Best practices for utility fleet managers
What will the next level of utility fleet management look like? The criteria used by the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) to identify the top fleets in the Americas provide a good starting point. Criteria for both public fleets and commercial fleets serve as a guide to achieving excellence. This year marks the first time commercial fleets are eligible for the award. Utility pros can learn even more about fleet management at The Utility Expo 2023.
Focus on accountability
For both public and investor-owned utility fleets, accountability is key. Metrics and benchmarks enable fleet managers to measure performance and progress toward their goals.
While current technology provides fleet managers with more data than ever before, new skills and tools are needed to make the data actionable.
"There's a large amount of data from different sources, so you have to be able to collect that data and make it manageable," says Joesph Moser, the senior manager of fleet services for ComEd, a subsidiary of Exelon Corp."Having a dedicated telematics specialist on your team has been proven to be effective."
When CPS Energy created a fleet informatics team, Bert Hargesheimer, the vice president of operational support services, initially received some pushback from technicians. "Now they understand why we are doing this," says Hargesheimer. "Our analytics team fixed some recurrent problems and made the workflow for technicians easier."
CPS Energy ranked 23rd on NAFA's list of the Top 100 fleets in 2022.
"Vehicle telematics will help move our fleet to the next level by enhancing our vehicle utilization analysis," says Chris Lowery, the manager of transportation for the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB). "It's helping us right-size our fleet, become more proactive with maintenance, and operate our fleet more safely."
KUB ranked 64th on the NAFA public fleet list in 2022.
Plan for technology
Technology changes quickly and fleet managers need to stay up-to-date on applications that improve their productivity and performance. NAFA calls for fleets update to review and update their technology plan at least annually.
"You need to be out there, you need to be attending tradeshows and conferences so you can hear from manufacturers, software designers, and others who are trying to move the needle when it comes to things like fleet electrification, data collection, and fleet management," says Moser.
Commit to sustainability.
To reduce U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by half by 2030, below 2005 levels, it's going to take an enormous effort. No one understands this more than utilities. Utility fleet managers will play an important role in demonstrating how to achieve sustainability goals. Tracking tailpipe emissions, as is done at KUB and ComEd, is likely to become the norm. Electrification of utility fleets is already underway.
While navigating their own fleet electrification journey. ComEd is helping customers do the same. ComEd's EV Toolkit helps those interested in their path to EVs. It provides information on savings, benefits, and incentives for the purchase of EVs, along with an overview of EV brands and models, rate options, EV chargers, and a public charging station locator.
"The EV Toolkit empowers customers by providing the resources to help those considering an EV more easily make the transition," says Moser. "In fleet services, we are opting for an electric vehicle whenever possible."
Communicating with users on emission reduction will also help your organization meet sustainability goals.
"We share a report with our users so they can understand how their employees are using the vehicles, and what they can do to continue to reduce emissions," says Moser. "It needs to be communicated down to the lowest level and that means engaging with user groups to drive those changes."
KUB is participating in a variety of partnerships and initiatives to prepare for EV adoption within its own fleet and amongst its customers. "We partnered with TVA and Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to discuss challenges of electrification and grid planning needs, and several KUB customers are participating in TVA's EV Fleet Advisor pilot program," says Lowery.
Developing your talent
Getting to the next level won't happen without the right people and training in place. In addition to training technicians on new equipment technology, electric vehicles, and software, CPS Energy has an operational excellence team that focuses on Six Sigma training and facilitating Six Sigma projects.
"As we're working through improvements, we're training employees to have a methodology and approach to working through a problem," says Hargesheimer. "The final part of the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) methodology is controlled, so if you fix something, you have the controls to continue benefitting from the changes."
Build a strong foundation
It will take multiple initiatives to achieve the next level of fleet management, but accountability, technology, developing talent, and committing to sustainability can serve as a good foundation. With these basics working, you will be able to improve and meet new challenges head-on.
"We're putting all the pieces together so that as we encounter new things, as we transition to EVs, as we transition to a more data-oriented world with telematics, our team has all the resources to help us through it," says Hargesheimer.