Tag: Vehicle Specifications

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What to Consider When Selecting All-Terrain Vehicles for Utility Applications

All-terrain utility vehicles (ATVs) are built to go where four-wheel-drive pickups and other conventional vehicles cannot, whether on steep hills, through soft mud or over water, to transport workers, supplies, and tools to remote areas for servicing and repairing power lines and other equipment along the right-of-way.

But when it comes to ATVs, one size does not fit all applications. Some are designed primarily as people movers that may also carry light cargo, while others can haul more than 40,000 pounds with heavy equipment, such as aerial lifts or cranes, mounted on them. Then there are ATVs capable of negotiating the steepest of hills in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and others that offer amphibious capabilities to cross deep waters in flooded lowlands.

With a vast range of shapes, sizes and capabilities to choose from, what should utility fleet managers consider to select the right ATV for the job? Here are six questions to help guide the process.

1. What’s the ATV’s job description?
“If [the ATV’s] job is to be a survey vehicle – to carry a two-person crew to inspect, say, a five-mile stretch of power line to make sure everything is up and running properly – we’ll likely recommend [a smaller-model ATV],” said Craig Simonton, sales and marketing, Hydratrek Inc. (www.hydratrek.com). “But if you have a lot of upcoming new projects with building new power lines, requiring large crews and heavier equipment, we’ll point them toward a bigger vehicle so they can haul more material and more people in one trip.”

2. What’s the maximum number of people the vehicle will carry at one time?
The Hydratrek model D2488B, for example, can be configured to carry three to as many as nine passengers on the same size vehicle, depending on how much cargo space is required. The key is to strike the right balance between seating capacity and cargo area to achieve optimal productivity.

3. What are the payload requirements?
“Fleet managers have to take stock of everything they intend the vehicle to carry,” advised Bill York, utility vehicle sales, Prinoth LLC (www.prinoth.com). “If the machine is going to haul a digger derrick, crane or aerial unit, it makes sense to involve the heavy equipment upfitter who can help you determine precisely how much payload is required. This way, all parties [ATV manufacturer, equipment upfitter and fleet manager] can put their brains together to come up with the best fit.”

But also remember the little things that can add up. “Perhaps the fleet plans to mount a digger derrick that could fit on a 16,000-pound-capacity [ATV], but they also want to haul 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of extra gear that exceed the capabilities of the 16,000-pound carrier. In that case, you need to go one size up to a larger machine,” York said.

4. What type of terrain will the ATV be used on?
“If it’s hilly terrain, how steep of an incline can the machine safely navigate up and down? And what about sidehill capabilities – what degree or percent grade can the machine handle moving across the side of the slope? Every machine has different ratings for this,” York said.

Then there’s water. If the vehicle must operate in floodplains or other areas where water could be an issue, is it equipped to handle those types of conditions? Some ATVs can drive through a certain depth of water, almost fully submerged, so determine what that capability is for the vehicle you’re evaluating to ensure it’s sufficient for the job. There are also ATVs that offer amphibious capabilities, which can float, using a rear propeller system, to cross deep-water areas.

Additionally, keep in mind the vehicle’s ground pressure in terms of pounds per square inch (psi), especially in soft ground and environmentally sensitive areas along right-of-ways.

“This is one of the advantages of a rubber track system [versus wheels],” Simonton said. “Tracks are very important to keeping your footprint very light, which essentially helps the vehicle ‘float’ on top of mud, on top of wetlands, and keeps the vehicle from tearing up the ground in environmentally sensitive areas.”

But a light footprint doesn’t necessarily mean a light vehicle. York offers this frame of reference: “The average human male puts down 8 psi. Yet our biggest machine, fully loaded, weighing around 82,000 pounds, only puts down about 4 psi in ground pressure. So these vehicles can go places where we can’t even walk over without sinking. This is because of the vehicle’s weight distribution, based on the design of the length and width of the track.”

5. Have you accounted for safety?
“Make sure the vehicles are [rollover protection system] certified to the highest standards to protect workers,” said Jim Blaze, national accounts manager, Polaris Industries (www.polaris.com).

Blaze also advised that fleet managers consider safety harnesses. “[Polaris] puts shock absorbers on safety harnesses because, in remote areas, where the ride can get real bouncy, the shock absorbers can help protect you from dislocating your shoulders.”

Side cab protection is important as well, Blaze said. “Consider a netting system to keep arms and legs inside the vehicle. In some cases, companies might order hard caps, which are like automotive doors for extra protection.”

6. How responsive is the manufacturer’s support network?
“Is there 24/7 availability for technical support? How easy is it to get parts? How far, how fast is that company willing to send people to help you if you have a machine break down in the field?” York posed. “Especially with large utilities, if a power line or transmission line is down, the amount of money being wasted is staggering, sometimes approaching as much as $100,000 per minute. And if [the all-terrain vehicle] that’s needed to help repair the line is also broken down, that creates a huge issue. So the key is how fast can you get that vehicle up and running? How fast can the [ATV manufacturer] get a tech out there to help you? These are the things that need to be considered up front. And the bigger your area and the more diverse the terrain, the more important manufacturer support becomes.”

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


Three Mistakes to Avoid When Spec’ing Aerial Platform Trucks

Considering that aerial platform trucks, also known as boom or bucket trucks, often carry a hefty six-figure price tag, it pays to confirm that the chassis, body and aerial equipment specifications fit the job before issuing the purchase order. The stakes are high because spec errors result in disruptive downtime, lost productivity and increased safety risks, taking a chunk out of a fleet’s bottom line.

And fixing the issue isn’t as easy as picking up a replacement truck at the local dealer because turnaround time on these trucks – from purchase order to delivery – can take anywhere from six months to a year and a half, depending on market conditions and chassis manufacturer lead times.

So, how can utility and telecom fleets ensure that they craft a spec that suits the application – to enhance productivity, worker safety and profit per truck? Steer clear of these three mistakes.

1. Assuming yesterday’s spec will work today
“The replacement cycle on aerial platform trucks is easily a decade, sometimes longer. So a lot can happen since you last bought a truck,” said Dave Blanding, order technical support, Terex Utilities (www.terexutilities.com), a global manufacturer of aerial work platforms.

One area of change that’s often overlooked is the impact of new diesel emissions technologies, such as diesel particulate filters and selective catalytic reduction systems, on chassis weight. “Trucks are getting heavier, not lighter,” Blanding said. “And the heavier the truck, the less you can put on the truck and stay legal. The fleet could be in the position of not having enough truck to carry all that they need to carry if they haven’t thought through the changes in the chassis and adjusted the requirements accordingly.”

Another factor to consider is any change in utility pole setback – the distance between the pole and the road surface – since the last truck spec was written. “Today, with the way the roads are being designed with traffic safety in mind, roadside structures are being moved farther from the traveled road surface to avoid having cars come in contact with them, causing fleets to consider taller aerial devices with extended reach,” said Josh Chard, Ph.D., director of product and corporate safety, Altec Inc. (www.altec.com), an aerial equipment manufacturer and service provider for the electric utility, telecommunication, tree care, lights and signs, and contractor markets.

The impact on truck specs?

“While a company may have been able to get away with a 40-foot or 50-foot or 55-foot aerial [in the past], they may need a taller unit or one with extended side reach or both so they can get to the same work area they used to get to,” Chard said. “With telecom companies, they’re having to reach the same 20 to 25 feet they used to reach, but now they need to do it 10 feet farther off the side of the road.”

Also review platform capacity to ensure it’s current with how the vehicle will need to be used today. “The last time you might have spec’d a 300- or 350-pound [platform] capacity, but after a job or task analysis, you might find that operators also need to lift materials [inside the platform],” Chard said. “If the workers themselves combine for 300 pounds or more, they wouldn’t be able to take the tools up with them if the platform is spec’d at the same capacity.”

2. Underestimating functional and weight requirements
Here are common areas of under-spec’ing aerial platform trucks that put workers at greater risk of injury and can lead to premature truck repairs and shorter truck life.

Height and reach capacity. “The risk, if spec’d incorrectly, is that workers will try to extend the reach of the unit through some sort of alternative work practice at the job site, which is unsafe and unproductive,” Chard cautioned.

Payload capacity. “Sometimes the fleet doesn’t factor in the weight of all the gear that they’ll haul in the truck, beyond the weight of the body and aerial unit,” Blanding said. “They may not have taken into consideration that they need to put a 500-pound transformer on there. Or they haven’t thought about the generators, air compressors or water tanks [to wash down equipment] that will go on the vehicle. Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon. So if you have a 100-gallon tank, you have 800 extra pounds there. All that can add up fast.”

Trailering capacity. “Weight not only has to do with cargo,” Blanding said. “The truck often needs to tow something from time to time – whether a chipper or generator trailer or pole trailer. Fleets often don’t think about that roughly 10 to 15 percent of the trailer’s weight that will be borne by the hitch. So you may have a situation where the rear axle is in good shape until you put that trailer on.”

3. Spec’ing an aerial unit with too much height and reach for the job
More boom is better, right? Not necessarily. “You don’t want to buy the biggest unit if you don’t need it,” Chard advised. “Otherwise, you’re hauling all that weight of the extra boom, so you’re spending more money on fuel, and you’re having to buy a bigger chassis to carry that bigger [aerial] unit.”

Blanding agreed. “Don’t overreach. You may think it’s better to have a 50-footer instead of a 45-footer. If you don’t actually need it, don’t spend the money for it. And that’s also an extra 5 feet to have to deal with. It may mean that you have to change the truckload to accommodate that extra size and weight. You could run into a whole slew of issues that you don’t want to deal with. The assumption is that more is better, but more could be a start of a set of problems you didn’t anticipate.”

The Bottom Line
Match the spec to the job – no more, no less. “Work closely with equipment manufacturers early in the spec-writing process,” Blanding advised. “They will be able to walk you through the changes that have occurred since your last truck purchase and what adjustments in specs you might need to meet the truck’s job requirements moving forward.”

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


Gas vs. Diesel in Utility Fleet Applications – Which is Better?

A decade ago, the choice between gasoline and diesel engines in most Class 3 to 7 truck applications was a no-brainer – diesel, of course. At that time there were few gasoline engine options available in heavier trucks and diesel held a significant advantage in terms of fuel efficiency, low-end torque and longevity, for only $3,000 to $4,000 more up front.

Today, however, the decision is a bit more complex. New gasoline engine technology has begun to narrow the fuel-economy and performance gap with diesel. And after progressively stringent federal emissions standards for diesel engines were put into effect in 2004, 2007 and 2010, requiring expensive exhaust reduction technologies, the price gap has essentially doubled, with diesel engines costing about $7,000 to $10,000 more than a comparable gas-burner, causing utility fleet managers to take a hard, second look at gas, when it’s available.

So, in instances where both gas and diesel are available in a particular class truck, which is better for utility and telecom fleets? Utility Fleet Professional spoke with experts at GE Capital Fleet Services (www.gefleet.com) and Donlen (www.donlen.com) to get their take. Here are the criteria they recommend when deciding between gas versus diesel.

When Diesel is Better
Despite the substantially higher price tag, when does diesel make the most sense from a performance and life-cycle cost perspective?

“When the fleet expects the truck to run longer periods of idling time powering auxiliary equipment, they tend to lean towards diesel,” said Ken Gillies, manager of truck ordering and engineering at GE Capital Fleet Services, a leading full-service fleet management company based in Eden Prairie, Minn. “Also when there’s heavy towing necessary, they’ll choose diesel because of the engine’s higher torque output.”

Steve Jansen, manager, fleet services and regulatory compliance at Donlen, a full-service fleet management company based in Northbrook, Ill., and wholly owned subsidiary of The Hertz Corp. (NYSE: HTZ), agreed. “If you’re taking a [Ford] F-550, and you’re putting on some sort of small crane or bucket truck or you’re going to do some high-wire stuff, you’re probably not even going to think about gas. You’ll jump into diesel because it’s going to give you the torque you’re going to need and the longer life,” Jansen explained. “The torque is important to get you up and down the road with the weight you’re pulling. And if you’re taking the truck off-road into brush or something like that, you’re going to need a lot of low-end torque of the diesel to help drive the truck out of those situations.”

What’s the difference in life expectancy between diesel and gasoline engines?

“I’m still a firm believer that gas engines are built to go 200,000 miles. Diesel life is in the 300,000 to 350,000 to almost 400,000 miles range, depending on the size truck and application,” Jansen said.

According to Gillies, another factor that drives diesel selection is fuel economy. “Although the gasoline world has done a great job with efficiencies for fuel injection and various controls, diesel still holds a miles per gallon advantage, which we see as a way to help fleets control fuel costs in high-mileage, high-idle situations,” Gillies said.

What exactly is diesel’s fuel economy advantage?

“The diesel is 15 to 20 percent more fuel efficient than gas,” Jansen said. “And even though the gasoline engines have improved, the one thing that remains the same is that the diesel fuel itself is still 30 to 35 percent more efficient than gasoline [in terms of energy density]. So, theoretically, for every gallon of diesel fuel you put in, you’re having to put in 1.3 gallons of gasoline because of the efficiency ratio.”

Gillies estimated the diesel advantage at about 2 mpg, but said that at that rate, “it still takes a long time to clear the higher [initial] cost of the diesel engine, depending on the specifics of the application and the actual road mileage the vehicle is encountering.”

When Gas is Better
In what utility fleet applications is gasoline a good fit?

“A gas engine is suitable in a light utilization vehicle,” Gillies said. “By that I mean light-duty Class 2 to 3 and, in some cases, Class 4, when it’s operating with relatively short idle time. The diesel starts to make more sense if the application requires longer idle time [to operate cranes, buckets and other specialty equipment], even if it’s a lighter-class truck.”

Also, if the fleet is considering converting vehicles to gaseous alternative fuels such as CNG or propane autogas, a gasoline engine would be the most economical option because it’s inherently more “gaseous-fuel ready” than diesel, according to Gillies. “It’s about a $9,000 or so conversion cost to equip a gasoline-powered Class 6 truck for CNG. If you take the same truck, spec’d with a diesel engine, and you want to convert it to gaseous fuel, you’re looking at, on average, three times the cost,” Gillies said.

The Bottom Line
Jansen summed up the gas versus diesel deliberation this way: “The whole decision is based on what the job is you’re going to call on that truck to do. If it’s running from job site to job site to check on workers or as an estimator, carrying a small amount of tools or equipment going out to inspect well sites, then gas is going to be fine. The heavier the job, that’s where diesel is really going to pay off, giving you the long life and low-end torque and start-ability you need to drive that truck out of a ditch, whereas the gas [engine] is going to struggle a little bit in that scenario.”

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


Spec’ing Service Bodies to Boost Productivity and Profit in Utility Fleets

Service bodies, also known as utility beds, mounted onto light- and medium-duty truck chassis provide utility contractors with easy and secure access to their tools, equipment and parts to do their work more efficiently – and profitably.

That is, if the body is spec’d properly for the job. If you’re replacing an existing service body truck, keep in mind that yesterday’s spec may not be optimal for today’s work, potentially impeding driver productivity and increasing fleet operational costs.

“Don’t assume that duplicating the old truck that’s being replaced is the right thing to do,” cautioned Jim Palin, senior truck applications engineer for GE Capital Fleet Services (www.gefleet.com). “Fleet managers need to get down to the driver level and make sure the job function hasn’t changed. And if it has, revise the body spec accordingly.”

How do fleet managers sort through the various body configurations, materials and other options available to ensure their service body spec best fits the job? Follow these three steps.

1. Begin with the truck’s role in mind. What function is the truck expected to perform? Will the truck include body-mounted equipment such as an aerial bucket or telescopic crane? Or will it carry smaller tools and parts? Will it need to haul ladders or wire spools or compressors? What is the expected maximum payload?

Answers to questions like these will help you nail down the big picture of your truck and service body requirements, including:

  • Chassis selection based on gross vehicle weight rating.
  • Chassis length in terms of inches between cab-to-rear axle.
  • Body dimensions and any provisions for mounted equipment.

2. Dig deep for the details. “Seek feedback from drivers,” Palin advised. “You want to drill down to the granular level of how drivers use the truck to do their job to ensure the body is configured to support their work – to equip them to be as productive as possible.”

Craig Bonham, director of business development at The Reading Group (www.readingbody.com), a truck body manufacturer based in Reading, Pa., agrees. “[Drivers] have a lot of different parts and things that they utilize on the service line and so they have different requirements, ranging from a different size door to a way the shelf may be angulated for easy [part] retrieval,” Bonham said. “Sometimes these vehicles work in the evening, so they may want rope lighting inside the cabinet network. Since utility operators are in the load space of the truck bed more often than your common contractor [to access the aerial device, for example], the ease of getting in and out of the load space has to be a priority. You could have a stairwell built into the body, which makes getting up into the body more ergonomically friendly. There are also grab bars and nonslip surfaces to consider because safety is a very, very strong focus involving utility and aerial devices.”

Another important factor, said Eric Paul, vice president of sales and marketing at Fort Worth, Texas-based BrandFX Body Company (www.brandfxbody.com), is the location of the body compartments. “If you’re an infrastructure worker or utility worker that works in a metropolitan area, chances are you will want the tools and products you use most of the time on the curb [or passenger side] of the vehicle. The reason for this is so the operator is not working on the driver side of the vehicle, where there is traffic on the major thoroughfares.”

Also account for any off-road use, advised Bonham. “The body has to be installed in a way that allows articulation of the chassis frame while also protecting the body from structural failure when operating off-road,” Bonham said. “The solution, in many cases, is to spring-mount the body. This method allows proper chassis frame articulation in unimproved road surfaces and helps to eliminate permanent structural deformation to the body structure.”

3. Evaluate the cost benefit of lightweight materials for body construction. Most service bodies continue to be built out of conventional steel because of its attractive price point and reputation for durability. But lighter-weight materials, such as aluminum and fiber composite – heavy-duty fiberglass laid over a durable foam core – have gained momentum and market share in the service body market as fleet managers seek ways to improve fuel economy and squeeze more cost savings from their operations.

“Service body specs for bid often only include steel. But if you can achieve 40 to 50 percent weight savings, fleet managers would be negligent not to scrutinize the spec,” Paul said. “If you take 50 percent out of the weight of the body structure, theoretically you can choose a lighter powertrain or [more fuel-efficient] rear axle. Or it could mean that you spec it out on the same size vehicle, but up your payload, which means you can stock your trucks heavier – and that means fewer trips back to dispatch.”

Both fiber composite and aluminum bodies also tend to be more corrosion resistant than steel, offering fleets a longer service life. “Whereas several years ago, many utility fleets were leasing trucks and turning them back in every five to seven years, we have seen a very big departure from that in the past four years [due to the economic downturn],” observed John Dunn, director of utility services with The Reading Group, which manufactures steel and aluminum service bodies. “Most of these fleets are keeping their trucks as long as 10 to 12 years. And because of that, [corrosion-resistant materials] are a better fit for many of these fleets to ensure the bodies will last.”

A key question to ask is this: Will the higher upfront cost of lightweight materials – versus steel – be offset by potential savings generated by longer life cycles, improved overall fuel economy, downsizing the chassis or increasing body payload? Run the numbers for your application. In a low-mileage scenario where the truck is expected to be replaced within five to seven years, steel may remain the more economical choice.

The Bottom Line
Define the job description for each service body truck. Then ask, how can we spec this truck and body in a way that equips our drivers to do that job faster, safer, with maximum fuel efficiency and at the lowest possible vehicle acquisition cost? Develop a service body spec that achieves all these objectives to squeeze more productivity – and profit – from your fleet operations.

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


Right Tool for the Right Job

Near-, mid- and long-term alternative fuel technologies are available and under development at Ford Motor Company, reported Jim Michon, truck fleet marketing manager, during a presentation at the 2012 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference. “In the near term,” he said, “we are migrating to advanced technology. In the midterm we plan full implementation of known technology, and long term we will continue to leverage hybrid technologies and deploy alternative energy sources.”

Specific technologies Ford is addressing, according to Michon, include advanced gasoline and natural gas engines, hybrids, electrified vehicles, fuel cells and hydrogen-powered engines. The company’s path to sustainability also covers body structures, including high-strength steel and aluminum used presently, and the potential for ultrahigh-strength steel, high-strength aluminum, high-temp and reinforced plastics, magnesium and carbon fiber, and bio-based components.

Ford is also targeting aggressive levels of aerodynamic improvements and working on a variety of technologies, Michon noted. Included are auto start-stop, active transmission warm-up, grille shutter, deceleration fuel shutoff, electric power-assisted steering and battery management systems.

Michon also discussed Ford’s EcoBoost family of turbocharged, direct-injected gasoline engines, which the manufacturer claims can provide up to 20 percent better fuel economy without sacrificing power.

In an EcoBoost engine, energy from the exhaust is used to rotate a turbine coupled to a compressor that pressurizes the incoming air, significantly increasing the engine’s power output. Highly pressurized fuel is injected directly into the combustion chamber of each cylinder rather than mixing with the incoming air in the inlet port. The advantage, according to Ford, includes more precise delivery of fuel for lower emissions, improved efficiency and avoidance of knock.

Visit www.fleet.ford.com for more.

Test Drive: Chevrolet Malibu Eco
Billed as the most fuel-efficient Malibu ever, the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu Eco with eAssist technology lived up to the manufacturer’s estimated 37 mpg on highway in a weeklong test drive. The 2013 Malibu Eco is the first Chevrolet to feature eAssist. Along with specific aerodynamic enhancements, according to the OEM, it achieves 12 percent greater highway fuel economy than current models equipped with the 2.4-liter engine.

“Malibu Eco’s eAssist system integrates regenerative braking with the latest lithium-ion battery technology to give our customers significant fuel-efficiency gains,” said Steve Poulos, global chief engineer of eAssist. “Providing electric boost to the powertrain system during heavy acceleration and grade driving helps the transmission operate more efficiently. The engine’s start-stop and fuel shutoff during deceleration features add to the fuel savings.”

The eAssist system is made up of a 32-cell, 0.5-kW lithium-ion battery, an electric motor-generator and a six-speed transmission. The system’s electric motor-generator is mounted to an Ecotec 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, in place of the alternator, to provide both motor assist and electric-generating functions through a revised engine belt-drive system.

“The battery system is designed to provide power assistance to the internal combustion engine, rather than storing energy for all-electric propulsion,” said Poulos. “It’s really an extension of the conventional internal combustion engine, not a replacement for it.”

The motor-generator in the eAssist system is a liquid-cooled induction model that bolsters the engine with approximately 11 kW (15 HP) of electric power assist during heavy acceleration and 15 kW of regenerative braking power. This power capability enables the battery to capture energy during regenerative braking.

The air-cooled 115-V lithium-ion battery in the Malibu Eco is integrated into a power pack located in a compartment between the rear seat and trunk. The power pack is cooled by an electric fan that draws air from a vent located in the package tray, behind the rear seat.

Additional fuel-saving features on the Malibu Eco, according to the manufacturer, include an aerodynamically optimized exterior, underbody panels, and electronically controlled shutters in the lower grille that close at higher speeds to push more air over and around the vehicle. In addition, lightweight components and systems – including an aluminum hood, aluminum rear bumper beam, low-mass carpet and dash mat, and more – save approximately 130 pounds compared to comparably equipped non-Eco models.

An Eco gauge in the Malibu Eco’s instrument cluster continuously responds to driving behavior and encourages fuel-efficient driving. A power flow display in the driver information center indicates if the Malibu Eco is operating in battery-charging, electric-assist or auto-stop mode.

The eAssist system works with Malibu’s 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine rated at 182 HP and 170 pounds per feet of torque. The Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed transmission in the vehicle features changes to clutch controls and hardware to reduce spin losses while improving shift response. The eAssist system’s electric assistance at cruising speeds allows the driver to accelerate lightly or ascend mild grades without the transmission downshifting, and automatic grade braking keeps the transmission in a lower gear when decelerating or coasting on a downgrade. eAssist technology also allows for a numerically lower 2.64 final drive ratio.

The Malibu Eco in our test drive also lived up to the manufacturer’s claim of achieving up to 580 highway miles between fill-ups despite a smaller fuel tank than other 2013 Malibu models at just 15.8 gallons. “It’s a very integrated powertrain system, with no compromises in driving performance, shift quality, or ride and handling,” said Todd Stone, Malibu lead development engineer. “We believe this combination points to the future of vehicles powered primarily by an internal combustion engine.”

Visit www.gmfleet.com for more.

Eaton Makes Multiple Enhancements to Its Hybrid Power System
To increase the fuel economy, performance and payback of its hybrid power system for commercial vehicles, Eaton Corporation has announced a number of enhancements. Included are a new high-capacity battery, a new single-phase 115-V AC auxiliary power generator (APG), a higher-capacity clutch to expand applications up to 860 pounds per feet of torque and a new remanufactured battery for aftermarket purchase.

At the heart of Eaton’s new high-capacity lithium-ion battery is the latest battery cell architecture. The new design increases the fuel savings of Eaton’s hybrid power system an additional 5 to 10 percent, the company noted, while more than doubling the engine-off capability of the system for job site operations.

Eaton is also introducing a new single-phase, 5-kW APG. The APG option converts high-voltage DC current from the battery to 115-volt AC current that can be used by any number of tools on the job site. The APG unit is more compact and 25 pounds lighter than Eaton’s previous offering, which increases flexibility of installation.

The new high-capacity battery and APG will be rolled out during the fourth quarter of this year for utility vehicle applications. Eaton is also now offering higher-capacity clutches that can handle engines up to 860 pounds per feet of torque and 300 HP. Eaton has begun offering a remanufactured battery.

Eaton hybrid power systems have collectively accumulated more than 300 million miles of service. More than 6,000 of Eaton’s hybrid systems are in use today in trucks and buses in a variety of applications.

Yosemite Turns To Eaton For Cleaner Vehicles
Yosemite National Park now allows visitors to enjoy its pristine surroundings onboard new low-emission vehicles powered by Eaton’s hybrid electric systems. Eaton worked with the U.S. General Services Administration and Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, which handles the majority of the park’s transportation needs, to deliver four new Class 8 tractors with the Eaton systems. An additional seven vehicles – 37-passenger shuttle buses – are on order.

“The low-speed, low-mileage and stop-and-go duty cycles at Yosemite provide the perfect operating conditions for a hybrid truck,” said Kevin Snow, chief engineer for hybrid applications at Eaton. “On top of that, the environmental and fuel consumption improvements are going to be quite substantial.”

Dan Anthonijsz, village garage manager at Yosemite for Delaware North Companies, agrees. “We are definitely realizing fuel consumption reductions, currently averaging about 6.7 miles per gallon with the tram tractors,” he noted. “That’s a huge improvement over the one mile to the gallon that we were getting with the propane trucks that the new vehicles replaced.”

In addition, Eaton worked with park officials to install a new engine brake on a tow truck with an Eaton hybrid electric system to ensure the regenerative braking function was operating properly. Regenerative braking allows the hybrid system to recover power normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries to provide engine-off power takeoff capabilities.

Visit www.eaton.com/hybrid for more.

Terex Hybrid System Retrofit Program
Terex Utilities now offers customers the option to retrofit utility trucks with the Terex HyPower Hybrid System, a plug-in power takeoff system that uses stored energy from the system’s rechargeable batteries to power the nonpropulsion functions of most utility vehicles.

The Terex HyPower Hybrid Retrofit Program can be applied to any Terex or competitive manufacturer’s aerial devices 5 years old or newer and can be completed at any of 14 Terex Equipment Services locations. For an aerial device to be considered for a HyPower retrofit, it needs to pass an initial inspection, which covers the truck’s available payload capacity, body configuration and cab-to-axle length to accommodate the battery packs. After the inspection, retrofits can be completed in as little as two weeks.

HyPower retrofitted trucks come with the standard one-year warranty from the date of in-service on the system, the same as on new HyPower equipped units.

City of Longmont, Colo., Adds Terex HyPower Trucks
Terex Utilities has sold four trucks equipped with its HyPower Hybrid System – a Terex Commander C4047 digger derrick, a Terex Hi-Ranger TCX55 bucket truck and two competitive bucket trucks retrofitted with the HyPower system – to the City of Longmont, Colo.

“We are constantly looking at the emerging technologies like the Terex HyPower Hybrid System to see what would be a good fit for Longmont,” said Deborah Cameron, customer services and marketing manager for Longmont Power & Communications. “LPC crews like that they do not have to yell over engine noise for material or direction with the Terex trucks. They also appreciate that there is no reduction in the performance of the controls while the trucks are in hybrid mode.”

The service area that LPC covers is compact so city crews do not have long drives to work sites, which, according to Cameron, made the Terex HyPower system, with its separate batteries, a smart choice. One of the retrofitted bucket trucks serves as a service truck, taking care of outages and daily calls. The other is the city’s streetlight truck. The TCX55 bucket truck is primarily used by the city’s maintenance crew.

To offset the expense of the Terex HyPower Hybrid trucks, the City of Longmont received $70,000 through the Regional Air Quality Council. In the future, Cameron noted, the city will evaluate opportunities to add more Terex HyPower trucks to its fleet.

Visit www.terexutilities.com for more.

VIA Motors is demonstrating its extended-range electric pickup truck in a partnership between the manufacturer, the state of Utah and Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp and Utah’s largest electric utility. PacifiCorp is part of a group of utility, government and commercial fleets nationwide participating in an early evaluation of electric work trucks developed by VIA Motors in coordination with the U.S. Department of Energy.

VIA’s VTRUX electric vehicles are equipped with a 402-HP electric motor and will be available with a power export option up to 15 kW. The vehicles can average more than 100 mpg with a daily charge and in zero-emissions mode for a majority of fleet driving, the company said. The manufacturer works with General Motors to incorporate its V-DRIVE powertrain into new GM trucks, vans and SUVs. VIA is planning to sell electrified work trucks to fleets early in 2013.

Visit www.viamotors.com for more.

Allison Transmission Inc. has invested in a noncontrolling equity stake in Odyne Systems LLC. The manufacturer of hybrid control systems designed and developed a plug-in hybrid power system, which interfaces with the Allison family of commercial vehicle transmissions.

Odyne’s proprietary and patented plug-in hybrid drive system, sold through a worldwide distribution network, can be installed on a wide variety of new and existing vehicles. Johnson Controls is the exclusive supplier of lithium-ion batteries for Odyne Hybrid Power systems.

Visit www.odyne.com and www.allisontransmission.com for more.

Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide Inc., in association with lithium-ion battery system supplier Dow Kokam, has delivered the first pilot version of its plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) Ford F-150 pickup truck to Florida Power & Light Company.

The PHEV F-150 is powered by Quantum’s F-Drive parallel plug-in hybrid electric drive system. The F-Drive allows the truck to run the first 35 miles on a zero-emission electric drive and then switch to an efficient hybrid drive mode, achieving more than 100 mpg, according to the manufacturer, depending on the drive cycle and charging frequency.

Visit www.qtww.com for more.

XL Hybrids Inc. has released test results that it said validate a 21.2 percent reduction in fuel consumption with the company’s aftermarket hybrid electric powertrain. XL Hybrids’ powertrain is a bolt-on technology that integrates with an internal combustion engine and transmission.

The tests were conducted on a light-duty chassis dynamometer test cell. The testing process compared fuel economy performance from the vehicle in its original condition with the performance using XL Hybrids’ charge-sustaining hybrid system. The test was completed on a Chevrolet 2500 Express cargo van fitted with the OEM’s 4.8-liter engine and six-speed transmission over a light-duty Urban Dynamometer Driving Schedule test cycle.

Visit www.xlhybrids.com for more.

ALTe Powertrain Technologies, the developer of range-extended plug-in electric hybrid powertrains, has installed its system in the Ford Econoline E-350 platform. ALTe already implemented conversions in Ford F-150 trucks. The manufacturer is delivering an E-350 prototype to a fleet customer for evaluation and plans to build more prototypes for customer evaluations throughout the year, leading to a spring 2013 product launch date for the U.S. market.

ALTe’s road tests revealed that the E-350 cutaway chassis prototype can drive approximately 25 miles in an all-electric mode and then deliver nearly 15 mpg in a charge-sustained mode, the company reported. For a fleet vehicle that drives 45 miles per day, ALTe noted, the combined mode fuel economy would be more than 30 mpg, while a similar Ford E-350 cutaway chassis with a V8 gasoline engine averages fewer than 9 mpg based on data provided by major fleets.

Visit www.altept.com for more.

SCR Engine Update
As a speaker on a “Diesel Engines – Current and Future” panel during the 2012 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, Dave Bryant, vocational sales manager at Freightliner, reported on the performance of 2010 emissions-compliant diesel engines. “There is growing confidence in SCR engine technology,” Bryant said. “Market adoption of SCR engines in six key Class 6-8 vocational applications [refuse, utility, construction, heavy hauling, beverage and municipal] is 39 percent greater than non-SCR engines today compared to 18 percent three years ago.”

Among the findings about SCR engine performance in Bryant’s report were the following:

• Fuel economy in EPA 2010 SCR engines was initially projected to be 3 percent better than 2007 models. Customers in utility truck applications are reporting a 5 percent improvement in actual use.
• In many cases, a three-time reduction in diesel particulate filter (DPF) regeneration cycles between 2007 and 2010 engines is being reported, including Detroit Diesel and Cummins models. DPF regeneration, Bryant noted, requires fuel to clean out unburned fuel, so reducing regeneration frequency also has a fuel economy benefit.
• Better drivability from increased horsepower and better throttle response are evident in 2010 engines, especially in Cummins ISB, ISC and ISL models.
• Durability is improved. Cummins has seen an appreciable reduction in warranty repairs on 2010 engines compared to 2007 models, especially for turbochargers and injectors. Additionally, improved cooling system performance is resulting in reduced heat rejection, causing fewer problems.
• OEMs have addressed packaging and chassis space concerns by providing clear frame rails and back-of-cab surfaces, and by not increasing cab heights.
• DEF infrastructure concerns have turned out to be a nonissue. Meeting fleet needs are bulk DEF, and more than 6,500 DEF retail outlets and 500 pump locations.

“In 2009 we told you that 2010 EPA engines compared to 2007 pre-SCR models would have better fuel economy, improved regeneration frequency, increased power with the same displacement, enhanced drivability and better cooling system performance to reduce heat,” Bryant said. “We also said we would address vehicle packaging concerns and DEF availability issues. All of those challenges have been met.”

Visit www.daimler-trucksnorthamerica.com for more.

Peterbilt Grows Natural Gas Vehicle Market
With a 40 percent market share of the commercial truck natural gas market, including vocational and over-the-road models, Peterbilt Motors Company continues to expand its natural gas-powered vehicle offerings.

Peterbilt currently offers two natural gas engine platforms. The Cummins Westport 8.9-liter ISL G, rated 320 HP at 1,000 pounds per feet of torque, is a spark ignition engine with a three-way catalyst emissions system that can be configured with either LNG or CNG fuel systems. The second platform is the Westport HD 15-liter engine rated 475 HP and 1,750 pounds per feet of torque with diesel pilot ignition configured for LNG fuel systems.

The OEM will also offer the new Cummins Westport ISX12 G in 2013. The engine, rated up to 400 HP and 1,450 pounds per feet of torque, features spark ignition and a three-way catalyst, and can be configured with an LNG or CNG fuel system.

Visit www.peterbilt.com for more.

CARB Retrofit Alternative Fuel System Certification
The California Air Resources Board has approved the ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas fuel system for retrofitting 2010 model year 5.4-liter Ford E-150, E-250 and E-350 cargo vans and wagons. ROUSH CleanTech is also pursuing retrofit certification for 2009, 2011 and 2012 model years of the same Ford models as well as E-450 cutaway vehicle platforms.

The CARB certification is the first awarded since 2000 for a liquefied petroleum gas retrofit system, and the first CARB certification for any alternative fuel system for retrofit installation on 2010 model year vehicles. The number of alternative fuel retrofit certifications awarded has been limited due to stricter regulations implemented in 1994.

ROUSH CleanTech offers a wide range of CARB-certified, dedicated liquid propane autogas fuel systems for pre-title installation, which includes applications for Ford F-250/350 trucks, Ford E-series vans, and Blue Bird Propane-Powered Vision and Micro Bird G5 school buses.

Visit www.roushcleantech.com for more.

Green Facility
Altec Industries has opened a new green-focused facility in Dixon, Calif. The manufacturer is using the 42,400-square-foot assembly plant to expand the development and production of its Green Fleet utility vehicle product line.

Altec received guidance and support on the development of the new green-focused facility from Pacific Gas & Electric Company and Southern California Edison. In addition, PG&E and Altec are partnering to develop Green Fleet utility vehicles, which will be produced at the new plant.

“Altec is committed to sustainable solutions,” said Lee Styslinger III, Altec chairman and CEO. “That commitment to sustainability is reflected not only in the products we build, but also in the facilities where we build them.”

Visit www.altec.com for more.


Doing It Right

Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS), headquartered in Rutland, is one of the largest businesses in Vermont and the state’s largest electric company. The utility, which was organized in 1929 with the consolidation of eight electric companies, traces its roots to more than 100 companies, including one dating back to 1858.

A shareholder-owned electric utility, CVPS serves one of the most rural territories in the country, with just 18 customers per mile of line. Its customer base, however, numbers more than 159,000 in 163 communities. Due to the size of its operating territory, CVPS utilizes 617 miles of transmission line and 8,806 miles of distribution line to meet customer power needs.

In place at CVPS is a fleet of 117 vehicles under 8,600 pounds GVWR and 97 vehicles rated more than 8,600 pounds, including 68 aerial bucket- and digger derrick-equipped trucks. In addition, the company fields 75 trailers; 16 pieces of off-road equipment such as four-wheel-drive ATVs, UTVs and snowmobiles; nine materials-handling units including forklifts and cranes; nine stationary generators; seven portable air compressors; five portable substations and related equipment; and six tracked off-road pieces of equipment.

The transportation team at CVPS provides a wide range of services. Included are vehicle specification, procurement and resale, maintenance, repair and rebuilding, purchasing and parts inventory management, track vehicle operations, vehicle registration, highway permits and DOT compliance coordination, training of vehicle operators and demonstration of new vehicles, and materials, supplies and equipment delivery. Transportation also fulfills a role as front-line support for operations during storms.

Overseeing the transportation team that supports CVPS and its customers is Daniel J. Mackey, who assumed the role of fleet manager in January 2006. A 21-year CVPS employee, his experience includes six years as transportation stockkeeper and 10 years as procurement agent. Recently, Mackey discussed the CVPS operation with Utility Fleet Professional.

What factors impact vehicle purchasing, specification and replacement decisions at CVPS?

We have a vehicle specification committee that includes operators. We value their input in the purchasing and specification process for vehicles because they know what works best and what is needed to accomplish their jobs. This allows CVPS to obtain vehicles and equipment that will be accepted by everyone.

The criteria we use to identify which vehicles need to be replaced include a combination of age and mileage. For example, vehicles under 10,000 pounds GVWR are generally replaced after five to seven years and 100,000 to 120,000 miles of service. Vehicles more than 10,001 pounds GVWR are replaced after seven to 10 years and 120,000 to 150,000 miles of service. Other factors that we take into account include maintenance costs, downtime, physical condition, user comfort and functionality, along with performing a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.

Is standardization a factor in your decisions?

All of our medium-duty trucks are International models and our lighter vehicles are Fords, although we do have a few other makes that are needed because of the function they fulfill.
Standardization of the fleet as much as possible allows us to reduce the number of suppliers we do business with, provide specific training for our mechanics, keep our parts inventory to a minimum and only purchase diagnostic equipment specific to the vehicles we operate.

Are alternative fuel-powered vehicles a part of the CVPS fleet?

We have two Toyota Prius hybrids that were converted by A123 Systems to plug-in hybrids and have been working with Green Mountain College, The University of Vermont and Idaho National Laboratory to collect mileage and cost data and evaluate the benefits of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Those vehicles averaged 76 miles per gallon during the winter months and exceeded 100 mpg in warmer months. Recently, the transportation department converted a Ford Escape Hybrid to a plug-in hybrid for use by our mailroom for local deliveries. This is the ideal work situation for a plug-in hybrid.

In 2006, we put in service 15 Ford Escape hybrids for use as meter reading and general operations vehicles, and we have realized a benefit in reduced maintenance costs and lower fuel consumption. Also, in mid-2008 we purchased the first hybrid bucket truck in New England. Compared to our standard bucket truck, the International 4300 with the Eaton hybrid drive system has exhibited a 53 percent reduction in fuel consumption.

Currently we are looking at the potential of introducing to our fleet a plug-in system that allows the aerial device when in power takeoff mode to operate from an electric motor/pump combination powered by a dedicated bank of batteries (hybrid package). This system will not impact the drivability of the chassis. When the batteries are depleted in the field, the truck will automatically be returned to the traditional power takeoff operation of the aerial unit.

What programs are in place for maintenance management, tires, parts and fuel for the CVPS fleet?

We use FleetFocus from AssetWorks to manage the fleet. The software captures all costs and handles maintenance schedules, parts inventory, fuel, labor and lease expenses. We have local and national accounts for parts and tires and use Wright Express to capture fuel use and cost data.

Please describe the CVPS fleet maintenance operation.

The CVPS maintenance team is completely self-sufficient and has the ability to perform warranty work on all vehicles and equipment in our fleet. We outsource very few services. We operate two locations for servicing vehicles, on both sides of the state. Most of the preventive maintenance (PM) is performed at night so it is transparent to our internal customers. We also have two service trailers that we use for nighttime work in the field, and during service restoration operations we use the trailers at the hardest-hit locations so we can provide immediate support.

Ed Baker, shop foreman, oversees the daily operation of the vehicle PM and repair schedule. Karly Carrara, fleet administrator, handles paperwork and the data that includes all of the costs related to the vehicles and equipment operated by CVPS. We also have a stockkeeper who obtains parts and materials needed by mechanics and our internal customers. Overall, the transportation team consists of 12 dedicated, highly skilled employees. Included are 10 mechanics, all of whom hold commercial driver’s licenses, and welding and hydraulic certifications.

How would you sum up the goal and mission of the CVPS transportation team?

Our vision is to cost-effectively provide our customers with efficient, reliable vehicles and equipment. All of our services are driven by the desire to provide dependable, reliable vehicles and equipment at the most economical cost.

Central Vermont Public Service Truck Specifications

Model: International 7400 SBA 6×4
Wheelbase: 193 inches
Engine: International MaxxForce 9; 310 HP/950 lb/ft @ 1200 RPM; Diamond Logic exhaust brake
Transmission: Allison 3000_RDS_P automatic, five-speed overdrive
Transmission Oil Cooler: Modine
Front Axle: Dana Spicer, 14,000 lbs.
Front Suspension: Parabolic taper leaf springs
Power Steering: Sheppard M-100
Rear Axle: Dana Spicer, 40,000 lbs., 4.88 ratio
Rear Suspension: Hendrickson HAS-402-55, air ride
ABS: Bendix
Parking Brakes: MGM Long Stroke
Wheels: 22.5-inch steel disc, 10-hole hub piloted
Tires: 11R22.5 Michelin; XZY-3 steer, XDE M/S drive
Air Compressor: Bendix Tu-Flo 550, 13.2 CFM
Air Dryer: Meritor WABCO System Saver 1200
Fan Clutch: Horton Drivemaster; two-speed direct drive
Batteries: (2) International; 1850 CCA
Starter: Leece-Neville M130D
Alternator: Leece-Neville, 160 amp
Block Heater: Phillips, 1,250 watt
Mirrors: Lang Mekra, heated
Seats: National 2000, air suspension, high back
Fuel Tank: 70 gallon

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