Bucket Truck Blues

Servicing trucks that are three different vehicles.


In the southwest, the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District (SRP) is a water and power municipality in Phoenix, AZ. SRP is the nation's third-largest public power utility and one of Arizona's largest water suppliers, providing power to customers throughout a 2,900-square-mile service territory in central Arizona. The District provides electricity to nearly 860,000 retail customers in the Phoenix area.

SRP's Ray Ybarra, fleet maintenance supervisor, and transportation manager Jim Wood say that the SRP fleet has approximately 2,200 pieces of rolling stock that includes light, medium, heavy duty and construction equipment. But, it's the 190 medium-duty bucket and derrick trucks that support the power grid system have the highest priority.

"We have several hybrids in the fleet," says Ybarra. "We currently have six 2005 Ford Escape hybrids and one 2005 Chevrolet Silverado hybrid. We purchased them to evaluate hybrid technology for future fleet opportunities."

Ybarra and Wood explain that while their technicians are trained on these hybrids, they do not maintain the vehicles. Rather, they use the dealership for maintenance support under warranty.


Kyle Rees is fleet manager with Toronto Hydro-Electric in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Toronto Hydro-Electric System Limited is the largest municipal electric distribution utility in Canada. The utility distributes approximately 18 percent of Ontario's electricity and serves approximately 673,000 customers.

Rees' fleet of 700 vehicles is a mix of cars, vans, pickups, and minivans. Small and light duty vehicles are from GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, Infinity, Acura, Volvo, and Audi. Medium and heavy-duty trucks are Freightliner, Sterling, Ford, International, and Western Star. Rees offers that many of his vehicles run on bio-diesel and that Toronto Hydro was the first to bring the bio-diesel vehicles to Toronto.

Renzo Cacciotti, P. Eng., supervisor —Fleet Assets and Maintenance with Toronto Hydro Electric explains that there is an environmental initiative in Toronto and specifically within Toronto Hydro. "Anything that can be done to reduce emissions is positive in the eyes of our company," he says.

Toronto Hydro's bread and butter vehicles are their 103 single bucket trucks.

"The challenge in maintaining these vehicles is two-fold," says Cacciotti. "First, the vehicle is actually three components - a chassis, an aerial device, and a body. The chassis and aerial have specific maintenance requirements that we try to keep lined up so that when a complete unit comes in for its PM, it does not need to come back for four months, 300 PTO hours, 300 engine hours or 5,000 km, which are our maintenance parameters. We do little or no maintenance to the body other than greasing hinges."

He continues, "The second challenge is getting the vehicle off the road to complete the maintenance, specifically the aerial device. As they carry a lineperson 40 to 65 feet in the air, they must be inspected for due diligence. Aerial devices are insulated from high voltages and must be properly maintained to keep the unit in proper working order and keep the operator safe. Also, approximately 20 of these are emergency vehicles that run 24/7."

Toronto Hydro is currently completing the second year of a three-year General Motors pilot program for hybrids. Three Chevrolet Silverado 1500's went into service in June of 2004 and are used by supervisory staff in the field. Cacciotti offers that the pilot program vehicles will be returned to GM after the term and feedback will most likely include maintenance records.

Toronto Hydro has three more of these trucks as well as five, 2003 Honda Civic hybrids and one, 2001 Toyota Prius hybrid that are not part of the pilot program.


Aside from the obvious challenges of maintaining a large fleet of vehicles, these managers point to other factors that test them in the day-to-day.

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