Tag: Management


Winterizing Your Drivers

It’s one thing to winterize your fleet, but what about the drivers who are expected to operate vehicles in harsh winter conditions to repair downed power lines or a broken water main? Are they winterized as well?

This is an important question because snow, sleet and ice impact how a vehicle accelerates, handles and stops. And if your crews aren’t prepared with the driving skills and mindset they need to safely navigate hazardous winter roads, they’re putting their health, the public and your utility’s reputation at risk.

So, how can your organization effectively winterize your drivers? UFP spoke with Art Liggio, president of Driving Dynamics Inc. (www.drivingdynamics.com), a Newark, Del.-based firm that provides companies with advanced performance driver safety training and fleet risk management expertise. He offered these three tips.

1. Reduce speed as conditions deteriorate.
“While you can actually move quite fast in a straight line on ice and snow, once you have to stop or turn, the laws of physics start to catch up with you,” Liggio said. “Drive responsibly by slowing down and staying vigilant in maintaining a sufficient safety zone.”

Liggio recommends that drivers avoid using the brake whenever possible in deteriorating weather conditions. “Slow down early enough, so you can roll up to a traffic light change without having to brake completely,” he said. “When coasting to slow down, it’s still important to engage your brake lights by lightly pressing the brake pedal so those behind you understand that you are in the process of slowing. But when you do need to stop or slow down, start braking early and gently to keep yourself and others behind you in control.”

2. Know where to focus your eyes.
How do you safely maneuver the vehicle when it begins to skid on ice? The answer starts with your eyes.

“When drivers sense the vehicle is skidding on ice, their tendency is to jerk the steering wheel frantically in all different directions, with their eyes focused on what they want to avoid, like oncoming traffic or parked vehicles, or pedestrians. But what happens is that where you focus your eyes, is where you’re actually pointing the vehicle – toward what you’re trying to avoid,” Liggio said.

This is called “target fixation,” and drivers should focus their eyes on targets that lead them to safety.

“Once you’re able to identify an acceptable escape route, get the wheels pointed in that direction, no matter which direction the vehicle is moving,” Liggio said. “This could be the side of the road or somewhere that would minimize harm to you and the public. Keep your eyes – and the wheels – aimed at where you want to go, not on what you’re trying to avoid.”

3. Adjust for fluctuations in weight distribution.
Weight distribution changes the handling characteristics of a vehicle. If a driver operates a fully loaded truck at the beginning of the day and then unloads it, the empty truck is going perform much differently in terms of center of gravity, acceleration, braking and traction on wintry roads.

“If the truck is fully loaded, that can help with the traction, especially in the rear of the vehicle,” Liggio said. “But as the truck is unloaded, there is less weight on the vehicle and that could increase the potential of slippage in icy conditions. Also, if it’s a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, you might find in slow-moving conditions that as the weather gets worse, you’ll have problems accelerating and can’t get the truck to move.”

How do drivers counter this phenomenon? The starting point is to be aware of how changes in weight distribution can impact the vehicle’s performance and handling, especially in snow and ice conditions.

“You have that muscle memory so ingrained that if you’re used to driving the vehicle at full load, you will likely revert to driving like that even if the vehicle is empty, unless you make yourself more attentive to the changes,” Liggio said.

Hardwiring Safe Winter Driving Skills
How often should drivers be trained for winter driving techniques to instill safe habits? Liggio recommends that drivers receive hands-on instruction – in a training vehicle on a closed course and/or in a simulator – at least once every three years, plus an online refresher course prior to winter in the intervening years to reinforce what they’ve learned.

So, if your fleet operates in an area known for harsh winters, are your drivers and crews ready? Have they been “winterized” – equipped with the enhanced driving awareness and skills they need to safely operate vehicles in snowy and icy conditions?


Winter Weather-Related Crash Statistics
Winter weather can wreak havoc on road conditions and driver safety. Consider these statistics compiled by the Federal Highway Administration, which represent annual averages in the U.S.

Snow/Sleet: 211,188 crashes; 58,011 persons injured; 769 fatalities

Icy Pavement: 154,580 crashes; 45,133 persons injured; 580 fatalities

Snow/Slushy Pavement: 175,233 crashes; 43,503 persons injured; 572 fatalities


Maintenance Management Best Practices to Reduce Costs and Maximize Uptime

In many ways, effective fleet management is as much about reliability as it is about cost. It’s about making sure your vehicles stay on the road in optimal operating condition, minimizing unscheduled maintenance and downtime, using data to predict possible maintenance needs and ensuring you make the best decisions for your business and the bottom line.

With telematics devices and the big data they provide readily available to a wide segment of the marketplace, utility companies are faced with the same opportunities – and challenges – that any other modern, commercial fleet may have when it comes to maximizing performance. Managing and understanding a fleet’s data can lead to more efficient operations and lower overall total cost of ownership (TCO), but the challenge of truly understanding and drawing value from that data can be an overwhelming task. To gain true insight, fleet managers need to put their fleet data to work by:
• Developing and routinely analyzing the right set of key performance indicators.
• Regularly benchmarking their fleet’s performance to establish a roadmap for vehicle replacement, downtime and reliability.
• Establishing a solid maintenance management program that supports utilization, vehicle specifications and procurement.

Big data can have an especially large impact on a fleet’s maintenance program. But for a program to have the most impact and ultimately lower costs, it’s critical that the right work is done at the right time by the right people. Fleet managers should seek to minimize unscheduled maintenance by using predictive evidence garnered from a fleet’s data to optimize scheduled maintenance. For example, say a truck is scheduled to come in for its annual inspection. Will it also likely need an oil and filter change in a month’s time, based on the mileage it is accruing in the field? Can you provide predictive maintenance that minimizes component failure? With proper data analysis, you can know ahead of time and perform all the necessary work during the annual inspection, reducing downtime and maximizing the efficiency of the truck’s time in the shop.

Data analysis can also help you determine if you have the right people to do the job. Best-in-class fleets with robust data analysis capabilities have begun to measure the return on investment from individual maintenance service programs to determine if they are better served by having the work done internally or by an external service provider. With a proper cost analysis, a manager can evaluate whether the fleet has the right tools and systems to do the work in-house, or if outsourcing the work to the most economical, efficient provider is the way to go.

Benchmarking and Inspections
Keep in mind that cost is just one factor in the analysis. Downtime and reliability are also critical components of the overall TCO calculation. While these measurements can be harder to determine, big data can help clarify how these elements are affecting your fleet. When considering downtime and reliability, however, it is important to take a broad perspective. Knowing what works for your fleet and how you compare to others in similar industries with similar fleets will help bring needed insight to how well – or not – your fleet may be performing. Benchmarking in this way will help you understand how you measure up to other best-in-class fleets, identify possible improvements, and provide the opportunity to consider industry-wide approaches and best practices. A complete analysis should also give you the chance to measure cause and effect when you change certain parameters or practices, or if you introduce a different approach into your program.

In addition to in-depth data analysis and benchmarking, another best practice utility fleets should consider is adopting inspection criteria that will yield a thorough review of each vehicle when it is in for annual maintenance. Doing this will go a long way toward preventing unscheduled downtime or unanticipated repairs. Utility fleets should determine if their systems have the capacity to set defined inspection parameters and, if the work is being done in-house, make sure the data is both visible and available to technicians. If the work is being done off-site, fleet managers should ensure the vendor completing the work has access to and is sharing any data with the fleet manager and their fleet management company. Among the biggest mistakes utility fleets make is failing to see the importance of inspection criteria. Other common mistakes include buying the same equipment over and over again, not understanding the true health of the fleet and not recognizing the value of adopting a vehicle life-cycle strategy.

As more utility fleets begin to adopt best practices and embrace the power of big data to uncover cost savings and efficiencies, it is likely certain trends will emerge. Utility fleets that understand the maintenance work they do best in-house are likely to begin outsourcing work the fleet cannot cost-effectively complete. As more data becomes available, fleets will dive deeper into benchmarking and information sharing, leading to increased operational efficiency and transparency. Increased access to data will also lead to improvements in predictive analysis for maintenance needs and the creation of system-generated tools to determine capital investment requirements. This is also likely to lead to fleet rightsizing. Additionally, it is likely utility fleets will continue to embrace and deploy telematics as the data those devices provide improves operations year over year.

In closing, while you may not have adopted all of these strategies in your own fleet, they are worth considering as ways to increase efficiencies, improve operations, advance transparency and lower costs and TCO.

About the Author: Charlie Guthro is vice president of North American fleet management for ARI (www.arifleet.com), a privately held fleet management company headquartered in Mount Laurel, N.J.


Key Performance Indicators to Help Evaluate Fleet Operations

Total Cost Measurement
• Cost per mile
• Cost per months in service
• Cost per gallon

Maintenance Costs
• Large component failure rate
• Median time between failures
• Routine maintenance vs. breakdown
• Upfit/attachments failure rate

Reliability and Downtime Measures
• Scheduled vs. unscheduled maintenance ratios
• Downtime reports
• Incident/PO ratios
• Labor hours/incident ratios
• Towing, roadside assistance and rentals


When Does Leasing Make Financial Sense for a Utility Fleet?

Own or lease – which vehicle acquisition strategy makes the most sense for utility fleets?

There’s no clear-cut answer, said Marcin Michno, project manager, strategic consulting for Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com). “It’s impossible to define an ideal, uniform leasing scenario for an entire utility industry because there are too many variables, and every company has a different situation. Are they looking to preserve cash? What’s their tax strategy? Are interest rates favorable? What is the company’s risk tolerance? And not all vehicle applications should be treated the same. You have to look at the individual company’s situation and design a financial strategy around that.”

Bill Doman, department head, sales support at ARI (www.arifleet.com), agrees. “Conventional wisdom is that a regulated [public] utility is going to purchase everything, and an investor-owned utility is more open to leasing. But in reality, we know a few regulated utilities that lease 100 percent of their vehicles. And the vast majority of our utility clients – whether regulated or investor-owned – have a mix of owned and leased vehicles. They’re finding the right applications where they can take advantage of leasing and create a situation where they get the benefits of cash preservation, improved cash flow and potential tax advantages.”

Financial Flexibility
It’s a commonly used term, but what exactly is leasing?

“When you lease, you might be paying only for the usable portion of that vehicle,” said Steve Byrd, manager of truck excellence for Element Fleet Management. “In other words, you’re financing the spread between the capitalized cost of the vehicle and its residual value [the projected worth of the vehicle at the end of the lease term]. So, if the total vehicle cost is $100,000 and the residual is $20,000, you’re leasing $80,000 worth of truck – the amount of the truck you intend to actually use.”

One of the key advantages to leasing is the flexibility to customize the contract in ways that can minimize upfront cash requirements, reduce monthly payments and provide multiple options at lease-end – such as whether to turn in, purchase or sell the vehicle – based on the company’s finance and accounting objectives.

And although there’s no cookie-cutter profile, here are a couple scenarios where utility fleets could benefit from leasing.

High-Use Vehicles
“Generally speaking, it is possible to structure and tailor a lease to be advantageous for fleets with higher mileage and higher utilization,” Byrd said. “Vehicles that are more specialized [such as bucket trucks and digger derricks], with lower miles and longer life cycles, would have different, specific considerations for leasing and ownership. These structures will be different for each of these scenarios.”

What are some examples of high-utilization applications in utility fleets?

“Executive vehicle and meter-reader applications,” Doman said. “In these cases, fleet managers know exactly how many miles those vehicles will travel, and there’s a predictable driving pattern with them. They also tend to replace these vehicles on a shorter life cycle to ensure vehicles look new to maintain a clean public image.”

According to Byrd, “With any application, there should be a discipline to renew your fleet on a regular interval, so you can take advantage of the latest safety technologies, improved fuel efficiencies and lower maintenance costs. Working with your fleet management company will help in promoting that discipline.”

Accelerating Green Fleet Acquisition
Doman points to Edison Electric Institute’s fleet electrification initiative (see www.eei.org) as an intriguing leasing opportunity for utility fleets. As of late last year, more than 70 investor-owned utilities had pledged to devote at least 5 percent of their annual fleet budgets to electrified vehicles.

“Instead of taking the 5 percent budget to purchase two large hybrid-electric bucket trucks outright, utilities can structure leases that spread that budget over, say, 50 plug-in electric vehicles for meter-reader applications,” Doman said. “Beyond just getting substantially more vehicles with the same budget, there’s also the PR advantage to that. You can say, ‘We have 50 vehicles out on the road that operate on clean electric power’ and promote that on the sides of your vehicles to make a statement to customers about your investment in the environment.”

Keep an Open Mind
Whether you lean toward ownership or leasing, keep an open mind, Doman advised. “Don’t look at things the way you’ve always done them. There’s a lot of flexibility involved in all the different types of leases available. And look at certain segments of your fleet and explore where it might make sense to put your toe in the water if [leasing] is something you haven’t done before.”


Dig Deeper
To learn more about vehicle leasing, visit these resources:
• “Lease a Truck – Pros and Cons” from LeaseGuide.com: www.leaseguide.com/articles/truckleasing.htm
• Equipment Leasing and Finance Association: www.elfaonline.org
• Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association: www.afla.org


The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Dale Collins, CAFM, the fleet services supervisor for Fairfax County Water Authority (Fairfax Water), headquartered in Fairfax, Va. Collins manages approximately 270 vehicles and two maintenance shops in Fairfax County, with a total of 10 bays and five vehicle lifts.

#1: Get to know your fleet and how each vehicle is used.
“Learn as much as you can about how the vehicles and equipment are used by communicating directly with the operators. Also, develop a strong working relationship with your procurement folks and do whatever you can to help them help you get what your fleet needs.”

#2: Join an association, like NAFA.
“The fleet industry is very unique, and most fleet professionals are more than willing to help out and share their experiences. If you’re having a problem, chances are that someone else has encountered the same difficulty and can offer advice. Attend meetings and educational events so you can become your organization’s fleet expert.”

#3: Don’t get overwhelmed by Big Data.
“It seems like today there’s an ability to track almost everything under the sun and give it a value, which can waste a lot of your time. Spend some time learning what’s important for the fleet operation and any reports desired by the executive staff. Data is only useful when it tells you something; that’s when it’s useful information. Until then, it’s just data.”


Prevent Overloading with Onboard Scales

Overloading trucks and trailers can be an expensive habit. It puts the safety of operators and the public at risk, increases fines and leads to premature wear and tear on vehicles. But when you can’t physically inspect drivers’ loads throughout the day, how do you ensure your trucks are operating at a safe weight?

One solution is to install onboard scales, which help operators immediately determine whether loads fit within the allowable weight capacity of a truck and/or trailer.

How do onboard scales work? Air-Weigh’s LoadMaxx system (www.air-weighscales.com) measures change in pressure within an air suspension and then converts the scale’s measurements into comparable on-the-ground weights displayed on an in-cab digital gauge. For axles with leaf-spring suspensions, LoadMaxx uses a deflection sensor that measures the flex in the suspension to determine weight.

Vulcan On-Board Scales (www.vulcanscales.com), which are compatible with most suspension types, use load-cell technology with built-in strain gauges that monitor changes in electrical resistance when the cell is deformed by a load. The system transmits and converts the cell’s resistance signals into actual weight readings.

Hauling Variable Loads
While onboard scales can be applied in a wide range of straight truck and tractor-trailer applications, they are especially useful when hauling variable and unpredictable loads.

One day, for example, a Class 8 tractor-trailer might haul a heavy transformer. The next day, that same unit could be transporting a large backhoe. When you’re dealing with variable weights from load to load, onboard scales give crews visibility into the weight of the truck and individual axles (or axle groups) during the loading process.

And the weight of each axle is important to get right. As Tricia Baker, marketing manager for Air-Weigh, put it, “The DOT will still issue a fine when you have just one axle that’s overloaded, even if the total vehicle weight is OK.”

To help ensure compliance with individual axle weights, onboard scales enable crews to quickly identify the optimal load placement relative to each axle. “If you place the transformer too far forward on the trailer [ahead of the trailer axle], your drive weight will be too high because too much weight has been transferred toward the fifth wheel [the hitch above the tractor’s rear axle],” Baker explained. “But if you load the transformer too far behind the axle, the trailer’s axle weight will be too high.”

With onboard scales, crews get immediate feedback on load placement so they can make adjustments, if necessary, without having to drive to the nearest truck scale and wait in line.

Both Vulcan and Air-Weigh systems offer wireless communication capabilities to transmit vehicle weight data to fleet managers and other authorized personnel, giving them greater visibility into their crews’ performance with their day-to-day vehicle payloads.

Baker also said that Air-Weigh’s customers have talked about using onboard scale technology as an effective CDL driver retention tool. This is because onboard weighing helps CDL drivers ensure their load is always compliant, reducing the risk of truck-weight violations being placed on their safety record.

According to Baker, an Air-Weigh tractor and trailer system starts at about $1,000 and goes up from there, depending on the configuration that best fits the application. The company’s online return on investment calculator (www.air-weighscales.com/roicalculator) offers scenarios of how much time it can take for fleets to recoup their investment based on the system type, projected number of weekly loads and the estimated scale fees that are eliminated by using onboard scales.

A Practical Application
When you can’t personally inspect each vehicle before it leaves your yard, onboard scales offer a practical way for you to hold crews accountable, ensuring they are operating their vehicles within the proper weight limits. This protects their safety while reducing your organization’s liability exposure.


The Expense of Excessive Weight
Onboard scales can help your fleet reduce these costs associated with operating overweight trucks and trailers:
• Increased liability and safety risks to crews and the public.
• Department of Transportation fines.
• Accelerated wear on tires and brakes.
• Premature failure of major components such as engines, transmissions and axles.
• Potential loss of warranty coverage.
• Shorter vehicle life cycle.


Assessing and Enforcing Distracted Driving Policies

Policies that prohibit employees from using cellphones or being otherwise distracted while driving are so common today that it would be hard to find a utility company without one.

In fact, in 2011 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration banned the use of all hand-held mobile devices by commercial vehicle drivers. This includes anyone driving a vehicle heavier than 10,000 pounds during interstate business, not just heavy-duty truck drivers with commercial driver’s licenses. Penalties can range from driver disqualification to fines for both the driver and the carrier. Additionally, as of press time, 14 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving.

The real issue for utility fleets, and for any company with vehicles for that matter, is how to measure a policy’s effectiveness. How do companies know if their policy is working?

It’s not easy to figure out, partly because most distracted driving policies are one piece of a company’s larger employee safety program. Aside from post-accident investigations, which should turn up any ill-timed use of a mobile device, measuring the efficacy of distracted driving policies is a little tricky, executives acknowledged.

A 2011 study of distracted driving issues by the Governors Highway Safety Association noted simply that distracted driving communications campaigns and company policies and programs are widely used but have not been evaluated.

Houston-based CenterPoint Energy established its distracted driving policy in 2010. Al Payton, the company’s director of safety and technical training, said he did not have specific data about the efficacy of the program separate from the company’s overall employee safety program, but noted that CenterPoint has had a steady decrease in its number of total incidents. More to the point, the company has seen a change in the types of incidents since CenterPoint implemented a distracted driving policy. “There’s been a decrease in rear-end collisions … which may indicate that our drivers are less distracted,” he said.

Southern California Edison’s policy “prohibits a litany of actions” on hand-held devices, according to Don Neal, the utility’s director of corporate environmental, health and safety. That includes texting and talking and covers smartphones, tablets, PDAs and more. The exceptions are push-to-talk radios and Bluetooth wireless headsets.

“If we have any incident and find that the employee was using a hand-held device, that employee goes into a progressive disciplinary program where the result could be anywhere from a note to termination,” Neal said.

Bill Orlove, spokesman for Florida Power and Light Co., said the company does not have data on its policy’s efficacy but noted that the fleet communicates with drivers throughout the year and at safety meetings.

FPL’s distracted driving policy prohibits all employees from using any hand-held device while behind the wheel on behalf of the company, he said.

“That means no texting, no emailing, no accessing the Internet, etc.,” he said.

Technology’s Role
Technologies that control and limit the use of mobile devices by drivers are giving fleet managers more proactive ways to enforce policies.

The most common systems plug in to the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port and work with Bluetooth-enabled devices to block texting or most any use of a mobile device once the vehicle is in motion.

Telogis’ DriveSafe program, for example, is an add-on option that can be used in conjunction with Telogis’ telematics applications and connect to a driver’s device. It works with Android and iOS applications.

“It ensures that the driver is not distracted,” said Erin Cave, vice president of product management.

FleetSafer, from Aegis Mobility, and Kyrus Mobile are two other systems. Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission has a Distracted Driving Information Clearinghouse that provides additional sources and services. Visit www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/distracted-driving-information-clearinghouse.

The issue, executives said, comes down to balancing employee safety and productivity. Fleets are going to have to find the balance between the productivity opportunities available with today’s communication technologies and the obligation to provide their employees a safe workplace. And for those who spend their days on the road, a safe workplace means a safe vehicle.

About the Author: Jim Galligan has been covering the commercial truck transportation sector for more than 30 years and has extensive experience covering the utility fleet market. In addition to writing and editing for magazines, his background also includes writing for daily newspapers, trade associations and corporations.

Photo: Courtesy of Jean Anderson/Southern California Edison


Using Virtual Tools to Create a Safer Reality for Utility Fleets

Successful organizations operate under the mindset that people are their most important assets, and they always take employee safety into consideration when making business decisions. Safe employees are happier, have greater rates of productivity, are more supportive of clients and contribute to the bottom line. Does your organization already have this mentality? Or is there some room for improvement?

For companies with vehicle fleets, the need for workplace safety extends beyond brick-and-mortar environments; avoiding on-the-job incidents is even more critical when an employee gets behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle and drives on public roads.

Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of occupational fatalities and cost fleet owners more than $60 billion each year. A three-year study published in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (see www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/docs/Commercial_Motor_Vechicle_Facts_March_2013.pdf) reported that on average, more than 30,000 lives were lost annually in vehicle-related traffic crashes from 2009 to 2011. Of those deaths, nearly 10 percent directly involved large trucks, which are defined as vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 10,000 pounds. Additional crash statistics drawn from the study can be found in the chart below.

FMCSA Stats Chart Web

Although there are myriad factors that contribute to motor vehicle traffic crashes, a better-educated driver is arguably a safer, more alert and more defensive driver. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that your company’s driver training program isn’t in need of its own corrective action.

“Delivering targeted safety training is critical for educating drivers on hazards and defensive techniques, potentially avoiding incidents and managing risk overall,” said Bill Doman, department head at ARI (www.arifleet.com), a fleet management company headquartered in New Jersey. “But as a fleet professional, how do you accomplish this when your workforce is already trying to do more with less?”

A Balanced Training Approach
Going virtual is a large part of the answer to that question, according to Doman, who works with driver-facing programs at ARI. “Virtual training can help overcome logistical challenges, get more drivers trained faster and help protect your organization both proactively and post-incident.”

Compared to other fleet types, utilities have unique training requirements due to the additional responsibilities of most drivers. For certain educational needs, behind-the-wheel or direct classroom training is the most effective way of preparing personnel to safely operate vehicles and equipment. The logistics and planning involved with these training methods, however, can be costly, result in downtime or not cover all applicable drivers.

For certain training needs, a virtual learning management system (LMS) can be the quickest and most effective way to deliver important safety education to as many drivers as possible. An LMS is a software application for the administration, tracking and delivery of electronic educational technology.

For example, instead of sitting operators in a classroom or at individual kiosks to passively watch videos, an online module can deliver the same content in an interactive fashion with a quiz at the culmination of the module to test for comprehension. Drivers might even dread training less if there’s a little more variety at play.

“A balanced training approach will include an assortment of classroom, behind-the-wheel and virtual methodology,” Doman said. “We’re finding that an increasing number of fleet owners are taking a fresh look at how they train their drivers to determine where virtual modules can be a good fit.”

How Virtual Training Works
Virtual training is delivered via online modules that engage drivers in a variety of interactive exercises and activities. Common topics include aggressive driving, avoiding crashes, distractions, speeding, limited visibility, towing and parking lot safety. Training recipients are prompted throughout the module to click and participate with the lesson at hand.

“Drivers aren’t just bombarded with text and statistics to passively memorize,” Doman explained. “They interact with the content and complete a comprehension test at the end to help ensure they retain the information.”

Training can be done on a desktop computer, laptop and even mobile devices. This means that drivers can go through training simultaneously in an infinite number of locations. What’s even better is that this also means more employees are receiving safety training faster and more frequently, instead of having to wait for a scheduled class.

Many virtual training providers will also supply proactive skill assessments to help identify at-risk drivers before there is an incident. Based on assessment results, drivers can be matched with the appropriate modules. Targeted modules can also be assigned to drivers who have recently been involved in a collision or received a violation.

Ensuring compliance with your vehicle policy is another good use for these modules. Your organization invested time and effort in assembling a thorough policy, and it’s imperative to verify that the drivers are actually reading it.

“After reviewing an online version of the company’s fleet policy, the drivers electronically acknowledge that they read the policy and take a comprehension quiz,” Doman said. “These modules can be customized with special touches to reflect the company’s culture, such as a video message from senior management demonstrating the organization’s commitment to safety.”

The Real Value Proposition
Adopting a robust blend of training content and delivery to help keep your drivers and others on the road safe just makes sense. It’s the right thing to do. But there are many more reasons to invest in a diversified safety approach, most of which have a measurable, positive financial impact for your organization. Among these reasons are:
• Decreased crash rate. Crashes are expensive. The crash that never happened can potentially pay for an entire year of training for all of your drivers.
• Positive community image. Safe drivers are typically courteous drivers who will reinforce a positive association with the branding on your fleet vehicles.
• Goodwill among clients. Your clients appreciate patronizing a company that values its employees and has a reputation for safety. It’s simply good business.
• Reduced liability exposure. Trained drivers help mitigate risk through better driving behaviors. And, by offering training to those who operate company assets, your organization is demonstrating a culture of safety.
• Decreased fuel spending. Teaching drivers more efficient driving techniques can lower your overall fuel expenses.
• Reduced maintenance expenses. Behaviors such as hard stops can increase premature wear on vehicle components. Training reminds drivers that every decision can have a long-term impact.

Above all, the most important reason to invest in safety training is because crashes can take lives. “Getting your drivers home safely is the most compelling reason to take another look at your training regimen,” Doman emphasized. “Safety is the best example of where trying to cut upfront spending can be exorbitantly more costly in the event of a fatal incident. The harshest reality is that you can’t replace a life at any cost.”


The Final 3

Each issue, we ask a fleet professional to share three keys to fleet success.

This issue’s Final 3 participant is Jim Bishop, director of fleet services for INTREN Inc., a full-service utility construction contractor based in Union, Ill., with more than 1,000 employees and offices in Illinois, California, Wisconsin and Missouri. Bishop oversees a fleet of nearly 1,400 assets.

#1: Build a support network.
“Get involved with the various fleet organizations, such as NAFA [National Association of Fleet Administrators], where you can meet other fleet managers, learn from them and get real-world-tested ideas that you might be able to apply in your own fleet. If you try to do things on your own, without support, you can get steered in the wrong direction pretty easily.”

#2: Collaborate with the end user.
“Far too often you hear of fleet making a decision and buying what they think is the best thing, without talking with the people who are actually using the vehicle. When you include the end user in the specification process, you can make certain that you spec a vehicle that meets their needs to do their job most productively.”

#3: Pay close attention to the details.
“If you’re spec’ing a 33,000-GVWR truck but don’t take into consideration that you’re also pulling 25,000 pounds behind the truck, you may find that you’ve built a truck that does not meet your customer’s needs – after it’s too late. Be clear on the truck’s job description and go through the details to make sure the truck spec matches the job.”


Selling Safety to Utility Fleet Drivers

Despite the ubiquity of technology in almost everyone’s world today, drivers may resent the introduction of a GPS or telematics system by company management if they feel the technology is going to be used to spy on them. But explaining that these systems can improve safety, enhance driving skills and even reduce paperwork can go a long way to getting driver buy-in, said several fleet managers and industry executives.

Pacific Gas and Electric already had a fleet management system in place, but the company decided to look to technology as a way of improving driver safety and performance. In particular, they wanted to test telematics systems that fed performance data back to operations. Before doing that, however, fleet representatives first met with the union drivers and explained that the systems were being designed to improve their driving, not to discipline them.

“Drivers are always concerned about Big Brother and being disciplined for their behavior,” said David Meisel, senior director of transportation and aviation services for the San Francisco-based utility. “We explained that this is for their safety, to improve their driving so they can be safer drivers.”

The utility giant tested three systems that featured an in-cab coach, either a tone or voice that alerted the drivers when they exceeded some preset parameter. The test was a success, Meisel said. Drivers cut their speeding by 90 percent and their unsafe actions by 80 percent. As a result, the company is rolling out the system to 1,000 more units.

“Folks took it for what it was: a way to improve safety. It’s hard to say becoming a safer driver is a bad idea,” Meisel said.

Union drivers at Tanner Electric Cooperative in North Bend, Wash., were wary that a system from GPS Insight would be used to spy on them, but again, safety was a big selling point, said Jim Anderson, manager of operations and engineering. The co-op has remote locations, including one crew on an island in Puget Sound, and the ability to quickly locate units in emergencies is crucial.

“Once it was explained like that, they accepted it. And they’re doing very well with it,” Anderson said.

Keep Drivers Involved
It’s important to keep drivers updated about their performance and reward good driving behavior, said Frank Cottone, group manager of support services at Pepco in Washington, D.C. In 2013, the company started a program to cut vehicle idling using data collected from their Telogis onboard system. Cottone said Pepco shares the results – positive or negative – each month so that drivers can see where they stand compared with other drivers. Cottone credits the program for reducing unnecessary idling by 19 percent.

“Although some drivers still had privacy concerns, we diminished those concerns with constant communications about the program and by keeping our employees safe,” Cottone said.

Today’s technologies can benefit drivers through better communication, reduced paperwork and a more accurate accounting of their day, noted Ryan Driscoll, marketing director for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based GPS Insight. Even something as simple as knowing which vehicle is closest to the next job helps the driver.

“It means smarter allocation of the driver’s work,” he said.

The pervasiveness of tablets, smartphones and onboard technologies is connecting the worker with the employer and the employer’s mission, and that can make drivers more accepting of change, said Tim Taylor, chief success officer for Telogis.

“Excellent companies have something dynamic in their culture, a vibrant culture that they share with the workers,” he said. “These systems can connect the worker with this culture. It spreads accountability and responsibility [and] connects the workers with the mission of the company.”

About the Author: Jim Galligan has been covering the commercial truck transportation sector for more than 30 years and has extensive experience covering the utility fleet market. In addition to writing and editing for magazines, his background also includes writing for daily newspapers, trade associations and corporations.


Sidebar: Survey Says
The use of GPS and/or telematics systems is helping fleets cut costs, improve operations and increase productivity, according to a study by management and research firm ARI.

By far, most fleets – 92 percent – report they are using the data from these systems to monitor speeding, ARI reported in its 2014 Utility Fleet Benchmark Study. The next two most common uses for these technologies are to monitor vehicle utilization (77 percent of the responding fleets) and for dispatching (69 percent). Fleets also are using the systems to plan routes and capture odometer readings (46 percent each), capture engine hours (39 percent), monitor hard braking and diagnose engines (31 percent each) and monitor hard cornering (15 percent).

With these technologies, 77 percent of fleets said they reduced vehicle idle time and 69 percent said they saw improved driver behavior. Other gains included decreased transit times, increased driver productivity and increased vehicle utilization (31 percent each), improved preventive maintenance interval accuracy (23 percent) and reduced accident rates (15 percent).


19 Exciting Utility Fleet Products and Services for 2015

Product: Ultra Pad Safety Edge
Company: Bigfoot Construction Equipment
Web: www.outriggerpads.com

Bigfoot Construction Equipment offers the all-new Ultra Pad Safety Edge, which helps to prevent the outrigger from slipping off the outrigger pad. Call 888-743-7320 for more information.


JJ Kane 1

Product: Auction Services
Company: J.J. Kane Auctioneers
Web: www.jjkane.com/construction-utility-equipment-cars-trucks

J.J. Kane Auctioneers is a nationwide auction company that conducts 40-plus absolute public auction sales each year. They make it easy, connecting sellers and buyers both face to face on-site and live online, with Internet bidding. Sellers include electric cooperatives, utilities, manufacturers, contractors, lending institutions, governments, rental companies and more. J.J. Kane specializes in utility, power-line, underground and construction equipment, and fleet vehicles. In addition to physical auction sales, the company offers its Live Off-Site service, enabling sellers to participate with equipment from remote locations. Live Off-Site allows sellers to be a part of the excitement created by a live physical auction sale, when transportation costs or logistics are a factor. J.J. Kane can provide a turnkey solution, handling every aspect of the sale process.


Al Asher

Product: TSE Cable Scrapper
Company: Al Asher and Sons Inc.
Web: www.alasher.com

The TSE Cable Scrapper is Al Asher and Sons’ latest product innovation for 2015. Formerly known as OK Champion, the industry has long recognized the Cable Scrapper as the go-to product for salvaging underground cable up to 4-inch diameter. The machine will pull, cut and load cable all day long in one continuous operation, saving countless man-hours and extra equipment. Now you can purchase the TSE Cable Scrapper with remote radio controls for the bed winch, which will digitally and effortlessly record pulling torque and speed. Enhanced hydraulic circuitry improvements also are available to promote longevity and reduce heat and wear in the system. Asher stocks units for sale or rental throughout the USA.


International Truck

Product: International WorkStar Truck
Company: Navistar/International Truck
Web: www.internationaltrucks.com
The International WorkStar is one of the most durable and versatile trucks in the utility industry, built on the same battle-tested truck platform as the International MaxxPro MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected) armored vehicle. It brings the strength and rugged capabilities to work power lines in any environment, with the smarts of Diamond Logic to operate efficiently and keep your team safe. Ease of Diamond Logic integration with utility equipment means that features such as boom operation alerts, remote engine controls and remote battery shutoffs are all factory-built options. The 2016 WorkStar is also offered with the industry-leading Cummins ISB6.7, a recognized platform that delivers renowned efficiency, reliability and performance.



Product: LED Stryker
Company: Golight Inc.
Web: www.golight.com

The new LED Stryker from Golight offers tremendous intensity and clarity with minimal strain on the vehicle’s electrical system. The LED upgrade boasts a 50 percent increase in intensity compared to its halogen counterpart. By utilizing P-Vex lens technology coupled with the cutting-edge LEDs, the LED Stryker is able to generate a peak beam intensity of 320,000 candela. Additionally, the hot spot – the most intense portion of the beam – comprises nearly 70 percent of the beam circumference, three times that of a comparable halogen unit.

The LED technology utilized in the new Stryker model generates nearly four times as many lumens per watt as a traditional halogen light source. Such efficiency means that the LED Stryker delivers more light while reducing the amp draw by half. Plus, the LEDs are incredibly durable with a rated useful life of 50,000 hours.



Product: Rigid Access Mat
Company: MUD-TRAKS
Web: www.mud-traks.com

MUD-TRAKS’ strongest, most rigid access mat – designed to move heavy vehicles over wetland-like ground conditions – is light enough for men to handle in the field. It is made from solid fiberglass with an internal grid structure that channels tire load over an area more than 15 times larger than a comparable-sized poly mat. It is rigid enough to bridge a 20-inch span while supporting 10,000 pounds of tire load.

This innovation comes in three distinctive model strengths: Lawn Mat for vehicles up to 35,000 pounds, Off-Road Super Lite Mat for vehicles up to 60,000 pounds and Off-Road Super Mat for vehicles that weigh 100,000-plus pounds.

The mat’s advantages include strength, longevity, ease of handling and safety. It has numerous applications in the utility and heavy construction industries; is not affected by chemicals, temperature or water; and does not conduct electricity.



Product: Revolution Series Stringing Equipment
Company: Sherman+Reilly
Web: www.sherman-reilly.com

Sherman+Reilly designed its Revolution Series equipment around operator safety, ergonomics and environmental comfort. With a 14,000-pound pulling capacity, the Revolution Series P-1400X Single Drum Puller is a transmission-class drum puller with a first-of-a-kind drum engagement system utilizing lateral sliding sides and drum support rollers for simplified pulling and reconductoring operations. The P-2000X Bullwheel Puller offers a new design that provides a smooth 20,000 pounds of control for the steel hard line with the use of its twin hydraulically driven bullwheels. Both machines utilize automatic horizontal levelwinds that permit overhead rope retrieval with precision control.

The Safe-Zone Cab is an important feature of these pullers. The cab employs a floor-to-ceiling polycarbonate front window for maximum visibility while providing superior protection against impact.



Product: AT40GW Aerial Device
Company: Altec
Web: www.altec.com/products/aerials/telescopic-articulating/at40gw

Altec’s AT40GW track-driven aerial device has a 43-foot working height and 30-foot side reach to provide versatility in small or congested job sites. The telescopic/articulating boom design offers access to the platform from the ground. A 34-inch retractable track allows the device to easily maneuver in and out of gates and other narrow passageways by reducing the width of the machine. The unit comes standard with a walk-behind remote control for easy operation. A 180-degree platform rotator provides more flexibility in confined spaces to give the operator the best possible vantage point. For convenient transport, the 1,000-pound cargo deck accommodates transformers, tools and other components.

The AT40GW is available with an ISO-Boom, which allows the unit’s second stage to be fully retracted while maintaining dielectric integrity and meeting OSHA guidelines for minimum approach distance. With a Category C isolating fiberglass boom, the operator can work safely regardless of the upper boom extension.



Company: Polaris
Web: www.polaris.com/en-us/commercial/fleet-sales

The new RANGER ETX is an on-demand four-wheel-drive vehicle featuring a 31-horsepower, electronic fuel-injected (EFI) ProStar engine with an internal counter-balance shaft for smooth, low-vibration power. The dual overhead camshafts and a four-valve cylinder head work with the advanced engine management system to precisely deliver the fuel charge for impressive power and instant, predictable throttle response, while the lightweight, efficient transmission captures every ounce of power to deliver it to the ground. Like all ProStar engines, the design reduces internal friction, which dramatically reduces noise and significantly increases efficiency. The addition of EFI on this entry-level model assures easy starting, improved run quality and elevation compensation to ensure reliability normally found on higher-priced models.



Product: Aerial Lifts
Company: VERSALIFT/Time Manufacturing
Web: www.versalift.com

With more than 50 years of innovation, exceptional quality and hard work, VERSALIFT’s legacy of success has been marked by talented employees, notable clients and innovators. The company – a global leader in aerial lifts – continues to adapt to changing markets in an ever-changing world, with a clear commitment to quality though unequaled innovative design and manufacturing.

Time Manufacturing strives to build the safest, most efficient and hardest-working machines to get the job done. Its product line has grown to encompass models for every market. With more than 300,000 square feet under one roof, its manufacturing facilities comprise one of the premier factories of its kind in the world. Through vertical integration, Time monitors and maintains the quality of all products from the initial purchase of steel all the way through final testing. Whether it be a 29-foot man lift or a 108-foot material handler, there is a VERSALIFT to get the job done.


Bronto Skylift

Product: S 150 XDT Aerial Work Platform
Company: Bronto Skylift
Web: www.bronto.fi

Bronto Skylift’s S 150 XDT truck-mounted telescopic aerial work platform is especially well suited for the rental market. It’s a lighter-weight, compact aerial that is road-legal in all states, so it can be driven to almost any work site, quickly set up and elevated to overhead areas in a matter of minutes. Mounted on a CAT chassis, it features a 152-foot overhead working height and a telescopic, articulating platform boom that provides 100 feet of horizontal outreach for increased up-and-over capabilities. With 360 degrees of continuous turntable rotation and a 1,400-pound platform capacity, workers are able to carry tools and equipment to access almost any elevated work site.



Product: T370 Medium-Duty Conventional Model
Company: Kenworth
Web: www.kenworth.com

Kenworth Truck Co. is expanding its axle offering for its T370 medium-duty conventional model, adding 18,000-pound and 20,000-pound front axles this spring. The new offering will enable the truck to serve more construction, utility, fuel and tanker applications. The T370 is built to deliver exceptional value over the long haul, and these new options will expand an ever-growing vocational use of the truck.



Product: Hydraulic Beavertail
Company: Kiefer Manufacturing
Web: www.kiefermfg.com

Kiefer Manufacturing offers a heavy-duty steel, self-cleaning hydraulic beavertail on most of its industrial flatbed trailer line models. The hydraulic beavertail option takes away the need to lift heavy ramps. Fingertip operation of the hydraulic ramps is done through a key fob, or with a lever that is permanently mounted inside a conveniently located storage box.

The newly designed hydraulic beavertail has an 8,000-pound lifting capacity. The wiring system is housed inside a 10-mil polyester sleeve for durability and longevity.



Product: Garage Management System
Company: ARI
Web: www.arifleet.com/services/in-house_garage_maintenance/

ARI’s Garage Management System (GMS) provides fleets the ideal balance between in-house control and outsourcing convenience by helping to manage technicians, vehicle maintenance and parts inventory while simultaneously consolidating all vendor-in/vendor-out data. From mechanics’ hours to automatic routing of repair approvals and comprehensive repair history, GMS manages it all, and it can even feed data to integrated payroll or ERP systems.

The GMS module integrates all maintenance-related data in one place, allowing fleet managers to track, analyze and manage fleet activity to achieve the lowest possible total cost of ownership. By using GMS as part of a multifaceted maintenance program, fleets will experience cost savings through a more efficient repair process while also making it easy to increase patronage of external shops, balancing vendor mix.



Product: Cobra-Style Jib
Company: Terex
Web: www.terex.com

Available on all 24-inch-by-48-inch platforms, the Terex cobra-style jib is engineered with hydraulic articulation and extend, enabling operators to achieve a greater range of motion and increased productivity. It boasts a low, 16-inch profile, as well as a 600-pound platform capacity and 1,000-pound maximum lift capacity, which can be realized with the work line extended farther from the basket shaft than other jibs allow. Operators can easily rotate the cobra-style jib thanks to an additional bearing at the bottom of the jib. This rotation offers lineworkers more versatility at the pole, enabling them to easily line up with work as needed.

This jib also incorporates a poppet valve feature, which helps enhance safe work practices because it prevents the unit from damaging itself during operation.

The Terex cobra-style jib quickly retracts and conveniently stows out of the way. With the jib in the stowed position, the truck’s boom can still utilize its full range of motion, down to -40 degrees.



Product: Hino 338
Company: Hino Trucks
Web: www.hino.com/trucks/story_1212.php

Reliability is the key to success behind the Hino 338 model. This Class 7, 33,000-pound GVW model is equipped with the award-winning Hino J08 series engine rated at 260 horsepower and 660 pound-feet of torque. It also features a standard six-speed fully automatic 2500RDS with Shift Energy Management transmission from Allison Transmission, while 3000RDS and 3500RDS options are also available.

The Hino 338’s available 120,000-psi frame is strong and rigid enough for the high torque loads utility bodies demand. An available 14,000-pound front axle also adds to the durability that customers have come to know from Hino. All Hino Class 6 and 7 models offer a clean cab-to-axle, making the body upfit much easier and also allowing for more equipment in the rear of the vehicle.


GPS Insight

Product: GPS Dispatch and Custom Forms Applications
Company: GPS Insight
Web: www.gpsinsight.com

GPS Insight’s new capability to send optimized routes to drivers’ smart devices is the latest effort to simplify dispatching. You can now dispatch stops and/or routes via email or text message to each driver on a daily basis. For those customers who want to forgo Garmin integration, but need a better way to dispatch drivers, they can still do so. Also, drivers can now leverage directions used by the mapping apps on the smart device and do not need to be logged into another telematics app to be dispatched.

Garmin electronic custom forms were just added to the GPS Insight platform to improve the way businesses manage their mobile workforce from the field without all the paperwork. The forms are filled out on a Garmin and sent over the air to the back office for real-time data analysis. Utilities can use this function to expedite billing, improve productivity, track different types of completed services, perform job costing analysis and more.



Product: PriorityStart HD
Company: BLI International
Web: www.prioritystart.com

PriorityStart HD is a totally automatic battery protection system that disconnects at 11.7 volts – stopping a dead battery – and then reconnects with a simple load change. The HD unit handles heavier loads, 60 percent increase to 1,600 starting amps and 400 continuous amps. The increase to the contact disc, gears and holding nut has strengthened the load capability and reduced the stress from heavier loads. Other improvements include increased points of connection, brighter top LED for easy viewing, motor/gear shielding strengthening operation and modified top post that easily accepts side-mount installation.



Product: YS3 and TA9000 Tracks Series
Company: Mattracks
Web: www.mattracks.com

Mattracks has introduced its new series of TA9000 tracks. The products expand Mattracks’ current Track-tor-Assist lineup of conversion systems for the agriculture market, commercial market, and extremely large machinery and equipment with axle loads from 10 to 20 tons. Track widths in the TA9000 series are 15 inches, 20 inches, 24 inches and 30 inches.

The YS3 track has been designed to expel snow and ice with minimal ice buildup, and the heavier framework has been designed for increased load-carrying capacity. The offset road wheels reduce vibration and noise, and increase efficiency, fuel economy and track tread life.

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