Tag: Fleet Maintenance


Latest Developments in Self-Inflating Tires

What if tires could inflate themselves and maintain optimal pressure at all times, with no human intervention required? How much of an impact could that make on fuel efficiency, tire life cycle, driver safety and a fleet’s bottom line?

New self-inflating tire technologies being developed today may provide a glimpse into future possibilities.

Cost of (Improper) Inflation
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a tire that’s underinflated by just 10 pounds per square inch (psi) can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 1 percent per tire.

That’s because an underinflated tire, as it flexes, creates greater friction with the road surface, requiring more energy – or fuel – for the vehicle to overcome the added resistance.

This friction also causes heat to build up in the tire, leading to accelerated deterioration and increased risk of blowout. A report by the Technology & Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations on tire pressure monitoring and inflation maintenance states that tires operating constantly at 20 percent below appropriate pressure levels could increase the wear of the tread by 25 percent.

The challenge is that many fleets don’t do a great job of keeping up with tire pressure on a regular basis, with more than half of truck tires on the road operating outside of their target pressure range, according to research by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

This is important because tires left on their own, just by natural diffusion, will leak about 2 psi per month. Then there’s the issue of pressure fluctuations resulting from extreme climate temperatures that impact tire performance and longevity. So, it can be difficult and often impractical for fleet managers and drivers to manually keep up with tire pressures all the time.

Self-Contained, Self-Inflating System
One solution under development is Goodyear’s Air Maintenance Technology (AMT), a self-maintaining tire inflation system that enables tires to remain inflated at the optimum pressure without the need for any external pumps or electronics. All components of the system, including the miniaturized pump, are fully contained within the tire.

The project was unveiled in 2011 and has been aided by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office. The grant money funds research, development and demonstration of the AMT system for commercial truck tires.

How does AMT work?

“AMT has an internal regulator that senses when the tire inflation pressure has dropped below a specified level,” explained John Kotanides Jr., project manager at Goodyear (www.goodyear.com) in the Akron, Ohio-based Global Innovations Group. “Once the system senses the pressure drop, the regulator opens to allow air to flow into a pumping tube. And as the tire rolls down the road, under the load of the vehicle, the deflection of the tire will flatten that pumping tube, pushing puffs of air back into the tire through the inlet valve. The air flows into the tire cavity and continues to fill the tire as it rolls down the road until the regulator senses that the specified tire pressure has been met and then shuts the system off, until it senses another pressure drop.”

Kotanides said that the company expects to begin piloting AMT on commercial trucks by the end of 2014, but he could not comment on pricing and when the system will be available for sale.

What fleet applications will benefit from AMT?

“Right now, our focus is on the long-haul Class 8 tractor-trailer setup. But we think this type of system could work on almost any tire that has inflation and that travels down the road under a load,” Kotanides said.

Bolt-On Hub System
Another solution to the problem of underinflated tires is Halo, which was launched earlier this year by Burlingame, Calif., startup Aperia Technologies (www.aperiatech.com).

Halo is mounted outside the tire, onto a truck’s axle hub, and is designed to use a wheel’s rotation to maintain optimal tire pressure in dual and wide-based tires on the drive and trailer axles of trucks, tractors, trailers and buses.

“Halo operates on a similar principle to a self-winding watch,” said Josh Carter, chief executive officer and co-founder of Aperia. “It uses a wheel’s rotational motion to pump and maintain optimal tire pressure and therefore does not require any connection to a compressor.”

This is an important distinction because using compressors to power self-inflating tires increases complexity – and cost – and could add weight to a level that negates the fuel economy savings generated by maintaining proper tire pressure in the first place.

Carter said that Halo, which bolts on to the hub on each side of an axle, weighs about 5 pounds per unit and requires fewer than 10 minutes to install by a service technician, without expensive tools.

Since the system is mounted on the axle hub and not integrated into the tire itself, each Halo unit can be remounted for use with multiple sets of tires for up to 500,000 miles or 10 years, the company said.

This bolt-on approach also gives fleet managers flexibility in tire choices, Carter said. “Fleets have a lot of loyalty with a tire manufacturer and they get into a groove with a tire program. With Halo, they can use whichever tire manufacturer they want.”

Carter said that Aperia’s first Halo production run was allocated quickly after launching in March, and the company is currently taking orders for the next round of production. List price is $299 per unit.

Will this system be made available for applications besides long-haul trucking, such as utility fleets?

“Right now our focus is on Class 7 to 8 trucks, primarily those used in long-haul applications because of the payback time frame those fleets can expect from cost savings driven by improved fuel economy,” Carter said. “But we have received a lot of interest for tailoring the system for a wider range of truck sizes and applications. And we have plans in place to conduct a pilot program for the utility market later this year.”

The Bottom Line
Since tire inflation is a critical factor to reducing fuel consumption and overall fleet operational costs, it’s likely that some form of self-inflating tire technology will gain widespread market acceptance. But when? And will the systems of the future look more like Goodyear’s AMT that is integrated within each tire or Aperia’s Halo that is bolted on to the axle hub outside the tire? Or will there be a new, even more effective approach to solving this problem? Keep your eye on this space.

About the Author: Sean M. Lyden is a nationally recognized journalist and feature writer for a wide range of automotive and trucking trade publications, covering fleet management strategies, light- and medium-duty trucks, truck bodies and equipment, and green fuel technologies. He blogs at Strategy + Writing (www.seanmlyden.com).

Managing Warranty Recovery

Even though warranty coverage is automatically included with each new vehicle and replacement part bought for your fleet, nearly every fleet professional fights with suppliers for more. It’s also a lot like accident insurance policies; good warranty coverage is nice to have, but it’s something that no one looks forward to using.

Like it or not, part of every dollar you spend on a new truck or replacement part goes to pay for warranty. Doesn’t it make sense to maximize the return you’re getting on those dollars? To do that, you need to have a warranty recovery system in place to be in a position to recover all the warranty money that’s coming to you.

“Warranty recovery is worth about a penny a mile over the life of a truck, so it is a vital part of controlling costs,” said Darry Stuart, president and CEO of DWS Fleet Management Services (www.darrystuart.com). “Too often, however, fleets lack an organized procedure to store failed parts. There needs to be a specific location for failed parts and a procedure to mark and identify the parts. That way, if a manufacturer calls for one of those parts, shop personnel can go directly to where it can be found.”

Sources of Warranty
Warranty is readily available from several sources. All new vehicles come with standard warranty packages provided by manufacturers, generally through their dealer networks. In addition to these standard packages, some fleet managers are able to obtain supplementary coverage from truck manufacturers based on the size of the order and the fleet professionals’ negotiating skills.

In some instances, manufacturers will approve reimbursement for repairs after the standard warranty expires; these have become known as policy adjustments. If you need to repair a vehicle, and you believe the repair should be covered by the vehicle or component manufacturer, don’t hesitate to ask for reimbursement under a policy adjustment.

Another widely available source of potential warranty reimbursement is the additional coverage available to fleets when a new vehicle is purchased. This can come from two sources: major component suppliers and extended warranties offered for sale by truck builders. The former, which normally comes at no extra charge, commonly covers major drivetrain components. Most knowledgeable fleet managers, however, do not consider the purchase of extended warranties, the latter source of additional coverage, to be a good business decision.

An additional source of warranty reimbursement comes from aftermarket parts suppliers, many of whom offer warranty coverage on their products. This is where most fleets struggle to make the claims necessary to successfully maximize their warranty recovery. When many fleets in the industry were using three years as their trade cycle, new truck warranties dominated in importance. Now, however, with trade cycles extending five and even seven years, more replacement parts are being used that are not covered by new truck warranties. The successful management of an effective warranty recovery program is an important opportunity for a fleet to recover dollars.

Recovery Management
While most fleets have some kind of program to track warranty, only those that have a formal program – and properly manage it – are successful. “Many people claim they collect warranty, but I find most don’t have an established procedure to track it. So they really don’t have a handle on it,” Stuart said.

Management’s challenge is to make sure technicians know what opportunities exist for warranty recovery. When analyzing why warranty reimbursement has been lost, too many fleet professionals find it was because they hadn’t done a satisfactory job communicating to the people in the field what was needed from them to properly file for warranty. When a problem is encountered with a warrantable transaction, try to identify who was missing necessary information and what that information was, and then figure out how to eliminate such errors from recurring.

Maintenance management software can help. The most effective software modules are designed specifically to help fleets maximize warranty recovery. “The software should help the fleet know that the repair about to be done is warrantable,” said Dave Walters, technical sales manager for TMW Systems (www.tmwsystems.com), a provider of enterprise software to transportation and logistics companies. “If you can have that information in front of you early in the process, it may influence how you make that repair and where you get that repair done. Our software will identify and bring to the forefront potential warranty claims.”

“It’s always possible to discover warranty information after a repair has been completed or the information makes it into the fleet’s maintenance system, but that’s an after-the-fact, reactive approach,” said Michael Riemer, vice president of products and channel marketing at Decisiv Inc. (www.decisiv.com). “When information about warranties becomes available to fleets and service providers at the beginning of the process, it saves time and lets fleet managers know upfront what will and won’t be covered. Some fleets estimate 30 percent savings from warranty recapture using the Decisiv platform. With the right technology, those are valuable opportunities for warranty recapture that won’t be missed.”

Decisiv’s cloud-based Service Relationship Management (SRM) software enables fleets to manage, monitor, and report on service and repair events independent of asset type or service provider. The SRM platform, which integrates with many maintenance management systems, makes warranty information available in real time as soon as a vehicle identification number is entered.

Value Received
What’s a good warranty recovery system worth? Consider a fleet with a six- or seven-year trade cycle. In that fleet, there will be a broad range of vehicle ages, and therefore a range of warranty needs. “For vehicle ages of 1 through 3 years, we see a warranty recovery of about 10 percent of the amount spent on maintenance annually,” Walters said. “In years 3 and beyond, we see a 4 to 5 percent return from a combination of extended warranties and aftermarket parts warranty.”

Clearly, there are some significant dollars available for fleets that are willing to correctly set up a warranty recovery system. Remember, you pay for warranty every time you purchase a new truck or replacement part. Make sure you’re getting an acceptable return on that investment.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.


Road Map

For the fleet management team at the District of Columbia Water & Sewer Authority, the goal is clear. “We are in a position of public trust,” said Tim Fitzgerald, fleet director at DC Water – Department of Fleet Management. “We are also a revenue-generating utility. While our management gives us the freedom to do a lot of innovative things, we are held to high standards internally and by our customers. In the end, we have to be able to measure and prove the success of our efforts.”

Responsible for approximately 600 vehicles and 1,200 pieces of equipment, the DC Water – Department of Fleet Management oversees the specification, purchasing, maintenance, and replacement of a wide range of cars and trucks, from light-duty vans and pickups to medium-duty units equipped to handle water and sewer system work.

The DC Water fleet operation consists of two shop locations in the greater Washington, D.C., area, one for mostly small equipment and the other for servicing heavy equipment and light- and medium-duty trucks. The management team under Fitzgerald’s direction includes:
• Anthony Lancaster – Supervisor, Fleet Maintenance
• Frank Torcisi – Fleet Analyst Acquisition/Disposal
• Larry Thomas – Quality Assurance Technician
• Lauvern Williams – Executive Assistant
• Tiffani Bing – Data Analyst
• Catreaune Bellinger – Mobile Support Technician

Tighter Control
“DC Water’s service area continues to grow,” Fitzgerald said, “so we have to routinely fit units to the operation, and adopt technology that is seamless to implement and use. With the fleet expanding in order to meet the increasing demand for a range of business critical operations, we are continually exploring opportunities to streamline operations, better manage business processes and gain tighter control over expenses.

“We had concluded that a new, robust and automated approach to data management was necessary to ensure that our growing fleet is operating as efficiently as possible,” Fitzgerald continued. “The first item on our list was to address the method we were using to manage fleet processes and associated data. Essentially, we realized that it’s hard to manage what you can’t measure, and that the system we were relying on to store vital fleet information was incapable of reporting on the data it held.”

With a legacy system that was adding little value and producing few benefits, DC Water – Department of Fleet Management embarked on a process of reviewing proposals and attending demonstrations from major suppliers of fleet management systems. Ultimately, it selected a solution that Fitzgerald said “supported the short- and long-term vision and directives of the organization, especially those relating to supporting and streamlining existing business processes, had an ability to provide accurate, real-time information, and automatically measured and reported on specific key performance indicators so the fleet department could make informed decisions relating to a range of processes from acquisition through disposal.”

DC Water’s choice in fleet management software was FleetWave from Chevin Fleet Solutions, which was rolled out across the organization in August 2012. Today, the software is enabling data-based decisions about equipment and maintenance.

“While many factors influence purchasing and specification decisions, such as OEM ratings, customization and configuration, ease of and intended use, departmental needs, budget considerations, environmental friendliness and technology scalability,” Fitzgerald stated, “we now have essential access to data on life-cycle costs and total cost of ownership, and we better understand preventive and predictive maintenance needs. It all leads to an understanding of true costs, and in turn a faster return on investment.”

Intelligent Process
DC Water also works closely with its vehicle and equipment suppliers, and shares information with them to help make better, more informed choices. “We meet with manufacturers and we take part in development teams for evaluating products, such as the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition,” Fitzgerald related. “We also take cues from other similar fleet operations around the country and share information locally with the D.C. Department of Public Works. In an intelligent acquisition process, it is imperative that information be shared and utilized.”

For meeting fleet maintenance and repair needs, DC Water has partnered with G4S Integrated Services, an on-site contractor that supplies everything from technicians and management staff to parts dedicated exclusively to the utility fleet’s operation. “We are accountable to our internal customers, so we continuously challenge ourselves and G4S to get to the right answers expeditiously,” Fitzgerald said. “Through this partnership, we have implemented a systematic approach to planning maintenance based on type of resources, experience, predictive needs and knowledge sharing.”

Behind much of that activity, according to Fitzgerald, is the FleetWave system, which at DC Water has been uniquely configured to consist of a range of modules. For example, the Maintenance module automatically schedules repair and maintenance tasks for vehicles; flags looming compliance details such as pending, due or past-due inspections; and automatically emails detailed, in-depth reports. There is also a Vehicle Orders module, which is used to automate and streamline the management of equipment procurement and specification processes, while providing complete audit capabilities.

DC Water also uses FleetWave’s Motor Pool module, which provides a direct means for employees of the authority to access and reserve vehicles by logging into an online portal. “The system allocates only available, appropriately maintained and fully inspected vehicles that are available,” Fitzgerald explained. “That removes the need for the fleet department to deal with reservations without reducing our control of the motor pool.”

Other FleetWave uses at DC Water include an Accident Management module that assists in recording and managing details relating to damaged vehicles, including repairs, insurance claims processing, driver training and compliance oversight. Additionally, an integrated Drivers module stores all driver-related information, such as training course completion and any historical involvement in accidents. “With it, we not only have a centralized tool set to manage driver activities,” Fitzgerald said. “The Drivers module also enables us to assess trends relating to driver behavior and ensure compliance with internal policies and legislation.”

Managing Details
For Fitzgerald, one of the most valuable benefits of FleetWave is its ability to automatically track and measure key performance indicators. “KPIs provide the insight we need for smart decision-making,” he stated. “Access to accurate, real-time information and performance measures using a simple dashboard has provided our organization with invaluable knowledge that helps us to better understand our total cost of ownership.

“We’re a more efficient operation today and we’re not done improving,” Fitzgerald said. “We have reduced turnaround times for service by 30 percent and downtime by 20 percent. We’ve also noticed improvements in technician productivity. All of these contribute to cost savings and a better return on investment for DC Water.”

About DC Water: The District of Columbia Water & Sewer Authority provides water and wastewater services in an area of approximately 725 square miles for the more than 600,000 residents, 17.8 million annual visitors and 700,000 people who are employed in the District of Columbia.

DC Water maintains and operates 1,300 miles of water pipes, four pumping stations, five reservoirs, three water towers, 36,000 valves and more than 9,000 fire hydrants. The organization also provides wholesale wastewater treatment services to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, and Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia.

About the Author: Seth Skydel has more than 28 years of truck- and automotive-related publication experience. In his career, he has held editorial roles at numerous national business-to-business publications focusing on fleet and transportation management, vehicle and information technology, and industry trends and issues.


Struggles and Strategies

To some, spare vehicles are presumed to be extra units that, for the most part, sit idle and therefore have no real cost associated with them. For the unfortunate fleet managers and end users who believe this, they will inevitably find out how inaccurate they are.

A vehicle deteriorates when it sits idle for too long, and spare units kept at an end user’s location are usually idle more of the time than if they are shared with other departments. When it comes time for these vehicles to be put to work, they typically have deteriorated from lack of use – regardless of whether they are stored inside or outside – and are not functional unless serviced to avoid breakdowns. Deterioration can come in the form of rust, corrosion, component cannibalization, lack of preventive maintenance and dead batteries due to parasitic drain from new technology.

So, why would someone keep spare vehicles, particularly when many units that have been replaced with new vehicles are auctioned off, traded in or scrapped? The logic behind keeping spares is that the fleet will have properly configured extra vehicles in the event that they are needed, providing convenience and an alternative to renting units that may be costly and not fully meet the fleet’s needs.

This logic, however, is faulty. If these units were truly capable of functioning as required, why were they replaced instead of having their lives extended? Once vehicles exceed their life cycles, maintenance costs increase, making old units more costly than new ones to own and operate. If a unit has been replaced, it should be removed from service because it does not support reliability, safety or cost-efficiency.

It’s crucial for fleet needs to be reviewed on an annual basis. This assessment gives fleet personnel the opportunity to define and refine the mix of their motor pool as well as determine what units should be removed from the mix due to lack of use. These units typically should not be replaced because if they are not being used, they are not needed. At the same time, if there is an underutilized vehicle in the mix that still has some economic life left, it can replace a unit in the same vocational class that is higher in cost, and that more costly unit can be removed from the fleet inventory.

A Spare Solution
As previously stated, keeping spare units at an end user’s location can result in them being idle more often. This is not the only end user-related obstacle fleet managers run into when addressing spare vehicles.

The reality is that sometimes vehicle replacement programs have politically and culturally powerful end users at the top of the pecking order. Their influence and authority allow them to bend or even break rules that were put in place to keep the fleet running in a cost-effective manner.

As fleet managers, we support these end users who, due to their power and perceptions, still want spare vehicles even though they are idle and costly. In the face of their choices, our vehicle support personnel can only do their best to provide operating and cost information, furnish return-on-investment analyses, and support end users’ work methods in the most fiscally responsible way possible.

It is worth the time spent to educate yourself, your staff and end users about arguably the best use of true spare vehicles (not those units that have been replaced by newer, better vehicles) – making them part of the fleet’s central motor pool. The motor pool usually consists of a number of reliable light-duty and vocational units that are put into service when other, more frequently used vehicles are in need of maintenance or repair, or during peak service times when the workload is greater than usual.

Adding these reliable spare units to the pool has multiple benefits. First, since they are being added to the rotation, they will not sit idle and continue to deteriorate. This leads to lower costs of operation and ownership, as well as greater safety and reliability. Second, fleets will potentially spend less on rental units if they have more vehicles in the central motor pool. And third, if it appears they are no longer needed after three to six months, units can and should be removed from service and cost-effectively disposed of.

It is a good idea for all companies with fleets to take the time to create a written policy that details why and how the company rotates vehicles in a central motor pool, and why and how units should be removed from the fleet. The policy should be signed by the company’s chief operating officer and published for all departments to review and follow.

Changing Times, Changing Technology
Times are changing, and it’s to a fleet’s advantage to adapt to new technology and adopt the most recent best practices, including how to handle spare vehicles. Due to global competition, a vehicle manufactured today is designed to last longer and achieve more miles than one produced 20 to 25 years ago.

The lives of top maintenance and repair components – among others, tires, brakes, steering, air conditioning, starters, alternators, drivelines, engines and transmissions – have also been extended due to better technology. In turn, they are more reliable for greater periods of time in their application-specific environments. Today’s vehicle warranties are also better and longer than in the past, which is further proof the vehicle components are more reliable and last longer.

On top of all that, vehicle maintenance technicians, mechanics and related workers are more highly trained now than ever before. Their input to management continues to improve fleet best practices every day, and we’re seeing repairs we have never seen in the past. For example, it was previously unheard of to replace a vehicle’s hydraulic brake line because the brake lines used to outlive the vehicle. Now, vehicle life cycles are much longer, so many components need to be replaced or have their lives extended, which also extends the cost of the unit beyond its original purchase price.

Today’s fleet service personnel are also highly aware that young vehicles require different services than older vehicles. Mounted equipment needs are different from chassis to chassis and application to application, and usage keeps spares more reliable for longer periods of time and better controls costs.

In summary, spare units should be removed from fleets if at all possible, but if an end user insists on keeping spares, adding them to a central motor pool is the best way to prevent them from becoming idle and unduly costly. The bottom line is that chief executives, fleet personnel, and all departments need to communicate and work together to establish spare vehicle guidelines that best meet everyone’s needs.

About the Author: John Dolce is a fleet facility and maintenance specialist employed by Wendel Companies, an architectural and engineering firm. He is an active consultant, instructor and fleet manager with more than 40 years of experience in the public and private sector. Dolce has written three fleet-related textbooks and teaches fleet management courses at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses. He can be contacted at johnedolce@yahoo.com.

Cooling System Maintenance Considerations for Fleet Managers

Automotive engineers have made great strides in recent years in their attempts to increase the efficiency of engines. Their efforts, unfortunately, cause them to butt heads with various principles of physics. As good as they are, today’s gasoline engines are usually less than one-third efficient. Diesels do a bit better with efficiencies running generally just over a third. With the exception of post-combustion heat recovery systems, that leaves approximately two-thirds of the heat energy either going out the tailpipe or being handled by the cooling system.

Thermodynamics says that any heat engine will run more efficiently as its operating temperature increases, but, of course, there’s a limit since parts will start to melt. Engines are designed to operate efficiently within a relatively narrow heat range. Too cool means less power output. Too hot means overheating problems. Keeping the operating temperature in that narrow heat range is the job of the cooling system.

Producing an efficient cooling system is the job of automotive design engineers. Keeping the system operating efficiently is the job of a fleet’s maintenance department.

Ethylene glycol, propylene glycol or long-life/extended-life coolant should be used in cooling systems year-round as the glycol provides both freeze and boil-over protection. It also provides a stable environment for gaskets and hoses, which might leak if only water is used as a coolant. Antifreeze products offered by reputable manufacturers will comply with applicable ASTM standards and should be used only with distilled water in a blend of between 40 percent and 60 percent. A 50 percent blend is ideal.

Coolant containing too high a concentration of antifreeze can cause silicate dropout and water pump leakage. A study of water pump failures by Cummins (www.cummins.com) found an overconcentration of antifreeze in 78 percent of the pumps they examined.

Because magnesium and calcium found in most tap water can cause scaling on internal cooling system components, tap water should not be used in cooling systems. In addition, sulfates in tap water can corrode these parts. Distilled water should always be used when filling a cooling system to help avoid these problems.

Engineers at Baldwin Filters (www.baldwinfilters.com) outline the various functions required of an engine coolant:
• Removes heat
• Lubricates components such as water pumps
• Provides freeze protection
• Prevents scale and sludge formation
• Protects against corrosion

The first three can be handled by a simple mix of a low-silicate antifreeze and distilled water. Supplemental coolant additives (SCAs) must be introduced to the system to prevent scale and sludge formation and to provide corrosion protection. SCAs typically contain inhibitors designed to prevent generalized corrosion and cavitation erosion, and they keep hard water scale from depositing on engine surfaces and use buffers to reduce the acidity of the coolant.

Fleets need an effective preventive maintenance program to keep the cooling system clean. Because this can be labor intensive, it’s too often not done. All commercial trucks should be equipped with coolant filters, and fleet managers should strongly consider working with cleaning filters that are used for a relatively short time instead of normal coolant filters. Manufacturers have developed spin-on cleaner/filter cartridges that chemically clean the system while the truck is used in normal operations. These units are left on the truck for a few weeks. After that, the coolant is checked with test strips to ensure that dissolved solids are within OEM-recommended levels. The cleaner/filter contains the chemistry needed to clean a cooling system as well as what’s needed to protect it against further corrosion.

Check for Leaks
In many cases a small coolant leak might not be noticed because of the high temperatures under the hood during operation. The leaked coolant simply evaporates as the truck travels down the road. The result could be an automatic shutdown.

The best way to check a cooling system for small leaks is to pressurize it before making an inspection. Too often, fleets that pressurize cooling systems on a regular basis only pressurize to cap pressure. System pressures up to 18 psi should be used.

Arctic Fox (www.arctic-fox.com) makes a tool called a Coolant Dam Pressure Tester that uses shop air to quickly pressurize systems up to 18 psi. After pressurizing the system, the technician lets the truck sit for a while and then looks for problems. After checking for leaks, he or she can use the same test unit to check the cap.

High-quality silicone coolant hoses and heater hoses are found on most commercial trucks today, yet cold water leaks are still a problem faced by the trucking industry. To obtain good sealing at the coolant hose connection, the entire system – stem, hose and clamp – must be considered. Constant tension or spring-loaded clamps generally seal better than constant diameter screw clamps, especially for sealing in low temperatures. These generally work better because they contract as the material in the hose wall thermally contracts and loses resilience.

Cooling systems require maintenance on a regular basis. Antifreeze needs additives. Systems need to be cleaned and checked for leaks. When cooling systems are working properly, most engine problems can be avoided.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.


Towing Vehicles Over Snow and Ice

Now that fall has turned into winter and snow threatens to ice over roads and deliver countless traffic jams and detours, what would normally be a four-hour job at a remote site will likely be transformed into a backcountry expedition. As we gear up our fleet for the wintertime, we need to remind ourselves and our drivers about the driving and trailering hazards that snow- and ice-covered roads create. Breakdowns and accidents may not be entirely avoidable, but some potentially disastrous situations can be prevented even before leaving the shop.

Pre-Trip Inspections
Pre-trip inspections are a must for all work-related driving and trailering. In addition to inspecting all of the critical components of a tow vehicle and trailer before embarking, following are a few more common points that are often overlooked:

Tire Inflation
Most everyone will reiterate how important proper tire inflation is, but when was the last time anyone put a gauge on those tires? Every 10-degree drop in temperature will reduce your tire pressure by approximately 1-2 psi. Check tire pressure often because even a small psi drop can significantly compromise tire traction and dependability, especially over snow and ice.

Hitch Capacity
Ensure the capacity of the trailer hitch is properly rated for the trailer you are about to tow. Don’t assume that because it’s on the trailer, it’s the right capacity. You also might want to consider installing a weight distribution hitch. These hitches greatly improve towing capacity, brake performance and general stability in winter driving conditions.

Survival Gear
A vehicle breakdown in a remote area can quickly escalate from an uncomfortable situation to a potentially dangerous one if no heat is available. A fully stocked survival kit should be stored in any vehicle traveling off road or to remote locations. If you don’t have a survival kit, here are a few critical supplies that all vehicles should have:
• Ignition sources: Always have multiple sources of ignition – such as lighters, strikers or matches – in the event that you need to build a fire nearby to warm up.
• Emergency space blankets: Taping up space blankets in the cab of a broken down truck can raise the inside temperature from below freezing to 70 degrees in minutes.

These are critical supplies that are too inexpensive to overlook. A few space blankets and boxes of matches can cost less than $10 and save your life if you become stranded in the wintertime.

Trailer Loading
Ensuring the center of gravity (CG) is properly placed on the trailer is crucial for trailer towing. A load that is out of CG from front to back will lead to dangerous vertical loading and unloading at the hitch point and possibly to a loss of front axle brake performance. Placing the load CG too far to the rear also can lead to dynamic instability of the trailer and cause it to fishtail side to side. It is extremely important to avoid this when the traction coefficient of the tires is compromised due to snow and ice on the road.

Another important point to keep in mind is that safety regulations require that all cargo control equipment used is to be inspected prior to each and every use. Do your straps have any cuts or tears in the area that will be used for securing the load? Are the straps protected against sharp edges? Are securement chains free of any damaged links? Even after securing the load and driving a few miles, especially when off road, it may be necessary to stop and check the tension on the securement chains or straps since it is possible that they have loosened.

Stopping Options
Do each of your vehicles and trailers have antilock braking systems (ABS)? Even with an ABS, a driver still has to understand how to provide driving inputs that allow the ABS to work most effectively. Since the ABS only assists in decelerating, the speed at which you are traveling, as well as the steering inputs that you provide, may hinder how quickly the ABS can help bring you to a stop.

Stopping in a Turn
When attempting to stop in a turn, should you straighten the wheel and apply the brakes even though you might be steering off the road? You have more traction and would stop faster by straightening the wheels, but is there a ditch or is the road on flat ground where it may be safe to drive off straight? It would be much safer to go straight into the ditch and much easier to tow the vehicle out of the ditch after going in straight as opposed to going in sideways.

Another option is to continue in the turn and apply the brake at the same time to try to stay on the road. Doing this may keep you on the road, but you also have the least amount of traction and face the consequence of sliding sideways and possibly off the road.

The key factor here is understanding when you have committed to going off the road. Many untrained drivers don’t think they are going off the road until their tires have crossed over the white line, which can be a deadly mistake. A trained driver will understand that if they make a mistake, such as approaching the turn too fast, they actually committed to going off the road well before they hit the ditch. Understanding this point a split second earlier can allow you to make a better decision of the two bad choices that you now have. Putting it another way, you could ask yourself, “Do I want to end up in the ditch?” or “Do I want to end up in the ditch sideways and possibly roll over?”

Descending Steep Grades
Steep grades can pose some of the most dangerous driving conditions in winter. Stopping distances can be exponentially larger when traction is reduced by snow and ice and momentum is increased due to the weight of a trailer. Starting a decline too fast can put you in the same situation as approaching a turn too fast – you may have committed to going off the road well before you realize it.

There are no absolute safe driving procedures to follow when driving on snow and ice. Every road, every patch of ice, every vehicle and every tire is different. It is important to train drivers about how to utilize the vehicle-trailer combination to properly perform in the conditions in which they are expected to drive. While you may think that you have acceptable traction at one point, conditions can quickly change and that traction may not be there when it is needed. The most important thing you can do is understand the conditions that surround you and drive in a manner that allows you to safely react if something does start to go wrong.

About the Authors: Nick Bassarab is Safety One Training International’s operations manager and a lead trainer for the company’s ice driving and trailering classes. Safety One, based in Littleton, Colo., also offers training classes on snowcat operations and winter survival, tower climbing and rescue, and other critical safety subjects. Learn more at www.safetyoneinc.com.

Carl Maxey is the president and general manager of Maxey Manufacturing and Trailer Sales in Fort Collins, Colo. He also is a former president of the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers and a lead trainer for Safety One’s ice driving and trailering classes.

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Alternative Fuel Options for Fleets

Fleet fueling today is primarily done using gasoline and diesel fuels, which are derived from crude oil and emit carbon dioxide as a byproduct of combustion. For every gallon of gasoline burned, 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted into the air. Diesel emits 22 pounds of carbon dioxide, and propane, the third-most popular world fuel, generates 13 pounds of carbon dioxide. Methane – the primary component of compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) – generates a little less than propane, approximately 12 pounds per gallon equivalent.

Until recently, CNG, LNG and propane were more expensive than gasoline and diesel. However, shale gas reserves from the Marcellus, Bakken and Eagle Ford deposits – along with new extraction and fracturing methods – have given the U.S. and Canada the world’s largest natural gas reserves, making the cost of natural gas half the cost of diesel fuel. With this benefit, we can develop strategies to build the cost-effective infrastructure necessary to economically deliver to end users the methane fuels, including CNG and LNG, that will allow us to reduce our dependency on petroleum-based fuels as well as reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.

Conversion Costs and Other Considerations
Converting one diesel engine to use natural gas will cost an estimated $20,000 to $30,000. With lower fuel costs than a gasoline or diesel engine, the financial investment can be recovered in two to three years or 175,000 miles.

The added costs are a product of the spark plug ignition and related vehicle fuel storage and delivery systems necessary to upfit the vehicle’s diesel engine so it burns methane fuel. The emissions systems on EPA-compliant diesel engines (i.e., diesel oxidation catalyst, diesel particulate filter and related system components) are not needed when using methane fuel. However, the exhaust gas recirculation system will be retained and the CNG and LNG engine will comply with the 2002, 2007 and 2010 EPA environmental standards.

Dimethyl ether, a variation of methane, provides a fuel for the diesel engine that does not require a spark plug ignition. Large-capacity truck engines can be fitted with high-pressure direct injection, which uses a small amount of diesel fuel to increase the combustion temperature so the methane will fire in a compression ignition cycle – no spark plug needed. At the present time, smaller diesel engines, in order to be converted to methane (CNG) use, need spark plug systems to operate. LNG currently is a better application for long-haul, heavy-duty Class 8 tractors and vocational trucks.

Off-road diesel-powered units require Tier 4 systems, and buses and trucks require diesel oxidation catalysts and diesel particulate filters. Methane systems eliminate the need for these components and their costs because methane fuel burns cleaner and does not need the exhaust filtration to remain EPA compliant.

When considering a conversion, also think about working with a manufacturer that can supply you with a new alternative fuel vehicle for warranty coverage purposes. It is not desirable for you to convert your present gasoline or diesel engine to an alternative fuel vehicle if you want to preserve your warranty. Additionally, you want to be sure that the conversion is efficient and your expected life cycle is kept intact.

Choosing a Fuel Option
What is necessary to decide on infrastructure to support your alternative fuel choice? If methane gas is available in the street at your facility, you can plan on the installation of a CNG fueling station. Street pressure is around 250+/- psi, and you need to have a compressor plus cooling and filter equipment to bring the methane up to 3600 psi to dispense it into your CNG-equipped vehicle. Dispensing does not require any specialized fueler protective equipment. An estimated cost for a CNG station for a 50-vehicle transit bus and/or vocational truck fleet is $2 million to $3 million. The cost for a 100- to 150-vehicle transit bus and/or vocational truck fleet is an estimated $3 million to $5 million.

LNG or propane is an alternative if you do not have methane in the street. Special dispensing equipment is necessary for LNG since storage temperature is around -270 degrees Fahrenheit, and asbestos gloves and an asbestos apron along with a face mask also are needed due to the low temperature. This protective equipment is required for the protection of the fueler in case of a leak. If you are interested in using propane, do your research to see if it can be trucked into your facility.

Some simple alternative fuel options are biodiesel and ethanol. Biodiesel is a quantity of used or virgin vegetable oil. The desired vehicle and engine manufacturer-approved mix is 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent diesel fuel. For ethanol, the desired mix is 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. More than 10 percent ethanol is corrosive and requires stainless steel components. These alternatives can easily be included in our present infrastructure, but do not reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

Vehicles choosing CNG and LNG are restricted in their range of travel because of the lack of infrastructure. These fuels are best used in vehicles and equipment that start from and return to their original domiciles. The same is true with electric vehicles; their travel range is restricted based on charging station availability, plus the batteries are not durable, are very expensive and need greater capacity.

Another decision is whether to engineer vehicles and equipment for a dedicated fuel or to equip them with a dual fuel application, which allows a greater range of operation. Dedicated fuel units offer more economical and green control to management to maximize their strategic and tactical goals and objectives, recovering their conversion costs sooner. Units with centralized fueling keep operating activities simple, offering greater control of unit performance, route dedication, training, maintenance and repairs, and maximum availability for maximum utilization.

Maintenance and Repairs
CNG, LNG and propane vehicles and equipment need regular maintenance and also will need repairs from time to time. Vehicles and equipment usually are serviced in facilities such as garages. Other than biodiesel and ethanol, alternative fuels require facility safety upgrades and modifications to protect the service professionals and support staff who diagnose, maintain and repair alternative fuel vehicles and equipment.

Garages in the southern region of the U.S. have the option of servicing vehicles outside under covered work bays, which allows venting of methane, propane, and hydrogen fumes and vapors. Due to the climate, garages in the northern region of North America don’t have this option. Even if you can work outside, it is much better to service vehicles and equipment indoors because it provides a controlled climate, as well as greater safety and a more productive environment for the service personnel. It’s important to remember, however, that working on CNG, LNG, electric, hybrid and propane vehicles and equipment requires the measurement and ventilation of their fumes and vapors.

Regulatory agencies and insurance companies identify codes that need to be adhered to in the construction of alternative fuel-friendly garages. The fire department is king in these circumstances. Consider the following example of methane leakage. Since the flammable range of methane is 5 percent to 15 percent methane and 85 percent to 95 percent air, fire departments and the National Fire Protection Association recommend that 20 percent of the lower flammability limit be measured for staff protection. The lower flammability limit of methane is 5 percent, so 20 percent of the lower flammability limit is 1 percent methane to be measured. The facility must be equipped with explosion-proof fans to be energized when the lower flammability limit is reached. Similar measurements of electric vehicle batteries’ hydrogen emissions, hybrid batteries, hydrogen from fuel cells and propane all fall under regulatory agency supervision for facility and personnel safety and are integral parts of alternative fuel technology and implementation into your fleet.

Fire drills should be held at the garage on a regular basis. If you have gasoline and diesel vehicles, all windows, doors and exhaust equipment must be closed to smother the fire by withholding oxygen. The alternative fuel strategy is to open all doors and windows to release the fumes. These different strategies require staff training to ensure employees know the difference between audio and visual strobe configuration alarms and warning system alerts. Proper training will enable staff to act appropriately during an emergency, including safely exiting the facility and reporting to the correct gathering stations for attendance purposes.

Recent Popularity
Why are alternative fuels now getting so much attention? North America wants to reduce its dependence on foreign fuels and petroleum products. With the world demanding more fuels through foreign oil, competition for a controlled supply increases prices and restricts demands, resulting in the potential for a down economy. Additionally, greater use of oil increases pollution in the form of hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

Alternative fuels like CNG, LNG and propane offer cost-effective, greener alternatives. And due to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in large shale fields located in the U.S. and Canada, natural gas volumes recently have dramatically increased. With this increased volume, prices have dropped so that the diesel gallon equivalent of natural gas has become available at less than half the cost of diesel fuel. As such, there is potential to significantly reduce our vehicle and equipment fuel costs and rapidly stimulate the economy by replacing diesel fuel with natural gas and even producing diesel fuel from natural gas.

CNG, LNG and propane are great alternative fuel options that can supplement and replace our immediate and future needs for gasoline and diesel fuel. LNG offers greater heat content and is more suited for over-the-road Class 8 tractor-trailers and vocational trucks. CNG is better suited for Class 1-7 diesel units, and propane fits Class 1-7 gasoline vehicles. These fuel choices are limited only by the construction of fuel stations; in order to realize their full potential, the country must create infrastructure to allow greater access to alternative fuels.

The availability of methane via North American shale deposits and the hydraulic fracturing process has put the region in a position to use CNG, LNG and propane as productive, cost-effective alternative fuels. Each of us needs to do our homework to see what is best for our specific needs. Analyze the cost of alternative fuels, look at the payback time frame, and make the decision that is best for your shops and your business as a whole.

About the Author: John Dolce is a fleet facility and maintenance specialist employed by Wendel Companies, an architectural and engineering firm. He is an active consultant, instructor and fleet manager with more than 40 years of experience in the public and private sector. Dolce has written three fleet-related textbooks and teaches fleet management courses at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses.


Changing Attitudes

It turns out that “Getting to the Next Level of Safety Performance,” Bob McCall’s presentation at the 2013 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference (EUFMC), was just the high-level view. On the ground at Duke Energy, where McCall serves as general manager of fleet services, a team of fleet management professionals is putting in place a series of initiatives aimed at posting a record of zero incidents, injuries and accidents.

“We’re doing exciting things this year,” McCall said. “And common to all our efforts is fostering a culture where everyone is recognizing failures and raising expectations, and is accountable and involved. That’s often the hardest thing to do with any program, but if we don’t, maintaining the status quo would lead to worse performance.”

Mike Allison, design and technical services director of Duke Energy Fleet Services, said there has been an overall and positive change in philosophy among the company’s nearly 340-member fleet services team. “Today, a lot of the conversation is about how to be safe and how to keep others safe,” he related. “Everyone is willing to participate and that is reflected in the quality of work as well.”

In the beginning, Allison noted, it was important to measure views of safety in Duke shops. “We needed to know how our technicians saw things, not just management’s view,” he said. “It was a simple exercise in communication.”

Formal Approach
To formalize the process, Duke Energy Fleet Services management chartered a project team to analyze technician work tasks, identify ergonomic risk factors and develop effective mitigation strategies. The team was comprised of supervisors and technicians from the company’s Carolinas and Midwest operations, health and safety professionals, and an ergonomist. The project covered five phases: data review, task identification, field observations/data collection, analysis and solution development.

During the data review phase, information was obtained from incident reports and other sources. The experience of the fleet management personnel and technicians was tapped during the task identification phase to gain detailed information about job functions. This knowledge was used to develop a list of common work tasks with high-risk potential, followed by a field observations/data collection phase, during which scientific measurements became the focus of the team.

In the project’s analysis phase, each work task was evaluated using established ergonomic methods, including simple lifting and lowering tasks and others involving high forces and/or awkward postures. The project team then designed a process for ranking hazards associated with work tasks that would be used to assist Fleet Services management in prioritizing control efforts.

The most serious hazards identified for technicians involved servicing a particular valve, performing a heavy-duty brake job, aerial truck preventive maintenance and light-duty truck PM performed outdoors. In addition to the results for the individual processes, several hazards were identified; these included high levels of vibration from the use of power tools, contact stresses from kneeling, standing for long periods on hard surfaces and poor lighting.

Developing Solutions
“We developed solutions for most of the ergonomic hazards,” said Patrick Rozanski, one of four regional directors for garage operations at Duke Energy who serves as director, fleet services-Midwest. “Those included making purchases for creepers to help reduce stress when a technician has to work in an awkward position, portable head-mounted lights, kneepads and padded kneeling mats, and anti-vibration gloves for prolonged use of power and impact tools. We also implemented the use of power tools such as wrenches and grease guns where tasks are repetitious and made suggestions for changes to the design of aerial trucks and other equipment.

“Getting technicians involved in identifying ways to make their jobs safer and showing everyone the company is willing to spend time and money on programs and tools that impact safety go a long way toward changing attitudes and gaining commitment,” Rozanski stated. “We’ve seen the results in the lower number of incidents we have and in how much the new equipment is used.”

Rozanski went on to relate how another seemingly simple initiative is helping identify and eliminate potential problems in Duke shops. “We have a 10-minute walk-around in every shop every morning to find and mitigate hazards,” he explained. “We observe and look for things that can cause an accident, like cluttered areas, and unsecured ladders and air lines, that we can address by improving our housekeeping practices. It’s about getting into a pattern of seeing and addressing hazards before they cause an injury.”

Another way that Duke Energy Fleet Services is proactively addressing shop safety is through a technician training initiative for both new and veteran employees. The program, McCall noted, is especially important as the company incorporates operations associated with its 2012 merger with Progress Energy. “We can’t assume, whether it’s new hires, transferred employees or veterans, that everyone knows what to do in our shops,” he said. “We have to ensure that knowledge is being transferred correctly.”

No Shortcuts
Charged with overseeing that training initiative is Chris Jolly, director, fleet services, who, with the help of subject matter experts, has developed and implemented policy orientation programs emphasizing shop safety. “Data shows that if you have a well-educated workforce and a continuing training program, your employees will not take shortcuts,” he said. “Instead, they will always strive to use the best and safest work practices.”

Duke Energy’s fleet services team is taking a similar approach when it comes to equipment, Allison noted. “We’ve established standards teams of managers, users and other departments in each region,” he explained. “Their input is invaluable and it keeps open the lines of communications to identify root causes of hazards, whether it’s equipment specifications, operator practices, or inspection- and maintenance-related items.

“We can’t emphasize enough the importance of having everyone take responsibility on how to improve,” Allison continued. “That’s how our culture is changing. We’re able to move forward with safer work practices and safer facilities because everyone understands safety initiatives and equipment standards don’t take away from productivity and the ability to do quality work. Instead, they bring value.”

From his vantage point, McCall said all of these activities are about “stepping up your leadership style and raising everyone’s standards and expectations. How many more accidents do you need to see, hear about, read about and investigate?” he asked the EUFMC audience earlier this year. “If you are tired of injuries, and the type of attitudes that go with that thinking, then change the culture and the expectations of what is needed from each member of the team. Engage people who believe in helping move that process forward.”

About Duke Energy: Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at www.duke-energy.com.

About the Author: Seth Skydel has more than 27 years of truck- and automotive-related publication experience. In his career, he has held editorial roles at numerous national business-to-business publications focusing on fleet and transportation management, vehicle and information technology, and industry trends and issues.

Shop Safety and Efficiency

Safety is a high priority of professional fleet managers. Fleets are known to spec their operating equipment to be the safest possible for the work they will be doing, and they train their operators to always work with safety in mind. In addition to safety, efficiency also is an important aspect of operations in well-run maintenance shops.

“Since labor accounts for about 60 percent of a fleet’s vehicle service and repair budget, it makes sense that anything a fleet can do to maximize technician efficiency will result in a bottom-line savings,” said Doug Spiller, heavy-duty product manager for Rotary Lift (www.rotarylift.com). “The biggest factors affecting technician productivity are access to vehicle components and room to work efficiently. Vehicle lifts provide more convenient, comfortable access to every serviceable part on a truck, enabling technicians to perform more work in less time. In fact, productivity studies conducted by fleets have found that installing a single vehicle lift in the shop can reduce labor overhead by $100,000 or more.”

According to Ken Atha, OSHA’s regional administrator in the West, “Workers in the automotive industry are exposed to crushing hazards from automotive lifts when servicing vehicles. These risks can be limited by properly maintaining automotive lifts and providing workers with effective training regarding inspection and use of lifts.”

“Safety starts at the top,” said R.W. “Bob” O’Gorman, president of the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI). “It begins with buying the right lift. Responsible managers know to only buy lifts that wear the gold label demonstrating that they have been third-party tested and certified to meet the ANSI safety and performance standard for lifts, ANSI/ALI ALCTV-2011.”

Lift Training and Inspection
After purchasing a lift, O’Gorman continued, “Next is training. It is very important that all technicians receive training on the proper use and maintenance of the lifts installed in the shop.”

Recognizing the need for such training, the National Conference of State Fleet Administrators recently asked Steve Perlstein, president of Mohawk Lifts, to prepare and present a webinar on vehicle lift safety. In his presentation, Perlstein pointed out that OSHA requires vehicle lifts to undergo annual inspections completed by experienced lift inspectors and that anyone using such equipment must receive training on an annual basis.

“Proper vehicle lift certification, installation and inspection have come under increased scrutiny in recent years by OSHA and other local, state, provincial, and federal health and safety officers,” O’Gorman said. “This has resulted in an increase in shops looking for qualified automotive lift inspectors.” Certified inspectors can be contacted through the ALI website (www.autolift.org).

All reputable lift manufacturers provide training on the proper use of their products when new equipment is installed in a fleet’s shop, and training also is available on their websites. Mohawk Lifts’ website (www.mohawklifts.com), for example, has several videos that include safety information about their lifts as well as information about other safety-related items available through the company.

With regard to management responsibilities relative to OSHA regulations, be aware that you won’t get a free pass because you don’t know about the regulations. Management has the responsibility to know the regulations and to follow them. As Perlstein noted in his webinar, there are two important standards fleet managers need to understand. The first is that lifts must be inspected annually by a qualified automotive lift inspector. The second is that the technicians who work on the lifts must be trained each year on how to safely and properly use them. Such training time must be documented by the fleet.

Research Product Specifications
While a vehicle lift offers a great opportunity to increase shop efficiency, it also opens up the fleet to liability for any injuries incurred by employees if the installed lift does not meet performance or manufacturing standards for the application.

According to ALI, purchasers of lifts often are confused by claims made by sellers. Such claims are sometimes made in good faith by inexperienced salespeople, but other times they may be made intentionally to confuse a potential purchaser and obtain an order for equipment that may not actually meet the purchaser’s requirements. Every lift in your shops should have an ALI/ETI certification label affixed to it, which will offer the assurance that the lift in question meets the current national safety standards.

Certification indicates that a third-party organization has determined that a manufacturer has the ability to produce a product that complies with a specific set of standards. Certified products undergo periodic re-evaluation and are required to be produced within the requirements of a documented quality program. The program is audited quarterly, regardless of the production facility’s location, to ensure continued compliance with the applicable standards.

“All lifts are not created equal,” Spiller said. “The best all-around lift for heavy-duty vehicle maintenance remains the modular in-ground lift. In-ground lifts have been the top choice of heavy-duty maintenance operations for more than 80 years because they provide the best access to maintenance items on a vehicle in the most ergonomic, space-efficient way.”

A lower price doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting a lift for less. Too often it means you’re getting less lift. You want a lift that delivers the lowest total cost of ownership. The most expensive lift you can buy is one that is out of service.

About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.


Replace, Rebuild or Repair?

How do you complete an economic analysis to cost-effectively determine whether to replace, rebuild, repair, sell or scrap vehicles and equipment? How do you ensure that your choice is the right one made at the right time, and that it supports your fleet’s tactical and strategic operating plans?

To start, you must assure yourself that your fleet’s vehicles and equipment being considered for replacement are fully utilized. If they’re not, instead of replacing them, think about reducing them from the fleet inventory and renting the units as needed. You can measure your fleet operation by laying out figures of activity-based costing to evaluate the facts, which will give you a picture of your fleet’s productivity and profitability.

Let’s look at an example of activity-based costing. The chart below shows the eight-year cumulative costs of an $18,500 light vehicle. The seven lines of the chart reflect the following:
• Line 1: Principal of $18,500 spread (depreciated) over five years.
• Line 2: Interest of 5 percent for the full principal in Year 1 and 5 percent interest for each year thereafter.
• Line 3: Annual parts and labor costs.
• Line 4: Estimated annual fuel costs.
• Line 5: Total costs of lines 1-4 divided by 15,000 miles for each year.
• Line 6: Resale value of the vehicle.
• Line 7: The resale value of each year divided into the maintenance cost.


Note that the numbers in parentheses over Line 3 are the cumulative maintenance costs for each year. The first line of penciled-in numbers under Line 7 is the cumulative average of the maintenance cost divided by the resale value. The second penciled-in line is the average increase in maintenance cost divided by the resale value. This information turned out to be meaningless.

Time for Replacement
According to the industry best practice, it’s time to replace a vehicle or piece of equipment when the total maintenance cost of the unit being evaluated equals the total original purchase price. It’s also important to consider the unit’s reliability. For instance, in Year 8 the cumulative maintenance cost is $14,210, the maintenance cost is $6,200 and the vehicle’s residual value is $2,716. This vehicle is not reliable in its eighth year because it is often down for maintenance, plus it’s not available for use while it is being repaired. A low utilization rate costs your fleet an excessive amount of money.

It is desirable to give yourself enough time to be proactive in deciding when to replace a unit. You need time to propose its replacement and fund it with capital dollars to be accepted for your coming year, or fund it with operating dollars to rebuild it. If the unit is not needed, you need time to sell or scrap it.

Rebuilding is cost effective if you can spend half the cost of a new unit and get two-thirds to three-quarters the life of a new unit. For example, the $18,500 light vehicle’s cost-effective life cycle appears to be seven years, and it should be replaced at the end of its seventh year. If we were to consider a rebuild, half the cost of a new $21,000 vehicle would be $10,500, and its rebuilt expected life span would be five to six years.

In my experience, when a vehicle’s repair cost reaches 30 percent of its residual value, that gives you time to evaluate the vehicle to decide whether you want to replace, rebuild, repair, sell or scrap it. Costs for each alternative would be provided to management, and the capital and operating budgets should also be summarized. While a vehicle maintenance management information system would be very helpful with this, it’s not mandatory. You could set up a spreadsheet to start with and migrate to a management information system at a later date.

Vehicle Condition
Now, let’s deal with the condition of the vehicle. In this type of situation, it’s best to use numbers as descriptors instead of words so meanings are interpreted the same way by each person who reviews them.

Using a digital camera, take pictures of the fleet vehicles, capturing all four sides – front, rear, left side and right side. Next, assign numbers 1 through 5 to rate the vehicle’s condition. Five would be an excellent rating, 4 would be a very good rating and so on. Then, after you’ve made number assignments, identify components to rate, including the chassis, body, brakes and engine. Rate component sections so that each, added together, totals 100. This will allow you to rate the unit with 100 as the top score. Numbers lower than 100 indicate deficiencies for each vehicle.


After rating each unit, prioritize each one being considered for replacement, rebuild or continued repair. The worst units should be prioritized first. Determine the capital and operating funding that fits your strategic company plan, as well as the tactical funding needed to support service levels for efficient availability and productive and reliable utilizations. If you watch duty and life cycles annually, some units, whose maintenance costs are at a starting point of 30 percent of their residual value, may be able to have their life extended because of good maintenance and operating methods.

The ultimate goal is to come up with an acceptable average age for all classes of your vehicles so you can monitor the entire fleet. Watch and pay attention to everything and measure what’s meaningful to support timely, proactive, cost-effective corrective actions.

About the Author: John Dolce is a fleet facility and maintenance specialist employed by Wendel Companies, an architectural and engineering firm. He is an active consultant, instructor and fleet manager with more than 40 years of experience in the public and private sector. Dolce has written three fleet-related textbooks and teaches fleet management courses at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses.

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