"Our vehicles serve as a workplace, so it makes sense to use them as the hub of our field service activities,” says Dave Fisher, fleet manager at PNM Resources, an investor-owned energy holding company in Albuquerque, NM. “The key is to get all of the systems we have in use to work together, to communicate and share data, and not operate as separate silos of information.”
To that end, PNM Resources has embarked on a pilot project to evaluate a connected bucket truck that uses a range of vehicle-as-a-hub communications technologies. The truck features a suite of tools, including a mobile hot spot, developed in conjunction with Telogis to help manage operations, the fleet and drivers.
Another company-wide initiative at PNM Resources, aimed at finding ways to save fuel and reduce the fleet’s carbon footprint, is driving the use of ePTO technology, including adopting bucket trucks with Altec JEMS (Jobsite Energy Management System) units and trouble trucks with Versalift systems. The plug-in hybrid-electric solutions use stored energy to power aerial devices and tools and can export power to the electric grid during repairs and emergency situations.
“We’re also working with VIA Motors to field light-duty pickup trucks with plug-in hybrid electric systems,” Fisher relates. “The technology provides up to a 40-mi. battery range and through its on-board generator has an extended range up to 400 mi. Additionally, a utility grade output module under development will allow us to use the trucks to provide emergency power.”
PNM Resources is deploying these technologies across its two utility operations. Included are PNM, the largest electricity provider in New Mexico with more than 500,000 customers, and Texas-New Mexico Power, which serves more than 243,000 homes and businesses in over 70 communities.
The PNM Resources fleet includes 1,300 vehicles supplied mainly by Ford, Freightliner, Western Star, and Kenworth. Based at four locations with full service shops in New Mexico and Texas, the fleet is connected through the Garage Management System (GMS) from fleet management company ARI. GMS is used to manage maintenance, repairs, parts inventories, and technicians while simultaneously consolidating data on outsourced services. Also rolled into the management solution is data from Wright Express fuel cards used by drivers on the road and at two company fueling facilities.
“With a consolidated system for all fleet maintenance activity, we have extensive data for analyzing performance,” Fisher says. “We also use the benchmarking services of Utilimarc. They integrate data from our fleet management systems, and the Utilimarc module allows us to measure the effectiveness of our decisions internally and against industry comparison groups based on fleet size, geography, service territory, vehicle class or maintenance practices.
“Having a clear direction when we’re making equipment and operational decisions requires clean data and a means of communicating information,” Fisher says. “As long as we have those capabilities, we can make effective choices.”