Author: Sean M. Lyden

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Could Cutting the Cord Accelerate Electric Vehicle Growth?

If your fleet operates plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) – or is planning to do so – there’s an emerging technology you’ll want to put on your radar that could impact your vehicle selection and charging infrastructure decisions within the next year or two.

It’s wireless EV charging, which proponents believe holds the key to widespread transportation electrification.

That’s because one of the friction points of operating EVs is the inconvenience of charging with a conventional cord and plug-in system, said David Schatz, vice president of business development and sales for WiTricity (, a firm that develops wireless charging systems for EVs, headquartered in Watertown, Mass.

Schatz cites a major automaker’s internal study that found that 70 percent of all plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) owners never plug in and opt for fueling only with gas because of the “inconvenience” of plugging in their vehicle.

The idea here is that if you cut the cord, you make EV charging more acceptable to a larger market because you’re not forcing users to change their behavior. “PHEV and EV drivers simply park over a charging pad in their garage, or at work, or at a shopping center and charge up with no hands, no effort,” Schatz said.

Wireless charging uses electromagnetic induction to transfer energy from the primary coil – that’s encased in a pad on the garage floor or ground surface of a parking area – to a secondary coil that’s installed on the vehicle’s undercarriage. When the vehicle is parked in the proper position – with the secondary coil directly over the primary coil – an indicator light goes on and charging begins.

Most major automakers are developing wireless EV charging systems, with a few of the OEMs introducing wireless capabilities in the next year or so, including Mercedes with the S550e plug-in hybrid and BMW with the i3 electric vehicle and i8 plug-in hybrid. Evatran LLC ( has been selling its Plugless Level 2, a retrofit wireless charging system available for Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac ELR.

Experts Peer Into Their Crystal Ball
So, what developments can we expect in wireless EV charging in the next five years? How will it impact growth in the EV market? UFP reached out to industry experts to get their outlook.

“In the next few years, we should see the rollout of wireless charging as an option for plug-in vehicles,” said Lisa Jerram, principal research analyst for Navigant Research ( “I think it’ll be more widespread among the premium [plug-in electric vehicles], but it will be available from other OEMs as well. We’ll also see it being tested in controlled fleet applications. In five years, that could grow to fleet operation in city centers, perhaps electric taxi or rideshare programs. I don’t anticipate it becoming a huge part of the market within five years, but we should see a growing push to use it in electrified urban fleets.”

Andrew Daga is president and chief executive officer at Momentum Dynamics Corp. (, based in Malvern, Pa. The company has developed a technology that provides “dynamic charging,” which is currently being tested on a couple municipal electric bus fleets, where vehicles can be recharged wirelessly while they’re in motion or stopped briefly at each stop on the route.

Daga’s outlook: “Every EV produced in the passenger vehicle space will have inductive [wireless] charging technology built in at the production line [in the next five years]. This is not a crystal ball view, it is what we see clearly. We envision that wireless charging is the key to enabling technology that will allow all types of vehicles to become electric, and that it will cause an S-curve adoption acceleration of EVs when fueling becomes an automated background operation. Drivers and fleet operators will not need to think about fueling; it will simply happen. Wireless does for charging what E-ZPass electronic toll collection has done for collecting tolls.”

John Boodhansingh is senior director of product management for Qualcomm (, which has developed the Halo Wireless EV Charging (WEVC) system for a number of automakers, including Daimler AG with its upcoming 2018 Mercedes S550e.

“The future of wireless EV charging is bright in the next five years,” Boodhansingh said. “Many automakers have committed to include WEVC, and the number of models that will have WEVC is increasing. And as that increases, that will, in turn, drive the installation of more charging infrastructure for WEVC. At Qualcomm, we view wireless charging as an enabler for the growth of the EV market because it allows drivers to easily and effortlessly charge at home, at work and when visiting retailers. The availability of effortless charging can also help reduce range anxiety because drivers can top off frequently and don’t have to worry about making it to their destination.”

Schatz with WiTricity predicted: “Over the next three years we will first see wireless charging introduced for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, charging at the 3.6-kilowatt level, so the PHEV can be fully charged in just two to four hours. Then we will see electric vehicles in 2018 and 2019 charging at 7.7-kilowatt and 11-kilowatt charge rates, and by 2020 we expect nearly every global carmaker to have introduced or announced vehicles equipped with wireless charging. Wireless charging will mainly be installed in private garages and at fleet depots. But once standardization is achieved [where chargers are compatible across any make and model vehicle], we will see wireless charging parking spots at company parking lots, retail parking lots and other public parking locations.”

The Bottom Line
A lot is expected to happen in wireless EV charging over the next few years that could impact your purchase decisions with electric vehicles and your investments in on-site charging infrastructure. So, stay tuned.

Save the Date for Utility Fleet Conference 2017

As 2016 comes to a close, you’re likely evaluating possible fleet education programs for 2017 that can help you become more valuable in the industry – and indispensable to your employer. If that’s the case for you, then consider saving these dates on your calendar: October 2-4, 2017.


That’s when the second Utility Fleet Conference (UFC) will be held. Produced by our team at Utility Fleet Professional magazine, UFC 2017 is an intensive three-day fleet education event that will be co-located with the popular International Construction & Utility Equipment Exposition (ICUEE) at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.

Our objective is clear: to build UFC 2017 into a fleet education and networking event that you can’t experience anywhere else. We’re creating about a dozen 90-minute sessions that drill deep into the trends, best practices and success strategies specific to the unique challenges you face in utility fleet environments. You’ll learn not only from industry insiders and experts but also from your peers who understand – and have overcome – many of the in-the-trenches challenges you face on a day-to-day basis in your organization.

UFC 2017 will offer you an exclusive forum where you can ask tough questions, get candid answers and meet new people who can help you take your fleet’s performance and your career to the next level.

The inaugural Utility Fleet Conference was held at ICUEE in 2015, and we were amazed by the turnout and participation for a first-time event. The feedback we received made it a no-brainer for us to do it again at the next ICUEE in 2017. We learned so much from many of you who were pioneers with us at our first UFC. You were more than conference attendees; you were our partners who provided our team with valuable insights into what worked well and what we should change for future events. And we’ve taken your input to heart as we build UFC into an even more valuable investment of your time and money in 2017.

So, if you’re looking for a dynamic professional development event to help you expand your fleet knowledge – and your network – you’ve found it. Block out October 2-4, 2017, for the Utility Fleet Conference 2017 and stay tuned for new details and the opportunity to register in the coming weeks!

Sean M. Lyden


Mobile Command Centers Accelerate Emergency Response for Consumers Energy

Utility companies can’t control Mother Nature. When an ice storm, high winds, torrential rain or any major weather event knocks out power for hundreds of thousands or even millions of customers, a lot is at stake to get power back online fast – from the health and safety of residents to the economic impact of lost power and revenues on local businesses.

However, utilities can control how they prepare for and respond to Mother Nature’s wrath. And that’s precisely what Consumers Energy, the largest electric and gas utility in Michigan, has sought to do with its recent purchase of two 30-foot mobile command centers: provide better coordination between utility management, crews and first responders in the field, so they can restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

Each of the vehicles is built on a 2016 Ford F-59 stripped chassis with a Utilimaster step-van body, and the cargo area is furnished with workstations and state-of-the-art communications systems.

But what exactly is a mobile command center? What are its advantages for utility companies? UFP spoke with Aaron Kantor, director of emergency management and public safety for Consumers Energy, to get the utility’s story.

Conference Rooms on Wheels
Consumers Energy took delivery of the trucks this summer, with one deployed to Jackson and the other deployed to Clinton Township, Mich. Both are positioned to respond to local emergencies and to support the utility’s wider-spread storm restoration work.

Each unit is equipped with the latest communications technologies, including backup satellite internet and 800-megahertz radio equipment, to keep communication channels available in case typical systems aren’t operational. Inside the step van’s cargo area is the command center, with five laptop-ready workstations, a plotter to print large maps and blueprints, a conference table and a large television screen.

“What the vehicle really provides for is a conference room on wheels with redundant communications systems that can support our response to a variety of emergencies,” Kantor said. “During emergencies, our No. 1 priority is the safety of the public and our crews. These vehicles augment our emergency response capabilities by providing a mobile command center for our field leadership to work out of, with redundant cellular modems and satellite networks to provide access to our company network and internet. These vehicles will be extremely helpful, especially for the more rural parts of our service territory.”

More Effective, Efficient Coordination
The purpose of each mobile command center, according to Kantor, is to create a “one-stop shop” for emergency response, where all key team members can work together in close proximity in the field.

“Consumers Energy has adopted the Incident Command System as our common response structure that we use for any and all emergencies,” he said. “And part of that structure requires close collaboration among our field leadership for electric and gas operations and other support roles, including a safety officer, liaison officer – who interfaces on the scene with any police or fire departments that may be responding to that incident – and a public information officer who provides support for both internal and public communications. The new mobile command centers support this collaborative structure by providing key necessities for responding to emergencies effectively, including communications and fully functioning workstations with printing and plotter access.”

For more information about the Incident Command System, visit

Prior to deploying the mobile command centers, Consumers Energy’s emergency response team couldn’t work together as closely as they needed to in the field. The vehicles they were using for the command center role – pickup trucks and service vans – only allowed for up to two employees to collaborate on-site, while the other team members had to work remotely to be able to access the technology tools they needed to effectively coordinate the emergency response efforts.

But now, all those tools are available in one truck, making it possible for all team members to work together in one place. And that means better communication and faster decision-making.

“What the new mobile command center trucks really provide is that one-stop shop – not only for our field leadership, but also for the supporting organizations within the business – to bring to bear one comprehensive effort to effectively respond to any emergency while ensuring the safety of our communities and crews,” Kantor said.

The mobile command centers also make a bold statement to the public: that the utility has all hands on deck to do everything in its power to get services restored to customers as quickly as possible.

An Expanding Fleet Segment
Consumers Energy is among a growing number of utilities – including Florida Power & Light Co., Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Tampa Electric, to name a few – that operate large, highly advanced mobile command centers.

“We have seen other utilities across the nation deploying these types of vehicles as an expanded commitment to emergency response,” Kantor said. “So, with our planning efforts, we spoke with those utilities and incorporated their vehicle development and deployment learnings into our own processes.”

When designing the mobile command centers, the Consumers Energy team had one overarching vision in mind, Kantor said: “That when outages or other emergencies occur, these vehicles enable us to deploy competent leadership with the tools they need on hand that help them ensure public safety, while restoring services to our customers effectively and efficiently.”

Photo: Consumers Energy


Mobile Command Center Spec Sheet

Chassis: 2016 Ford F-59 stripped chassis

GVWR: 22,000 pounds

Engine: 6.8-liter Ford gasoline engine

Transmission: Ford TorqShift six-speed automatic

Body: Thirty-foot aluminum walk-in step-van body built by Utilimaster. Body design was a joint effort between Consumers Energy and Utilimaster.

Equipment: Backup satellite internet, 800-megahertz radio equipment, five laptop-ready workstations, plotter to print large maps and blueprints, conference table, large television screen

Source: Mark Wolski, fleet acquisition and disposition for Consumers Energy


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

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

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

New Model: ARGO Conquest 8×8 Lineman XTi

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

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

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

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

New Model: Terramac RT14R 360-Degree Rotating Carrier

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

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

The RT14R uses Terramac’s rubber track technology, giving the machine a minimal ground pressure of 7.9 psi while fully loaded so that it can safely navigate extreme conditions and mountainous terrain where wheeled machines are likely to create ruts and get stuck.

Terramac’s RT14R also enhances job site safety by eliminating the amount of time an operator spends reversing a unit, and by offering better ergonomics and visibility with upgraded features, such as a wide-access door for easy entry and exit, windows on all sides and a large mirror for increased visibility.

New Model: PowerTraxx RT8

PowerTraxx recently introduced a new line of continuous rubber tracked vehicles: the PowerTraxx RT (Rubber Track) series. The first model that’s available now is the RT8, based on the PowerTraxx 08-H chassis, and the company said the other models in the series – the RT5, RT10 and RT15 – are in development.

The RT8 offers a payload capacity of 20,000 pounds and is designed for mounting heavy equipment, including digger derricks and aerial devices, with a light footprint to minimize impact on environmentally sensitive terrain.

The company said that operators can expect the same features and comforts on an RT series vehicle that current users have become accustomed to on a D-dent (steel-track) PowerTraxx vehicle.

For the rubber track itself, PowerTraxx elected to use the Morooka MST 3000 rubber track, which is 32 inches wide. The rubber tracks combine the characteristics of a tire-equipped vehicle, such as speed and smooth ride, while providing the traction of a steel track.

The MST 3000 track has not been modified in any way to fit the RT8, which means that current Morooka users can stock one replacement track that will fit both vehicles in the PowerTraxx RT series and their existing Morooka-tracked fleet vehicles.

New Updates: Polaris GEM eM1400

In the past year, Polaris Industries Inc. announced updates to extend battery range and enhance driver comfort and ergonomics for its line of GEM electric UVs, including the eM1400 model, designed for lighter-duty, yet higher-speed applications, with the versatility to travel indoors, outdoors, on streets, on sidewalks or off-road – with zero emissions and lower operational costs than comparable fuel-powered machines.

The all-electric eM1400 offers payload and towing capacities of 1,400 pounds and 1,250 pounds, respectively, with a top speed of 19 mph and range up to 45 miles, depending on temperature, terrain, payload and driving style.

And the eM1400 features a durable aluminum chassis that passes SAE roof-crush-test standards; front-wheel disc brakes; an automotive-style suspension; and premium safety features that include high-back forward-facing seats, three-point seat belts and an automotive glass windshield.

New Upgrades and Options: Hydratrek D2488B

The amphibious Hydratrek D2488B is built for navigating steep slopes, trudging through heavy brush, traveling over snow or sand, hovering over swamplands, and even floating and powering across creeks and rivers, with a towing capacity of 8,000 pounds and payload capacities of 3,000 pounds on land and 1,400 pounds in water.

The rear cargo bed can be used for either material handling or carrying personnel. And current options include front- or rear-mounted electric or hydraulic winch; seating for nine adults; powder-coat paint; saltwater kit; closed cab system; tie-down points; backup alarm; rear cargo rack; spine board; mounting hardware; emergency lighting; and quick-connect hydraulics.

The company said that for 2016 and 2017, new upgrades and options for this model include an available front-mounted brush cutter; rear anchor setter system; four-blade propellers for improved water performance; HIPPO Multipower generation system; larger pontoons for increased flotation; and suspension-style seating for the operator’s cab.

Photo: ARGO


Anti-Theft Technologies to Protect Your Heavy Equipment

In 2014, heavy equipment theft cost U.S. companies about $400 million, and only 23 percent of stolen machines were ever recovered, according to a report by the National Equipment Register and National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Beyond a utility fleet’s loss of a machine itself, the fleet manager also has to factor in the costs associated with short-term equipment rentals, project delays and valuable personnel time consumed by dealing with the incident.

So, what can you do to protect your equipment and your organization’s bottom line? Here are three anti-theft technologies to consider.

1. Keyless Ignition System
Equipment manufacturers have traditionally opted for a one-key-fits-all approach that makes it convenient for equipment operators at job sites to operate any one of a number of similar machines without having to carry numerous unique keys. But this approach also makes it much more convenient for thieves, who can easily purchase these keys online (see as just one example). Then they can go to the nearest job site, find an accessible machine and drive it onto a trailer to haul it away.

How can you make it tougher for thieves? Consider a keyless ignition system.

One example is Start-Smart by Keytroller (, which provides a hidden wireless relay installed in the starter circuit that – when the relay is disabled – cuts off power to the starter, preventing a key or even an attempted hot-wire of the machine from being able to start the engine. The operator then uses the Start-Smart programmable keypad ignition to input a valid code or radio-frequency identification card, which enables the wireless relay and provides power to the starter circuit. At that point, the user can press start on the keypad and the engine will fire up.

2. Telematics
Think of a keyless ignition system, like Start-Smart, as a first line of defense against theft. But what if thieves are still able to find a way to take a piece of your equipment? And how will you know when it has been stolen if no one is at the job site at the time of the incident?

One answer is telematics, which uses wireless GPS technology to capture and transmit equipment location, condition and performance data via satellite or cell signal to authorized employees, who can then access that information through a website or have it sent directly to their smartphone as a text message or push notification.

Most telematics systems provided by equipment manufacturers or third-party vendors offer the option to set up geofencing alerts, where you create a virtual perimeter around a specified area on a job site. This way, when a thief attempts to move a machine outside its authorized area, you’ll know instantly and can respond quickly to give law enforcement the real-time tracking information they need to recover the unit before it’s too late.

3. Radio-Frequency Tracking
Although early detection through telematics is helpful, one of the downsides of GPS tracking is that these systems require line of sight with satellites or cell towers to transmit signals. And that means the tracking device needs to be installed on a highly visible area of the machine, which makes it easier for thieves to locate and disable the system.

So, now what? How do you recover your stolen asset?

That’s where a radio-frequency (RF) tracking device, such as the LoJack Stolen Vehicle Recovery System (, comes in. Since RF signals don’t require line of sight with satellites or cell towers, the LoJack system can track stolen equipment in places where GPS and cellular devices can’t – even if the machine is hidden in a parking garage, a heavily wooded area or a container on a ship. This also allows the LoJack transceiver to be installed on a discreet area of the machine, making it harder for a thief to find and disarm it.

The Bottom Line
There’s no one silver-bullet technology that can completely protect your equipment from theft. But any one of these three types of systems can at least help improve your odds of not losing valuable assets in the field. And a combination of all three would seem to cover all your bases – from theft prevention to instant notification to fast recovery.

Photo: LoJack


Top Targets for Thieves

By Category:
• Light Utility Vehicles/Work Trucks and Trailers
• Backhoe Loaders/Skip Loaders/Wheel Loaders
• Generators/Air Compressors /Welders (Towables)
• Skid Steers

By Brand:
• Ford
• Bobcat
• John Deere
• Caterpillar

Source: 2013 LoJack proprietary theft and recovery data

Finding the Opportunity in Every Obstacle

A top mechanic suddenly quits when your shop is already overwhelmed with a huge backlog. Or, your upfitter falls several weeks behind schedule, delaying delivery of trucks that your customers needed yesterday.

As a fleet manager, you’re confronted with numerous obstacles that knock you off kilter, causing you to feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to best proceed. But what if you could grow your capacity to keep calm under pressure to find the best way to solve your problems?

That’s precisely what Ryan Holiday teaches in his best-selling book “The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” ($14.85, The book draws from the ancient Greek philosophy of stoicism to show today’s leaders how to overcome adversity with greater perseverance and resilience.

Here are my three takeaways – with relevant quotes from Holiday – that I think can help you navigate the obstacles you face every day in fleet.

1. An event is not inherently good or bad – it’s how we perceive it that makes it so. “Where one person sees a crisis, another can see opportunity. Where one is blinded by success, another sees reality with ruthless objectivity. Where one loses control of emotions, another can remain calm. Desperation, despair, fear, powerlessness – these reactions are functions of our perceptions. You must realize: Nothing makes us feel this way; we choose to give in to such feelings.”

2. Don’t fear failure; learn from it. “When failure does come, ask: What went wrong here? What can be improved? What am I missing? This helps birth alternative ways of doing what needs to be done, ways that are often much better than what we started with. Failure puts you in corners you have to think your way out of. It is a source of breakthroughs.”

3. Within each obstacle is an opportunity, if we look for it. “It’s one thing to not be overwhelmed by obstacles, or discouraged or upset by them. This is something that few are able to do. But after you have controlled your emotions, and you can see objectively and stand steadily, the next step becomes possible: a mental flip, so you’re looking not at the obstacle but at the opportunity within it.”

Holiday’s bottom-line message: When you train yourself to see the opportunity in every obstacle, you gain the mindset you need to solve your biggest challenges – and become a more effective and valuable leader to your organization.

Sean M. Lyden


The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Pete J. Matrunola, director of fleet services at Consumers Energy (, Michigan’s largest electric and gas utility with 6,227 assets in its fleet.

#1. Make safety the No. 1 priority.
“Safety is the most essential component of a successful utility fleet. So, take the time to invest in safety initiatives and programs that instill a culture around providing a safe work environment and excellent service for your employees and your customers. Safety must not simply be something that is done when it is convenient – it must be a core value and the only way to perform your work.”

#2. Build relationships.
“At work and in life, it is always easier to accomplish tasks and goals when everyone is working together. Spend time with your employees, customers and vendors to fully understand them and their needs, wants, limitations, abilities and so forth. By forging those relationships with your employees and business partners, each becomes engaged to achieve the common goal – to build a safe, reliable, cost-effective and compliant fleet operation.”

#3. Know your finances.
“Your fleet department will always be asked to do more with less. As such, it is critical to fully understand your finances and be flexible enough to quickly adjust to the growing needs of the business. Also, be receptive to change and look to instill a culture of continuous improvement. This will stimulate an efficient fleet that drives consistent financial performance.”


Boost Your Department’s Visibility, Value and Productivity With an Email Newsletter

There’s a tendency for senior management to view fleet as a cost center and “necessary evil,” with little appreciation for the value the department brings to the business as a whole. So, when it’s time to cut spending, the fleet budget becomes a primary target, putting greater pressure on the fleet manager to do more with less.

How do you counter this impulse at your company? How can you bolster your department’s standing with management to garner the resources you need to do your job well?

Try starting a monthly email newsletter that keeps management and end users in the loop about the department’s latest news, vehicle order status and performance.

It’s a communication tool that has worked effectively for Matt Gilliland, fleet services manager at Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), which operates over 1,100 fleet assets.

Since Gilliland and his team launched their department’s email newsletter about seven years ago, it has not only helped them expand fleet’s influence with management, but it has also enabled the department to operate more efficiently, increasing its value throughout the organization.

“At the time, no one in the district really knew what fleet was doing,” Gilliland said. “We just weren’t that visible. We were tucked away in the corner, and that was it. The newsletter has given us an opportunity to communicate our work – and value – within the organization because, as I tell my guys, our blue stripes and orange bumpers on our vehicles are by far the best advertising we do as a district. And how we manage those vehicles is vital to how the public perceives us – and how much confidence they have in us.”

NPPD’s fleet newsletter is sent around the 25th of each month to anyone who is assigned a fleet asset or who directly supervises somebody who is assigned a fleet asset.

When Gilliland and his team launched the newsletter, their initial aim was to create a more efficient way to communicate with stakeholders.

“We were bombarded with calls about vehicle replacements and order status, like, ‘Hey, when do I get my truck?’ ‘When is the new one coming here?’ ‘I need new tires – should I wait?’ The newsletter keeps end users informed, helping them get those answers on their own. And this has saved our staff a ton of time from having to handle all those calls,” Gilliland said.

The fleet team was also looking for a more effective system to broadcast important safety information to all stakeholders throughout the company. “Before the newsletter, we didn’t have a good way of communicating anything in a broadcast-type fashion,” Gilliland explained. “If there was a recall, or say we wanted to do an upgrade or an enhancement on a certain group of trucks – like relocating fire extinguishers or upgrading steps or installing better grab handles and other things along those lines – we didn’t really have a good way of communicating that.”

It’s one thing to send out an email newsletter, but it’s entirely another thing to get people to actually read it.

Gilliland said his department’s monthly newsletter has, on average, about a 75 percent open rate, a number that would make many marketing professionals jealous. He attributes the high readership rate to three factors: format, content and interactivity.

1. Easy-to-Read Format
The newsletter is designed in Microsoft Publisher as a one-page document, with a maximum of four headlines. A few sentences under each headline serve to motivate recipients to click to read more.

“We think of it as front-page news to get people to click the link that takes them to a Word document, PDF, Excel, PowerPoint or whatever it is we’re trying to communicate that offers a deeper dive into the information,” Gilliland said. “We may have five headlines if we have a really heavy month, but if we get more than four, it just gets a little too busy, and we’re trying to keep that from happening. We want it to be crisp, so it’s as easy as possible for people to find and access the information they need.”

2. Compelling Content
Study your audience and learn what interests them. For example, at NPPD, Gilliland noticed that sharing auction results not only keeps management informed of sales performance but also helps create higher anticipation among most recipients to read the newsletter.

“We have auctions about every six months, where we remarket our old assets. So, in our newsletter, we include what we sold and how much money it brought, which is extremely popular with end users. They’re curious and love to see how much their old trucks sold for,” Gilliland said.

Another important component of the newsletter is fleet performance data, which is especially valuable to senior management. “We benchmark fleets and compare how we perform as a fleet to those benchmarks,” Gilliland said. “The newsletter links to our performance dashboards to show where we are doing well and where we’re not as a company – such as idle time, cost per mile, cost per hour and all that type of stuff.”

And from time to time, change things up to keep it interesting, Gilliland advised. “About every year or two, we like to change the top portion of the newsletter just to mix it up so that people aren’t looking at the same thing all the time. We move around the different icons and different things like that.”

3. Interactivity
How do you know if email recipients are really consuming the content? One tip that has worked well for NPPD is to include trivia.

“Occasionally we’ll put an interactive trivia question in one of the documents that is linked within the newsletter. Then we know, based on how many responses to that question, how our readership is. Then we do a drawing based on the respondents. Those who answered correctly will be put into a drawing. We draw their name out of a hat, and they can win some prizes,” Gilliland said.

Another idea for driving high reader engagement is to periodically include a survey with the newsletter. “About every third month, we’ll include a survey where we ask a variety of questions,” Gilliland said. “Anytime that we want to do a change in practice or vehicle specifications, we’ll take the temperature of our customers with that survey.”

Putting together a monthly email newsletter that people want to read can take a lot of thought and time to successfully execute. So, how can you do it in a way that doesn’t overburden you and your staff?

“As far as implementation, first of all, my advice would be to research what is already out there so you’re not reinventing the wheel,” Gilliland said. “Look at a lot of different options, a lot of different communication techniques, and then find what is not only best for your company, but what fits your business unit the best. You’ve got to have the personnel that can support this. And you have to match the media to their skill set. You certainly don’t want to take this on in some sort of PowerPoint if you don’t have anybody that knows how to do PowerPoint.”

How does NPPD do it?

“My leadership team will draft the articles, which are then sent to my assistant who assembles the newsletter,” Gilliland said. “She makes sure the tone is right – that the content doesn’t come across as inflammatory or accusatory, especially if we’re dealing with safety issues where somebody might have goofed up. And then I serve as the editor. I will pick some articles, shuffle them around in order, change some of the verbiage, language, syntax, and then it gets sent out.”

Gilliland stresses that teamwork is essential to successful execution. “I think that our team’s influence, impact and position within the company are largely attributed to this communication tool. Yet it wouldn’t be possible without the team. There is no doubt that we are where we are due to the team that I have.”


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

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

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

Terex Texoma Spiral Bullet Tooth Auger

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

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

“The auger tooling a contractor uses should be performance-matched – not only to the drill rig but also to the ground conditions the rig is operating in,” Putnam said. “Too often, contractors spend a lot of time and effort trying to push an inefficient auger tool into tough ground conditions, resulting in slow production rates and excessive wear and tear on the tool.”

The Texoma spiral bullet tooth auger is designed for most ground conditions and is adaptable to any size of digger derrick truck.

Altec DT105 Digger Derrick

Introduced earlier this year, the DT105 is Altec’s largest digger derrick, with a 105-foot sheave height and 60,000 pounds maximum capacity. The DT105 is an ideal unit for transmission maintenance and construction but can also be used in a wide range of other applications.

According to Altec, the DT105 is the only digger derrick that comes standard with the Altec Load Moment Limiter Hirschmann display. This system allows the operator to set audible alarms and soft-stop kick-outs for area protection, and set pressure limits on the auger for both digging and cleaning to prevent equipment damage. Additionally, the Opti-View riding seat provides clear line of sight for operators and offers easy ingress and egress to enhance operator comfort and efficiency.

Ditch Witch RT125 Quad Utility Tractor

Long hours on the job site can take a toll on equipment operators. So, the new Ditch Witch RT125 Quad utility tractor features a redesigned operator station to boost productivity and prevent fatigue for operators during those long days on the job.

Operator comfort enhancements include an ergonomic, high-back rotating seat; upgraded control console with 120-degree rotation and easy-to-read gauges; more legroom and upgraded foot-pedal design; and a tilt steering column. The machines are also equipped with a 5-inch color LCD engine display for direct insight into engine performance information and diagnostics.

Also, the tractor’s quad track system, combined with rear steering, allows for a tighter turn radius and greater maneuverability to work more efficiently on any terrain. And the quad track frames provide a low center of gravity for improved stability and production.

For projects that require extra pull, the tractor’s shift-on-the-fly ground drive system senses load condition and automatically adjusts settings for optimal performance.

CASE CX130D and CX160D Excavators

CASE Construction Equipment recently introduced two new crawler excavators to its D Series lineup: the CX130D and CX160D. These new models are designed to achieve cycle times up to 5 percent faster, offer improved responsiveness and multifunctional controls, and provide up to 8 percent greater fuel efficiency, compared to previous models.

The basic operating specs include:
● CX130D: 102 horsepower; 29,131 pounds; bucket digging force: 20,233 to 21,357 foot-pounds.
● CX160D: 112 horsepower; 38,391 pounds; bucket digging force: 25,179 to 26,527 foot-pounds.

According to CASE, faster cycle times are achieved through a new electronically controlled pump, a larger control valve and multiple sensors. These features combine with the CASE Intelligent Hydraulic System and its four integrated control systems to make optimal use of the machine’s hydraulic power and momentum, resulting in added strength and fuel efficiency.

The CX130D and CX160D excavators also provide the operator with three working modes – Speed Priority, Heavy and Automatic – that help the machines conserve energy and exert only as much power as is needed to complete the job at hand.

The arm and boom of each new excavator have been built stronger for greater durability and to support the added power of the machines. The undercarriage is built with thicker steel and a new single-slope design that reduces dirt accumulation and eases cleaning. The CX130D is also available with an optional front dozer blade that provides added stability, while improving grading and backfilling capabilities.

Each machine is available with a new, optional LED working light package that provides illumination similar to sunlight – and is more than three times brighter than halogen lamps – allowing contractors to work at any time of day or night. The package includes six LED lights (two front, two rear and one on each side) and a side-view camera.


5 Keys to Digging Safety
How should your crews operate trenching equipment with maximum safety in mind? Katie Pullen, Warren Anderson and Philippe Bisson – brand marketing managers at CASE Construction Equipment – offer these five guidelines:

1. Know the surroundings and the location of people and objects. Do a full walkaround prior to excavation.

2. Make sure that all underground utilities have been marked and identified.

3. Take advantage of mirrors and cameras on equipment to improve visibility and site awareness.

4. Be mindful of tire or track orientation and avoid rapid movements during operation.

5. Follow regulations related to trench boxes and retaining systems when digging ditches.


The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Michael Donahue, manager of transportation and construction equipment at Omaha Public Power District, an electric utility headquartered in Omaha, Neb., with over 1,300 assets in its fleet.

#1. Master one aspect of fleet at a time.
“There are many aspects to learn about operating a fleet – learning how to write specs, learning about your customers’ needs, learning what vehicles are out there and available, and everything else that has to do with fleet. If you try to bite off everything at once, you’ll feel overwhelmed. Instead, I think it’s important just to jump in and take one bite at a time, learning about one aspect until you understand it. Then expand your knowledge from there.”

#2. Invest time to study your customers.
“Get to know your customers. Go to their work areas and watch them work. Ask them questions about what they’re doing, how they’re getting the job done and what equipment ideas they might have. Ask them for feedback on what they think could help them get things done more efficiently. And observe the equipment and operators in action. The more you know about your customers, the more effectively you can serve them.”

#3. Get involved in industry organizations, forums and events.
“Attend fleet conferences. I think they’re very valuable for networking and learning about issues and trends that could have the biggest impact on your operation. Attending industry events can help you connect with experienced fleet managers who can answer your questions and offer real-world advice.”

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