Author: Sean M. Lyden

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Never Split the Difference

Negotiation is a significant part of your job as a fleet professional. You have to negotiate new supplier contracts, the fleet budget with senior management and job offers with top talent.

So, if you haven’t read “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It” by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss, I recommend it.

I first listened to the book on Audible and got so much out of it that I bought the hard copy for a deeper dive. Here are my three biggest takeaways.

1. Say no without saying no.
When presented with an unacceptable offer, resist the urge to say, “No way! That’s not going to happen!” An outright rejection like this typically will shut down the negotiation.

Instead, Voss recommends asking what he calls “calibrated questions” like these to keep the conversation moving toward an agreement:

  • How am I supposed to do that?
  • What about this number is important to you?
  • How can we solve this problem?

Calibrated questions invite your counterpart to collaborate with you to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.

2. Get to “That’s right” with tactical empathy.
According to Voss, the key to unlocking a stalled negotiation is to deploy tactical empathy, where you’re able to understand and articulate what the other party is feeling in a way that prompts them to say, “That’s right!”

Those words signal a breakthrough moment in the negotiation because your counterpart feels like you “get it” – and now they’ll begin to open up to you.

Voss defines tactical empathy as “understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow. It’s bringing our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done. It’s emotional intelligence on steroids.”

3. Beware of extreme anchors.
Anchoring is a strategy for setting a frame of reference in negotiation. So, if your counterpart opens with an outrageously high or low number, watch out. You’re vulnerable to that extreme figure getting anchored into your mind, where it skews your frame of reference for arriving at a “reasonable” price. As a result, you end up paying more or getting less than if that anchor never existed.

Voss describes anchoring as “bending reality.” So, whenever possible, be the one bending the other person’s reality – and resist their attempt to bend yours.

Sean M. Lyden


Fairfax Water: Overhauling Crew Truck Specs to Improve Safety and Productivity

In his classic bestseller, “Thriving on Chaos,” management expert Tom Peters put it best when he wrote, “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.”

Perhaps the same could be said about excellent fleets, where you never ultimately arrive at a destination called “excellence.” Instead, you remain on a journey of continuous improvement, making changes along the way to produce better results for your customers and the company.

This philosophy of constant improvement is what has driven Dale Collins, fleet services supervisor at Fairfax Water in Virginia, and his team to make significant changes with their new generation of crew trucks – to increase storage capacity, improve safety, boost productivity and reduce operational costs.

As of press time, three of the four new crew trucks ordered have been delivered to Fairfax Water. After three years and numerous meetings with stakeholder groups, vendors and peers, Collins and his team feel good about the changes made.

UFP recently spoke with Collins to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their process for continuous improvement with vehicle specs. Hopefully, you’ll find some new ideas that you can use to improve your own fleet’s performance.

Fall 2016: The Process Begins
In the water utility world, a crew truck transports workers, equipment and essential gear to perform a wide range of daily tasks for the water system, such as raising a meter box, replacing valves, repairing fire hydrants and installing services. And when there’s a water main break, these trucks are the first on the scene, with the right people, tools and materials needed to fix the issue.

Fairfax Water’s service area had recently expanded by the fall of 2016, which meant that the fleet would need to add new crew trucks and replace some of the older units.

According to Collins, although the utility’s previous generation crew trucks did the job, there was still a lot of room for improvement to help make the job safer, less stressful and more efficient for fieldworkers.

“I believe in a philosophy of constant improvement,” Collins said. “If you wait on stuff, you’re going to get behind the curve, either on technology, on safety, on just about any and everything.”

Collins spoke with his staff to discuss the pain points with the existing crew trucks. He then met with all stakeholders, from supervisors to the utility workers in the field, to get their ideas on what they would like to see improved.

The new crew trucks would address these pain points, among others.

1. The space in the extended cab was too tight for a five- to six-person crew.

“The trucks were just so hard to get in and out of to get to the backseat,” Collins said. “At least in the wintertime, there’s usually only one or two people in the truck. But in the other nine months of the year, the entire crew [five to six people] ride in the truck. So, their ingress and egress would be compromised getting into the cab itself.”

2. The need for more – and better organized – storage space.

“We had to expand our parts list to carry more and more items. So, space was always one of those considerations. And not only the space itself, but how we were using that space to improve accessibility and ergonomics,” Collins said.

There were several changes to improve storage. The most notable was shifting from an abovedeck utility mount air compressor to an underdeck compressor installed between the frame rails, which helped to free up about 25% more usable space.

3. Lost productivity from regeneration issues with diesel engines.

“We tend to idle a lot [at the job site]. And with a diesel engine, if you don’t sustain enough exhaust temperature and enough air moving through the engine – such as when the truck is running up and down the road – the diesel particulate filter will get clogged,” Collins said. “Either you have to go through manual re-gen, which is time-consuming and sometimes doesn’t cure the problem, or you have to remove the DPF and send it out to have it cleaned, which can take anywhere from a couple of days to over a week. And usually these types of problems only manifest during our busiest time of year – the winter.”

With these pain points in mind, Collins and his team got to work to develop a rough draft of what the new specs might look like. This process of identifying the needs, gathering stakeholder input and sketching out the plan would take about three months.

Spring 2017: Initial Approval; Field Trip
After gathering feedback from the stakeholder groups and developing a plan, Collins presented his proposal to senior management and received their initial approval to proceed with the purchasing process.

But before engaging the purchasing department, Collins wanted to confirm that the proposed new specs would be viable for their crew truck application. So, he took a field trip to visit Bruce Ottogalli, transportation manager at SUEZ Water in Hackensack, New Jersey, who was operating crew trucks similar to what Collins had in mind.

“He was using the gasoline versus the diesel engine and dealt with some of the same pain points with success,” Collins said. “You want to find out what somebody else is doing so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and then just tailor it to your situation.”

Collins shared his findings from the SUEZ Water visit with the stakeholder groups and updated the specs based on their feedback.

Summer 2017: Securing Funds; Contacting the Body Company
Now, Collins was ready to engage the purchasing department: “Here are the crew trucks we’re going to need for the next year. These are my specs. And I have money in my budget for 2018 for these crew trucks.”

Then it was time to get the body company involved – Swab Wagon Co. (, headquartered in Elizabethville, Pennsylvania, which Fairfax Water had been working with for several years.

“Swab had built a large portion of our bodies on our previous models,” Collins said. “I visited them, and they helped me take some of the specifications that I had in word form to create drawings that would be our working concept.”

Fall 2017: Refining Specs
With drawings in hand, Collins went back to the stakeholder groups to get more feedback and refine the specs.

“You can see there’s a theme to this. I would walk around and talk to a lot of folks multiple times,” Collins said.

The typical water-main-break season for Fairfax Water is November 1 to March 1. And that winter, from 2017 to early 2018, was particularly harsh, making it a busier time than usual for Collins’ team and the work crews. So, they needed to table the planning process for the new trucks until the spring.

“That main-break season was extremely hectic. But many of the pain points with the existing trucks were made very obvious that season. So, I had a lot of support looking for something better,” Collins said.

Spring 2018: Request for Bid
“By the time spring showed up, I had a lot of buy-in from management and from the crews that were going to use the equipment. So, it was full speed ahead,” Collins said.

He put together a 12-page chassis, body and equipment specification for bid to three Ford dealers. It was a tight race, with the winner having won by a margin of less than $100 per vehicle.

Summer 2018: Pre-Build Meeting
About three weeks after Fairfax Water issued the purchase order, Collins set up a pre-build meeting at Swab Wagon Co. Attending the meeting were the Swab representatives, the Ford dealership representative and Collins.

The purpose of the meeting: “Making sure that all of our concepts on paper were going to match with the engineering realities,” Collins said.

January 2019: 30%-Build Meeting
The first chassis began to arrive at Swab in January.

By that time, Swab had built enough of the body to set it on the chassis and the frame rails. Collins met with the Swab and Ford dealership representatives for a 30%-build review to re-evaluate and finalize the placement of certain components.

“We finalized the placement of things like the taillights, so they would not be obstructed with the bumper-mounted cone holders,” Collins said. “I also brought some of our larger equipment to make sure that they would fit properly. I took a tamper, rock drill, pavement breaker and the cones to make sure everything would fit like they’re supposed to. I wanted to make sure that we used all the space to the best of our ability and, if we had a problem, we would identify it early.”

June 2019: 90%-Build Meeting
About six months later, it was time for Collins to meet again with Swab and Ford dealership representatives for a 90%-build meeting to go over the smaller items.

“We talked about where we were going to mount the vice holders, where we were going to mount the license plate light, and make sure we had the right backup alarm because that specified a particular broadband backup alarm,” Collins said.

This is also when Collins began his internal public relations push to build awareness and anticipation for the new trucks – and how they would make the crews’ jobs easier.

“I would talk to anyone who would listen to me,” Collins said. “It’s going to have the big cab with the four big doors, so you’re going to be able to get in and out of the thing. It’s going to have handles where you need them. It’s going to have compartment lighting that’s directly focused on the inside, so there are no shadows. It’s going to have a pass-through compartment and a 1,000-pound slide for the big, heavy materials. You’re not going to overload it.”

August 2019: Delivery
As of press time, Fairfax Water has taken delivery of three of the four ordered units.

But before the trucks are put in service, Collins lined up manufacturer-specific training for staff because of the large number of changes in the chassis, body and compressor.

“It’s about training, training, training,” Collins said. “I don’t care how good something is that you have; if your people don’t know how to use the equipment properly and safely, that’s no good.”


Crew Truck Specs
Year/make/model: 2019 Ford F-750
Engine: 6.8-liter Triton gasoline engine (320 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque)
Configuration: Crew cab (full four doors)
Cab-to-axle: 178 inches
Gross vehicle weight rating: 31,000 pounds
Brakes: Hydraulic
Body: 14-foot Maintenance & Operations Series utility body by Swab Wagon Co.
Compressor: Vanair 185-cfm underdeck
Cost: About $175,000 per unit


Recruiting for Fleet in a Tight Labor Market

Ask utility fleet professionals about their biggest challenge, and many will say that it’s recruiting – and keeping – good, young mechanics.

That’s because you have to compete with OEMs, local truck centers and other types of fleets for access to a shrinking pool of highly skilled mechanics.

So, how do you gain an edge in attracting top talent in a tight labor market?

Tell the best story.

That’s the advice from Paul Smith (, the bestselling author of several books on business storytelling, including his latest, “The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell.” The 10th story deals specifically with recruiting.

UFP recently caught up with Smith to get his take on how fleet managers can use stories to attract the best technicians. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.

UFP: Why use stories for recruiting?

Paul Smith: For the same reason, I think, that you use storytelling in just about every other area of leadership – it’s just more effective. And there are many reasons why. The biggest one is that human beings tend to make decisions in the emotional processing part of the brain and then rationalize those decisions a few nanoseconds later in the more conscious, logical thinking part of the brain.

So, the decision about where to work – it’s almost like deciding who to marry. If you just left it to numbers and logic, without speaking to the emotional aspect of the decision, you’re missing a big part of the equation about why people choose a career and an employer. Most people don’t just want to draw a paycheck.

This is where stories come in – to connect with the emotional processing part of the brain. These could be stories about someone feeling challenged, getting promoted faster, getting to do this job they love or whatever you think would best relate to the candidate’s career aspirations.

If you want to influence what people think, feel and do – in other words, leadership – it turns out you need to influence both parts of the brain. And stories are uniquely qualified vehicles to reach the subconscious emotional processing part of the brain.

Where does storytelling fit in the fleet recruiting process?

The time to tell a differentiating story is usually when you’re face to face with the candidate, such as during the interview or at a job fair. They want to know, “Why should I work here?”

If you say, “We offer challenging careers with competitive pay and benefits, and opportunities for advancement,” keep in mind that every employer says that. Those are the facts and data, which are essential to help candidates determine whether they want to learn more.

But telling a good recruiting story takes the next step – to show why your organization is different from all the other opportunities. The story gets that person to think, “I want to work at that company because I heard about somebody who was like me, who went there and did really well.”

Put yourself in a fleet manager’s shoes. You’re competing for highly skilled technicians to join your team. How do you determine what stories to tell for maximum impact?

Talk to your team. Find out why they decided to work for you – and why they stay. Why haven’t they quit after, say, 20 years?

Now, some of the answers are going to be boring, like, “Oh, I don’t know. I like living here and my wife’s from here,” or whatever. But if you ask enough people, you’re going to get some interesting stories.

What questions should fleet managers ask to uncover good recruiting stories?

Ask questions like, “Have you ever considered leaving this company but changed your mind and decided to stay? What made you think about leaving? What made you change your mind and decide to stay?”

And whatever they say, that becomes the story – one of the stories that you’re going to want to tell people when recruiting.

You need to find out what the barriers are to getting people in and what could drive them away once they get there. Then craft your stories to alleviate those concerns.


3 Questions to Uncover Powerful Recruiting Stories
Ask yourself, and the people you work with, these three questions:

  1. What made you want to work here?
  2. Why do you stay?
  3. Have you ever thought about quitting but decided not to? What made you change your mind?

~Source: “The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell” (2019) by Paul Smith


8-Point Checklist for Crafting Powerful Business Stories

  1. Why should your audience listen to your story? (hook)
  2. Where and when did the story take place? (context)
  3. Who is the main character and what did that person want? (context)
  4. What was the problem or opportunity that the main character ran into? (challenge)
  5. What did he or she do about it? (conflict or struggle)
  6. How did it turn out in the end? (resolution)
  7. What did you learn from it? (lesson)
  8. What do you think your audience should do now that they’ve heard it? (recommendation)

~Source: “The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell” (2019) by Paul Smith

What are Your Stories? Share Them.

A couple of months ago, Dale Collins, the fleet services supervisor at Fairfax Water in Virginia, emailed me about four new crew trucks he had ordered. He and his team were proud of the final product – and of the nearly three-year process they went through to get the spec right.

Collins thought there might be a story to tell to UFP readers, but he wasn’t sure what that story would be or look like. He reached out to me anyway. And I’m glad he did.

That’s because I’m always on the hunt for real-world fleet stories that can inform, educate and inspire you to do more, be more and achieve more in your career.

When I received Collins’ email, I didn’t know what value his story would bring to our audience, but I wanted to explore it further.

We scheduled an initial 10-minute phone call. During the conversation, I was looking for lessons learned, new ideas and new strategies that would be applicable and useful to utility fleet professionals beyond Fairfax Water.

As Collins delved deeper into the three-year process to garner management support, get input on spec changes and make critical decisions, I stopped him. “We’ve got a story here,” I said.

Then we scheduled a full interview. The result is the fleet profile in this issue of UFP: “Fairfax Water: Overhauling Crew Truck Specs to Improve Safety and Productivity.”

I tell you this story because you’re most likely doing interesting things in your own fleet right now that you’re really proud of. But perhaps you haven’t thought about sharing your experiences beyond your organization.

If that’s the case, I want to encourage you to reach out to me, just as Collins did, and let me know what cool things you’re doing in your fleet.

You might not know if you really have a story, but that’s OK. Collins didn’t know either and contacted me anyway.

If you’ve been in fleet for any amount of time, you’ve amassed a wealth of stories that could bring value to your peers and position you as a leader in the industry.

So, what are your stories? Let’s talk.

Sean M. Lyden


Women in Utility Fleet: Holly Giffrow-Bos

In 2006, when Holly Giffrow-Bos applied for the open fleet position at East Central Energy in Braham, Minnesota, she wasn’t exactly sure what she was getting into.

“Automotive is what I knew, but I really didn’t know what fleet was all about because it’s a completely different animal than the retail automotive business,” she said.

Giffrow-Bos knew the automotive business because she worked in dealerships for nearly two decades. She started in the accounting department at a small Ford dealership in Cambridge, Minnesota, after graduating high school. About a year later, she moved to Northern California, where she took a job at another Ford dealership, starting at the service department appointment desk.

“And then I just became a sponge,” Giffrow-Bos said. By the time she left that company in 2004, after about 14 years, she had worked her way up to fixed operations manager for the company’s two dealerships.

Today, Giffrow-Bos is the fleet supervisor at East Central Energy, overseeing about 200 fleet assets and four technicians.

So, why did Giffrow-Bos get into fleet management after nearly two decades in the automotive business? What challenges has she overcome? And what advice does she have for other women considering a career in fleet?

UFP recently caught up with Giffrow-Bos to learn more about her story. Here is the edited version of our conversation.

UFP: After nearly two decades working at auto dealerships, what intrigued you about going into fleet?

Holly Giffrow-Bos: Honestly, I wanted to get out of the retail business. I wanted to be around equipment, cars and trucks just like I had been, but not in the retail atmosphere. And I wanted a new challenge. It really excited me to be around different types of equipment.

At the time, what interested you about a utility fleet versus being a fleet manager for another type of industry?

Good question. I think it was because I didn’t know enough about fleet. So, I didn’t know to compare different types of fleets versus utility fleets. But I did know that one of the things that enticed me to join East Central Energy was that it’s the local utility cooperative from my hometown. There were a lot of people I already knew working here. It was like coming back to a high school reunion. Besides that, it’s a cooperative that has a good reputation for treating all their employees very well. So, I was looking for that long-term stability.

What aspects of your dealership operations experience helped you the most as a fleet manager?

Number one, regardless of whether you’re working for a fleet or a retail automotive store, you’re managing people. And that’s what I learned in the automotive retail business – and it’s what I enjoy most about my career in fleet. You’re in a position to influence people. You’re able to build a good, strong team because your dealership, your fleet, is only going to be as good as the team you build around you.

Another thing I learned at the dealership is managing the finances of the organization. I’m driven to be as effective as possible at watching our financial responsibilities for our membership because that’s really what it’s all about here [at East Central Energy]. In the fleet department, we’re not income as far as the cooperative goes; we’re an expense. So, we need to watch our dollars. And having been in operations in the retail business and knowing what I know about financial statements, I’m able to come in here and make sound financial decisions with fleet on behalf of our members.

The third thing is learning how to deal effectively with vendors. In a fleet environment, we have to deal with warranty repairs and work with vendors to help us get those repairs done. So, we have to work with dealerships a lot. Because of my dealership experience, I have been in their shoes. I think that helps me be a very good customer to them. And by being a good customer, you can be more successful for your fleet when you have those good relationships.

What types of challenges, if any, have you experienced as a woman in fleet?

I can probably think for a while and come up with more, but the main thing that it really boils down to is you don’t see women in this position very often. People tend to judge because you’re right there on the floor, managing this department, yet you never pick up a wrench.

So, there can be the expectation that if you’re going to oversee this department day to day, you better know how to take out an oil filter or check oil. Or, you should know what kind of oil a rear differential is going to take. You should know these things.

But that’s just the stereotype. When you look at it, that’s why you surround yourself with people who make you and the department look good because you put all those people in place.

Look at the CEO of a business or an owner of an automotive dealership. Generally, these people have not come from wrenching in a garage. They’ve come from different experiences in looking at the business side of things.

Some people think that a woman doesn’t have the capacity to know what it’s going to take to manage people on the floor when you don’t do the type of work they do. But I completely disagree. No, I can’t take out a transmission and bench test it or bench build it. When you’ve got a good relationship with your employees, they’re going to be honest with you and guide you to what you need to do that will be best for the employee, the member and your business.

What advice do you have for other women in fleet on how they can flourish in what is still a male-dominated industry?

If people don’t trust you or aren’t going to give you that respect, I say just take a deep breath and show them what you can do. And if you don’t know something, never act like you do. We don’t know everything. Just say, “I don’t know,” but make sure that you’re going to find out and follow through on things. And, most importantly, build yourself a good team.

You’re going to get kicked down. You’re going to get questioned. But prove yourself, and most people will end up having such great respect for you.


The State of Drones in the North American Utility Market

Line inspections using helicopters cost about $1,500 per mile compared to around $200 per mile with a drone. That nearly 90% reduction presents a compelling business case for utility companies to use drones, while also being able to improve safety by putting fewer lineworkers and helicopter pilots in harm’s way.

But drone sales in the North American utility market are still meager, projected to reach only about $1.5 million in 2019. Yet that number is expected to grow by nearly 18 times – to $26 million – by 2026, as U.S. regulations ease and drone technology improves, according to Michael Hartnack, a research analyst for Navigant Research covering drones and robotics for transmission and distribution operations worldwide. (For Navigant’s full market report, visit

These numbers represent hardware sales only and not revenue from ancillary drone services – such as piloting, training, software development, data analytics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and other support offerings – which will make the overall U.S. utility drone market significantly bigger, Hartnack said.

So, what exactly is the state of drones in the North American utility sector today? What’s holding back widespread adoption of drones? And what are the future possibilities?

The Regulatory Bottleneck
The biggest constraint to drone use by utilities is the Federal Aviation Administration rule that restricts operators to flying drones only within their line of sight. This can make drone inspections impractical because you’re only able to fly over short sections of power lines.

But the FAA is beginning to ease the beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) restriction through the use of waivers. For example, last fall, Xcel Energy became the first U.S. utility granted permission from the FAA to launch BVLOS drone flights for ongoing inspections.

“It’s not entirely clear that there is going to be a complete repeal of the beyond-visual-line-of-sight restriction,” Hartnack said. “But I think the direction we’re headed right now is toward an easing of the waiver process in the next two to three years. Every utility program is going to have to get their specific program approved by the FAA, but that waiver process will get easier and faster.”

Flight Time Challenges
However, even when U.S. utilities receive FAA waivers to operate beyond visual line of sight, drone technology still must improve to allow for much longer flight times.

“Typical drones these days with cameras and sensors can fly for only about 20 to 30 minutes with the current battery technology,” Hartnack said.

But when you look at the global drone market, technologies are being developed to keep drones in the air significantly longer per flight.

For example, Doosan Mobility Innovation (, a subsidiary of Seoul, South Korea-based Doosan Group, is developing drones powered by hydrogen fuel cells for long-distance transmission line inspections. The drones can fly for up to 110 minutes.

“The Doosan hydrogen fuel cell drones that can fly for nearly two hours – that will be a big jump in flight time when they become available,” Hartnack said.

Eye in the Sky with AI
Beyond line inspections, what are some other interesting applications for drones in the utility space?

Hartnack mentioned that in the Asia-Pacific region, utilities are using drones and artificial intelligence to model vegetation growth in an effort to help prevent impacts with transmission lines that might spark forest fires or other hazardous conditions.

“Where are the trees going to grow in a year? How are they going to interact with the power lines? The value here is how much computing we can do in the cloud and how much we can do with AI before we have to get utility personnel involved. That’s where the value of the data is really going,” Hartnack said.

He also noted that in Indonesia and Japan, they’re already flying drones over transmission lines and mapping out their vegetation growth issues. “This way, the utilities can pinpoint the issue and streamline their operations,” Hartnack said. “This saves everybody money and makes their operations much safer.”

Drone Ownership vs. Outsourcing
There’s a lot of specialized expertise required for not only piloting drones but also maintaining them and ensuring that they’re equipped with the latest technology. So, what will utilities be doing in terms of owning their fleet of drones versus leasing or subscribing to drones as a service?

“It’s going to be highly likely that utilities will contract with companies to provide drones as a service,” Hartnack said. “I think that model is ultimately advantageous to the utility business. But right now, utilities are hesitant because of their revenue model and rate-making structure. Yet, at the end of the day, for something like drones, most utilities don’t have the in-house capability.”

How to Get Buy-In on Your New Fleet Initiative

You’re planning to roll out a new telematics deployment or ask senior management for a bigger budget, expecting to encounter some resistance. How do you position your proposal to get buy-in from stakeholders?

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle offered insight into this topic with his work “The Art of Rhetoric,” which was published about 2,400 years ago. He introduced the three elements of influence that still serve as the foundation for effective leadership communications today.

The big takeaway from “The Art of Rhetoric” is that if you overlook any of the three elements when crafting and presenting your proposal, you’ll stack the odds against you being able to win over your audience.

What are those three elements?

1. Ethos
Aristotle uses this Greek term to refer to the character and credibility of the speaker – which is you.

Does your audience believe in you, trust that you have their best interests in mind and have the confidence that you know what you’re talking about? You can present the most compelling and smart proposal, but if stakeholders don’t trust or believe in you, they’ll dismiss your ideas before you even present them.

So, in the planning stages of your initiative, start early when it comes to involving stakeholders and building trust with them.  

2. Pathos
This term refers to the emotional disposition of the audience. In “The Art of Rhetoric,” Aristotle talks about how we look at things differently based on our emotions. Whether we’re fearful, angry, happy or hopeful, we see things differently and accept the same message differently depending on what emotional state we are in at the time.

Your job is to identify both the current emotional state your audience is likely to be in and the target emotional state you want to lead them to. Then build your proposal or presentation in a way that moves your audience from their current state (e.g., fear) to the target state (e.g., confidence or optimism).

3. Logos
This element pertains to the logical consistency of your proposal. After all, you can establish your credibility and make a powerful emotional connection with the audience, but if your proposal doesn’t make sense, you’ll lose all that momentum.

The objective is to construct your proposal in a way that’s clear, concise and compelling for your stakeholders to “get it” – so that they’ll be more inclined to buy into it.

Sean M. Lyden


Lessons Learned from a Telematics Deployment

Cut fuel costs, promote safer driving behaviors and improve storm response – these are just a few examples of how fleet telematics that captures and tracks vehicle data can help you run your department more effectively.

But deploying telematics across hundreds or even thousands of fleet assets can be a daunting task if you don’t know what to expect.

UFP spoke with Paul Jefferson, fleet manager at Oklahoma City-based Oklahoma Gas & Electric, who oversees about 2,000 fleet assets, to learn about the utility’s experience with telematics.

Jefferson and his team began working with the benchmarking and telematics provider Utilimarc ( in 2015 with a pilot program that included 30 vehicles. To date, the company has installed telematics on about 1,200 vehicles.

What advice does Jefferson have for other utility fleet professionals when it comes to a telematics deployment? Here are five tips.

1. Define your objectives.
Why do you want telematics? What exactly do you want to track? How will you use that data?

For OG&E, their initial objective was to lower the number of commuters – those who would use business vehicles for personal use – to reduce fuel costs as well as unnecessary miles and wear and tear on the vehicles.

“We had data from our Utilimarc benchmarking study to see how we benchmarked against other similar companies as far as the number of commuters per class of vehicle,” Jefferson said. “We realized that we needed to make a change – that we had a culture where supervisors and managers were giving people vehicles to drive home as compensation instead of there being a real business need for that vehicle’s use. Telematics would help us track that.”

Over time, OG&E’s objectives have evolved.

“We’ve linked our telematics to the [geographic information system] maps, so when we have outages, we can see where our trucks are relative to the outage,” Jefferson said. “We overlay that over our GIS map to help with dispatch. It also helps us keep the mobile mechanics in the right spot.”

Another project Jefferson and his team are working on is integrating telematics with a new fuel management system.

“We’re going to track our off-site fuel purchases on a map where we overlay the telematics to see, ‘Hey, was this asset near where the fuel was purchased?’” he said.

2. Get buy-in.
When you’re attempting to make a cultural change – like what a telematics deployment will bring – expect pushback from various people in the organization who feel threatened by the change. That means you’ll need to work to get buy-in from key stakeholders to help you sell the program to their teams.

“The transmission, distribution and power supply vice presidents all report to an operations vice president. So, we had to go to that upper-level senior VP to get buy-in [for the telematics deployment] from all three of the business unit groups at OG&E,” Jefferson said.

How did Jefferson and his team get that buy-in? They presented a business case.

“The business unit groups are always looking for [overhead and maintenance] reductions, so we presented telematics as a tool that can reduce our O&M,” Jefferson said. “After all, it’s not right to offer commuter vehicles as compensation. If someone needs a raise or more salary, the vehicle shouldn’t be part of their compensation.”

But even when you get buy-in from senior leadership, not everyone is going to like it. The key to working through that resistance is a lot of communication.

“We’ve had a lot of meetings and presented some webinars talking about the benefits [of telematics] – to reduce cost, improve driver safety, recover stolen vehicles. We laid it all out there,” Jefferson said.

3. Avoid surprises.
“If you’re selecting a telematics system, you want to know upfront what it costs to do any custom software because that can add up,” Jefferson said. “We thought about that ahead of time, and that’s one of the main reasons why we selected our provider because they don’t charge us extra for customer reporting unless it gets really wild. Everything we’ve done so far, we’ve never been charged extra.”

4. Determine your rollout strategy.
Work with your telematics provider to determine the optimal rollout cadence for your situation.

“We determined that it would be too much to bite off all at once to do everything at once, so we’ve been adding telematics at a pace of 300 to 400 vehicles a year since 2015,” Jefferson said.

5. Plan for maintenance.
Don’t expect your telematics deployment to be a one-time set-it-and-forget-it project.

“Our rollout took more manpower than I originally thought it would,” Jefferson said. “And it still does to this day. We try to automate as many of the changes as possible, but when you’re adding new fleet assets, or a person retires, leaves the company or moves around within the company, there’s a lot of work involved and a cost of maintenance to update the system.”

The Bottom Line
How can you set up your telematics deployment to go as smoothly as possible?

“Do your homework and think about long-term solutions because once you settle with a [telematics] company, you’re making a long-term commitment,” Jefferson said. “You don’t want to be changing [providers] every year; it’s too much work.”


The Low-Hanging Fruit for Greening Your Fleet

What if you could convert the majority of your fleet to run on a cleaner-burning, renewable fuel with minimal capital investment. Would you do it?

According to NTEA’s 2019 Fleet Purchasing Outlook, a growing number of fleet professionals are saying they would, with survey participants naming biodiesel as their top alternative fuel choice – and their top choice for future interest.

Think of biodiesel as the low-hanging fruit for fleets to make a significant dent in their green initiatives without breaking the bank. That’s because the fuel is relatively easy to get, and biodiesel blends up to B20 (20% biodiesel and 80% petrodiesel) can be used in most diesel engines without modification. Compared to petrodiesel, B20 reduces carbon emissions by 16% on average, according to the National Biodiesel Board. And you can use biodiesel in conjunction with your fleet electrification efforts, such as with hybrid-electric diesel trucks.

One fleet that has gone all-in with biodiesel is Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison Co., which began using the fuel in 2001. In February, ComEd was recognized by the Chicago Area Clean Cities Coalition for their extensive biodiesel use by receiving two Green Fleet Leadership Awards – the first for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 5,000 tons in 2017 with biodiesel and electric vehicles, and the second award for reducing nearly 370,000 gasoline-gallon equivalents of fuel by using biodiesel.

What has ComEd’s experience been with biodiesel? What lessons have they learned? And what advice do they have for other utility fleet professionals who are considering making the transition? 

UFP recently spoke with Les Faul, fleet operations manager at ComEd, to get his perspective.

UFP: What blend of biodiesel does ComEd primarily use?

Les Faul: It depends on the time of the year. When we first started our biodiesel program, we were running B20 year-round. But as the manufacturers and the tolerances have changed, we have adjusted our blend. We still run B20 throughout the summer months, but in the winter, we have pared back to B11.

One of the common criticisms of using biodiesel is the issue of fuel gelling in the winter. What has ComEd done to mitigate that issue?

Glycerin and moisture in the fuel [which can lead to gelling] don’t seem to have any effect on the fuel in the summer months. The warmth thins out the fuel mixture, allowing it to flow through the engine. But as the diesel gets cold, you’ve got a cloud point where the fuel begins to crystallize – a cold filter plug point, where the diesel will no longer flow through the equipment, including the filters and the fuel system. And that’s where you’ve got the issues with your vehicle.

We monitor both [the glycerin and moisture] levels through testing throughout our winter months to ensure that we’re targeting where our threshold is.

And what we have found works for us is to go with a lower biodiesel blend in the winter – B11 – while also using a Number 1 oil, a dryer diesel [than the standard Number 2 diesel] to minimize moisture.

This winter, Chicago encountered record-cold temperatures. How did the biodiesel hold up?

We consider ourselves first responders, so we want to ensure the highest operability standards for our equipment – that we’re not sitting on the side of the road due to any issues concerning our fuel. We always err on the side of caution.

In the Chicago area this winter, when we had a few consecutive days of nearly -30 [degrees Fahrenheit] actual temperature, our fuel was not a major concern for us. We weren’t running straight Number 1 oil like a lot of the arctic utilities might be; we were still running our biodiesel even during the coldest parts of the year.

What does ComEd’s biodiesel fueling infrastructure look like? How do you go about fueling off-site?

It’s a little bit of a mixed bag. We have on-site fueling at 19 of our 21 sites. All of those locations have our biodiesel blend, whether it’s our summer or winter blend.

Also, because of how we run and operate, especially during storms and in remote areas, our drivers can get fueling at an off-site or public facility. But they are encouraged to use our on-site fuel. That’s because we’ve got much better control over the quality of our fuel than we have at the public fuel stations.

Where do you see ComEd’s use of biodiesel fitting into your overall green fleet strategy? Is it a “bridge fuel” to full electrification? Or does it fit in combination with your fleet electrification initiatives?

Biodiesel is not going to be a bridge. It has been one of our core strategies for quite some time. I would say our biodiesel use will continue in combination with electrification, especially in our fleet. That’s because we don’t have a lot of opportunities to go 100% electric with the duty cycles that we’ve got to run, especially when we’re in storm mode, running 24 hours a day.

But we definitely do have a strategy to increase the electrification of our fleet, especially when it comes to [electric power takeoff] trucks. So, we’re running biodiesel vehicles with electric power takeoff units to run our bucket trucks’ HVAC cab comfort systems. And anywhere that we can go 100% electric, we will.

What advice do you have for other utility fleet professionals about what to consider when transitioning to biodiesel?

If you’re making the transition to biodiesel, especially into the higher biodiesel blends [like B20], make sure you do your prep work. Clean your in-ground storage tanks, have a filter exchange program going at least for the first month as you clean out your vehicle tanks, and then put in place a good change management program with your end users.

In most cases, the end users will never know the difference [between diesel and biodiesel]. But if you don’t engage them at the start, sometimes there can be a negative perception of the biodiesel product. It’s one of those culture changes that if you manage it well, you’ll be fine. Biodiesel is a very reliable product. There will be no performance issues that the driver will ever notice.


The State of Self-Driving Vehicles: Proceed with Caution

Norman Vincent Peale, author of the classic self-help book “The Power of Positive Thinking,” put it like this: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Peale’s message is clear: Aim high. That way, even if you miss your target or it takes you longer than you had hoped, you’ll accomplish so much more than you could have if you had set your sights lower.

It appears that after a decade of shooting for the moon, the automakers and tech giants working in the self-driving space have realized that replacing human drivers with software is a much harder challenge – and will take longer – than anticipated to solve. But in their pursuit of full autonomy, OEMs have made significant progress in developing driver-assist systems and other technology that could pay significant dividends in saving lives until the day that “driverless” becomes a reality.

What has happened in the past year to change the trajectory and outlook for fully autonomous vehicles? Where does the industry stand today?

The Moonshot
In 2009, search engine giant Google launched its self-driving car project – now branded as Waymo – as one of the company’s “moonshot” initiatives. That decision has transformed the automotive world with significant implications for public safety.

After all, nearly 40,000 people die on U.S. roads each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 94% of crashes can be tied to human error.

So, if self-driving systems remove the human driver from the equation, and thus eliminate human error, we can prevent the vast majority of on-road fatalities, right?

In this way, autonomous vehicles would usher in a crashless society. And Waymo’s first fleet of highly automated Toyota Priuses began to make that vision look possible, spurring traditional automakers and other Silicon Valley companies – like Tesla – to join Waymo in an all-out race to autonomy.

Self-Driving Hype Cycle
But the race really began to heat up in October 2015, when Tesla released its first version of Autopilot, which operated like cruise control on steroids, using cameras to keep the vehicle within lane markers, radar to maintain safe speed and distance from vehicles ahead, and sonar to sense when to change lanes safely.

This was a big deal because it gave consumers access to the most advanced vehicle automation system commercially available at the time.

Autopilot opened the public’s eyes to the possibilities of what full automation might look like. In 2016, other automakers began tapping into that market excitement and anticipation by touting their own latest advancements in autonomy, not just at auto shows but also at popular technology events, like South by Southwest and the Consumer Electronics Show.

The hype around self-driving vehicles swelled over the next two years, as media headlines promoted the idea that truly driverless vehicles were right around the corner.

The Crash
Then came March 18, 2018, when the first recorded case of a pedestrian fatality involving a self-driving vehicle occurred.

Elaine Herzberg was walking her bicycle across a Tempe, Arizona, street when the radar and LiDAR of an Uber-owned autonomous Volvo XC90 SUV failed to spot Herzberg and fatally struck her.

According to Tempe police, the safety driver in the Volvo was streaming video on her phone at the time and didn’t hit the brakes until less than a second after the collision.

This incident caused Uber to stop their self-driving testing program in Arizona.

Then, just five days later, on March 23, 2018, the driver of a Tesla Model X was killed after colliding with a freeway median barrier while the vehicle’s Autopilot was engaged.

A few months later, in June, one of Waymo’s self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans crashed on the freeway outside the company’s office in Mountain View, California. The lone safety driver fell asleep at the wheel and inadvertently pressed the gas pedal, which disengaged the vehicle’s self-driving mode. Fortunately, the safety driver wasn’t hurt, and no other vehicles were involved.

But the impact of these high-profile collisions in short succession caused the industry to take a step back to reflect: “Are we racing too fast toward full autonomy at the expense of safety?”

The Caution Flag
Today, most companies in the self-driving space are setting more sober expectations compared to the year or so leading up to Herzberg’s death in March 2018.

For example, when Raquel Urtasun, chief scientist with Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group, spoke about the challenges of self-driving development at a Reuters Newsmaker event in New York this April, she said, “Self-driving cars are going to be in our lives. The question of when is not clear yet. To have it at scale is going to take a long time.”

At a Detroit Economic Club event in April, Jim Hackett, chief executive officer at Ford Motor Co., said that too much hype had been built up around how soon self-driving cars will hit the road. “We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” he said. While Ford’s first self-driving car is still coming in 2021, “its applications will be narrow, what we call geofenced, because the problem is so complex.”

Tesla is the lone player in this space saying that full self-driving is imminent.

On April 22, at an investor event that Tesla promoted as “Autonomy Day,” CEO Elon Musk said that Tesla would have a million “robotaxis” on the road next year, meaning a million truly autonomous cars that can operate commercially in a ride-hailing network, generating passive income for their owners.

Industry analyst sentiment was generally skeptical.

Tesla investors and analysts – no media members were invited – had the opportunity to ride in the cars in full self-driving mode but were not permitted to film the drive. The experience left some analysts with more questions than answers.

As reported by CNBC, Deutsche Bank analyst Emmanuel Rosner, who took a test drive of the vehicles Tesla showed, said, “Given our own test ride still faced issues despite being on a preplanned course and under relatively simple road conditions, we believe the company’s targeted timeline for both full self-driving and its robotaxi service is at the very least aggressive. Ultimately, we still wonder whether Tesla can even solve the large challenges of fully autonomous driving with its vision-based approach alone.”

The Bottom Line
Although most companies in the self-driving race have tapped the brakes and pulled back from their more aggressive timelines, consider the progress made in the past decade with the increased availability of advanced driver-assist systems – the building blocks for automation, which include auto-braking, lane-keeping assist and blind spot detection – that are saving lives today.

Full self-driving may be much further away than anticipated. But in the pursuit of improving driver safety, it’s a good thing that Google shot for the moon and the industry followed.

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