How to Prepare For the Fleet Maintenance Shift of an Electric Era
March 2023 – One of the many benefits of electrifying commercial vehicles is EVs often have reduced maintenance needs. Electric tractors and refrigerated trailers have far fewer moving parts than traditional diesel trucks and reefers, requiring less overall maintenance and offering fleet managers the opportunity to simplify maintenance schedules. Like with any major change in operations, realizing the greatest benefit from this transition will require thorough preparation and training.
Formulate a detailed maintenance plan
Electric vehicles run and operate differently from those with internal combustion engines. Although most EVs will have fewer serviceable events, regular preventative maintenance should be a top priority to ensure maximum safety, uptime, and service life. Specific maintenance requirements will depend on the chosen technology and it’s likely that every fleet’s maintenance program will differ slightly. However, fleets are not alone. Technology providers will work with service managers to supply the support and information needed to create a successful maintenance program with the chosen suite of products.
Another factor to consider in creating a maintenance plan is that many EVs are equipped with telematics. Component status and health insights that are generated from these connected systems enhance any maintenance program, streamlining decision making and scheduling of service. While EVs already allow for simplified maintenance, the integration of telematics boosts efficiency even further.
Electric vehicle training as an opportunity
A maintenance technician’s job will be significantly impacted by the shift to electric vehicles. Most systems on the vehicle will be affected in some way by electrification, requiring technicians to be “re-trained” in many areas and potentially receive new certifications.
First, the service team will need basic electrical training. They’ll need to understand various battery compositions, how to maintain and replace large batteries, and certain limitations that may exist, like operating in cold weather. They’ll also need to understand charging and which types are compatible with their equipment as not all chargers and interfaces work well together.
High-voltage safety is another major component to consider when preparing technicians for the shift to EVs. Depending on the specialty, some technicians will require more intensive training, but everyone who comes in contact with the vehicle should have a general level of high-voltage safety knowledge. This includes critical safety protocols such as the “Lock Out, Tag Out” procedure to ensure high-voltage machinery is disabled before any service takes place. The use of high-voltage tools will also require training and possible certifications.
It’s natural for technicians to have concerns about the change and its impact on their careers. Fleets should be sure to address these concerns through open, honest, and frequent communication with their service teams. Although they will experience short-term disruption in their day-to-day, the transformation of EV fleet maintenance should provide technicians with the opportunity for a successful, fulfilling career in the long run.
Converting a service shop for the EV era
From displaying the right signage to securing the proper replacement parts, fleet maintenance facilities will undergo a transformation of their own. Servicing and maintaining EVs requires different tools and equipment than traditional assets. As fleets begin to adopt electrified trucks and trailers, they need to strike the right balance between the traditional and specialized equipment they have on hand and have a plan in place for replacing older equipment with the new. This will require changes in procurement and inventory, which will evolve over time as the fleet becomes fully electric.
Many replacement parts and specialty tools will be product specific. Fleets can once again work with the technology supplier for guidance. The requirements for electric components will need to be considered, such as proper transport of batteries circuit boards and any temperature sensitive component. When storing batteries, fleets should pay close attention the locations of their chargers, as replacement batteries will also need to be charged.
As always, but especially with high-voltage equipment and tools, fleets must make sure safety is top-of-mind in the shop. After technicians go through the proper training and certification, signage that displays safety reminders, procedures, and protocols should be visible all over the facility. Specialized safety equipment will also need to be purchased and stored in a proper and accessible manner.
ConMet eMobility’s approach
In partnership with Carrier Transicold, ConMet eMobility has helped several key fleets deploy its zero-emission refrigerated transport solution, the Vector eCool system, into normal operations. The system utilizes ConMet eMobility’s eHub technology to generate power whenever the vehicle is in motion, which is then shared with a Vector eTRU as energy or sent to charge the system’s battery.
To help ease the process of integrating electric assets into each fleet’s operations, the ConMet team offers assistance with everything from fleet onboarding to field service and maintenance support. It also provides guidance on preventative maintenance and planning, aligning needs with specific routes, system specifications, and infrastructure details.
Take advantage of simplified maintenance programs
Electric vehicles have the potential to offer fleets significant maintenance advantages. Fleets will need to learn and adapt to changing technology, but support resources are available. Technology providers such as ConMet eMobility are committed to making sure every fleet operates and maintains their electric technology safely, efficiently, and successfully.
VANCOUVER, WA | by Marc Trahand, VP & General Manager ConMet eMobility