Tag: Editorial

Ancient Wisdom for Today’s Fleet Leaders

There’s a fable by the ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop, about the Sun and the Wind that offers a powerful lesson for today’s fleet leaders. It goes something like this.

As the Sun and the Wind were debating over who was the stronger force, the Sun noticed a traveler walking along the road below them, which gave him an idea for how to settle the matter once and for all.

He pointed to the traveler and offered this proposal to the Wind: “Whichever one of us can get that man to take off his jacket will be considered the stronger force.”

The Wind agreed and went first. But as he put his power on full display, something very interesting happened. While the Wind’s strength grew, so did the traveler’s resistance. Instead of getting him to take off his jacket, the Wind’s force caused the man to cling to his jacket even tighter, refusing to let it go, until eventually the Wind gave up.

Then it was the Sun’s turn. He emerged from behind the clouds and quietly focused his heat onto the man. At first, nothing appeared to be happening. But then a drop of sweat trickled down the man’s forehead. And then another and another, until the traveler was sweating profusely. A few seconds later, he willingly took off his coat.

So, what’s the lesson here for fleet? When it comes to working with people, subtle influence is more powerful than direct force.

Think about it. When you propose an initiative that could bring big changes to your organization – whether it’s rightsizing the fleet, deploying telematics or switching maintenance software systems – you inevitably encounter people who don’t want those changes to happen.

That’s because if stakeholders feel like changes are being forced upon them, they’ll respond like the traveler resisting the Wind, clinging tighter to their proverbial jackets, with their minds closed to any opportunities the changes could bring to them – and the organization. And they’ll do everything they can to undermine your efforts.

But when you involve stakeholders from the beginning of the process and, along the way, address their concerns about the uncertainty the changes could bring to their jobs and their lives, you’re leading like the Sun, using the “warmth” of influence to motivate people to work alongside you – not against you – to ensure your change initiative is a success.

Sean M. Lyden

The Future of Utility Fleets is Here … Are You Ready?

As a utility fleet professional, you have to wear numerous hats – engineer, purchasing agent, manager, IT person, recruiter, counselor, accountant, salesperson – and are constantly bombarded with “fires” to put out, leaving you with little time to think about your future.

But as you read about and see the rapid change going on in the industry, you’re realizing that you need the time to start thinking about how to adapt. Emerging technologies like self-driving systems, the internet of things, connected vehicles, artificial intelligence and drones are already here and just beginning to make an impact on how fleets – and fleet professionals – do business, setting the stage for major industry disruption in the next three to five years.

And as more and more older fleet workers and technicians get ready for retirement, there’s a looming shortage of younger workers who are willing and qualified to fill the gap, raising the stakes for utility fleets as they compete for technical talent and expertise.

So, what if there was a three-day boot camp during which you could set aside everything else and focus your energy and attention on learning and thinking about the strategies, tactics and leadership tools that can help you successfully navigate the challenges ahead?

Now there is, and its name is Utility Fleet Conference 2017.

UFC 2017 is an intensive three-day fleet education event from October 2-4, 2017, produced by Utility Fleet Professional magazine (www.utilityfleetprofessional.com) and co-located at the International Construction & Utility Equipment Exposition (www.icuee.com) in Louisville, Ky.

If you’re a fleet professional working for an investor-owned utility, public utility, cooperative or utility contractor, UFC 2017 is designed specifically for you. That’s because it brings together leading minds from across North America for fleet-focused education and networking, where you can dive deep into the best practices, strategies and trends that address the unique needs and challenges of utility fleets, especially in today’s rapidly changing environment.

And since UFC 2017 is co-located with ICUEE, which attracts more than 17,000 attendees and 950-plus exhibitors, you gain access to an exclusive forum for checking out the latest equipment and meeting and learning from industry experts and peers who can help you take your fleet’s performance – and your career – to the next level.

If this conference interests you, visit www.utilityfleetconference.com to learn more and view the full agenda. And if you register before June 30, you’ll save $100.

Hope to see you in Louisville!

Sean M. Lyden

Self-Driving Systems Present Opportunities and Challenges for Fleets Today, Not Just in the Future

In early February, I moderated a panel of OEM reps from Ford Motor Co. and Daimler Trucks North America on the topic of “Connectivity, Autonomy and the Future of Mobility in Fleet” at the Washington, D.C. Auto Show. As I reflected on our discussion, this was my biggest takeaway: The emergence of self-driving systems is not just a trend to watch in the next five to 10 years; there’s a lot going on right now that utility fleets should be thinking about.

For example, the new 2018 Ford F-150 pickup, expected to go on sale this fall, will feature an available Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Warning system and an advanced adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality that uses radars and cameras to maintain a set distance behind a vehicle – and even follow that vehicle down to a complete stop.

Then there’s the new 2018 Freightliner Class 8 Cascadia, set to release this summer, which offers a full suite of semiautonomous technologies, including adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation with automatic braking. But perhaps the most interesting system is the fourth-generation Intelligent Powertrain Management that’s available on models equipped with Detroit Diesel powertrains. It operates like a predictive cruise control system, using GPS connectivity that enables the truck to anticipate upcoming road terrain and automatically adjust transmission shifting, engine acceleration and braking in a way that maximizes fuel economy as the vehicle approaches each hill, climbs it and coasts on the other side.

The bottom line is that, on some level, autonomous vehicles are already here – from cars and light-duty pickups all the way up to Class 8 tractors. But I’m curious: How are these developments impacting your fleet operations today?

Now that more and more OEMs are offering semiautonomous systems as factory options, does this mean that you should automatically spec those technologies in the name of safety? Or, is the upfront cost to include those options still too steep for the budget?

What are your company’s policies when it comes to operating vehicles with self-driving capabilities? If a driver gets annoyed with the beeps or vibration alerts on the truck’s collision mitigation system and decides to disable it, how is that issue addressed? If a crash occurs after the system was disabled, what does that mean for your company’s risk exposure?

While fully self-driving vehicles are likely a decade away, now is the time to think through the opportunities and challenges of autonomy and develop best practices that help you navigate your fleet in this brave new self-driving world.

Share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with me at sean@utilityfleetprofessional.com.

Sean M. Lyden

Save the Date for Utility Fleet Conference 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

Sean M. Lyden

Finding the Opportunity in Every Obstacle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean M. Lyden

Do Automated Driving Technologies Promote High-Risk Behaviors?

On May 7, a Tesla Model S, with Autopilot engaged, slammed full-speed into a tractor-trailer that pulled out in front of it, killing the Tesla’s driver. The incident was billed as the first death caused by autonomous car technology and raised questions about whether the Tesla Autopilot – or any similar type of system, for that matter – is ready for prime time. This was a blow to an industry that has been touting self-driving cars as the answer to the over 33,000 people who die from motor vehicle crashes each year in the U.S.

Then, within days of initial reports, Reuters reported that there was a portable DVD player inside the vehicle playing a video at the moment of impact. The conclusion: Although the Tesla failed to “see” the truck, the driver didn’t see it either, presumably because he was distracted by watching a video.

This isn’t the only example of a Tesla driver pushing the limits of Autopilot. Despite the automaker’s warnings that Autopilot is not intended to be a fully autonomous system – and that the driver must be able to retake control of the vehicle at any time – there have been numerous YouTube videos posted by Model S owners, depicting them engaging in high-risk behaviors, including dozing off behind the wheel.

Could it be that an automated driving technology touted to save lives has actually created more opportunity for riskier behavior?

Perhaps. According to Art Liggio, president of Driving Dynamics Inc. (www.drivingdynamics.com), a Newark, Del.-based firm that provides driver safety training and fleet risk management expertise to organizations, the concept is called “risk compensation,” a theory that suggests people typically adjust their behavior in response to how they perceive a level of risk, often becoming less careful the more protected they feel.

“As the Tesla crash demonstrates, once drivers become dependent on ‘advanced’ systems, they often move to a higher risk category,” Liggio said.

Yet this isn’t just a Tesla or consumer issue. As automated driving technologies – such as adaptive cruise control and collision avoidance systems – become more mainstream, how will fleets grapple with the potential impact of risk compensation behaviors among their drivers?

I’m curious what you’re experiencing with this issue. Have you seen an increase in risky behaviors with drivers operating vehicles with advanced systems? If so, what is your organization doing to manage that risk and correct those behaviors? Or, is it a nonissue so far?

Let me know your thoughts at sean@utilityfleetprofessional.com.

Sean M. Lyden

Five Years In, UFP’s Mission Remains the Same: Bring Valuable Content to the Utility Fleet Community

This is our fifth-anniversary issue, and I’m grateful to be part of a dynamic team that’s so passionate about serving the utility industry.

From the beginning in 2011, we have dedicated ourselves to creating educational content that’s tailored to addressing the unique challenges you face in a utility fleet environment. And we refuse to settle. We understand that your world – and job – is constantly shifting, and you’re looking for information that can help you navigate that changing landscape.

That’s why, in 2014, we established an editorial advisory board of your peers – utility fleet professionals from Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable, PG&E, Nebraska Public Power District, Omaha Public Power District and Oklahoma Gas & Electric – to ensure our content remains relevant, accurate and valuable to you. Our board reviews virtually every article we produce and has been instrumental for me to test and “sanity check” story ideas to ensure we keep upping our game in serving you.

And in early 2015, we completely redesigned the magazine and website to make all our content as easy as possible to read, digest and apply to your business. Your time is valuable, so we strive to make the time you spend consuming our content well worth your investment.

Then last September, we produced the first-ever Utility Fleet Conference co-located at ICUEE in Louisville, Ky. This was a highly successful event – which many of you attended – with the aim of delivering education on best practices, real-world strategies and new ideas to help you grow as a utility fleet professional. And we’re set to do it again in October 2017 at ICUEE, so stay tuned for the details!

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you so that during the next five years we can grow with you and make UFP even more valuable to your career. Think of us as your personal research team, who can help you uncover viable answers to your most pressing fleet questions and challenges.

Email me your feedback, questions and story tips at sean@utilityfleetprofessional.com. Together we can build a publication and a community of fleet professionals and experts unrivaled in the industry.

Sean M. Lyden

The Risk Management Challenge in a Self-Driving World

When you read the latest media coverage, you get the sense that when it comes to self-driving vehicles, it’s not a matter of if, but when. Yet, as autonomous vehicle systems get more and more market-ready, will our society be ready? And, on a more granular level, will we in the fleet industry be ready?

Take, for example, risk management. When a robotic vehicle is involved in a collision, who – or what – is responsible?

There’s a growing consensus around the idea that the automaker would assume liability. But what would happen if a sensor on your self-driving truck failed to detect a child darting behind the vehicle as it shifted in reverse, and the truck fatally struck that child?

Sure, you might have grounds to blame the OEM for the sensor malfunction, but it’s your utility’s logo on the truck. Now, your organization is dealing with a public relations firestorm for an incident – and a truck – your crews had no control over.

Or, what about the liability with upfitted trucks? It’s one thing when self-driving sensors are installed by a single car or truck manufacturer. But what about when a third-party upfitter mounts a body on a chassis? Would the upfitter be responsible for installing the cameras, sonar, radar and other sensors on the truck body and integrating them with the sensors on the chassis? If so, how does the industry ensure safety and quality control of the self-driving systems for both the chassis and body?

And who, ultimately, would be liable for an incident caused by a sensor malfunction on an upfitted truck? Would it be the chassis OEM, the upfitter or the sensor manufacturer?

Or, what if there’s a computer glitch? When a vehicle is driven by software, who would be allowed to work on it? And if persistent system glitches occur, causing a collision, who’s the responsible party – the vehicle OEM, the repair shop or the utility itself?

Yes, all trend lines seem to be pointing toward a self-driving future. But there are many questions – beyond the technology – that government, industry and citizens must answer before robots will rule the roads.

Sean M. Lyden

Ethics: The Biggest Hurdle for Self-Driving Vehicles

In October, thousands of Tesla Model S owners across the globe downloaded the Autopilot upgrade, launching the most advanced commercially available driver assistance technology to date. When engaged, Tesla’s Autopilot operates on the highway 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 safely change lanes.

And this is just a taste of what’s to come, as a growing number of automakers and technology giants – including Google, Apple and Uber – have entered the race to launch a fully autonomous vehicle by the end of this decade.

But as a machine takes on more and more of a human driver’s responsibility for decision-making – such as selecting the most optimal routes, deciding when to change lanes and determining when to safely pass another vehicle – how will it handle the moral and ethical dilemmas that humans face from time to time?

Consider this scenario: You’re riding in a self-driving car and approaching a busy intersection at 45 mph. With pedestrians congregating at the corner to your right, your car doesn’t detect a child on a bicycle attempting to dart across the street until it’s too late to stop. So, what does your vehicle decide to do?

It could veer to the left into oncoming traffic and avoid the child but instead crash head-on into a car carrying a family of four. It could lurch to the right but risk barreling into a group of eight pedestrians. Or it could hit the child.

What would the machine choose? How would it evaluate its options? And whatever it decided, who or what would be responsible for the consequences?

It’s hard enough as humans to make split-second moral decisions in times of crisis. But at least we have the power at that moment to choose with our conscience. Would we, as a society, be OK with the idea of being spectators inside machines that make life-and-death decisions on our behalf, without our consent?

Engineers are achieving quantum breakthroughs in artificial intelligence that will function as the “brain” for tomorrow’s fully autonomous vehicle. But will they figure out how to give a machine a soul?

Sean M. Lyden

The Power of Expectation in Leadership

In the 1960s, psychologist Robert Rosenthal and school principal Lenore Jacobson conducted an experiment at an elementary school in California. All students in grades one through six were given IQ tests. The researchers then identified the top 20 percent for each grade – those students who were to be considered the most gifted, with the greatest learning potential.

What the teachers did not know, however, is that those students in the top 20 percent were chosen at random, not by their actual scores.

And something very interesting happened. When all the students were retested eight months later, the randomly selected group scored significantly higher, with greater improvement compared to their peers.

How could that happen?

The prevailing theory is that a teacher with high expectations of a student pays closer attention when the child struggles, providing extra encouragement and help to ensure that child’s success.

And low expectations produce the opposite effect. The teacher doesn’t try as hard to motivate the student, thinking, “Well, he’s a poor student anyway. He’s hopeless.”

The takeaway here is that, as leaders, our expectation of others creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that can directly impact their performance.

For example, if we’re Gen Xers or baby boomers and expect that millennials are lazy or entitled – and we treat them that way – we’re more likely to see those younger workers fulfill our expectations by calling in sick more often or quitting altogether. And we think, “See, they just don’t have what it takes to succeed here!”

But what if we focused on the possibilities and unique advantages that millennials bring to the table? How much more willing would we be to try to understand millennials so we could maximize their potential?

That’s one of the thrusts behind “The Millennial Challenge: Attracting and Retaining Younger Workers in Utility Fleet Operations,” one of this issue’s feature articles. We demystify the generational stereotypes to help you better understand the way millennials think and to raise your expectations – and, ultimately, the performance achievements – of your younger workers.

By learning how to positively harness the power of expectation, you’ll radically transform your ability to connect with people across multiple generations and inspire them to achieve their highest potential. And isn’t that what leadership is all about?

Sean M. Lyden

Utility Fleet Professional

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