Tag: Editorial

A Better Idea

When Ron Schoon, executive manager, partnership development at National Renewable Energy Laboratory addressed attendees at the recent Green Truck Summit, his focus was on Clean Cities programs and initiatives and the ongoing activity aimed at identifying the value of clean fuels and technologies for commercial trucks. For example, he shared details on a national database of duty and drive cycles that will highlight how these technologies can be beneficial in real-world applications.

While that information will prove helpful to fleet managers considering alternative fuels, there is a missing piece of the puzzle, namely financial incentives that will help utilities and other companies cost justify these choices. Currently, while consumers can receive federal tax credits for the purchase of alternative fuel passenger cars, there are no federal incentives for the purchase of clean fuel trucks, buses or nonroad vehicles.

Incentives play a particularly important role in the early market for clean commercial vehicles because they are still produced in low volume and are more costly, noted CALSTART during a press event at The Work Truck Show 2013. But a commercial vehicle, it was noted, consumes much more fuel per day than a passenger car, so using clean technologies can cut more fuel use and reduce emissions to a larger extent on a per vehicle basis.

CALSTART’s remarks were made during the announcement that it has developed a white paper highlighting the emerging opportunity to create a regionally and state-supported national network of voucher-based incentives to speed clean commercial vehicles sales, even in the face of federal budget reductions. “Clean Tech Vouchers: An Effective Tool for All Regions” highlights the effectiveness of point-of-purchase vouchers as the best tools to spur sales of clean commercial vehicles.

Vouchers are different than standard incentives, CALSTART pointed out, in that they provide funding at the time of purchase, directly lowering the cost to the purchaser, and are simpler to request and process than grant funds or tax credits. A voucher, a point-of-sale reduction in price, the group noted, is far more helpful than a tax credit, particularly when it comes to fleet purchasing decisions.

The CALSTART paper also reports on a case study from California, the first state to test purchase vouchers for clean vehicles. It also describes how New York state, Maryland, Chicago and other regions nationwide have structured or will soon structure their own voucher programs. In addition to using state funds, some regions are also using existing federal transportation program dollars to support clean vehicle deployment.

“There is a good model now in place that regions can use,” said John Boesel, CALSTART president and CEO. “Given the lack of federal action, it is imperative that we encourage as many regions as possible to build out this clean vehicle support network for energy security, job growth and cleaner air. This report demonstrates the importance of state and regional action to spur the use of cleaner vehicles. In the absence of federal incentives for commercial vehicles, state and regional programs can keep the U.S. moving forward on clean tech and alternative fuel deployments.”

CALSTART recommends that vouchers be open to all clean fuels and technologies including natural gas, propane, hybrid, electric and other solutions. It is encouraging fleets and the industry to work with regions interested in speeding clean vehicle use to develop their own programs, and is available to help provide information on how to structure a voucher program.

By providing a financial incentive to fleets, a voucher program can give the deployment of alternative fuel technologies a much-needed boost.

Seth Skydel

What’s in a Name? – Part II

On this page in the last issue of Utility Fleet Professional, we asked what exactly constitutes telematics in the realm of fleet management. Our question was based on the widespread use of the term “telematics” to denote automated vehicle systems. We also promised to focus more closely on what fleet managers need to know.

It turns out we had some very valuable information at our fingertips. During the 2012 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (www.eufmc.com), two of the presentations in a session entitled “GPS/AVL – Looking for ROI” offered key insights.

Alan Riddle, director of transportation services, and David Guerrero, fleet asset manager at Southern California Edison, presented “SCE and Telematics” about the evaluation of this technology on vehicles operated by the SCE Transportation Services Department. The SCE Fleet Performance Management System, they noted, provided management with real-time data on fleet vehicles, which can be utilized for more effective decision-making in three key areas:
• Fleet utilization including managing fleet size, vehicle reassignment, reducing the number of rentals, creating vehicle pools for short-term use, making informed vehicle replacement decisions, assigning the right vehicles for the right job and tracking unauthorized vehicle use.
• Fleet maintenance including improved preventive and corrective maintenance, increased safety during vehicle operation, and identification of poor performing vehicles and vehicle tampering or misuse.
• Fleet efficiency including reduced fuel consumption, decreased nonproductive idle time, improved driver performance, increased fuel economy, decreased emissions, fuel cost tracking, optimal routing, maximized fuel tax credits and increased compliance.

Findings from SCE pilot testing indicated that if this system lowered indirect idling to under 10 percent, speeding to under 5 percent and underutilization to less than 10 percent, and mpg increased, SCE would realize a return on investment from telematics within three years. Additional benefits include improved public and employee safety, better job planning and routing, vehicle life extension, faster response times to an incident and enhanced storm resource management. Also included is resolution of customer complaints regarding driver behavior, less theft and fraud, fuel tax savings and improved environmental stewardship through fleet efficiencies.

Tim Taylor, customer success officer at Telogis Inc., was also on the panel. He began by detailing four levels of telematics systems:

Level 1: Traditional AVL/GPS indicates where the vehicle is located; if it is driving, idled or stopped; how fast it is moving; and if it is in the right place compared to the location of the work.

Level 2: Vehicle intelligence includes getting data about the vehicle and its key components; how the vehicle is performing; if it is being utilized effectively; and if maintenance performed is based on real hours and miles.

Level 3: Connected intelligence uses customizable scorecards, dashboards and benchmarking to monitor and manage safety; utilization for emergency response coordination; and for coaching driver behavior about idling, speeding and hard acceleration/braking.

Level 4: Integration, interoperability from the connection between mobile intelligence and other enterprise applications, creating improved visibility, unique metrics, interoperability/integration with vehicle telematics, maintenance applications, and ERP and HR, inventory, cost, work order and fuel management systems.

In Level 1, Taylor noted, ROI for telematics comes from fuel cost savings, reducing miles driven and maintenance costs, and improving fleet utilization by identifying underutilized vehicles, as well as reducing capital investment and operating costs and the number of safety incidents.

“Telematics initiatives are about the creation of intelligence via the connection of mobile assets to the needs of the enterprise; providing operational levers for measurable improvement in operations, costs and efficiencies; driver performance and safety; emergency response and visibility; asset utilization; and customer service and satisfaction,” Taylor concluded.

To answer our own question, we couldn’t have summed it up better.

Seth Skydel

What’s in a Name?

Originally, the term “telematics” was coined to describe the combination of telecommunication and information management systems. In fleet operations, the idea was that onboard systems could communicate with fleet management solutions to provide valuable data on vehicles and operations that would enhance processes and streamline maintenance and repair activities. This activity could take place across cellular- and satellite-based mobile communication platforms, and using new wireless handheld devices.

Over time, telematics has also been used to refer to many automated vehicle systems. One of the earliest examples was General Motors’ OnStar, which was among the first systems to combine GPS location capabilities with roadside assistance and remote diagnostics. On a growing number of trucks, including those used by utility fleets, telematics solutions can combine data from electronically controlled components, such as engines and transmissions with onboard communication technology.

In preparing for this issue of Utility Fleet Professional, we began asking ourselves what exactly constitutes telematics in the realm of fleet management. Our searches of several industry databases, for example, turned up a long list of systems that are associated with the term. Those include accident management systems, alarms/warning systems, audiovisual equipment, backing safety systems, backup alarms, collision warning systems, onboard computers, electronic obstacle detection, electronic safety devices, engine monitoring and controls, GPS tracking, ignition interlocks, mobile data terminals, rearview camera systems, vehicle monitoring systems, video safety systems and video surveillance equipment.

While we make plans to cover this growing area of interest in future issues – with a focus on what fleet managers need to know – we’re hoping to gain some valuable insight at the Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2012 conference (www.telematicsupdate.com/fleet/) scheduled to be held in Atlanta in mid-November.

The focus of the conference is “Fleet Telematics Geared for Mass Market: Utilize Data, Heightened Applications and Connectivity to Deliver ROI for Fleet Operators.” Topics on this year’s agenda include:
• Create Transparent and Seamless Fleet Operations: Understand the types of benchmarking – such as performance and energy – relevant to fleet operations to give context to data and visibility to fleet managers for operational efficiency.
• Establish OEM’s Priorities from a Fleet Perspective: Understand which additional data is being sent to the engine bus, such as rpm, odometer, fuel usage in real time, and flow indication to monitor myriad data streams and offer a comprehensive telematics solutions portfolio.
• Software as a Service (SaaS) – Prosper Through Cutting-Edge Business Models: Assess how to adopt a competitive pricing model that takes into account initial setup, usage parameters and opportunities to charge per transaction of data to gain optimum ROI.
• Embracing the 4G Future: Consider the 4G spectrum to integrate new fleet-centric services, such as real-time maps and driver behavior monitoring that will encourage heightened safety and promote fuel efficiency.

The commercial telematics industry has reached a key tipping point, according to conference organizer Telematics Update, which bills itself as “the reference point for automotive telematics, mobile and web industries.” Look for UFP to follow up on this increasingly important topic in the future.

Seth Skydel

Keeping Pace

Regulatory and legislative concerns can certainly take up a considerable amount of a fleet manager’s time and energy. During the 2012 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, nearly 100 fleet executives from about 60 investor-owned electric utilities, electric cooperatives and electrical contractors across the U.S. and Canada heard firsthand about the latest issues that could impact their operations.

Pat O’Connor of Kent & O’Connor, legislative counsel for NAFA Fleet Management Association, provided EUFMC attendees with a comprehensive update on a wide range of topics. Three in particular could impact technology on vehicles.

Distracted Driving
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has restricted the use of handheld mobile phones by drivers of commercial motor vehicles and the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended a prohibition on the use of handheld and hands-free cellular telephones by all commercial drivers while driving in commercial operations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has proposed voluntary guidelines calling on auto manufacturers to integrate technology in cars that automatically disables built-in phone calling, texting and other distracting devices unless the vehicle is parked. This rule would apply to vehicles under 10,000 pounds GVWR and cover communications, entertainment, information gathering, and navigation devices or functions that are not required to safely operate the vehicle. Approaches could include locking out electronic functions unless the vehicle is stopped and in park. At a later date, NHTSA will issue guidelines for mobile devices that are brought into the vehicle and address voice-activated controls.

OSHA is also addressing this subject by partnering with the DOT to focus on texting, including advising employers to prohibit any work policy or practice that requires or encourages workers to text while driving. When OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity, it will investigate and issue citations and penalties when necessary to end this practice.

Rear Vision
NHTSA is delaying a final rule until late this year that would expand the required field of view for all passenger cars, pickup trucks, minivans, buses and low-speed vehicles with a GVWR up to 10,000 pounds so drivers can see directly behind the vehicle when in reverse. NHTSA believes automobile manufacturers will install rear-mounted video cameras and in-vehicle displays to meet the proposed standard, but manufacturers have raised technical concerns.

Brake Throttle Override
A proposed regulation by NHTSA is intended to minimize the risk that drivers will lose control of their vehicles as a result of accelerator control system disconnections, accelerator pedal sticking or floor mat entrapment.

Other legislative and regulatory issues that utility fleet managers may want to monitor include those concerning hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, neighborhood electric, and natural gas vehicles and refueling properties, as well as biodiesel and ethanol blends. Regulations covering underground storage tanks are also undergoing review and updating.

The focus on regulatory and legislative issues at EUFMC was a direct result of the interest in that information among fleet managers. “EUFMC this year was the largest ever,” said Gerald Owens, senior vice president of Oncor Electric Delivery and the new EUFMC president. “The Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference continues to hold great interest for fleet managers because the subjects we address help them meet the challenges they face every day in their organizations.”

The 60th annual Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference will be held June 2-5, 2013, at the Williamsburg Lodge and Conference Center in Williamsburg, Va. For more information, visit www.eufmc.com.

Seth Skydel

Trending Now

Among the resources available to fleet managers in our industry are shows and conferences that offer unique opportunities to gather valuable information. These events are also a window into the most pressing concerns and topics of interest to fleets.

At The Work Truck Show 2012 in Indianapolis, a record-setting 10,408 attendees and 563 exhibitors provided just such an opportunity. Showcasing Class 1-8 trucks, chassis, bodies, components and accessories, more than 120 of the exhibiting companies launched at least 140 new products, including alternative fuel systems, which are featured elsewhere in this issue.

The Work Truck Show was also the site of the Green Truck Summit where technical experts, government officials, industry leaders and early adopter fleet managers came together to unveil recent developments in sustainable technologies and new commercial truck applications.

Also a record event with 772 attendees, The Work Truck Show event was coupled with a Green Truck Ride-and-Drive featuring 21 commercial vehicles that incorporate advances in hybrid technology and alternative fuel applications, including CNG, propane, battery-electric, extended-range electric, ultra-clean biodiesel, bi-fuel CNG, series and parallel electric hybrids, and hydraulic hybrids.

As we go to press we’re getting ready to attend the NAFA Institute & Expo where fleet professionals will be on hand to network and see the latest services and products available for their operations. They will also take part in more than 65 educational programs and hear from several key speakers.

Next up we’re attending the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (EUFMC), which continues to attract record numbers of fleet executives from investor-owned electric utilities, electric cooperatives and electrical contractors from across the U.S. and Canada, as well as representatives of equipment and service suppliers. The annual exhibition at EUFMC features more than 75 displays where fleet managers can meet with 250+ representatives from more than 95 manufacturers and service providers.

EUFMC is also a perfect example of how close cooperation between fleet managers and suppliers is mutually beneficial. The conference is an opportunity for manufacturers to share product ideas with customers, and for fleet managers to make their wishes and concerns known so better solutions can be developed. The sharing of best practices is also a hallmark of EUFMC, which includes roundtables where fleet representatives and suppliers can exchange information and discuss mutual concerns.

Staying in the loop can be a full-time task for today’s already busy fleet executives. Thanks to industry associations and their active members, however, it is that much easier to see what’s trending now, and to learn as much as possible in a short amount of time about the solutions available to address the industry’s most pressing needs.

Seth Skydel

Keeping Up

The hardest part of putting together the Spring 2012 issue of Utility Fleet Professional was not finding enough material to fill the pages. The real challenge was determining what to include from the very large volume of information we had available.

If you’re attending The Work Truck Show, you’ll know exactly what I mean. On display at the annual event are the latest technologies from more than 550 exhibitors. Also featuring a large expo of products was the Hybrid, Electric and Advanced Truck Users Forum (HTUF) annual meeting this past fall.

We made room in this issue for coverage of developments reported to us about electric, propane, compressed natural gas and hybrid vehicles; reports from industry conferences on fleet management practices; and details of the latest shop and vehicle technologies being offered by the industry’s leading suppliers.

There were a couple of things we had to leave out, but only because they are developments that we will be learning much more about in the not-too-distant future and will most certainly cover extensively in upcoming issues.

Bright Automotive, for example, is ramping up for a 2014 launch of its IDEA plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). The all-wheel-drive platform is the result of a 2010 strategic partnership with General Motors, which is providing engines and parts. Bright currently has several prototypes of its PHEV powertrain in the field.

We have also learned about a global effort that is leading toward the eventual introduction of Class 3-5 hybrid trucks by Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America (MFTA). At the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, MFTA’s parent company, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, a part of the Daimler Trucks Division of Daimler AG, unveiled the second-generation model of its light-duty Canter Eco Hybrid, which is reportedly 40 percent lighter than the original 2006 model and has shown 30 percent better fuel economy than diesel-powered models.

Todd Bloom, president and CEO of MFTA, explained that the hybrid technology is in place and the payback on an investment in these vehicles is verifiable. Now, he said, the goal is to address emissions and safety standards so the Canter Eco Hybrid can join MFTA’s line of Canter FE/FG Class 3 through 5 cabovers in the U.S.

We are also planning to follow developments as Toyota and Ford work together to develop hybrid trucks and SUVs that will be ready for market by the end of the decade. The two companies announced the plan in late summer of last year, noting that they will collaborate on product development for the future rear-wheel drive hybrid vehicles and help each other meet stringent U.S. fuel economy standards.

All things considered, there is plenty to read about in this issue and we hope you agree that we made wise choices about what to include. Looking ahead, we’ll be steadfastly following all the industry’s developments and giving you even more valuable information.

Seth Skydel

Accurate, Timely and Valuable

Meeting the Information Needs of the Utility Fleet Professional

More years ago than I care to remember, as a rookie editor at a trucking industry equipment and maintenance magazine, my role was summed up for me by a much more seasoned journalist. “Our job,” he said, “is to know the information needs of our readers intimately, and to be an accurate, timely and valuable resource for them as they work to improve the fleet operations at their companies.”

It is with that in mind that we proudly launch Utility Fleet Professional, a new magazine dedicated to meeting the unique information needs of utility fleet equipment and maintenance managers. Defined by a variety and complexity of equipment unmatched in any other type of vocational fleet, utility vehicle operations require highly dedicated professionals who can blend technical expertise with superior management skills, and in turn bring value to their companies.

Here at UFP we intend to help you achieve those goals by developing editorial content that addresses fleet, corporate and operations management, and fleet maintenance and purchasing issues. The editorial content of UFP will be focused on a number of key areas, including light- and medium-duty trucks, aerial and underground equipment, fuel management, truck bodies and chassis, vehicle accessories, work zone systems, construction equipment, and maintenance management and shop tools, to name just a few. We’ll also bring you the latest on environmental issues, industry news and regulatory developments that will impact your fleets.

In this first issue of UFP you will also find several stories about fleet managers who are describing the programs and practices that make their operations successful. These stories, we believe, are of the greatest value because they allow our readers to share problems and solutions, benefiting the entire industry.

Our team at UFP has a long track record in both the utility industry and in the realm of truck fleet management magazines. Combined we have more than 60 years of experience, and deep connections throughout the industry and with the suppliers you rely on for products and services.

We also hope to rely on you. Reach out to us with ideas, challenge us with questions, and we will do our very best to find the answers and solutions you need to effectively manage your fleets.

This year we will produce two print issues of UFP for two key industry events. The first, in June, will be issued at the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (EUFMC) in Williamsburg, Va. The second, in October, will be in print at the International Construction & Utility Equipment Exposition (ICUEE) in Louisville, Ky. Additional issues will be planned for 2012 and at all times you can find us at www.utilityfleetprofessional.com

The utility fleet industry has highly specialized information needs. As the only publication dedicated exclusively to utility fleet professionals, UFP will bring you relevant and useful information. We hope that you will quickly learn to count on us as “an accurate, timely and valuable resource.”

Seth Skydel

Utility Fleet Professional

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