Tag: Technology


How Easy is it to Hack a Utility Fleet Vehicle?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hackers may be able to access a vehicle’s systems via a phone or tablet connected to the vehicle by USB or Bluetooth. The vehicle’s diagnostic port is another access point.

But a vehicle’s biggest vulnerability may be behind the wheel. According to a November 2016 blog post published by Promon (see https://promon.co/blog/tesla-cars-can-be-stolen-by-hacking-the-app/), a Norwegian firm that specializes in app hardening, the company’s researchers demonstrated just how easy it is to trick a Tesla driver into giving a hacker access to the car’s systems. Tesla, like many vehicle manufacturers, offers a remote app that allows the driver to unlock the vehicle. During the experiment, Promon employees:
• Created a free Wi-Fi hotspot.
• Developed an ad for Tesla drivers that offered a free hamburger at a local restaurant if the driver downloaded a particular app.
• Used the app to gain access to the Tesla driver’s username and password.
• Located the car and used the Tesla app – and the previously captured username and password – to access the vehicle.
• Drove away in the Tesla.

Get Ahead of the Curve
When UFP spoke with Matt Gilliland, director of transportation and facilities for Nebraska Public Power District, he indicated that cybersecurity in vehicles was not historically a fleet management “care about,” but change is definitely on the horizon.

“The connectivity of our fleet is very limited,” he said, before noting that NPPD uses telematics and GPS intelligence, and that the fleet contains a limited number of new vehicles with Bluetooth capabilities. All of those are potential entry points for hackers and cyberattacks. In 2016, 3.6 million vehicles were recalled to fix cybersecurity issues; that figure is double the number recalled in 2015, according to the NHTSA, and this comes before vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity has really taken off.

“Technology grows and advances so fast that a lot of utilities and fleets are going to find themselves behind the curve,” Gilliland said. “I think it’s going to be a significant concern and will maybe catch a lot of us unaware.”

Tony Candeloro, vice president of product development and client information systems for ARI (www.arifleet.com), a privately held fleet management company, agreed. “While hacking and cybersecurity may have not been at the forefront in terms of concerns facing fleet managers, it will become increasingly important to have policies and processes in place that help prevent hacking incidents, especially when it comes to vehicles with telematics and other data collection devices,” he said.

Although new vehicles may have more potential hacker entry points, Candeloro noted that any vehicle with an OBD-II port is vulnerable. And as more and more enhancements are introduced, the cybersecurity issues multiply.

“Today’s vehicles are extremely sophisticated computers that are running millions of lines of code – many of which are susceptible to hacking,” said Dennis Straight, chief technical officer at Donlen (www.donlen.com), a fleet management solutions provider. “Especially vulnerable are systems accessible from a vehicle’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or entertainment systems.”

Argus Security (https://argus-sec.com/), an automotive cybersecurity firm, has identified vehicles they believe to be most susceptible to cyberattacks. The commonality between them? All of the vehicles have weaknesses related to Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi capabilities.

These are particularly susceptible “by either providing a potential attack point or the limited security provided by most infotainment systems,” said Scott Goodwin, senior IT security and compliance administrator for Donlen. “Wi-Fi connections on vehicles are limited by the security available on the hub and the password used to connect to the Wi-Fi. Once connected to the Wi-Fi, the hacker can then attempt access to connected devices, which may provide the ability for data access/manipulation.”

An Appealing Target
Fleets make an especially appealing target due to their size – and the hacking-related possibilities are seemingly endless. Car and Driver (www.caranddriver.com) anticipates that ransomware may prove to be a particular problem. A hacker can use ransomware to gain access to a computer system and hold it hostage until the hacking victim pays a sum of money. Using ransomware, hackers have the ability to do anything from locking drivers in or out of their vehicles to freezing a vehicle’s ignition.

In many ways, preventing cybersecurity issues in vehicles is much the same as protecting a laptop from hackers. It takes a combination of technology development, government intervention, good corporate policy – and savvy users.

“The current telematic devices we use for utility fleets only provide outbound communications, which prevents hackers from sending requests for data or updates to the vehicle,” Goodwin said.

Candeloro stressed that it is vital to keep all software up to date. “Fleets should also train their employees on how to spot security threats,” he said. “It is incredibly common for hackers to try to trick people into installing malware by sending fake – but very convincing – emails recommending phony software updates or other reasons that compel them to click links or download things that are dangerous.”

And know who has access to the vehicles’ computer systems, including that ODB-II port, Candeloro continued. Fleets should have “a clear policy regarding technology within your fleet and train employees on that policy and on what to look for in terms of possible cyberthreats,” he said.

For now, serious hacking threats haven’t materialized in vehicles, but that is likely to change. “As computers and technology are given more power within the vehicle, the opportunity for those systems to be manipulated also expands,” Candeloro said. “Fleet managers should stay alert to the kinds of technology being deployed within their fleet.”

About the Author: Sandy Smith is a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tenn.


Putting a Lock on Lost Keys

Keeping track of keys in a utility fleet environment – which may have thousands of assets, from pickups to bucket trucks and beyond – can be a costly endeavor. In fact, the price tag associated with maintaining fleet vehicle keys and replacing those that are lost can hit well into five figures each year.

“Keys are pretty much a nightmare for every utility,” said Gary Lentsch, CAFM, fleet manager at Eugene (Ore.) Water & Electric Board. With roughly 350 pieces of equipment, he has a lot to keep up with. Two keyboards – one master with keys that never leave the property and another keyboard for the shop to use – help some. In addition, two more keys for each vehicle go directly to the department receiving the equipment. But problems still arise.

The biggest culprit? When departments make their own additional keys, not realizing that for some vehicles, OEMs will only allow eight keys to be programmed the same.

“And if you’ve got four, and then someone goes back and makes a couple more, you’re at five and six, then we hit seven and eight, and when you go to make the ninth key, the number one key drops off,” Lentsch said. “It’s deactivated. That could be the one on your master keyboard. … It’s actually happened quite a bit.”

Another challenge is vehicles with an ignition fob and start button; those fobs are likely to be put in a purse or pocket, possibly going through the laundry or never being seen again.

Helpful Options
The good news is that there are options that may help.

For those with a variety of equipment on the same vehicle, for example, the one-key lock technology from BOLT (www.boltlock.com) allows fleet professionals to insert the vehicle’s ignition key into a padlock, cable lock, tailgate handle or other type of lock and have that lock “learn” that ignition key.

The advantage, said BOLT spokesperson Jason Buckles, is that there’s now only one key to keep up with rather than a whole ring, decreasing the potential cost of replacing numerous lost keys. He’s heard of trailer yards where all locks have been configured the same for added convenience. BOLT also allows fleet professionals to specify locks on Knapheide, A.R.E., LEER and other truck storage equipment, and matches locks for numerous OEMs, such as GM, Ford and Chrysler. Buckles highlighted BOLT’s high safety and security ratings as well.

As for key storage, the electronic key management system from KeyCodeBox (www.keycodebox.com) tackles the challenge of lost keys from another angle.

KeyCodeBox is a key cabinet that isolates each key in its own compartment for greater accountability and reporting. The compartments require a confirmation code for opening, and the person overseeing the keys will receive notifications as the keys go out. There are options for fingerprint and magnetic stripe/ID card readers, and founder Buzz Siler said the product is ideal for fleet operations in which multiple people share the same equipment. In addition, the system can be configured to send text messages to those who have not yet returned keys by the expected time. Another bonus for utility companies, the way Siler sees it, is that the product can reduce the need for someone to sit behind a desk 24 hours a day, handing out keys.

“A key machine allows utility companies to do business 24/7 without having someone on the off shift,” he said. “You could have one admin that works nine to five, and the way the software is set up, you can communicate with the KeyCodeBox no matter where you are, give codes and reservation information, and the box can operate autonomously.”

In addition to utility companies, Siler is seeing KeyCodeBox used by property management and other industries; he foresees a day when smaller versions may be mounted in vans for secure deliveries.

In the meantime, utility fleet professionals will no doubt keep looking for creative ways to keep track of keys. And as those keys become more technologically complex – and therefore expensive – the stakes continue to rise.

“I’ve worked at three different utilities in my career,” Lentsch said. “And every one has fought the same thing. For some of these fleets that have several thousands of vehicles? I can’t even imagine.”

About the Author: Fiona Soltes is a longtime freelance writer based just outside Nashville, Tenn. Her regular clients represent a variety of sectors, including fleet, engineering, technology, logistics, business services, disaster preparedness and material handling. Prior to her freelance career, Soltes spent seven years as a staff writer for The Tennessean, a daily newspaper serving Nashville and the surrounding area.


Mitigating Lost Key Costs
It would be great if you could somehow make sure your employees would never lose another key. As that’s squarely in the not-going-to-happen category, let’s consider the following ways to mitigate cost and lost productivity.
• Periodically test master keys to ensure they still work with the equipment they match; OEMs increasingly set a limit on how many times a key can be copied.
• Do a little math about the costs incurred with each lost key, including lost time, and share that information with employees. For added impact, track results for a quarter, six months or a year.
• Charge costs of key replacements back to employees or their departments.
• Consider using new technologies.


The State of Electrified Pickup Trucks in the North American Market

While a growing number of utility fleets are purchasing electrified passenger cars – like the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf – and bucket trucks with plug-in electric power takeoff capabilities, one vehicle segment still seems out of reach for electrification for most fleets: light-duty pickup trucks.

But there have been some new developments in this space that could have important implications for utility fleets. Workhorse Group says that it will unveil a concept electric truck this May at the ACT Expo in Long Beach, Calif. Earlier this year, Ford announced that it would offer a plug-in hybrid-electric version of the F-150 pickup. And XL Hybrids recently introduced a plug-in hybrid system designed for half-ton pickups.

So, what exactly are the prospects for electrified pickup trucks in North America? What are some of the key challenges to widespread fleet adoption? And when can we expect electrified pickups to become more cost-competitive with conventional-fueled trucks?

UFP recently spoke with Scott Shepard, senior research analyst with global market research and consulting firm Navigant Research (www.navigantresearch.com), to get his outlook.

UFP: Usually when fuel prices are low, there’s less interest in alternative-fuel vehicles. But we’re seeing a different trend with EVs, when you consider that about 400,000 people have paid deposits for the upcoming Tesla Model 3 and there’s a lot of buzz around the new Chevrolet Bolt and other electric passenger vehicles. On a macro level, what do you think is driving this interest in EVs despite current fuel prices?

Scott Shepard: With plug-in vehicles, the plug allows some conveniences that the conventional vehicle cannot allow – meaning that, with plug-in hybrids, you don’t have to go to the gas station that much anymore. Whether it saves you money or not, you can do most of your refueling at home. Therefore, electric vehicles are able to sidestep that whole refueling aspect.

Also, you can get some cheap electricity rates, depending on what utility service territory you’re in and how your vehicle is aggregated in the demand response program. That’s not for a majority of the market, but there is the potential there to make your energy costs so low that lower gas prices don’t register for you.

UFP: Yet in the pickup truck segment, electrification seems to be hitting a wall. Why is that?

SS: When you do the math on pickup trucks, the battery price point that would make the plug-in hybrid or the battery-electric-powered truck competitive against a conventional competitor is still below where battery prices are today.

The price points we look at suggest that you’re really not going to be within a competitive range within a few more years. When we plot out where the current technologies stand against each other, the plug-in hybrid truck and the battery-electric-powered truck have certain capability requirements that require stronger or more energy-dense batteries or larger batteries. They not only need to get you the range that you would expect from an electric passenger car, but you need to have that range competitive with your standard truck – to get to 200 to 300 miles. It’s a big cost, and it’s not easily overcome yet.

UFP: When do you see the price point of plug-in electric pickups becoming more acceptable for wider-spread adoption in utility fleets?

SS: I don’t see anything coming to the market really in the next two to three years, and even that is maybe a little bit aggressive to say three years. The reason is that whenever anyone comes to the market with an idea or a prototype that is a digital rendering, I add about three years to that expected deployment date. It takes a long time for these ideas to actually find good footing.

For these trucks to become more mainstream, it’s not going to start for a while. The rationale behind that is largely the added-on power and range requirements that these vehicles have to meet to even come to market. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. I think you’re looking out to 2025 or even 2030 before you get to the point where batteries are providing the same number of miles as an internal combustion engine. Then you’ve hit the point where this option is actually viable.

At Navigant, we estimate 2016 light truck/SUV-class PHEV sales in North America were 11,500, with sales looking to double in 2017, 2018 and 2019. And our baseline projection places this class/technology sales figure at just under 300,000 by 2025.

UFP: In his “Master Plan, Part Deux,” Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote that Tesla was going to include an electric pickup in their product mix. What are your thoughts on that?

SS: Given their timeline for new vehicle development, I would estimate that product would be about six to seven years out. [The pickup truck segment] is definitely a market that needs a vehicle – it represents nearly 30 percent of the U.S. market. So even if you’re just scratching the surface of this market, that’s huge. And nobody’s really figured out the right way to do it yet.

I think the right way to do it is probably to do it through some plug-in hybrid arrangement. And I think that’s going to come eventually from one of the established OEMs, like GM or Ford, maybe even Chrysler. Yes, if Tesla does it, that’s great. But I don’t think they’ll see near the amount of success that they’ve seen with their other vehicles.


What Utility Fleets Can Do to Curb Distracted Driving Incidents

Your company has clearly communicated its distracted driving policy to all employees. And the safety department is doing its part by screening at-risk drivers, providing consistent driver training and building awareness throughout the organization of the dangers of distracted driving. But when employees are out on the road, how can management ensure that drivers actually comply with the policy – to protect their own lives, the public and your utility’s reputation and bottom line?

That’s where your fleet department can make a difference. How? By equipping vehicles with technologies that counteract a driver’s impulse to read a text message or scroll through social media feeds on their phone while driving – even when they know it’s the wrong thing to do.

All It Takes is One Time
No one is immune. Even the best, most conscientious drivers can succumb to the temptation to look at their smartphone while driving, at least every now and then.

Think about it. You’re driving a service truck through a residential area when you hear your phone buzzing in the console, notifying you of a text message. Because you know better, your initial instinct is to ignore the sound and keep focused on the road ahead. But then a few seconds later you hear the phone buzz again … and again.

Now you’re curious. Who could that be?

It’s been a long day, and you’re exhausted. You start justifying to yourself: I’m going pretty slow right now and there’s not much traffic; it won’t hurt to take a quick look.

You take your eyes off the road for what you think will only be a second. But by the time you look up from your phone, you see that a boy on a bicycle has darted out from behind a vehicle parked along the street, right in front of your truck. You slam on the brakes, but there’s not enough time to stop before your truck hits him.

You could be a great driver, day in and day out, but one lapse in judgment and everything changes for you – and for the victim’s family and your employer. And because the truck displays your utility’s logo on it, the press coverage causes a public relations firestorm, while your employer is sure to face a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.

Addicted to Distraction
A survey commissioned by AT&T and Dr. David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, found that while over 90 percent of drivers say they know texting and driving is dangerous, many rationalize their texting-and-driving behavior – a classic sign of addiction. And three in four people surveyed admitted to at least glancing at their phones while behind the wheel.

So, if drivers know that texting, checking email or scrolling through social media feeds while driving is hazardous – and illegal in most states – why do far too many drivers still do it? What makes the temptation so hard to resist?

According to Dr. Greenfield, the answer comes down to addiction. “We compulsively check our phones because every time we get an update through text, email or social media, we experience an elevation of dopamine, which is a neurochemical in the brain that makes us feel happy,” Greenfield said in a statement announcing the AT&T study. “If that desire for a dopamine fix leads us to check our phones while we’re driving, a simple text can turn deadly.”

Amy Dobrikova, president of Intelligent Fleet Solutions (www.intelligent-fleet.com), a fleet consulting firm based in Jacksonville, Fla., refers to distracted driving as “the new DUI,” not only because it impairs your ability to drive but also because it’s the result of an addiction that causes you to think, “I can handle this,” much like a drunk driver, when engaging in risky driving behavior.

How Fleet Can Help
What can you do in fleet to help curb distracted driving incidents in your company?

“As a fleet manager, one area I have influence over [when it comes to reducing distracted driving incidents] is specifying new vehicles with available driver-assist technologies, such as reverse sensors and cameras, adaptive cruise control and hands-free Bluetooth connectivity for communications,” said Dale Collins, fleet services supervisor for Fairfax County Water Authority in Fairfax, Va. “As technology advances become more mainstream, we’ll be able to bring additional driver aids, like collision avoidance systems, blind-spot detection and lane-keeping assist.”

The idea here is that even if the driver gets distracted, the vehicle won’t. That’s because it’s equipped with technology that can respond and avoid imminent danger, usually much faster than a human driver could.

But while automated driving technologies offer the promise of curbing the consequences of distracted driving, they aren’t yet foolproof, as the highly publicized fatal collision earlier this year involving a Tesla Model S on Autopilot demonstrated. It has been widely reported that the driver was distracted and never took over control of the vehicle to apply the brakes before it slammed into the side of a box truck.

“There are many advances in technology being applied to vehicles that are helping fleets achieve improvements in safety and in most every other area imaginable,” Collins said. “Yet, as with any new technology, there can be a bit of trepidation with an operator’s fear of losing control, and the risk of unintended circumstances, where operators think, ‘I’ll just rely on the technology to do it all for me.’”

But what if you could equip the vehicle in a way that prevents drivers from being tempted to pick up the phone in the first place?

For example, Dobrikova recommends installing technology that disables certain functions of the phone while the vehicle is in motion, taking the possibility of phone distraction completely out of the hands of drivers.

“I always like to say that people are human, and no matter what policy is out there, people are going to break the rules,” she said. “I like having solutions that prevent the problem to begin with.”

The product Dobrikova is using with some of her fleet clients is DrivePROTECT from Cellcontrol (www.cellcontrol.com), a Baton Rouge, La.-based firm that develops technology to stop distracted driving in passenger and commercial vehicles.

“A device is placed inside the vehicle behind the rearview mirror, which senses the vehicle’s acceleration,” Dobrikova explained. “While the vehicle is moving, the system sends a Bluetooth signal to the phone to go into safe mode. But when they’re at a stoplight or a stop sign, drivers can still access their phone.”

Dobrikova said that fleet or safety administrators can customize the Cellcontrol system to allow for certain types of calls or apps to run – such as for navigation or music – while shutting down all other functions. “This way, if the fleet wants to be able to say, ‘Dispatch needs to call you at any time,’ you can set up the system to allow dispatch to call. Or, if you want drivers to have a route optimization app that they need to open, but they don’t need to be on Facebook, you can set it up that way as well. The fleet can decide what the parameters will be and what they’re going to allow for the phone usage.”

The Bottom Line
It’s one thing to have a strict distracted driving policy; it’s entirely another to ensure that drivers actually comply with that policy when they’re out in the field. That requires accountability – and technology can help. As Dobrikova put it, “I’m sure everybody will admit to being distracted on their phone at least one time in their life. If we eliminate that risk and are held accountable, we can prevent distracted driving from happening in the first place.”


Distracted Driving By the Numbers
• Text messaging increases your crash risk by 23 times. -Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI)
• Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting, which is roughly equivalent to covering the length of a football field blindfolded when traveling 55 mph. -VTTI
• Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event. -National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
• Engaging in visual-manual subtasks associated with the use of hand-held phones and other mobile devices – such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting – increases the risk of getting into a crash by three times. -VTTI
• In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers and approximately 424,000 people were injured. -NHTSA


The Pros and Cons of Driver-Facing Cameras in Utility Fleets

In-cab cameras have gained a foothold and acceptance among numerous service and freight delivery fleets for the technology’s ability to improve safety and lower accident and claim costs.

Utilities, however, perhaps because of their different operational model and high system costs, appear to be relying on more traditional methods to manage risk and improve driver skills. In calls to six electric utilities across the U.S., only one – National Grid, which provides electric and gas delivery in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – is using the technology as of press time.

National Grid uses about 3,600 recorders fleet-wide. For Frank Prost, director of downstate gas construction, the 316 units in his department’s trucks have worked as advertised: They’ve helped to boost safety by improving driver skills, assigning accountability and preventing accidents.

The group has seen a significant improvement in driving, according to Prost. “We’re in a much, much better place with our driving,” he said. “It’s a safer environment for employees and the public. [The cameras have] helped us numerous times. We’d get complaints about incidents but didn’t have any proof. If there’s an event, now you have a video telling us what the driver was doing. Now you can prove it.”

The cameras also have all but eliminated backing-up insurance scams, Prost said. People would intentionally back into a National Grid truck at a traffic light and claim the driver hit them. Now, drivers can get out of their truck, point to the camera and say that the video will show the truth. “The people drive off,” he said.

More typical of the utilities contacted is Ameren Missouri’s approach. “We use driver training to mitigate accidents and improve driver skills,” said Steve Hampton, director of fleet services for the St. Louis-based utility.

Understanding Resistance
One reason for the lack of acceptance of in-cab cameras may simply be the operational model; utility trucks spend less time moving and more time on-site than other fleet operations, so traditional coaching methods and training seem to work. Combine that with the costs of the technology – $100 or more per unit plus monthly subscription fees, depending on the service and supplier – and showing a return on the investment can be difficult.

There’s also an issue of union resistance to the cameras, said Jeff Stoker, president of Safety Track (www.safetytrack.net), a national wholesaler and direct supplier of fleet and asset tracking based in Belleville, Mich. “There’s a lot of pushback when unions are involved,” he said.

Del Lisk, vice president of safety services with San Diego-based Lytx DriveCam (www.lytx.com), said Lytx has a different pricing model for utilities, but he would not discuss pricing except to say that it’s a subscription base.

In the typical system, cameras are positioned in the cab and continually record both in front of the vehicle and the driver’s actions. The systems have sensors that are triggered whenever there is an event, such as hard braking, a sharp turn, speeding or any of several customer-set situations. The system will automatically save a video of several seconds before and after the event and then either upload the data to a server or save it to an SD card for downloading later, or both.

At Lytx, videos are automatically uploaded to the supplier’s system, where they are reviewed. The customer is notified if any are deemed “actionable,” Lisk said.

“We’re reviewing about 2 million video clips a month, and about 10 percent are actionable,” he said.

Lisk also said their system could provide different coaching opportunities for fleets. “Depending on the customer’s capability, the supervisor can meet with the worker in the field via the web, or email the worker with a link with a video showing the issue or topic,” he explained.

The technology is not new, but it has been getting better, Stoker said. Videos today are higher quality and the cameras themselves are smaller and less obtrusive.

As for the technology’s value, Stoker noted that one catastrophic event could change a company. “Having this presents the opportunity to reduce or eliminate events,” he said.

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.


Video System Buying Tips
Are you thinking of purchasing an in-cab video system? Here are some points worth considering.

Use a system that includes both video analysis and coaching. Combine vehicle data and video event recording with a driving improvement program. In addition, it is a necessity that administration and operations have a strong commitment to the program.

San Diego-based SmartDrive Systems (www.smartdrive.net) suggests that the broader the set of data sources used to trigger video events, the more effective the system will be at identifying risky driving. Accelerometer reports provide event data, but engine and vehicle data and active safety systems also can be used.

Consider how the data or videos are accessed. Are videos uploaded automatically or do chip cards have to be pulled from the system to upload or access the information? This will affect not only convenience but likely costs as well.

Is the platform open or proprietary, and how will that affect connectivity throughout your network? Will the system integrate with your back-office system, and how important is that feature?

What type of reports and key performance indicators does the system offer, and does that match your needs?


Anti-Theft Technologies to Protect Your Heavy Equipment

In 2014, heavy equipment theft cost U.S. companies about $400 million, and only 23 percent of stolen machines were ever recovered, according to a report by the National Equipment Register and National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Beyond a utility fleet’s loss of a machine itself, the fleet manager also has to factor in the costs associated with short-term equipment rentals, project delays and valuable personnel time consumed by dealing with the incident.

So, what can you do to protect your equipment and your organization’s bottom line? Here are three anti-theft technologies to consider.

1. Keyless Ignition System
Equipment manufacturers have traditionally opted for a one-key-fits-all approach that makes it convenient for equipment operators at job sites to operate any one of a number of similar machines without having to carry numerous unique keys. But this approach also makes it much more convenient for thieves, who can easily purchase these keys online (see www.ebay.com/bhp/heavy-equipment-keys as just one example). Then they can go to the nearest job site, find an accessible machine and drive it onto a trailer to haul it away.

How can you make it tougher for thieves? Consider a keyless ignition system.

One example is Start-Smart by Keytroller (www.keytroller.com), which provides a hidden wireless relay installed in the starter circuit that – when the relay is disabled – cuts off power to the starter, preventing a key or even an attempted hot-wire of the machine from being able to start the engine. The operator then uses the Start-Smart programmable keypad ignition to input a valid code or radio-frequency identification card, which enables the wireless relay and provides power to the starter circuit. At that point, the user can press start on the keypad and the engine will fire up.

2. Telematics
Think of a keyless ignition system, like Start-Smart, as a first line of defense against theft. But what if thieves are still able to find a way to take a piece of your equipment? And how will you know when it has been stolen if no one is at the job site at the time of the incident?

One answer is telematics, which uses wireless GPS technology to capture and transmit equipment location, condition and performance data via satellite or cell signal to authorized employees, who can then access that information through a website or have it sent directly to their smartphone as a text message or push notification.

Most telematics systems provided by equipment manufacturers or third-party vendors offer the option to set up geofencing alerts, where you create a virtual perimeter around a specified area on a job site. This way, when a thief attempts to move a machine outside its authorized area, you’ll know instantly and can respond quickly to give law enforcement the real-time tracking information they need to recover the unit before it’s too late.

3. Radio-Frequency Tracking
Although early detection through telematics is helpful, one of the downsides of GPS tracking is that these systems require line of sight with satellites or cell towers to transmit signals. And that means the tracking device needs to be installed on a highly visible area of the machine, which makes it easier for thieves to locate and disable the system.

So, now what? How do you recover your stolen asset?

That’s where a radio-frequency (RF) tracking device, such as the LoJack Stolen Vehicle Recovery System (www.lojack.com), comes in. Since RF signals don’t require line of sight with satellites or cell towers, the LoJack system can track stolen equipment in places where GPS and cellular devices can’t – even if the machine is hidden in a parking garage, a heavily wooded area or a container on a ship. This also allows the LoJack transceiver to be installed on a discreet area of the machine, making it harder for a thief to find and disarm it.

The Bottom Line
There’s no one silver-bullet technology that can completely protect your equipment from theft. But any one of these three types of systems can at least help improve your odds of not losing valuable assets in the field. And a combination of all three would seem to cover all your bases – from theft prevention to instant notification to fast recovery.

Photo: LoJack


Top Targets for Thieves

By Category:
• Light Utility Vehicles/Work Trucks and Trailers
• Backhoe Loaders/Skip Loaders/Wheel Loaders
• Generators/Air Compressors /Welders (Towables)
• Skid Steers

By Brand:
• Ford
• Bobcat
• John Deere
• Caterpillar

Source: 2013 LoJack proprietary theft and recovery data


Getting Utility Fleet Drivers to Embrace Idle Reduction

Regardless of how cutting-edge a type of technology may seem, getting buy-in from prospective users often requires a pragmatic approach: They need to be convinced it works.

Such is the case with anti-idling technology. Today’s tools – aimed at reducing emissions and wasted fuel – include automatic shut-off systems, real-time alerts and plug-in hybrid vehicles that allow systems to work when the engine is off. But the only way utility fleet operators will fully embrace such tools, experts say, is when they grasp the difference that can be made, in terms of both the environment and their organization’s financial bottom line.

“It’s very spotty,” said Linda Gaines, transportation system analyst at Argonne National Laboratory (www.anl.gov) and a recognized idling authority. “You’ll go to some meetings and talk to some fleets, and they’re on board. It’s like your job is done, and the information is all out there. A lot of states have regulations, and it seems like we’ve made a lot of headway. And then you go and visit some company and see how far there still is to go.”

Gaines referenced one organization that is interested in idle reduction and went through the process of installing telematics, but, she said, was still “absolutely shocked by how much idling their trucks were actually doing. I think that’s not an unusual occurrence. Just by sharing that information with the drivers, without any kind of threat or any kind of reward, either way, just by being aware, the drivers reduced their idling by some very significant fraction.” That fraction was near 30 percent.

Raising Awareness
Neil Holladay, regional fleet manager with NPL (www.gonpl.com), an infrastructure construction company that specializes in utility construction services, said that in 2014, he and his sustainability committee co-chair were individually working on issues related to fuel and carbon footprint. When it came time for a presentation, they discovered they had both identified idling as the biggest threat – and opportunity. With a fleet of roughly 3,500 assets, the company was wasting more than $1.5 million in fuel annually due to idling. They discussed whether the best tactic would be to create an awareness campaign or write a policy; awareness won out.

“We put a campaign together that was pure saturation,” Holladay said. They shared data about the effects of idling at every turn, created no-idling areas and gave away $25 gift cards for success stories.

“It was like advertising: When you hear something for the 10th time, you’re sick of it,” he said. “But it’s OK for people to frown upon it or even poke fun. It will still catch someone’s eye. And when [it does], it’s going to be effective. You just can’t get discouraged. It takes a little time.”

Within a couple of months, NPL’s idling had dropped a few percentage points. A few months after that, “we were seeing a large 10 percent drop,” Holladay said. And within the first year, the company had saved more than 1 million pounds in carbon dioxide emissions and just over $188,000 in fuel costs.

Perhaps the best part is that many of the company’s fleet operators are outdoorsmen and parents, and they connected with the idea of environmental stewardship for future generations. But it did take changing thinking about the way things had always been done.

The Lowest-Hanging Fruit
When it comes to getting drivers to change their mindset about idle reduction, concrete numbers certainly help. So, too, does the proper equipment. Odyne Systems (www.odyne.com) is a leading manufacturer of hybrid systems for medium- and heavy-duty work trucks, and Matt Jarmuz, director of sales, sees such solutions as the lowest-hanging fruit in improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. In addition to powering, say, strobe lights and cabin comfort, Odyne’s large battery packs also can handle hydraulics and export power. And even while vehicles are in motion, the plug-in hybrid solution improves efficiency. As of press time, the company has placed roughly 300 vehicles in about 60 different fleets.

Jarmuz also is a strong proponent of telematics use and has seen fleets that, for example, have a system that sends an automatic email to a fleet manager when a truck idles for more than five minutes. Other fleets work from a more prevention-oriented coaching approach.

With hybrid technology, operators won’t feel that stopping idling is about “taking things away,” Jarmuz said.

But even without it, framing idle reduction as a gain – one that lowers fuel expenditures and contributes to reduced maintenance costs, greater asset reliability and longer vehicle service life – rather than a loss may well be the key to acceptance and implementation within your fleet.

About the Author: Fiona Soltes is a longtime freelance writer based just outside Nashville, Tenn. Her regular clients represent a variety of sectors, including fleet, engineering, technology, logistics, business services, disaster preparedness and material handling. Prior to her freelance career, Soltes spent seven years as a staff writer for The Tennessean, a daily newspaper serving Nashville and the surrounding area.

Photo: GPS Insight


Idling by the Numbers
• Idling of heavy-duty and light-duty vehicles combined wastes an estimated 6 billion gallons of fuel each year.
• Many still believe that restarting a vehicle burns more fuel than letting it idle, but idling for 10 seconds wastes more fuel than a restart.
• Personal vehicles produce roughly 30 million tons of carbon dioxide every year due to idling. Eliminating the unnecessary idling of personal vehicles would be the equivalent of taking 5 million vehicles off the roads.
• Numerous states have enacted fines for unnecessary idling, including Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont and Hawaii, and parts of California, Colorado, New York, Ohio and Utah, among others. A list of state and local regulations is available at www.cleancities.energy.gov/idlebase.

Source: www.anl.gov/sites/anl.gov/files/Idling-PersonalVehicles050715.pdf


4 Smartphone Apps to Make You a More Effective and Efficient Fleet Manager

If you’re among the 64 percent of Americans who own a smartphone – up from 35 percent in 2011, according to Pew Research – you hold in your hand a powerful tool to record great ideas, facilitate collaboration, avoid traffic and make faster decisions, with thousands of apps available today.

The most obvious mobile apps discussed in fleet management circles are those associated with telematics providers to give you real-time access to fleet asset data on your smartphone. But beyond telematics, what other useful smartphone apps can help make your job easier and boost your productivity as a fleet manager? Try these four tools.

1. Evernote
URL: https://evernote.com
Cost: Free for basic plan

Think of Evernote as a virtual library of notebooks that you fill with important ideas, documents, emails, pictures or audio files – all in one place, accessible from any device.

For example, suppose you’ve found an interesting article and want to reference it later. With Evernote, you can clip the entire article or a part of it, place it in a note and access it anywhere from your smartphone, tablet or laptop. And if you don’t remember the name of the article, you can find it fast on Evernote by searching keywords.

Or, perhaps you’ve just finished a highly productive brainstorming session with your team and want to capture everything written on the whiteboard. Through the Evernote app, you can snap a picture of the whiteboard with your smartphone, and it’s automatically recorded on a note and organized in the notebook of your choosing, which you can easily share with others on the team.

2. Audible
URL: www.audible.com
Cost: $14.95 monthly subscription (for one new book each month)

How can you make the most of your “windshield time” while commuting to work or driving to your utility’s other locations?

With Audible, an Amazon company, you can invest that time in professional development by listening to books on your smartphone wherever you go. As of press time, Audible has more than 180,000 titles available, with top-sellers such as:
• “Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg
• “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek
• “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future” by Kevin Kelly

You can also listen to “The Great Courses” series that includes college-style lectures from top teachers in the world on a wide range of subjects. A few courses that might interest you include:
• Seth Freeman’s “The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal”
• Michael A. Roberto’s “Transformational Leadership: How Leaders Change Teams, Companies, and Organizations” and “The Art of Critical Decision Making”
• Kenneth G. Brown’s “Influence: Mastering Life’s Most Powerful Skill”

3. Google Drive
URL: www.google.com/drive
Cost: Free for 15 GB

With Google Drive and its full suite of office applications – including Google Docs, Sheets and Slides – you can work on important documents on any internet-connected device and then instantly share your changes to authorized members of your team.

For example, suppose you’re working on a fleet policy that requires collaboration with multiple stakeholders, but the back-and-forth exchange of emails starts to get unwieldy. With Google Drive, your team can edit the document together in real time, no matter where each person is located or what device they’re using. And then, when you’re done, you can convert the final document into popular formats for distribution, such as PDF, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This way, you can remove the typical bottlenecks that slow down the production and approval cycles for important projects.

4. Waze
URL: www.waze.com
Cost: Free

Has your navigation system ever failed to alert you about a traffic jam before you got stuck in it? What if someone could have given you a heads-up that an accident occurred about a half-mile up the road – within seconds after the incident – so you could have rerouted in time to avoid delays?

That’s precisely what makes Waze a different smartphone navigation app. It takes GPS navigation a step further by empowering its users to update actual road conditions in real time for the benefit of all its users, issuing alerts before you approach red light cameras, police, accidents, road hazards or traffic jams. Waze can also guide you to the cheapest fueling station on your route.

So, when you’re looking for the shortest and safest route to your destination, Waze – and its community of users – will help show you the way.


Smartphone Stats on Transportation Apps
• 67 percent of smartphone owners use their phone at least occasionally for turn-by-turn navigation while driving; 31 percent say they do this frequently.
• 25 percent use their phone at least occasionally to get public transit information; 10 percent do this frequently.
• 11 percent use their phone at least occasionally to reserve a taxi or car service like Uber or Lyft. Just 4 percent do so frequently, and 72 percent of smartphone owners never use their phone for this purpose.

Source: Pew Research


New Power Sources Aid Anti-Idling Efforts

Unnecessary idling is still the bane of many utility fleets, and while not every fleet wants to turn off vehicle engines at job sites, some new and updated technologies are offering improved auxiliary energy options.

In March, Altec (www.altec.com) introduced JEMS 4, the latest version of its Jobsite Energy Management System, which offers integrated engine-off cab heating and cooling and an on-demand, electrified PTO for hydraulic power.

The anti-idling system is automatic; as soon as the truck is put in park or neutral, the engine shuts down. “In this way, idle mitigation is not something the operator has to think about,” said Mark Greer, Altec market manager.

JEMS 4 relies on a new generation of lithium-iron-phosphate batteries, which offer improved thermal and chemical stability – safer chemistries – than the previous cobalt-based lithium-ion batteries. Also, the battery pack is about half the weight of previous versions and takes up about half the space, Greer said. (For more information, see the “Better Batteries, Lower Prices” sidebar at the end of this article.)

The core of JEMS is the idle and power management system from Cullman, Ala.-based ZeroRPM (www.zerorpm.com). In addition to the controller, components include lithium-iron power and energy modules to power booms, buckets and systems, said Evan Miller, vice president of sales and marketing. ZeroRPM also offers a stand-alone AC unit powered by the energy modules, and for organizations with enough roof space, the company has a solar-powered option to charge the batteries.

Florida Power & Light Co. added the JEMS system on more than 100 of its Ford F-550 bucket trucks, and this has helped meet the fleet’s anti-idling policy at most job sites, said Glenn Martin, manager of fleet quality and reliability. The auxiliary battery packs with the ZeroRPM system have “performed pretty well,” according to Martin. FPL also added ZeroRPM’s AC unit that operates “real close to the vehicle AC,” he said.

Baltimore Gas & Electric monitors idling via its onboard telematics system, said Joe Byrd, senior business analyst with the utility fleet. The operator controls idling, but managers receive regular reports, and it’s up to them to identify unnecessary use. Idling has dropped in half since installing the telematics system, with most of that coming from shutting down the trucks at the service center and during loading, Byrd said.

BGE also is testing Altec’s JEMS and Odyne Systems’ hybrid trucks, Byrd noted.

Solar Power Option
For some select applications, solar panels may be a power option.

Warwick, R.I.-based eNow Inc. (www.enowenergy.com) offers a cab-top array of solar panels for the transportation sector. The panels provide 13 watts/1 amp of power per square foot, enough to power an HVAC unit as well as lights and other job site equipment, said Jeffrey Flath, founder and president. Although typically there is not enough array space atop a truck’s cab to provide power for buckets, cranes or heavy auxiliary devices, “our system would charge auxiliary batteries so the engine doesn’t come on as often,” he said.

The panels are encapsulated in ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a rugged plastic that resists tree branches better than glass systems, and are maintenance free, Flath said. The panels are one-eighth of an inch thick and weigh approximately a half-pound per square foot, compared to 2.5 to 4 pounds per square foot typical with glass systems, Flath noted.

The system ties in with the truck’s alternator. On sunny days the system charges the batteries, and on cloudy days the alternator takes over. The cost for a 100-watt system – including the panels, solar charge controller, wiring harness and installation – is about $960. eNow Inc. has installation arrangements with Mitsubishi Fuso, Johnson, Morgan and Hercules truck body manufacturers, as well as Palfinger Liftgates, among others.

Start-Stop System
Effenco (www.effenco.com), headquartered in Montreal, offers a start-stop system for heavy trucks that essentially is an idle mitigation system. It incorporates batteries, an electric motor and an ultracapacitor to provide electric power to the aerial device, cab and chassis accessories, including the HVAC system when the engine is off. The electric motor is used to start the engine.

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.


Better Batteries, Lower Prices
The batteries being used in today’s auxiliary battery systems are safer, lighter and less costly than their predecessors, all factors that may prompt more utility fleets to look at idle mitigation systems.

Before a fleet manager OKs an idle mitigation system that will shut down engines at job sites, they want assurance that the onboard auxiliary battery systems are going to provide safe, reliable power. Lithium-ion batteries were a huge advancement over lead-acid units, but they also are expensive, thermally unstable and toxic, reasons fleet managers have cited for not using them.

The latest generation of the lithium battery – the lithium-iron-phosphate battery – offers longer life, greater stability and more power density than the earlier cobalt-based lithium-ion battery.

“There’s been tremendous work in lithium-iron,” said Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president of CALSTART (www.calstart.org), a Pasadena, Calif.-based nonprofit entity that promotes clean transportation. The combination of the new chemistry and high-volume manufacturing has opened the door for cheaper, safer auxiliary power, he said.

High-volume orders for lithium-iron batteries from companies like General Motors (for the Chevrolet Volt) and Tesla Motors have reduced power prices for batteries to about $200 to $300 per kilowatt-hour, down from more than $700 and higher three to five years ago, Van Amburg said. Because the commercial truck sector doesn’t see that volume, the price drops are not as great, but he said “[they’re] still substantial” and trending down.


On Your Radar: The Latest Developments in Self-Driving Vehicles

Only a decade ago, the idea that self-driving cars could ever become mainstream within our lifetimes seemed far-fetched. Then came Google in 2009 with its fleet of retrofitted Prius hybrids and Lexus SUVs, which have since logged over 1.5 million autonomous-driving miles. And today, most major automakers, including upstart Tesla Motors, have also entered the race, with industry experts predicting that fully autonomous vehicles will enter the market within the next five to 10 years.

What’s fueling this momentum toward a self-driving world? There are many factors, but here are three interesting recent developments to keep your eye on.

1. Connected Convoys
Imagine three semitrailer trucks traveling at highway speed, one behind the other, with fewer than 50 feet between each vehicle. With conventional trucks, that’s a surefire recipe for a multivehicle pileup. But what if those three trucks were “connected” as a single autonomous platoon? Daimler is banking that its answer to this question will lead to improved safety and fuel economy, while contributing to advancements in the company’s autonomous truck technology.

In early April, three autonomous Mercedes-Benz semitrailer trucks completed a cross-border convoy drive from Stuttgart in Germany to Rotterdam in the Netherlands – about 400 miles – as a connected platoon.

The trucks were equipped with Daimler’s Highway Pilot Connect, which leverages electronic vehicle-to-vehicle networking between the trucks, allowing electronic docking – or platooning – by vehicles on long-distance highways. Connected vehicles in a platoon require a distance of only 15 meters (49 feet) between them instead of the typical 50 meters (164 feet), which significantly reduces aerodynamic drag, achieving fuel savings of up to 10 percent.

According to Daimler, connected-truck platooning also makes road traffic safer. That’s because while a human behind the wheel has a reaction time of 1.4 seconds, Highway Pilot Connect transmits braking signals to the vehicles in fewer than 0.1 seconds.

2. Sensors That See at Night
Just as humans must be able to see to drive, so must self-driving cars – and they see through sensor technologies, such as light detection and ranging (LiDAR), camera systems, sonar and radar. But what happens when the car can’t see potential hazards at night before it’s too late? Ford Motor Co. is making progress toward solving the night-visibility problem with its Fusion hybrid autonomous research vehicle.

A recent test at Ford’s Arizona proving grounds showed that its LiDAR system – working with the car’s virtual driver software – can steer the vehicle along winding roads in the dark of night, even without the use of headlights. The Ford self-driving car uses a high-resolution 3-D map that provides the vehicle with the latest information about the road, road markings, geography, topography and landmarks, such as signs, buildings and trees. And then the LiDAR system, at a rate of 2.8 million laser pulses per second, pinpoints precisely where the vehicle is positioned on that 3-D map so the vehicle can safely navigate its surroundings.

3. Partnerships Between Automakers and Silicon Valley Startups
Major automakers are expanding their presence in Silicon Valley and forming relationships with emerging technology startups that could help accelerate development of autonomous vehicle technologies. Following are a couple recent examples.

In January, General Motors said it would invest $500 million in the ride-sharing company Lyft in a venture that gives the automaker direct access to the growing market for ride-sharing and a potential channel for offering self-driving cars for on-demand use. GM is also in the process of acquiring Cruise Automation, a 3-year-old startup that has developed a highway autopilot system, which could help the automaker accelerate its autonomous vehicle development.

In April, both the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal reported that Fiat Chrysler and Google are in advanced talks to form a technical partnership. The partnership would be the first to match an automaker with Google’s autonomous car project.

This trend toward partnerships shows that self-driving vehicles aren’t viewed by automakers as a novelty or fringe technology; instead they are something that’s being taken seriously as a future product offering.


The Move Toward a Self-Driving World: By the Numbers
32,675: The number of lives lost on U.S. roads in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This is roughly equivalent to one Boeing 747 aircraft falling from the sky, killing all 600 passengers, each and every week throughout the year.

94: The percentage of fatal crashes that NHTSA estimates is attributed to human error or decision. The logic: Remove the human, eliminate human error and save lives.

50: The average commute time in minutes based on U.S. Department of Commerce data. Imagine how much more you could get done with almost an extra hour each workday.

129,000,000: The number of autonomous-capable vehicles expected to be sold globally from 2020 to 2035, according to Navigant Research.

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