The group met to discuss vehicle ordering troubles, idling mitigation, and company expansions.  -  Photo: Canva

The group met to discuss vehicle ordering troubles, idling mitigation, and company expansions.

Photo: Canva

The second quarterly Work Truck editorial Advisory Board meeting was held on April 6, 2022, during which the group touched base on some of the progress on efforts from the last board meeting.

Current projects in the works include a piece on maintenance efforts related to the resale of trucks and what fleet managers need to focus on; how to sell and promote yourself, especially during mergers and acquisitions; and a now completed article on a roadmap for fleet electrification.

The publication is also looking at doing similar pieces for other fuels and already has another on biodiesel.

“We're trying to present a fuel agnostic point of view and help all readers find ways to transition to alternative fuels in general. We're going to continue to produce articles on ‘roadmaps,’ as well as looking at roadblocks. We understand we can give everybody a list of all of the things they can do to try to transition, but if we don't talk about the challenges connected to that, it's not really a full picture,” Lauren Fletcher, executive editor of Work Truck, stated.

Wins and Struggles

The next part of the meeting focused on triumphs and challenges various board members have had since the last meeting.

Brian Thompson Jr., general manager of transportation for DTG Recycle

DTG has been busy with completing four acquisitions and is in the process of closing another with two more right behind it. This will almost double the size of its fleet. The business will evolve from a fleet of about 250 trucks to almost 500 trucks in the next three months.

“The biggest snag has been coming into these companies having them not be up to standard with the DOT. That, and obtaining parts has been a challenge,” he said.

Thompson is also in discussions with Bridgestone about its new onboard TPMS system called IntelliTire that links with Geotab.

“It’ll provide a live feed for when tires go low. If they are sitting at night and a tire goes low, it dispatches straight out to our entire company, so it’ll cut costs on downtime.”

Pete Silva, independent consultant and retired fleet executive

Silva has been keeping busy with environmental work with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). He spoke about an exciting new tool from EDF that will be announced shortly to help fleets electrify.

“I think when we're talking about fleet electrification, we are possibly making the unfair assumption most fleets have already got their start; they know a little bit, have some resources, and maybe already have an electric truck or two. But for those who haven't gotten started, there’s a lot of information involved and a whole lot of steps. They might not have the grant writers and/or the resources,” Fletcher of Work Truck replied.

Bob Adamsky, corporate fleet manager for Area Wide Protective (AWP)

Adamsky noted two primary challenges. One is OEMs moving ordering windows up dramatically. This is hard for fleets, especially ones that are growing rapidly.

“We're hearing how soon some of these windows are going to open up. How soon will they close? Is it going to be allocation-based or open orders?” he said.

Fletcher noted many companies saw stagnation during the height of the pandemic, but now things are changing fast.

“I'm now seeing growth is happening exponentially and you are all trying to guess what your needs are going to be next year,” she stated.

The other challenge is getting creative on fuel savings through idle reduction. The business is working with Derive Systems, an automotive technology company, to help and is also putting a massive idle effort in place not just based on percentage of runtime.

Adamsky said it’s important to pay attention to the impact of idling on your repair and maintenance.

“It can be tough when you’re seeing a delay in parts like motors, transmission, and other hard parts along those lines. We are seeing OEMs back away and push back on warranties because of extended idle,” he said.

Sandy Martin, corporate fleet manager for Ram Tool Supply

Ram Tool Supply was purchased by White Cap construction on December 1, 2021, and has grown from 46 locations to 446 locations in the US and Canada.

“We've been busy looking at policies, making sure branches are familiar and complying with policies. We are also working with manufacturers to make sure we have the correct ECM parameters for idle reduction. Educating our drivers on completing regens when they're driving, and working with manufacturers on getting active and force regens when we complete PMs to make sure we're cleaning those DPS as often as possible has been a big help,” she said.

Robert Auer, fleet manager for UPS

Auer named parts and oil shortages as his biggest challenge. The vehicles in his fleet have a five-minute timer to help cut back on idling.

Amy McAdams, CAFM, fleet manager for Farmer Brothers

With the recent spike in fuel prices, McAdams has been focused on communicating more with those out in the field on ways to improve fuel economy and ensure drivers aren’t using super unleaded gas in the fleet’s trucks. She’s also reminded drivers to try to reduce idling both when at a customer site and when loading in the morning.

A challenge she’s facing is finding enough Transit vans.

Matt Betz, expert fleet optimization for DTE

Idle mitigation was a hot topic for Betz as well. DTE’s bucket trucks have a job site energy management system (JEMS, an Altec product). In essence, it works like a giant battery pack for a truck. This enables the vehicle to drive under diesel power to a job site. Then, the driver can shut off the engine, turn on the JEMS unit, and work off of battery power for a full eight-hour shift. The bucket can go up and down, AC can be running in the cab, and communications equipment will work. If the power does start to run out during the day, the engine will automatically turn on. This way, a worker can be up in the bucket working on a power line, and if the battery’s running low, the vehicle senses that and automatically turns the engine on and charges the batteries.

He also talked about an interesting facet of fleet safety. Rather than focusing on equipment, what about focusing on behavior-based driver training?

“How do you get the driver to do what you want them to do? How do you get them to drive safely? It's something I haven't heard discussed much. You hear people talking about all the different options they put on their vehicles like cameras and GPS, but I haven't seen anybody do much about the driver themselves,” he noted.

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