Author: Sean M. Lyden

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Win Them Over

As a fleet manager, your role is about more than managing assets; you also must manage and work with people to get things done.

Think about it. No matter how bulletproof you believe your proposal might be for, say, why the fleet department should receive a larger budget this year, you can expect some pushback from senior management.

That’s a given because people tend to resist change. The key is to win them over at their point of resistance. But how?

Learn to disarm those who disagree with you; don’t debate them. Otherwise, they’ll put up a wall, and you’ll lose their support.

That’s one of the big ideas from Dale Carnegie’s perennial bestselling classic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” – a book every leader should read.

Carnegie wrote, “There’s magic, positive magic in such phrases as: ‘I may be wrong. I frequently am. Let’s examine the facts.’”

The idea here is to begin any contentious conversation with humility and respect for the other party’s concern: “I may be wrong. I frequently am.”

This disarms them, signaling your openness to discuss the issue in good faith without getting defensive or appearing that you want to force your opinion down their throat.

Then shift to collaboration: “Let’s examine the facts.” Walk them through the data, connecting the dots as to how you arrived at your conclusion that a larger fleet budget is in the best interest of the entire business.

Address any further concerns without defensiveness and arrive at an agreeable conclusion, even if, at times, that means you agree to disagree.

But more often than not, you’ll find senior management appreciating the respect you’ve shown them, opening them up to your point of view and increasing your odds of winning them over.

The bottom line: When you admit the possibility of being wrong – no matter how right you might be – you set the tone for a productive conversation that opens the door to your influence.

Sean M. Lyden

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

Planning Your Fleet’s Transition to EVs

All major automakers have recently announced their commitments to selling only electric-drive vehicles by 2035. And that shift will bring new opportunities and challenges for utility fleets.

It will force you to change how you spec vehicles, manage “fueling” infrastructure, train your technicians and support crews in storm response situations.

So, where do you start? How do you plan for such a large-scale change effort? What should you be thinking about today to set up your fleet for success in the next decade?

UFP recently spoke with Brent Johnson, principal and co-founder at Sage Energy Consulting Inc. (, an energy planning and project management firm. He offered these six factors to keep in mind as you prepare your fleet for an all-electric future.

1. Motivation
What’s your objective? Why do you and your organization want to transition to EVs?

“This question is the starting point that impacts the rest of your plan,” Johnson said. “Are you doing it to fulfill a corporate mandate? Is it because you see the writing on the wall – that [fleet electrification] is coming? Or are there statutory or regulatory requirements forcing this initiative? Figure out that framework first because, in many ways, that drives the schedule – how urgent is this?”

2. Location
Where does your fleet operate? What incentives and regulations apply to those locations?

“Are you operating in California, which is leading the EV market? Or are you located where there may not be these statutory drivers and the incentives to make the transition a little bit easier on you? Geography and markets are critical as to how quickly you can do this and how much funding support you have available for it,” Johnson said. 

3. Acquisition
What’s your vehicle acquisition strategy?

“Do you own or lease your vehicles? Your answer can change how you approach the transition,” Johnson said.


“When you own, you decide the rollout schedule, vehicle replacement cycles, product selection, charging infrastructure and so forth. But when you lease, you’re handing a lot of that decision-making off to a third party. And that third-party entity needs to have an offering that works and fits your objectives and timetable,” Johnson said.

The challenge is that it’s still early days in the development of lease offerings for commercial EVs.

“There are a lot of new [business] models being developed for leasing EVs right now,” Johnson said. “And some of the bigger leasing entities are on top of this. But there are also several startups emerging in this market. Most utilities are relatively conservative and reticent to jump into a startup model for something this new. So, in those leasing scenarios, we tend to lean toward the larger, [more established] leasing companies to mitigate risk as much as possible.” 

4. Composition
What does your fleet look like? What jobs do those vehicles perform? How many miles do they travel daily?

“We recently spoke with an agency that has Class 7 and 8 vehicles that go into remote areas. And it’s a challenge to do something in the zero-emissions space with those types of vehicles,” Johnson said. “But passenger vehicles that operate in urban areas and have lots of charging opportunities – that’s a different story. Those [fleet applications] are much easier to transition right now.”

So, examine your fleet’s composition. Which vehicles can you replace with EVs based on current market availability? Which ones do you need to push off into the future because the market is not ready?

Although heavy-duty electric trucks may take several years to achieve widespread adoption, you can start testing them on a small scale in specific applications.

“We put those [heavier specialty vehicles] in the bucket of ‘pilot opportunities.’ A lot of times, there’s funding for these more unique applications for pilot programs,” Johnson said.

Where do you begin to determine which vehicles to transition to electric? Look at the data.

“We encourage fleets to have some sort of telematics if it’s not already in place,” Johnson said. “The telematics can help us figure out what that vehicle does on a daily basis and see if we can replace it with [a comparable EV] that’s on the market today.”

What should you look for in the data to determine whether a vehicle is a good candidate for an EV replacement?

“First, you’re looking mostly at the Class 1 segment because there are simply more products available right now that offer a decent range,” Johnson said. “Then, we want to see vehicles that travel 100 to 150 miles a day, not 400 to 500 miles. Also, the vehicles should return to base every night. We see some fleets where employees take the vehicles home or leave them at another facility. But if you’re not returning to base every night, the charging infrastructure piece gets tricky. It can be a challenge trying to make sure those vehicles get fully charged overnight at the employee’s home or somewhere else.” 

5. Construction
What’s your facility’s plan for building out sufficient charging infrastructure?

“If you only have a dozen or so Class 1 or 2 EVs, electrical supply and existing infrastructure is not usually a limiting factor. But when you get to 50 or 100 vehicles – and start getting in the heavier classes – now you’re talking about significant new loads per facility,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to begin thinking about, what is the power supply? What can the utility provide to the site? What’s the utility’s time frame to upgrade that service? In many cases, the charging infrastructure becomes the critical factor in determining the schedule. Engaging with the local electrical utility early in the process is important for larger-scale transitions.” 

6. Continuity
What about resiliency? How do you plan for continuing EV operations during storm response and other scenarios when there’s no electric power?

“I would say, in the near term, we can’t get away from fossil fuels and internal combustion engine generator sets for those emergency scenarios,” Johnson said. “And a lot of the resiliency planning that I see still includes holding on to some of your internal combustion vehicles. That’s because the market just hasn’t caught up with zero-emission offerings that can handle all the resiliency scenarios. So, we’ll likely see a couple of decades of a ‘bridge’ before we get over to a true zero-emission fleet that can handle those situations when we have grid outages.” 

The Bottom Line
“Put together a plan and dip your toe in the water with a pilot,” Johnson said. “There are many good incentives out there that can make pilots affordable, sometimes at even lower costs than your current ICE vehicles. The sooner you can try EVs on a small scale, the more successful you’ll be in transitioning the entire fleet over time.”

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

What’s New in Lifting Equipment for Utility Fleets in 2021

Lifting height, capacity, stability and range – these are all critical factors utility fleet professionals consider when spec’ing aerial platforms, cranes and other heavy-lifting equipment. They’re also looking for enhancements to machine safety, longevity and efficiency.

So, what new products in the lifting equipment space have emerged in the past year to help fleet managers improve their fleet’s performance? Here are seven developments to watch.

Terex Utilities
What’s New: Hi-Ranger TL48 telescopic aerial device for trouble truck applications

Terex Utilities’ new Hi-Ranger TL48 telescopic aerial device achieves a 53-foot maximum working height on a medium-duty chassis for utility trouble trucks.

“Utility customers were looking for material-handling capability throughout the work zone to accomplish switch work, small transformer replacements, insulator maintenance and other tasks without having to reposition the truck. This need was not being met on super-duty class vehicles and current products that were in the market – until now,” said Joe Caywood, Terex’s marketing director.

With a side reach of almost 32 feet, the TL48 offers a 500-pound bucket capacity and maximum material-handling capacity of 1,000 pounds. When the upper boom is horizontal, it can still achieve a jib capacity of 800 pounds, with the inner boom retracted at a 23-foot side reach and a 26-foot working height. In addition, the boom can handle up to 200 pounds when fully extended at a 32-foot side reach.

The TL48 is equipped with a rigid rectangular boom constructed from epoxy resin and biaxial wound fiberglass filament. This design ensures consistency in the boom’s insulating properties, size, density and strength-to-weight ratio.

Custom Truck One Source
What’s New: Load King LK-31-NE bucket van

The new Load King LK-31-NE non-insulated aerial device offers a working height of up to 36 feet and a platform capacity of 350 pounds on a Ford Transit van.

The aerial unit is equipped with an aluminum inner boom and fixed fly jib to increase payload capacity while putting less wear and tear on the van. Operators can access full feathering features at the bucket, with lower tether-mount controls for all boom functions.

Altec Industries
What’s New: DT85 digger derrick for the transmission market

The new Altec DT85 digger derrick for the utility transmission market offers a hydraulically powered sheave height of 85 feet and a lifting capacity as high as 10,200 pounds (30% higher than previous generations) at a 30-foot load radius.

The DT85’s safety features include a 360-degree ingress to the riding seat and Altec’s proprietary deployable steps at the tail shelf that reduce slip and fall risks.

JLG Industries
What’s New: 670SJ self-leveling boom lift

JLG’s 670SJ self-leveling boom lift began production at the end of August.

The 670SJ has a smart chassis system incorporated into the machine’s design, enabling the control system to sense ground conditions and make automatic adjustments to keep it level, even while driving, without the operator having to make manual adjustments. This self-leveling capability is important for work on undeveloped job sites and rough terrain projects, which are common in utility applications.

The machine’s boom lift offers a 67-foot platform height with a 550-pound unrestricted and 750-pound restricted capacity. It automatically levels on grades up to 10 degrees when in self-leveling mode. And there are two additional modes: standard mode for driving with the boom down at faster speeds, and shipping mode, which allows the suspension to be lowered during transport.

Maintainer Corp.
What’s New: Updated Advanced Crane Control system for service cranes

Maintainer Corporation of Iowa Inc. has introduced new enhancements to its Advanced Crane Control (ACC) system for Maintainer service truck cranes. Cranes equipped with the ACC 2.2 option will feature automatic stability zone charts, rotate stow assist and body collision prevention.

“Our standard Advanced Crane Control (2.1) already monitors crane lifts and will limit speed and capacity if stability is compromised,” said Nathan Schiermeyer, Maintainer’s director of product development and reliability. “ACC 2.2 now adds options that are designed to make life easier for the crane operator.”

The new system is programmed to recognize critical areas of the truck body and mounted accessories so the operator cannot accidentally damage the equipment with the crane. And the rotate stow assist feature slows and stops the crane in the proper position when stowing the crane back in the saddle to help the operator save time.

Terex Utilities
What’s New: Viatec SmartPTO

Terex Utilities has added Viatec SmartPTO to the company’s HyPower hybrid solutions to reduce idling, increase fuel savings, and minimize noise and air pollution by using stored plug-in electric power to operate the equipment.

Viatec SmartPTO is available on various Hi-Ranger telescopic, overcenter and non-overcenter aerial devices, and Commander and General digger derricks.

Terex’s lithium NMC (nickel, manganese and cobalt) batteries with storage capacity from 7 to 21 kWh offer a high power-to-weight ratio to minimize the weight impact on the truck’s payload capacity.

“The SmartPTO comes standard with a 14-kWh battery, which we found gets most crews through the normal workday. In higher-use applications, an optional 21-kWh battery is available,” said Robert Hasegawa, Terex product manager.

Venco Venturo
What’s New: Workforce service body packages for crane applications

Venco Venturo Industries announced that it has extended its commercial vehicle upfitting program to include new Workforce service body packages: Workforce25, Workforce45, Workforce55 and Workforce66.

The packages start at the lighter end with the Workforce25, which is designed for a 10,000-pound GVWR chassis, with an HT25KX telescopic service crane, offering a 5,000-pound lifting capacity, 25,000 foot-pound crane rating and up to a 25-foot hydraulic boom extension.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Workforce66, which is designed for a 33,000-pound GVWR chassis, with an HT66KX telescopic service crane, providing an 11,500-pound lifting capacity, 66,000 foot-pound crane rating and up to a 30-foot hydraulic boom extension.

This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series October 2021

Making the Best of the Way Things Turn Out

The delta variant. Automotive plant shutdowns. Order-to-delivery delays.

So much is in flux right now. And that’s when uncertainty and anxiety often begin to deplete our energy and cloud our judgment.

But in times like these, I’m reminded of a powerful quote by the legendary basketball coach John Wooden, who said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

Ride the Forces, Don’t Fight Them
The lesson here: You can’t control the market, supply chain issues, public health policy, the pandemic and many other external forces that could impact your success in managing your fleet.

But you can control how you respond to those forces – to channel whatever energy comes your way into something good that positions you for career growth.

Think about it. A 20-foot wave terrifies the average beachgoer, but it thrills a professional surfer who transforms that wave’s overwhelming power into a stage for performing breathtaking maneuvers – like an artist on the water.

It’s a matter of perspective. So, resist the temptation to complain about external forces you have no control over.

Instead, be ready to take on whatever comes your way. Learn how to ride the wave and harness its energy – before it crashes on you – to build momentum for your long-term success.

Ask yourself questions like, what limiting attitudes or beliefs about current challenges are holding me back from achieving my career goals? What changes do I need to make to get back on track toward my goals? What are my most significant challenges in this environment – and what potential opportunities can I find in them? How can I convert the negative energy I feel into productive action?

The Bottom Line
When you deal with things as they are, not as you wish they would be, you’ll be in the right mindset to, as Coach Wooden put it, “make the best of the way things turn out.”

Sean M. Lyden

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

What’s New in Digging Machines for Utility Fleets

Whether the job is digging trenches, drilling holes or digging in confined areas, you’re looking for machines and tools that can help your customers – the business units your department serves at your company – increase crew productivity at lower operating costs.

Those are also the goals that many heavy-equipment manufacturers have in mind as they design and develop new digging machines and accessories.

So, what’s new in digging machines for utility fleets this year? Here are six new developments to watch.

What’s New: Updated General 65 MAX digger derrick

Terex Utilities introduced the next-generation General 65 MAX digger derrick for utility transmission applications during the virtual Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference in June.

At a 10-foot radius and fully retracted, the General 65 MAX can lift 22,620 pounds. With the optional X-Boost, the General 65 MAX features 25,000 pounds of capacity at high boom angles, generating 26% more power than its predecessor.

The General 65 MAX incorporates Terex’s signature design features, such as trapezoidal dual hydraulic cylinders, which stabilize the boom during digging and rotating, a retractable rectangular boom and a filament-wound fiberglass third boom section.

Fleet professionals can equip the General 65 MAX with optional tools and accessories, including several styles of transferable pole-guide arms, material-handling jibs and a full lineup of Terex augers to match the digging conditions.

Ditch Witch
What’s New: MT26 Microtrencher

Ditch Witch’s new MT26 microtrencher attachment is part of a complete microtrenching system that includes the RT80 ride-on trencher and HX75 vacuum excavator.

With the MT26, operators can create a clean, deep, narrow trench in one pass and install cable deep enough to meet most requirements with minimal disruption to the surrounding infrastructure.

Designed with a standard hydraulic plunge to provide variable depth control, the MT26 can cut a clean trench from 1.5 inches up to 3 inches wide and down to 26 inches deep, which allows contractors to install a typical 2-inch fiber or power cable line with the required 2 feet of ground cover.

In the past, cutting a narrow trench at a 26-inch depth required a rock saw – which would leave a more invasive trench, with spoils and dirt on the road – or a horizontal directional drill, which would require more setup time.

The MT26 attachment can be equipped with various blades, including the standard carbide-tipped blades and the Ditch Witch PDC blades with diamond-embedded carbide. All blades are changeable with common hand tools. The MT26 is also compatible with 4-, 5- and 6-inch vacuum excavator hoses, allowing contractors to use their preferred vacuum excavator.

What’s New: QuickFire HD connection system for utility horizontal directional drills

The new Vermeer QuickFire HD connection system for utility horizontal directional drills (HDDs) helps reduce the labor involved with switching from pilot bore to pullback tooling while working in harsh ground conditions.

The new connection system uses two heavy-duty roll pins to secure the locking collar over the non-torqued threaded connection. And it allows the collar to be assembled at any orientation so that it doesn’t have to be rotated to align with the retention bolt hole, unlike other systems.

The QuickFire HD is available in three sizes:

  • QuickFire HD 300 for HDDs in the 10,000-pound drill range (Vermeer D10x15 S3 or Ditch Witch JT10 HDD).
  • QuickFire HD 400 for HDDs in the 24,000-pound drill range (Vermeer D23x30 S3 or Ditch Witch JT30 HDD).
  • QuickFire HD 460 for HDDs in the 40,000-pound drill range (Vermeer D40x55 S3 or Ditch Witch JT40 HDD).

Vermeer offers weld-on connection options to convert existing tooling to the QuickFire HD connection system.

What’s New: Hydraulic mini excavators

Caterpillar has introduced its new 302.7 CR, 303 CR and 303.5 CR hydraulic mini excavators for the 2.7- to 3.5-ton class machines to increase operating efficiency, lower maintenance costs and improve operator comfort.

Built on Cat’s Next Generation platform that offers a consistent operator experience through the 1.5- to 10-ton range, each new mini excavator model features exclusive stick steer, cruise control, operator-adjustable settings, and tilt-up canopy or cab as standard.

The three new mini hydraulic excavators feature a compact radius swing that reduces overhang when working to the side, allowing the machines to work in confined spaces. Fixed undercarriage widths for the 302.7 CR, 303 CR and 303.5 CR are 59.1, 61.0 and 70.1 inches, respectively.

There’s also an expandable undercarriage option for the 302.7 CR, allowing the operator to narrow the track width to 53.3 inches to operate in confined spaces and expand to 70.1 inches to improve digging and lifting stability.

The Cat C1.1 Turbo engine powers the 302.7 CR and 303 CR models, while the Cat C1.7 powers the 303.5 CR. Both engines meet U.S. EPA Tier 4 Final emissions standards and offer 23.6 horsepower net power.

Volvo Construction Equipment
What’s New: Two short-swing compact excavators

Volvo Construction Equipment has added two new short-swing compact excavator models in North America: the ECR50 and ECR58. The 5-ton ECR50 is a new entry for Volvo in North America, while the 6-ton ECR58 adds performance updates from the D-series model.

The zero-tail-swing radius of the ECR50 and short-swing radius of the ECR58 enable the excavators to work in confined spaces while reducing the risk of damage. And the in-track boom swing ensures the swing post and cylinder remain within the track width when digging alongside obstacles.

The company said the new ECR58 increases lifting capacity by 10% compared to the D-series. It also generates 5% greater bucket breakout force and 7% greater arm tear-out force, allowing customers to handle larger attachments more efficiently, especially in challenging ground conditions.

The ECR50 and ECR58 compact excavators are eligible for a free year of ActiveCare Direct, Volvo’s advanced telematics service that provides 24/7/365 machine monitoring and fleet utilization reporting directly from the manufacturer.

What’s New: Three augers

In May, Terex Utilities introduced three new augers at the International Foundations Congress & Equipment Expo.

The first is Terex’s new Foundation High-Production Auger to improve drill footage in various soil conditions. It features a standard heavy-duty 1-inch flighting and an optional extra heavy-duty 1.5-inch flighting.

The second auger is the Bullet Tooth Rock Auger for penetrating hard limestone, cobbles, boulders and fractural rock formations. Standard flighting is 1 inch, and an extra heavy-duty flighting of 1.5 inches is also available.

“The cut pattern and tooth attack angle allow the bullet teeth to act as ‘fingers’ that penetrate through and lift fractured or broken material,” said Dale Putman, Terex’s product support manager.

The third auger is Terex’s Dirt Auger, which also offers a standard 1-inch and optional 1.5-inch flighting. This tool improves drill footage in loose to compacted soils, stiff clay, loose gravel and soft shale.


An Electric Pickup to Watch: The Ford F-150 Lightning

In May, Ford unveiled its all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup, joining GM, Tesla, Rivian and others racing to bring an affordable and practical battery-powered truck to the mainstream market.

The truck is expected to arrive in spring 2022 with four models and two battery options. Within three weeks of Ford’s announcement, the F-150 Lightning had surpassed 100,000 reservations (which can be made for $100 at

So, what does this new entry in the electric truck race mean for utility fleets? Will it be practical for fleet applications? Here’s what we know about the F-150 Lightning so far.

What’s the price?
The Pro work truck model starts at $39,974 MSRP before any federal or state tax credits (or fleet incentives), while the mid-series XLT model starts at $52,974 MSRP.

What’s the range between charges?
The F-150 Lightning offers two battery options: a standard-range battery targeting 230 miles of range and an extended-range battery targeting 300 miles.

All Ford F-150 Lightning models come with the 32-amp Ford Mobile Charger, allowing operators to charge from a traditional 120-volt or 240-volt outlet. No special stations are required.

The extended-range battery comes standard with the 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro, which generates a peak charging power of 19.2 kilowatts enabled by the battery’s dual onboard chargers to fully charge the vehicle overnight.

How long does it take to charge?
With the 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro – standard with the extended-range battery – the F-150 Lightning adds an average range of 30 miles per charging hour, fully charging an extended-range truck from 15% to 100% percent in about eight hours.

On the road, operators can access what Ford says is North America’s largest public charging network through FordPass, offering over 63,000 charging plugs across the U.S. With a 150-kilowatt DC fast charger, an extended-range F-150 Lightning should get up to 54 miles of range in 10 minutes and charge from 15% to 80% percent in about 41 minutes.

The truck’s Intelligent Range system calculates range, factoring in weather, traffic, payload and towing weights. The SYNC 4 navigation identifies public charging locations and prompts operators to charge at convenient points on each drive.

What configurations will be available?
The F-150 Lightning is available only in the crew cab (four-door) configuration but with 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).

Will four-wheel drive be offered?
Yes. The F-150 Lightning is equipped with a four-wheel-drive system with four selectable drive modes: Normal, Sport, Off-Road and Tow/Haul.

What is the payload capacity?
The F-150 Lightning is designed to haul a maximum of 2,000 pounds in the standard-range model with 18-inch wheels. The payload capacity is lower with the extended-range model because of the heavier battery.

The truck offers an available onboard scale that uses sensors to estimate payload so that operators can know precisely how much weight they’re hauling. And since payload impacts range, the onboard scale is integrated with Ford’s Intelligent Range system to provide operators as accurate an estimated range as possible.

Since there’s no gas-powered engine under the hood, the F-150 Lightning has a “frunk” – a front-loading trunk – that offers an additional 14.1 cubic feet of cargo space to carry up to 400 pounds.

What is the trailering capacity?
The maximum available towing capacity for the F-150 Lightning is 10,000 pounds on the XLT and Lariat models with the extended-range battery and Max Trailer Tow Package.

What are the Lightning’s horsepower and torque ratings?
The F-150 Lightning targets 563 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque, with a 0-60 mph time in the mid-four-second range when equipped with an extended-range battery.

What onboard power systems will be available?
Standard on the Pro and XLT models is 2.4 kilowatts of power with the option to add more, while the Lariat and Platinum models come standard with 9.6 kilowatts of power – a combination of up to 2.4 kilowatts available through the frunk and up to 7.2 kilowatts through outlets in the cab and bed.

Also available is a Ford Intelligent Backup Power system, with the ability to offload 9.6 kilowatts to power a home – including lights, appliances and security systems – during an outage.

According to Ford, the F-150 Lightning with the extended-range battery can provide full home power for up to three days, or as long as 10 days if power is rationed.

The company also said that in the future, it will introduce Ford Intelligent Power, which can use the truck to power homes during high-cost, peak-energy hours while taking advantage of low-cost overnight rates to charge the vehicle in time for the morning commute.

How extensive is the service network?
Fleets will be able to access more than 2,300 EV-certified Ford dealers across the country.

Ford Roadside Assistance in the U.S. is for five years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. You can choose where to have the vehicle towed and recharged within 35 miles of the vehicle location. Beyond 35 miles, Ford will take the vehicle to the nearest available option.

Ford will also deploy standard over-the-air software updates – called Ford Power-Up – to add new software features and fix issues without extra trips to the dealership.

What’s the warranty?
The F-150 Lightning limited factory warranty includes these coverages:

  • EV component coverage: 8 years or 100,000 miles, whichever occurs first, with retention of 70% or more of the original high-voltage battery capacity over that period
  • Powertrain coverage: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Bumper-to-bumper coverage: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Safety Restraint System coverage: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Corrosion coverage: 5 years/unlimited miles

Electric Vehicle Roadblocks to Widespread Fleet Adoption

There’s a ton of press right now about how the future of transportation is all-electric.

And all major automakers have signaled with big investments that they’re going all-in on electric vehicles (EVs).

But a number of things still need to come together to make electrification practical on a large scale. Plus, fleet managers have valid concerns about how to make the transition.

What are some of the biggest EV challenges to widespread fleet adoption? And what do fleets, utility companies, OEMs and policymakers need to think about to address those challenges?

UFP recently spoke with George Survant – the principal at Fleet Mace Consulting and a fleet leader in the utility and telecom industry for over four decades – to get his perspective.

Survant spearheaded fleet electrification initiatives at Florida Power & Light and served as chairman of the board at CALSTART (, a national nonprofit consortium that works with member organizations to overcome barriers to the adoption of clean vehicles.

While we discussed a wide range of potential roadblocks for EVs, the following four questions and answers are especially relevant to utility fleets.

1. How will utility fleets recharge equipment during storm response operations?
How does the industry go all-electric if, during storm response, you don’t have electricity?

“Under the current conditions, it can’t,” Survant said.

When Survant worked at Florida Power & Light, the company sent storm crews to Texas in the aftermath of a hurricane. “The local infrastructure was so damaged that we sent five or six 9,000-gallon-tank wagons of diesel fuel with our crews,” Survant said. “I also had six trucks cycling to and from the next available port that had fuel. We were having to bring fuel from Bainbridge, Georgia, to Houston on a continuous basis. So, when you talk about electric vehicles in storm response situations, you’re opening a whole can of worms because you can bring some truck-mounted generators to do recharging. But you need to bring fuel to power those generators.”

In an all-electric world, where will that fuel come from?

2. How will the auto industry address supply chain bottlenecks as EV sales ramp up?
“If you need a filter for your car, you probably have five choices within 20 miles on where you could buy that part,” Survant said. “But where are you going to find a coupling for a 400-volt battery management system? You have to go back to the manufacturer that’s somewhere at the OEM site for the battery or even out of the country. So, there’s the supply chain that has to be rigorously invested in.”

Otherwise, fleets will have to deal with significant lead-time issues. “If I had to replace an engine in a 65-foot over-center material handler or even a pickup truck, I could get a crate motor within three working days,” Survant said. “The electric traction motor might be coming from Germany. Three days is not in the cards.”

3. What’s the plan for training and expanding the technician workforce to support EV growth?
“The number of qualified technicians capable of making smart diagnostic evaluations on electric vehicles today is very small,” Survant said. “So, we have talent issues. Where are these technicians going to come from?”

Today, the industry is still in the early stages of transitioning to EVs, which presents unique challenges with workforce development as EV market share increases, Survant explained.

“Last year in North America, a record number of about 4% of total vehicle sales were either hybrids or battery-electric vehicles. And arguably, this year, we might double that,” Survant said. “But suppose you’re a dealership that sells 3,000 total units a year, with about 10% – or 300 units – being EVs. How many of your work bays in your shop are you going to devote to pure electric support? How many technicians can you afford to change and train to work on EVs? And, if you invest in training that technician, how long will it be before they get to exercise those talents on a regular enough basis to keep their skills sharp?”

4. How can policymakers and regulators at all levels of government help streamline the permitting processes for building on-site charging infrastructure?
“Permitting can be a nightmare. You can get a state operating permit and not get a city or a county permit. And the fire marshal may object to it,” Survant said. “Now, some states like Illinois have a mayors group where they’ve talked about uniform permitting standards. And that’s a great step forward, but it’s not widespread yet.”

Why is permitting efficiency so important to supporting EV growth?

“The problem with permitting is not that the permit won’t happen because it will,” Survant said. “But waiting on permits [to build out charging infrastructure] might introduce a nine- to 10-month delay after you bought the trucks. That’s a train wreck.”

And it’s not like you can just find any old place to charge your EV fleet because the power requirements are enormous.

“The prevailing opinion seems to be that a 600-kilowatt-hour battery pack is what it’s going to take for a Class 7 or Class 8 truck. That size battery can require gigawatts of charging capacity. That’s a big number,” Survant said.

How big?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 1 gigawatt has the same output as 2,000 Z06 Corvette engines (that produce 650 horsepower), 9,090 Nissan Leafs or 412 utility-scale wind turbines.

That’s a lot of power to charge one truck. Now imagine a fleet that needs to charge hundreds or even thousands of large electric trucks. 

The Bottom Line
“We have a whole set of new challenges with electrification that most fleet managers have never professionally addressed,” Survant said. “There are a handful of us who’ve been investing in hybrid or fully electric vehicles for more than a decade, but that’s a very, very small number, and we were in very selective locations.” 

Survant’s advice to utility fleet professionals? “Make sure you have a razor-sharp mission fit with the vehicles you start to electrify,” he said. “Build your electrification strategy not in terms of future limitations but current limitations – what’s the real world you live in today, not what you want it to be.”

The State of Fuel Prices

As of press time, the national average price of gasoline is $3.13 a gallon, up 44% from $2.18 a year ago, according to AAA, when the pandemic lockdowns were in full force, stifling fuel consumption.

And California, the most expensive market, is already at $4.31.

So, what’s driving the surge in fuel prices? There are several factors in play, but here are two of the big ones.

The first is the post-pandemic economic recovery in the U.S.

Today’s sticker shock at the pump might have more to do with comparisons to last year’s historically low fuel prices than what would have been typical if we hadn’t been in the middle of a pandemic with global economic lockdowns that lasted for several weeks.

At one point, oil prices fell by more than $50 a barrel in a single day last April – to less than zero.

But as most states have lifted COVID restrictions in recent weeks, this means increased travel, more people commuting to the office and greater fuel demand, driving up the price at the pump.

The other factor is global, having to do with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

According to The New York Times, OPEC and allied producers like Russia surprised many analysts this spring by keeping several million barrels of oil off the market. OPEC and its partners are pumping roughly 780,000 barrels of oil a day less than at the beginning of the year despite prices rising by 30% in recent months.

Why is OPEC limiting production to boost prices?

The Times quoted René Ortiz, a former secretary-general of OPEC and Ecuador’s former energy minister, who said, “The discipline to support higher prices is needed for the recovery of their economies.”

In other words, the OPEC member countries need to sustain higher oil prices right now to make up for the substantial revenue drop from this time last year to balance their budgets and service their debts. 

The bottom line: At least for the foreseeable future, as fuel demand continues to increase in a post-pandemic world, so will the price at the pump. Watch this space.

Sean M. Lyden


Con Edison Orders All-Electric Class 8 Bucket Truck for Pilot Program

In late March, Con Edison announced its partnership with electric truck OEM Lion Electric and Posi-Plus, an aerial device equipment manufacturer, to develop the first all-electric bucket truck in North America.

“Medium- and heavy-duty trucks are more challenging to electrify than cars, but the purchase of our first all-electric bucket truck shows the market is real today and it will only accelerate from here,” Tim Cawley, Con Edison’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. “While initially small in scope, this represents an important step in Con Edison’s journey toward fleet electrification.”

The truck will be built on the Lion8 all-electric 51,000-pound-GVWR chassis. Con Edison has spec’d the truck to be able to travel an estimated 130 miles on a single charge, with a charging time of about eight hours using two Level 2 chargers.

The production of an all-electric Class 8 bucket truck is a significant development, with zero emissions, lower maintenance costs and much quieter operations to improve safety in the field.

But it’s still early in the game with plenty of unknowns.

So, how did the conversations get started between Con Edison and Lion Electric to build the truck? What was the process for determining the vehicle requirements? And what advice does Con Edison have for other utility fleet professionals considering launching similar pilot programs?

UFP spoke with Con Edison’s chief automotive engineer, Fortunato Gulino, to get some of the behind-the-scenes details. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

UFP: When and how did the conversations with Lion Electric begin?

Fortunato Gulino: We started talks with Lion about [the Class 8 bucket truck] around January 2020.

We already had a relationship with Lion because of our electric school bus program up in White Plains. At the time, they were developing a Class 8 chassis and were interested in starting this chassis on a utility bucket truck platform. And that’s when we started talking about this project.

A significant challenge with new powertrain technology is making sure the new vehicle can do the job. Did the requirements come from you and your team or was this a collaborative process with Lion?

It was a collaboration. We shared with Lion what we know about what our [current] vehicles can do and what we were looking for in the electric truck.

We were looking for a minimum of a 55-foot working height, with a winch set up to hoist up material to the poles.

We described how we use the truck. It’s a two-shift vehicle, typically operating on a five-day workweek, except for storm response, where it switches over to 12-hour shifts. Those requirements were a little bit more stringent because it required the vehicle to operate longer.

Lion was also interested in the ranges our trucks typically travel. We told them approximately 30 to 50 miles is what we do on average per day.

With that knowledge, we worked together to develop the best chassis to meet these requirements and the type of [aerial] unit that would be installed.

Con Edison’s official announcement said the truck would be capable of doing a full day’s work and travel 130 miles on a single charge. How is “a full day’s work” defined?

That would account for operating the truck, boom, winches and other onboard equipment for two eight-hour shifts.

The battery capacity on that truck should be sufficient enough for the two shifts. But we’ll vet this out during the pilot program.

Typically, when you look at electric vehicles, whether it be a car or a truck, you intend to utilize it during the whole course of the day with the intention of charging overnight. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to ensure that this truck is used the entire day, the two full shifts.

We’re going to push that to the limits and then see how much charge is left over for future designs to say, maybe we don’t have to have such a large battery. Perhaps it could be a Class 7 instead of a Class 8 truck. These are all things that are going to come out of the pilot.

When will the pilot program begin?

The truck will be delivered in early 2022. The pilot will start right after we train all our folks. We want our lineworkers to be trained to use this truck, making sure that they’re familiar with the vehicle itself and the capabilities. Except for the training, the truck will go right into service in one of our locations, whether it be Staten Island, Brooklyn/Queens or the Bronx location.

How many total all-electric bucket trucks are you planning to have in the pilot?

At the moment, only this one truck. Naturally, we plan to look at other types of applications [to electrify] within the utility market. We’re going to explore whatever makes sense to us and our ratepayers. We want to make sure that we get the best bang for the dollar for these trials and pilots to push this whole initiative forward.

How long is the pilot period?

The pilot period is going to be approximately three years. We want full testing in all three regions. When I say “full testing,” I mean we want to ensure that each region sees all four seasons of the year, so we capture [data] in different geographies in each region. You might have hilly areas, potholes in New York City and then long lengths of driving in other regions. We want to make sure we’re capturing all the peak cold and hot summers with each region for this pilot.

What advice do you have for other utility fleet professionals who might be considering a similar pilot program?

I would recommend starting where you can. It doesn’t have to be an electric Class 8 vehicle; it doesn’t have to be an electric car. You can try to meet in the middle somewhere, but start someplace.

Imagine if we all start joining in and testing out this new technology. This will help develop the industry and make electric vehicles more available and affordable – not just for us but also for everyone.

A rising tide lifts all boats. If each of us can try to move this forward, that would be something positive for the whole industry.


New Best Practices for Post-Pandemic Fleet Operations

In March 2020, longtime fleet professional and UFP editorial advisory board member Matt Gilliland was tasked to lead Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD) Infectious Disease Prevention and Control response team.

Gilliland’s team helped develop new COVID-19 policies and practices for the entire organization to reduce the risk and spread of infections and minimize operational disruptions from illness.

UFP recently spoke with Gilliland, NPPD’s director of operations support, to learn about some of the changes his response team recommended for the fleet department that employs 12 people and oversees about 1,200 total fleet assets. Specifically, we talked about the new fleet practices developed in the past year that he believes will likely continue beyond the pandemic.

He highlighted these three changes.

1. Enhanced communication with vendors.
While NPPD handles the service on aerial devices and other hydraulic equipment in-house, it outsources most of its chassis maintenance.

“Nebraska is a big state. And it just doesn’t make sense to have somebody drive 500 miles to put a serpentine belt on. So, we rely on the local retail garages. We have what we call preferred providers established regionally. You stay in-network to get your vehicle worked on – kind of like a PPO plan in health care,” Gilliland said.

But as economic lockdowns began across the globe in the spring of 2020, supply chain issues emerged for local garages, making it harder for them to maintain sufficient parts and supplies inventory to serve their customers.

So, NPPD worked closely with those vendors to help ensure the shops had enough supplies, especially since the utility needed to request additional services – like deep cleaning – in response to the pandemic.

NPPD also needed to change how they got the vehicles to the shop.

“The challenge was that about 80% of the time, we rely on the vendor to do the pickup and delivery,” Gilliland said. “So, we had to revisit that entire process at each location because how do you get [the vendor representative] in and out of the vehicle without coming in contact with NPPD staff? We had to coordinate with vendors to make all that work so that they didn’t contact our employees.”

How did the vehicle pickup and delivery process change?

“A lot of after-hours pickups,” Gilliland said. “We had to pay a little extra. We had to do some Saturday and Sunday pickups with the vendor after hours. That meant some adaptation on their part and our part with gate access levels. Sometimes we had to issue temporary badges because, if the building was closed, no one was there to open the gate. We had to go through the automated gate processes to make sure those vendors had the credentials to get in and out after hours.”

The upside of having to re-evaluate and adjust these processes during the pandemic?

“We enhanced our communication with our vendors. We had a lot more interaction with them. And that’s something we want to continue,” Gilliland said. “They were in what I would almost call a cruise-control mode, where they got comfortable with us, and our employees were comfortable with them. And expectations might be different from one location to another. But what this situation offered us was the opportunity to shore up how we communicate our expectations with vendors – what we want to be done to our vehicles and how we want those things done. And then standardize those expectations across all of our locations.”

To ensure ongoing communication with vendors, NPPD’s fleet department now sends a periodic newsletter to its preferred providers.

What are some of the topics discussed in the newsletter?

“For example, one of our expectations from a safety perspective is for the provider to inspect all vehicle steps,” Gilliland said. “But what do we mean by a ‘step’? It’s anywhere that somebody will put a foot on to get in or out of that vehicle or on and off that truck. There are some pictures of recent occurrences where inspections didn’t reveal the rust and somebody could have gotten hurt. And so we share these lessons of, OK, in the eastern part of the state, someone stepped on a step and it broke. Are we looking at all these issues statewide?”

2. Using remote technology to improve collaboration and efficiencies.
One byproduct of the pandemic is NPPD’s expanded use of videoconferencing apps, like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, to collaborate on projects remotely. Gilliland expects that to continue, even as the utility’s remote employees come back to work on-site.

“We’ve become experts at running this technology that we would never have been before,” Gilliland said. “Even when we do our acceptance inspections – when something new is delivered – we can now have those conversations with the vendor via a distance model. It creates efficiencies. Less travel. More real-time responsiveness. More real-time interaction. And it also allows us to record a session.”

The ability to record sessions provides a more efficient way to document important discussions – and refer to them when necessary. This is especially useful when fleet professionals and other stakeholders collaborate on vehicle specifications.

“It’s been a real challenge since I’ve worked in this industry,” Gilliland said. “You sit down with your stakeholders, design what the truck should look like and get it on paper. The team goes their separate ways. Then 12 months later, the truck is sitting on your lot. Stakeholders have forgotten what was discussed in the initial meetings. ‘I don’t remember us saying that we wanted that. How come this is here and not there?’ And so forth. It’s not the fault of anyone other than just the sheer passage of time. But now, we can refer back to the Zoom meeting or the Teams meeting that we recorded. ‘This is what you said, and here’s why you said that.’ So, the video documentation allows us to reduce the number of changes after the fact.”

3. Adding cleaning to standard vehicle service procedures.
Gilliland said that, before COVID, vehicle cleaning would be provided by the vendor as needed.

But when the pandemic hit, deep cleaning – not just an occasional wash or vacuum – became standard operating procedure for preventive maintenance.

Will the deep cleaning service continue after the pandemic?

“We might not do the full disinfectant-type stuff as we have during the pandemic. But the cleaning processes we developed, for the most part, will stay,” Gilliland said. “It may not be a full detail job, but it will be pretty close. We pay more for this level of cleaning, but it helps our people take pride in their machine, which can help extend the life of the machine. So, I see that continuing.”

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