are my seven takeaways from that session. If you’d like to learn more, I delve deeper into this topic with Hyzon’s Craig Knight in this article.

1. Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles are EVs.

The difference is in the electric power source: hydrogen and fuel cells versus battery power only.

2. Hydrogen offers a much higher energy density than batteries.

More energy can be stored on the truck at a much lower weight than batteries, allowing for a longer range and larger payload.

3. The current commercial focus for hydrogen fuel cells is on higher-use, harsher duty-cycle fleet applications that involve carrying bigger loads.

Think long-haul trucks, refrigerated trucks, garbage trucks and dump trucks.

4. Hydrogen refueling times are a fraction of the battery charge rates for a comparable range.

Hydrogen takes about the same amount of time as refueling a diesel vehicle.

5. The big obstacle to fuel-cell growth is the lack of infrastructure.

The high cost of hydrogen fuel and fueling stations has constrained fuel-cell expansion, but the U.S. infrastructure bill addresses this challenge. Initiatives are also underway to produce hydrogen locally to serve the local market. This model should reduce costs by minimizing hydrogen fuel transport.

6. There’s still a lack of knowledge and education around hydrogen fuel-cell technology.

That’s why OEMs are targeting the fleet/work truck industry as early adopters to help build awareness for the broader market.

7. Hydrogen fuel-cell generators could be an answer for EV resiliency.

Fuel-cell generators could replace fossil-fuel-powered generators to charge battery-electric vehicles in the field – especially important during storm response situations – or supplement existing grid capacity to handle power surges.

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series June 2022

All-Electric Medium-Duty Trucks Coming to SMUD this Summer

The new Class 5 trucks nudge the utility closer to its goal of zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District expects to take delivery of five new all-electric medium-duty trucks this summer that will offer an estimated range of 100 to 150 miles.

The vehicles will be built on the Z-19 model – a 19,500-pound-GVWR chassis – by Zeus Electric Chassis Inc. (, a startup based in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

This purchase is part of SMUD’s goal of removing all carbon emissions from its entire power supply and fleet by 2030. As of press time, the utility had electrified 120 vehicles, or about 13% of its fleet of more than 900 units.

UFP recently spoke with Casey Fallon, director of purchasing, warehouse and fleet at SMUD, to give us a behind-the-scenes look into the factors he and his team considered when designing and ordering these vehicles. Here’s an edited version of the highlights from our conversation.

UFP: How did you decide which fleet applications to electrify with the Zeus trucks?

Casey Fallon: We considered any Ford F-550 in our fleet scheduled to be replaced. So, when we were writing the specification, we didn’t make concessions because it’s an electric vehicle. But we had to dial in the vehicle’s daily usage and whether it had a prescribed route and a planned amount of driving instead of it being a response vehicle or a 24-hour vehicle.

So, our spec [for the Zeus trucks] changed very little from our conventional diesel engine trucks with similar usage.

What is the incremental cost you factor into your numbers when you plan your electrification budget?

We spend about $10 million per year on our capital investment for replacements and some new vehicles, not including inflation. If you make the numbers simple over 10 years, that’s $100 million. So, when we initially did this plan over 10 years, we looked at the status quo as $100 million.

Then we looked at all of the different equipment that we would replace. We made our best estimate based on what was available from the market and worked with some of our friends in [research and development] and finance and treasury to come up with numbers for equivalent zero-emissions vehicles over 10 years.

We came up with $200 million. So, over 10 years, we’re looking at two times [the status-quo budget]. But a few things help reduce that number.

Over the 10-year period, we estimate around $20 million to $40 million in offsets from grant funding, and a fuel expense reduction of around $9 million to $10 million. There’s also a maintenance cost reduction of another $4 million.

So, the number we came up with was roughly an increase of $50 million on top of the original $100 million to align our fleet with SMUD’s 2030 zero-carbon plan.

When I presented this plan publicly, I said that this [budget] is based on what we know now. As we refresh our plan year over year, we expect that number to come down as the technology improves, we get additional financial offsets, and we continue to optimize. But this is a conservative estimate over a 10-year period.

How will the maintenance and repairs be handled for the Zeus trucks?

We’re still working that out. We’ll leverage Zeus during the warranty period. But we’re still discussing whether we’ll do maintenance and repairs in-house or through a dealer network after the warranty period. It’s still up in the air. We’d prefer to do the work on everything else in our fleet because we’re a full-service maintenance shop.

When do you expect the vehicles to be delivered?

One of the five trucks will be at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach in May. Then we’ll have a staggered delivery schedule until about the end of July.

We’re kind of relaxed with the schedule because Zeus is a startup, and these trucks are all new. We also have a pretty significant period where we will be doing our own road testing. And we may even work with a third party to do some road testing before we turn them over to operations.

How long will the road testing occur?

We’re thinking 90 days, just to be sure we run the vehicles through their paces and get them out on the road.

We’ll put the trucks in safe conditions and take our time to get to know them. There may be some things to work out regarding the programming of the technology on the vehicle. So, we want to take our time.

What type of training do you plan to provide to the operators?

We’re thinking about training in a couple of ways. One is that we’re thinking about the change management aspect. You’re switching the operator from a gas or diesel vehicle to electric. There’s a need for education to build awareness and familiarization with the new technology.

So, we’re taking a change management approach where we want to get everybody on board to become aware of what’s changing and what the technology is. That’s the big boulder to move initially.

Regarding training, when switching somebody from an internal combustion engine to an electric vehicle, range anxiety will likely be an issue. But we’ve been putting a lot of numbers together to show that, hey, on average, you’re not driving past this vehicle’s maximum range for a day.

The operators have been used to a Ford for the last 10 years, and now you’re putting them into this unknown variable for them. But I don’t think it will be too much of a change for them.

And the operation of the onboard equipment – the liftgates, dump bed and all that – will be very similar to what they’re already familiar with.

What is the backstory behind SMUD’s fleet electrification initiative?

We’re located in the capital city of California. So, we have an incredibly ambitious goal for the entire utility overall – zero emissions by 2030.

When we put our fleet electrification strategy together for our executive team and our new CEO [Paul Lau], we brought it to them and said, “We think we can get 50% of the way by 2030.”

We remember that conversation because there’s a great quote from our CEO. He said to us, “I like your thinking and your strategy, but we’ve got to go big or go home.”

It was time for us to go all-in and align with the 2030 plan.

So, what we had to do from there was challenge our initial assumptions and really figure out how to accelerate and get to that 100% goal by 2030.

We know it’s still a tall order, a very ambitious goal. But we’re going to give it our best shot.

Over the next three to five years, we’ll be focused on what’s available from the market. And then, beyond that, things are not really clear. But we’re banking on the idea that the technology will accelerate rapidly, including hydrogen fuel cells for our heavy-duty vehicles in the later years of the plan.

So, we’re going to do our best and hang on for the ride and see where all this goes.

Fleet Facts: Sacramento Municipal Utility District
Description: The nation’s sixth-largest, community-owned, not-for-profit electric service
Headquarters: Sacramento, California
Service area: 900 square miles
Total accounts served: 644,723
Employees: 2,179
Power from non-carbon-emitting resources: Over 60%
Fleet size: 917 total on-road, off-road and trailer assets
All-electric or hybrid vehicles: About 120 units

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

What’s New in Truck and Van Upfits in 2022?

Despite a lingering pandemic and a supply chain crisis, truck and van upfitters continue to bring new products to market that will help utility fleets cut costs, improve crew safety and productivity, and reduce carbon emissions.

So, what are some notable new products and design enhancements to keep your eye on in 2022? Here are eight developments.

XL Fleet Corp.
What’s New: Hybrid-electric upfit for Ram 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickup trucks

XL Fleet Corp. now offers a hybrid-electric drive system for Ram 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickup trucks.

This XLH system for Ram represents the fourth OEM platform with which XL Fleet’s electrification systems are compatible. The other OEMs are Ford, General Motors and Isuzu fleet vehicles.

XLH is available for select Ram 2500/3500 models with a 6.4-liter V-8 engine. It features a high-efficiency lithium-ion battery, inverter, and electric traction motor to propel the vehicle forward during acceleration and capture energy through regenerative braking during deceleration.

The system requires no external power or charging infrastructure to operate, and all OEM factory warranties remain intact. It also includes XL Fleet’s standard three-year, 75,000-mile warranty, with available extended warranty options.

Stellar Industries
What’s New: 86 Series telescopic cranes

The new 86 Series telescopic cranes have an octagon-shaped boom design (versus the previous hexagon shape) that allows the cranes to maintain strength with a more compact boom tip to create an easier reach in tight work areas.

The 8621 Telescopic Crane offers a maximum horizontal reach of 21 feet and vertical lift of nearly 23 feet from its crane base, with an 8,600-pound lifting capacity. The 8630 Telescopic Crane has a maximum horizontal reach of 30 feet and vertical lift of over 31 feet from its crane base, also with an 8,600-pound lifting capacity.

Terex Utilities
What’s New: General 65 digger derrick for utility transmission applications; Extreme Duty Auger

Terex Utilities has introduced a new generation of the General 65 digger derrick for utility transmission applications, along with a new high-productivity auger tool.

The updated General 65 offers increased capacity ranges from 26% at high boom angles with X‐Boost to 80% at lower boom angles specifically below 0 degrees (subject to chassis and unit configuration due to stability). X-Boost adjusts hydraulic pressure to increase load-handling capability and enhance performance for lifting at high boom angles.

The company also recently introduced its Extreme Duty Auger designed for longer wear when used in hard soil mixed with rock and boulders. The auger’s hex hub is available in 2.5-inch, 2-5/8-inch and 3-inch sizes. The 1-inch flighting is solid welded to the stem and extends the full length of the stem to reduce bending.

Ranger Design
What’s New: Redesigned ladder rack product line

Ranger Design’s new ladder rack line includes the Max Rack Low-Roof, Cargo Rack, Clamp Rack and Combination Rack.

The Max Rack Low-Roof is a drop-down rack that requires only four hooks for easy installation.

And the Clamp Rack’s inside hooks help guide the ladder for safer and easier loading and unloading. The Clamp Rack’s throttle latch secures the ladder from the outside to avoid rungs, brackets and gussets. Its new design prevents metal-to-metal contact and reduces risk of splintering from fiberglass ladders.

Stellar Industries
What’s New: CDTpro control system with Range Finder technology

Stellar’s updated CDTpro control system with Range Finder technology offers a single-handed controller that delivers quick, smooth operation with finite control for precise placements of loads while allowing multiple functions to run simultaneously.

With the Range Finder, the operator can create a lift plan without needing to unstow the crane. It estimates distance and calculates crane capacities wherever the operator holds the control system.

The CDTpro feedback screens include the current load of the crane and distance to maximum capacity. The system also vibrates to alert the operator when they’re approaching maximum load capacity.

Maintainer Corp.
What’s New: Bolt Bins

Maintainer Corp. has expanded its line of service truck accessories to include the new Maintainer Bolt Bins. The Bolt Bins have a housing and shelves made of 0.090-inch aluminum, with bins made of composite material. The units are available in a standard 18.5-inch depth or optional 12.5-inch depth. Each standard-depth bin is rated for 25 pounds and comes with three aluminum removable dividers.

There are eight standard configurations in the introductory Bolt Bins lineup, but custom configurations up to eight bins wide and eight levels high are also available.

What’s New: Velocity R2

Utilimaster has expanded its Velocity walk-in van lineup to include the R2, an under-10,000-pound-GVWR van built on the Ram ProMaster chassis.

The Velocity R2 will debut in Indianapolis at the NTEA Work Truck Show this March.

With the Velocity R2, there’s no need to walk outside to open the cargo door. Operators can push a button to open the interior bulkhead door, making it easier and safer to access the cargo area.

The van’s safety systems include a 360-degree camera with clear, wide views for backing up and avoiding potential hazards while driving or parking, and rear and front collision detection systems to protect the driver, pedestrians and other vehicles on the road.

Utilimaster can customize the R2’s interior shelving, cabinets, bins and partitions for utility service applications.

Terex Utilities
What’s New: HyPower SmartPTO for Hi-Ranger aerial devices and Commander digger derricks

Terex Utilities has introduced the HyPower SmartPTO for a variety of Hi-Ranger telescopic, overcenter and non-overcenter aerial devices, and Commander and General digger derricks.

The system reduces engine idling to increase fuel savings and reduce noise and air pollution. And it powers the primary unit, auxiliary functions, lights and optional integrated cab A/C using factory vents and controls.

The SmartPTO comes standard with a 14-kWh battery, which Terex said can get most utility crews through a normal workday. An optional 21-kWh battery is available for higher-use applications.

The SmartPTO warns operators to recharge the battery within about 5% of battery life. When the engine is powered, it automatically disengages the ePTO function for specific situations – such as storm restoration – where plug-in recharging is limited.

This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series March 2022

The State of the All-Electric Pickup Race

The state of the all-electric pickup race has changed considerably in just one year.

Last January, the Ohio-based startup Lordstown Motors was poised to take the inside lane to produce the first-ever all-electric pickup with its Endurance truck.

But then allegations of fraud in the spring and a subsequent Department of Justice investigation hammered the stock and led to the resignations of the CEO and other key leaders. The company is now on life support with dim prospects of ever producing a pickup. 

Meanwhile, Amazon-backed Rivian, another startup, became the first to market in September with its R1T all-electric pickup. And GM launched its Edition 1 model GMC Hummer EV in December.

Ford, which introduced the F-150 Lightning last May, expects to begin producing the electric pickup this spring. Chevrolet announced in January that its Silverado EV would launch next spring.

What about Tesla’s Cybertruck? Some new developments are impacting its target launch timeline.

Toyota recently announced its plan to build an electric pickup but has not offered details yet.

So, here’s a breakdown of the key contenders in the electric pickup race – as it stands today – to help you assess which vehicles might be available for and applicable to your fleet operations in the next few years.

Rivian R1T
Irvine, California-based Rivian was the first automaker out of the gate when its first R1T electric pickup truck, offering a range of about 300 miles, rolled off the assembly line in Normal, Illinois, on September 14, 2021.

The crew cab truck seats five and starts at $67,500, a steep price for most fleet applications. But production capacity is perhaps the company’s biggest barrier to widespread fleet adoption.

Rivian produced 1,050 vehicles in 2021, about 15% below the company’s 1,200-unit target. And according to reporting by Bloomberg, the company halted its production lines for about a week in early January to fix its manufacturing processes to ramp up to 200 units produced weekly, an increase from the current rate of 50.

But the 200 units per week number is about 1/10th of Ford’s production forecast to reach a 150,000-unit annual rate by next year for the F-150 Lightning.

The bottom line: Rivian might have the head start, but will it be able to hold off Ford and GM, which have much larger manufacturing capacities, stronger supply chains and greater economies of scale? 

R1T by the Numbers
Max Range: 314 miles (with a 400-plus-mile-range battery available in 2023)
Max Horsepower/Torque: 835 hp/908 lb.-ft. of torque
0 to 60 mph: 3 secs.
Max Payload: 1,760 lbs.
Max Towing: 11,000 lbs.
Pricing: $67,500 to $73,000 MSRP
Deliveries: Started September 2021

Ford F-150 Lightning
Expected to arrive this spring, the all-electric crew cab F-150 Lightning will be available in four trim levels: Pro (the work truck version with vinyl seats); XLT (mid-level trim with cloth seats); Lariat (up-level trim with leather heated and ventilated seats); and Platinum (high-end premium trim).

One option utility fleets will find interesting: an available onboard scale that uses sensors to estimate payload so that operators can know precisely how much weight they’re hauling. This is important because payload impacts range. And the onboard scale is integrated with Ford’s Intelligent Range system to provide operators an estimated range that’s as accurate as possible.

The Lightning’s starting price of $39,974 is more in line with most fleet budgets, but recent news reports state that some Ford dealers have been capitalizing on the strong demand by marking up the price by tens of thousands of dollars over MSRP.

The bottom line: On paper, Ford looks like a strong contender. The truck should start hitting the roads soon, and the company has a lot of the pieces in place – manufacturing capacity, supply chain and a vast service network – to accelerate to the lead in electric truck production and sales. But with such strong retail demand projected, how much will fleets have to pay? What will be the allocation for the fleet-spec Pro models?

Lightning by the Numbers
Max Range: 300 miles
Max Horsepower/Torque: 563 hp/775 lb.-ft. of torque
0 to 60 mph: 4 secs.
Max Payload: 2,000 lbs.
Max Towing: 10,000 lbs.
Pricing: $39,974 to $52,974 MSRP
Deliveries: This spring

GMC Hummer EV
The GMC Hummer EV pickups began rolling off the assembly line in December.

The first trucks are Edition 1 models priced at $110,295 MSRP and estimated to produce 1,000 horsepower and 11,500 pound-feet of torque.

A couple of notable features include 4-Wheel Steer with Crabwalk and Adaptive Air Suspension with Extract Mode. The 4-Wheel Steer feature allows the rear and front wheels to steer at the same angle at low speeds, enabling diagonal movement for greater maneuverability on rough terrain, while the Adaptive Air Suspension raises the suspension height by 6 inches to handle extreme off-road situations, such as clearing boulders and fording water. 

Lower-price models ($79,995 to $89,995) are targeted for deliveries in 2023 and 2024.

The bottom line: Hummer’s price and performance specs are overkill for most utility fleet applications. However, the truck’s off-road capabilities might make the Hummer EV an interesting pilot vehicle for a fleet looking to electrify part of its all-terrain utility vehicle segment; it could serve as a people-mover in areas that are hard to reach with conventional four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Hummer EV by the Numbers
Max Range: 329 miles
Max Horsepower/Torque: 1,000 hp/11,500 lb.-ft. of torque
0 to 60 mph: 3 secs.
Max Payload: 1,300 lbs.
Max Towing: 7,500 lbs.
Pricing: $79,995 to $110,295 MSRP
Deliveries: Started December 2021 (with Edition 1)

Chevrolet Silverado EV
In January, Chevrolet introduced the 2024 Silverado EV crew cab pickup that’s expected to offer 400 miles in range and produce up to 664 horsepower with 780 pound-feet of torque.

The truck is targeted to launch in spring 2023 as a work truck model with a starting MSRP of $39,900. A fully loaded RST First Edition model will debut with an MSRP of $105,000 in fall 2023.

GM said that customers will have the ability to spec the truck across various price ranges to build a truck that meets their capability and pricing requirements.

The bottom line: Chevy’s Silverado EV is a strong answer to the F-150 Lightning. It’s priced right for fleets while offering 100 more miles of maximum range than the Lightning.

But the truck’s targeted launch date is a year after Ford’s, giving the Lightning a significant head start, especially with prospective fleet customers. So, the critical question is, what is GM’s strategy to catch Ford? 

Silverado EV by the Numbers
Max Range: 400 miles
Max Horsepower/Torque: 664 hp/780 lb.-ft. of torque
0 to 60 mph: 4.5 secs.
Max Payload: 1,300 lbs.
Max Towing: 10,000 lbs.
Pricing: $39,900 to $105,000 MSRP
Deliveries: Spring 2023

Tesla Cybertruck
The Cybertruck was introduced in 2019 with great fanfare by Tesla CEO Elon Musk. At the time, it appeared that Tesla would be the prohibitive favorite in the electric pickup race.

After all, on paper, the Cybertruck looks unbeatable: up to 500 miles of electric range, a maximum payload – 3,500 pounds – that’s nearly double the competition’s, a maximum tow capacity of 14,000 pounds and a base price under $40,000.

Plus, deliveries were slated to begin in late 2021. But that didn’t happen.

In the most recent earnings call in January, Musk confirmed that 2022 wouldn’t be the year for the Cybertruck either. “If we were to introduce new vehicles, our total vehicle output will decrease,” he said. “We will not be introducing new vehicle models this year.”

Musk said that the Cybertruck won’t launch until 2023 at the earliest.

The bottom line: While other models mentioned in this article have either started deliveries or have firm targets in sight, the Cybertruck appears to be in limbo. And that puts it to the back of the pack – for now.

Cybertruck by the Numbers
Max Range: 500 miles
Horsepower/Torque: 800 hp/1,000 lb.-ft. of torque
0 to 60 mph: 2.9 secs.
Max Payload: 3,500 lbs.
Max Towing: 14,000 lbs.
Pricing: $39,900 to $69,900 MSRP
Deliveries: TBD 2023 (initially targeted for late 2021)

This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series March 2022

Leadership Strategies: 6 Persuasion Principles to Win People Over

Dr. Robert Cialdini’s seminal work, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” first published in 1984, is a must-read for anyone in leadership – including fleet professionals – because your career success hinges on your ability to influence, persuade and win people over to your proposals and point of view.

Here’s an overview of Cialdini’s six persuasion principles and how you might apply them in fleet management situations.

1. Reciprocity

Key Quote: “Most of us find it highly disagreeable to be in a state of obligation. It weighs heavily on us and demands to be removed.”

With reciprocity, you create a sense of obligation in the other person to say yes to your request – to reciprocate the favor – because you first gave something to them.

For example, consider the dynamic with senior management when you talk about your budget needs for your department. After all, the fleet is often seen as a “necessary evil” cost center. And management might look at your department as an opportunity to cut costs – and your budget.

So, how can you improve your odds of not only preserving your budget but perhaps also increasing it?

Tap into what Cialdini calls the “rejection-and-retreat” technique of reciprocity in budget negotiations.

It goes something like this: Make a big (but not wholly unreasonable) request – greater than what you actually want. And when it’s rejected, fall back and make a concession for the amount you’re looking for. Cialdini states this approach works more effectively than simply asking for your target number upfront because it puts reciprocity to work on your behalf.

2. Commitment & Consistency

Key Quote: “Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and internal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.”

This persuasion principle aims to get a clear commitment from the other person, where they feel the inner pressure to do what they said they would do.

This is especially important when you assign tasks to employees. The idea is to get them to state their commitment.

One way of doing that is to ask, “Are you able to turn around these PMs by 2 p.m. Wednesday? Is that doable?”

When they agree, they’ve put themselves on record that they’ve made a commitment to that date and time and will work to remain consistent with their word.

And if you can get a commitment in writing, that’s even better. “Yet another reason that written commitments are so effective is that they require more work than verbal ones,” Cialdini said. “And the evidence is clear that the more effort that goes into commitment, the greater is its ability to influence the attitudes of the person who made it.”

3. Social Proof

Key Quote: “One means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.”

With social proof, you’re showing the other party they’re in good company by agreeing to your request, proposal or idea.

The idea here is to recognize the prevalence of the herd mentality – and tap into it.

“In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct,” Cialdini said.

So, how can you apply social proof in fleet?

Before rolling out a new and potentially controversial initiative (e.g., onboard cameras, telematics or vehicle sharing), collect success stories from other similar fleets. Learn what concerns their stakeholders raised and how they worked through those issues to create a win-win for everyone involved. Then share those stories when you present the case for adopting a similar initiative in your organization.

You can also build social proof by recruiting “employee-ambassadors” who will share their perspectives as champions of the change.

4. Liking

Key Quote: “As a rule, we prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like.”

It pays to have people like and respect you, no matter what business you’re in or what role you have.

They’re more likely to listen to you, do you a favor and have your back when you need their support the most.

So, be intentional about building relationships across the company’s various business units and departments. Those alliances will strengthen your influence to garner support to get big things done.

5. Authority

Key Quote: “Because their ‘authority’ positions speak of superior access to information and power, it makes great sense to comply with the wishes of properly constituted authors – [even] when it makes no sense at all.”

Cialdini’s principle of authority goes beyond your job title and who reports to you. It’s about being perceived as an authority – an expert in your domain – in the eyes of your peers, direct reports and senior management.

This gives your ideas and proposals more weight when you present them, making them more likely to be accepted.

How do you position and promote yourself as a trusted authority in your domain?

One thing you can do is to start sharing ideas, lessons learned and industry news on professional social media platforms like LinkedIn. This will help raise your profile to your network and the leaders in your company.

And your posts might get the attention of editors like me who are looking for interesting fleet managers to interview for articles in UFP.

6. Scarcity

Key Quote: “People seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. For instance, homeowners told how much money they could lose from inadequate insulation are more likely to insulate their homes than those told how much money they could save.”

Nobel Prize-winning psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman labels this phenomenon as “losses loom larger than gains.”

In other words, we are more motivated to move away from pain than we are to move toward the possible gain.

So, whenever you’re proposing an idea that will cause a lot of change, your objective is to communicate how the organization has more to lose by sticking with the status quo than trying the new idea.

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series March 2022

Navigating Post-Pandemic Challenges

As we head into spring, the fleet industry is starting to get back to some sort of normalcy after what has felt like a two-year winter.

After skipping last year, the NTEA Work Truck Show is back in Indianapolis in March. And EUFMC returns to Williamsburg, Virginia, in June after a two-year hiatus.

But some pandemic effects appear likely to linger for the next several months and into next year.

For example, the supply chain crisis continues to cripple production for automakers, body manufacturers and upfitters. And that means you – and your business units – are having to wait much longer than usual for new parts and equipment to arrive.

Used vehicle prices are at historic highs, which is a great thing when you’re remarketing your equipment. But when it’s difficult to get comparable new equipment, you have to hold on to the older assets longer than you traditionally would, which increases maintenance costs.

And the inflationary pressures on steel, aluminum and other materials used in the work truck industry are driving up the costs of truck bodies and interiors.

So, how do you navigate the lingering post-pandemic challenges impacting your fleet operations?

Over the upcoming UFP issues this year, we’ll be speaking with your peers, industry experts and perhaps you – to glean insights, strategies and best practices for effective fleet management in a turbulent time like today.

After all, as a fleet professional in the utility industry, even in normal times, you’re under intense pressure to juggle multiple roles and do them all well. You’re expected to be the chief engineer, chief negotiator, financial analyst, organizational psychologist, risk management expert and public relations director for the department.

Yet there is only so much time in the day. When your attention is spread across various responsibilities, where do you find the time to gather the information you need to grow and excel in your work?

That’s what we at UFP seek to help you do – save you time as your go-to resource. And we’re always looking for new voices within our utility fleet professional community to share their stories, lessons learned and fresh ideas.

So, if you’re a fleet professional interested in speaking with us about what’s going on in your fleet, how your organization is handling the current post-COVID challenges, or new initiatives you’re implementing that you think could also help your peers, please reach out to me. I’d love to hear from you.

Sean M. Lyden

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series March 2022

What Utility Fleets Can Do to Improve Driver Safety Performance

How much does a vehicle collision cost your company in property damage, health care expenses, lost worker days, legal fees, and other direct and indirect costs?

According to the latest report by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, available at, U.S. employers across various industries paid:

  • $26,081 per crash in property damage.
  • $78,418 per injury.
  • $751,382 per fatality.

These numbers may or may not reflect your company’s data. But they do provide a useful frame of reference to drive home the fact that a strong commitment to driver safety protects not only drivers but also your company’s reputation and bottom line.

After all, when a truck displaying a utility’s logo hits another vehicle or a pedestrian, it becomes a prime target for media attention and legal action.

But as a fleet manager, what can you do to help prevent crashes? In many cases, you’re not responsible for screening, hiring, training or coaching company drivers. Yet your department must deal with a significant piece of the fallout from each incident as you and your team scramble to find suitable replacements for vehicles that are unexpectedly – and often permanently – taken out of service. 

So, what can the fleet department do to help move the needle on improving driver safety and reducing collisions? Try these three strategies.

1. Spec for safety.
Debbie Daniel, manager of consulting analytics at Donlen (, a fleet management company, started seeing a new trend in fleet purchasing strategies a few years ago.

“Historically, when it came to selecting vehicles, fleets would focus on the total cost of ownership: What’s the most optimal vehicle choice in terms of acquisition, remarketing, fuel and maintenance costs? But in the past three or so years, the availability of safety options has emerged to become a big player in vehicle decisions as well,” Daniel said.

Why the shift?

Until recently, factory-installed advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) – such as automatic braking, parking assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alerts and lane-keeping assist – were only available in the more expensive trim levels for most vehicle segments.

“Customers didn’t want to go up to the highest trim level to get those safety features that drive up the cost significantly,” Daniel said. “They wanted to get those features in the base models but couldn’t. But that started to change right around 2018.”

Today, GM, Ford and RAM now offer ADAS options in their base model light-duty pickup trucks for a premium of about $1,200 to $2,000 – a more feasible price tag for fleet managers to build a business case around.

“If you have the data, you can work with the safety department to say, ‘Here’s the number of front-end crashes, backing collisions and incidents from changing lanes we’ve had.’ And then discuss how the new safety systems can help reduce those collisions – and the costs associated with them,” said John Adkisson, a fleet industry veteran who has worked for PPL Electric Utilities and Asplundh Tree Expert LLC.

“It’s an easy sell to say, ‘Sure. It’s going to cost an extra $2,000 a unit. But we’re doing this to improve driver safety.’ And then you evaluate over the next year or so to see how the safety record of the new trucks compares to that of the other vehicles.”

2. Translate the data.
Telematics is a powerful tool to monitor and detect unsafe driver behaviors, such as rapid acceleration, hard braking and speeding.

But having the ability to capture driver data is not enough. You must also be able to translate what that information means to the operations groups and how they can use it to improve the organization’s overall driver safety performance. 

“As the fleet manager, your job is to decipher what all that [telematics] data means to the operations groups,” Adkisson said. “This way, they can trust the data and determine whether or how they should act on it or not. After all, as a fleet manager, I don’t have control over the drivers. But if I have access to the data, I must provide it in a way that minimizes the pain for the operations groups to get the information and help them decipher what to do with it.”

3. Facilitate quicker reporting.
The daily vehicle inspection process is a crucial component of any driver safety program because it’s intended to uncover potential issues on vehicles before they lead to catastrophic component failures that put the operators – and the public – at greater risk on the roads.

If a driver documents a potential problem during a daily inspection, they need a way to communicate that issue with the fleet department to get it remedied quickly.

And that’s an area you can influence as a fleet manager to impact driver safety significantly.

“Technology is getting to the point where the fleet manager can facilitate the daily maintenance by ensuring that the driver is engaged in the process to look for certain things and report any issues as soon as possible,” Adkisson said. “It could be through an app or some other electronic means to document any issues and provide a speedy way to get that information to the fleet department to schedule service to fix it. The driver can use a phone app that takes pictures of the problem and scans a barcode – something that’s easily put onto the vehicle that has all the important vehicle information.”

The Bottom Line
If you want to help improve driver safety performance – and reduce the costs related to vehicular collisions – commit to consistent communication and collaboration with all stakeholders.

Work closely with the safety department and operations groups to develop vehicle specs with maximum safety in mind.

Communicate to the operations groups how they can use and interpret telematics data to identify reckless driving behaviors to develop strategies to mitigate those risks.

And look for ways to use technology to make it faster and easier for drivers to communicate any vehicle issues to your department – to prevent potentially dangerous breakdowns on the road that could put those drivers’ lives at risk.

This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series December 2021

An Electric Pickup to Watch: The 2022 Rivian R1T

In recent months, Ford and GM have unveiled their concept models with plans to build an all-electric full-size pickup truck beginning next year.

But there’s one OEM with actual electric truck production models on the roads right now.

It’s Rivian (, an Irvine, California-based startup that raised $10.5 billion and recently filed to go public.

And the company’s first R1T electric pickup truck, offering a range of about 300 miles, rolled off the assembly line in Normal, Illinois, on September 14.

The price tag starting at $67,500 is a barrier to widespread fleet adoption. But the capabilities of this first-to-market electric truck offer a glimpse of what’s possible for utility fleet applications in the coming years.

In the meantime, here’s what we know about the Rivian R1T pickup so far.

What configurations and packages are available?

All R1T models are available in one configuration – a crew cab that seats five.

Although the Launch Edition is sold out, Rivian is offering two other packages with deliveries starting in January: the Adventure package, a premium model starting at $73,000, and the Explore package, designed for more rugged use, starting at $67,500.

What’s the range between charges?

The R1T’s standard battery pack delivers an EPA-estimated 314 miles of range when paired with 21-inch wheels. According to Rivian, the 20-inch wheels reduce range by 10 to 15%. And the range drops by 5 to 10% with the 22-inch wheels.

As with any electric vehicle, real-world battery range will vary depending on driving style, climate conditions, terrain, payload, trailer weight and several other factors.

An optional 400-plus-mile-range battery will be available in January. And the company said it also has a 250-plus-mile-range battery in the works, but the timing has not been announced.

How long does it take to charge?

DC fast chargers (Level 3 chargers) can add up to 140 miles of range in 20 minutes. Or, it takes under an hour to fully charge Rivian’s standard 300-plus-mile-range battery.

With the Rivian Wall Charger (11.5 kW) for home installation, the charge rate is about 25 miles of range per hour – or about 12 hours to fully charge the standard battery. The Wall Charger is compatible with other electric vehicles using the J1772 plug.  

Will four-wheel drive be offered?

Yes, but it’s more like four-motor drive, consisting of two dual-motor drive units – one for the front axle and the other for the rear.

The front-axle drive unit delivers 415 horsepower with 413 foot-pounds of torque. In the rear, the dual motors generate 420 horsepower and 495 foot-pounds of torque.

The quad-motor drive system independently adjusts torque at each wheel for precise traction control in all conditions and enables torque vectoring – the ability to neutralize oversteer and understeer to help keep the vehicle steady and responsive through sharp maneuvers while off-roading and in the snow.

Also, the R1T’s independent air suspension allows for about 6 inches of ride-height adjustment to improve handling, comfort, aerodynamics and stability with varying terrain and payloads.

What is the payload capacity?

The Rivian R1T can haul a maximum of 1,760 pounds, according to Car and Driver.

How much cargo space is available?

The front trunk – or “frunk,” where a conventional engine would be – measures 25.4 inches by 54.8 inches with a depth of 22.7 inches. That’s enough space to carry large suitcases and coolers.

The truck bed is 4.5 feet long (54.1 inches) with the tailgate up. You can extend the bed floor to about 7 feet (83.9 inches) with the tailgate down.

There’s also weatherproof and lockable storage available under the bed floor to fit an optional full-size spare tire, or it can be used as a cooler, with an integrated plug for drainage.

What is the trailering capacity?

The R1T can tow up to 11,000 pounds. But here’s an important consideration to note: Expect around a 50% reduction in range when towing at full capacity, according to Rivian.

What onboard power systems will be available?

The R1T includes four 120-volt and two 12-volt outlets. There’s also a standard onboard air compressor (up to 150 psi).

What safety features are on the R1T?

The Rivian Driver+ safety system includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automatic lane change, auto-steer and automatic braking.

The system also includes an interior camera to monitor driver alertness. When it detects that a driver’s attention has drifted away from the road, the system automatically prompts them to place their hands on the wheel to continue driving.

How extensive is the service network?

Rivian’s first line of service is via remote diagnostics and over-the-air software updates.

The company also offers mobile service vans staffed with Rivian technicians who perform the majority of service requirements at the office or on the job site.

Rivian said it would pick up the vehicle and bring it to a Rivian service location for more extensive repairs.

What remains unclear is the actual size of Rivian’s service network and the limits to their ability to perform mobile service or pickup.

Fleets should confirm Rivian’s ability to provide service to vehicles in their area.

What’s the warranty?

The Rivian R1T limited factory warranty includes these coverages:

  • The standard comprehensive limited warranty is five years or 60,000 miles. This coverage consists of all parts and labor necessary to correct defects in materials or quality of any parts manufactured or supplied by Rivian that occur under normal operation.
  • Battery pack coverage: eight years or 175,000 miles.
  • Drivetrain coverage: eight years or 175,000 miles, including electric motors, gearbox assembly and the dual power inverter module with high-voltage cables.
  • Corrosion coverage: eight years with unlimited miles.
This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series December 2021

Stocking Critical Parts in a Supply Chain Crisis

A semiconductor shortage has crippled production in the automotive sector, forcing many utility fleets to extend the service life of their existing vehicles until new units arrive, whenever that may be.

And that could be a problem.

That’s because as the global economy emerges from the pandemic, the combination of increased consumer demand and constrained shipping capacity means that it could take longer than usual to get the necessary parts to keep your fleet up and running.

So, what can you do right now to ensure your shop has the critical parts you need, when you need them, to minimize disruption to your fleet operations?

UFP spoke with Paul Lauria, the president at Mercury Associates (, a Rockville, Maryland-based fleet management consulting firm, to get his perspective and advice. He shared these five strategies.

1. Prioritize mission-critical assets.
Focus on stocking parts for mission-critical specialty vehicles and equipment, such as bucket trucks, digger derricks and so forth.

What defines “mission critical”?

“Those are the vehicles that, when they go down, you need to get them back online quickly,” Lauria said. “The key is to segment the fleet into different ‘buckets’ based on the kind of tolerance a company has for going without a vehicle when it breaks down and cannot be repaired because a part is not available.”

The idea here is to ensure you have parts on hand – or on order as soon as possible – for the vehicles where downtime is unacceptable and the parts aren’t as readily available from OEMs as they would be for, say, more mass-market-type vehicles like pickup trucks and sedans.

2. Dig into the data.
Once you’ve identified your highest-priority segments, analyze those vehicles’ usage, maintenance and repair data to determine the spare parts you should always have on the shelf.

“It’s crucial to know what your waiting tolerances are,” Lauria said. “‘If this kind of vehicle goes down, we need to get it up and running in 24 hours.’ Or is it, ‘We need to get it operational in the next four hours’? If it’s the latter, you don’t want to be getting on the phone trying to figure out if you can source something either locally or via overnight air. By that time, it’s too late.”

Digging into your fleet data can help you determine which vehicle systems and components are prone to imminent failure.

“What are the failure rates for those components? What are the mean times to failure? Tracking this type of data can help you see ahead and order the parts sooner – to give you more of a time cushion in case there are delays,” Lauria said. 

3. Consider your location.
Where your fleet operates determines the extent of the potential disruption to your parts supply chain. So, if you’re in a rural area, it’s more important than ever to be proactive when managing your spare parts inventory.

“If you’re operating a co-op fleet in southwestern Wisconsin, for example, your options and margin for error concerning parts availability and inventory size are quite different than if you’re a large utility in a massive metro area, where there are several points of supply for parts,” Lauria said. “But even then, you have certain specialty trucks where it doesn’t matter if you’re in Southern California; you still have to source those parts from Canada, Europe or wherever the supplier is located, which might be impacted by shipping delays.”

4. Collaborate with suppliers.
Work closely with your OEM reps. Do they anticipate any supply chain issues with certain types of critical parts that you need? Their outlook will give you greater market visibility to help you maintain optimal inventory levels.

Your vendors can also help you identify which spare parts to prioritize. “We always recommend to our clients that when they develop purchase specs for any kind of specialized trucks or equipment to include a requirement that the bidders also provide critical spare parts,” Lauria said. “This way, you know that, from the manufacturer’s perspective, these are the critical spare parts you should always have in stock. The parts may be critical because the manufacturer knows that, for example, the hydraulic system is more prone to wear. Or it may be because the OEM has to source those parts from Europe or China and take a while to ship.”

5. Err on the side of having too much.
Keeping a lean shop inventory has long been a sign of efficient operations. But with supply chain disruptions, fleet managers must adjust their approach to fit today’s environment.

“The parts shortages have created a bit of a wake-up call, just like the retailers, which have woken up to the realization that their supply chains have been too tight,” Lauria said. “We need some slack in the supply chain but don’t have it. So, if I have to choose between being more efficient or having an oversupply and being less efficient, I’m choosing an oversupply of parts to ensure the effectiveness of the fleet. I’m going to err on the side of having too much in this supply chain environment.”

The Bottom Line
Most logistics experts say that the supply chain crunch could persist for years, not just months. So, what’s your plan for ensuring you have the critical parts you need when you need them?

This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series December 2021
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