NGVConnection Newsletter - July 2012


 
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CNG Fuel System Inspections: The Key to Mitigating Risk Now

(and in the Future)
By Annalloyd Thomason, Vice President/General Manager, NGVi

NGVi’s Executive Director, Leo Thomason, recently served as an expert witness in a legal action involving a vehicle CNG fuel system.  The defendant was a major U.S. corporation that operates natural gas vehicles (NGVs) nationwide, and contracted with a third party to dispose of depreciated vehicles at auction.  One of the key factors in the case was whether the corporation had conducted proper CNG fuel system inspections during the life of the vehicle—and whether they had maintained adequate records to document those inspections.

The circumstances surrounding this lawsuit reinforce the extreme importance of adequate training for vehicle technicians on the entire process of CNG fuel system inspections—not only to ensure employee safety as they drive the company-owned NGVs, but also to mitigate risk after vehicles are released from the fleet into the secondary vehicle market.

Industry best practices recommend that a General Visual Inspection be conducted on the visible elements of the CNG fuel system regularly to assess signs of gross external damage or abuse.  During these inspections, technicians are looking for loose or damaged mounting brackets or any type of damage to the high-pressure fuel system and especially the CNG cylinders and shields. If  the technicians find evidence of damage during the General Visual Inspection, a Detailed Visual Inspection should be conducted.  In addition, in accordance with NGV-2 and FMVSS 304, a Detailed Visual Inspection must be conducted by a qualified person every three years or 36,000 miles (whichever comes first) and after any fire or accident.

The Detailed Visual Inspection covers the complete high-pressure fuel system installation, brackets, PRD, piping and CNG fuel storage cylinder(s).  The inspection should be guided first by the cylinder manufacturer’s cylinder maintenance and inspection requirements and secondarily by CGA C-6.4. – (Methods for External Visual Inspection of Natural Gas Vehicle and Hydrogen Vehicle Fuel Containers and Their Installations.)  As a general rule, the cylinder manufacturer’s requirements are more stringent and help ensure safety for the specific type and brand of cylinder installed on the vehicle. 

While all the details are not listed here, the basic steps involved in conducting a Detailed Visual Inspection include:

  • Research vehicle record for collision damage, fire, previous inspection records, etc.
  • Obtain cylinder manufacturer maintenance and repair guidance.  If manufacturer is out of business or the guidance document is not available, use CGA Pamphlet C6.4.
  • Prepare the vehicle for inspection.
  • Conduct the CNG fuel system inspection.
  • Determine the final disposition.

Equipment required to conduct a Detailed Visual Inspection includes adequate light, inspection mirrors, hand tools, torque wrench, depth gauge, rule and straight edge, leak test fluid, both pass and fail inspection stickers and a digital camera. 

While all the steps in the Detailed Visual Inspection are important, one of the most critical elements is the cylinder inspection.  Shields must be removed, cylinders must be cleaned, and technicians should use a high intensity light and a mirror to aid in inspecting each entire cylinder.  During the inspection process, technicians must be able to visualize any damage and determine its type.  For instance, a technician might see some type of damage but needs to be able to understand and assess what the type of damage is.  Was the damage observed caused by heat?  Impact? Corrosion?  Abrasion? Chemical attack?  Weathering? Technicians must be able to determine the cause of the damage—especially because with heat damage of any type, the cylinder was exposed.

Next, the depth and length of all damage, including cuts, scratches or abrasions observed on each cylinder must be measured, photographed and recorded on the inspection data sheet.  This quantitative data is used to determine the Damage Level Assessment—which ranges on a scale from 1 to 3.   Generally:

  • Level 1 damage is defined as no damage or damage that is acceptable and repair is not required.  The cylinder can be returned to service. 
  • Level 2 damage requires repair, more thorough evaluation, testing or destruction.  The manufacturer’s guidelines will determine the final outcome.
  • Level 3 damage is sufficiently severe that the cylinder shall not be repaired and shall be condemned. 

The quantitative differences between the measurements for the different levels of damage are very small, and accuracy is imperative.  For technicians to be able to conduct effective CNG fuel system inspections, they need not only classroom training, but hands-on practice  assessing the causes of damage, measuring and recording the damage and then comparing the measurements to the manufacturer’s guidelines to determine the levels of damage and the required action.  That’s why NGVi includes a cylinder inspection workshop in each of our CNG Fuel System Inspector Training Classes—so that technicians get actual experience before they begin inspecting CNG fuel systems back on the job—helping ensure the safety of drivers.

While CNG fuel systems are extremely safe, technicians must be able to determine when damage has occurred and what action must be taken.  Training is the key—and protects not only the employees driving natural gas vehicles currently in the fleet, but also protects the company against liability after vehicle disposal.

For more information about the details of high-quality CNG Fuel System Inspector Training, visit our website at www.ngvi.com.

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Rain, Sleet, or Snow

The Heroic Tale of One Man’s Dedication to Natural Gas Vehicle Education

By Kayla Vickaryous, Marketing Specialist, NGVi

“Are you traveling to Medford for business or pleasure, sir?” asked the pleasant woman in a crisp navy uniform.

On a bright spring morning at  McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, NGVi training manager, Paul Pate handed his identification to the airline clerk at the check-in counter.

Paul looked up at her with a smile. “A bit of both, I’d say.”

After all, the idea of a public training in the sleepy little Oregon city, an area where he often vacationed with his wife, felt a little too easy to be considered work. Grateful to trade the desert and casino smoke for a few days of fresh Pacific Northwest air, the brief business get-a-way was just one of the many reasons Paul loved his new job. Paul thought about the easy few days that lay ahead of him.

If he’d said it out loud, he would’ve spoken too soon.

“Due to severe weather conditions in San Francisco, Flight 516 will be departing an hour late,” announced a monotone voice from the loudspeaker. Almost two hours later, a drop of sweat appeared on Paul’s forehead as he thought of his connecting flight to Medford.

After an uncomfortable flight, Paul scrambled past the woman holding the screaming baby and off the plane that finally arrived in San Francisco, knowing his connecting flight was long gone, and raced across the hall to the customer service kiosk.

“Don’t worry sir, we’ll put you on the very next flight,” assured another chipper woman in navy. As Paul slowed his sprint down the terminal hallway, just one gate from the kiosk, he watched his plane slowly pulling away from the jet-way.

 

Forty minutes, eleven phone calls, four (still chipper) customer service representatives, and one travel agent later, Paul was booked on two later flights—one at 4:45 and another at 6 p.m. Although drained, Paul felt at ease to have two boarding passes and the confidence that he’d arrive in Medford long before the next morning’s training—heck, probably even in time for an Azteca enchilada and the evening’s episode of CSI: Miami. Now all he had to do was pick up his luggage and training materials from baggage area and get to the gate.

“The bags will be out in three hours. You can wait over there,” answered a not-so-chipper woman in navy, without looking up from her computer screen.

Paul’s eyes widened as he glanced at his watch. “Ma’am, I have to be on a flight in an hour—two hours, tops. Is there anything--”

Still staring at her Facebook page, the woman popped her gum as she cut him off, mid-sentence. “The bags will be out in three hours, SIR.”


Although frustrated, Paul responded calmly, “Would it be possible to speak with your supervisor?”

For the first time, the definitely-not-chipper woman in navy looked up from her computer screen and snarled, “I AM THE SUPERVISOR.”

As a chill shot up Paul’s spine, he backed away from the desk and sat in the plastic chair. The woman may have been angry, but she was accurate. Two hours, fifty minutes, and two missed flights later, Paul and his luggage stood at another kiosk. The last flight to Medford at 11 p.m. was his only chance—and with the inclement bay weather cancelling flights all day long—it was not a chance he was willing to take. How would NGVi explain this to the 20 students who had signed up for the Driver/Technician Safety training course if that flight were cancelled, too?

Thirty minutes later, Paul found himself behind the wheel of a rented maroon Buick in bumper-to-bumper San Francisco rush-hour traffic. As the Buick’s windshield wipers slowly swept across the light drizzle, deemed “inclement weather,” Paul crossed his fingers for smooth sailing. Without surprise, it was only a matter of time before Paul’s cell phone was dead. As he thought back on the day’s events, he figured it would be just his luck to find himself stranded on the side of the road without means of communication, so he stopped in a small town at a Wal-Mart and picked up a car charger. The next portion of the trip was spent dodging deer as they darted from the thick forest of the mountain pass. 

Four hundred miles, seven hours, and five cups of coffee later, Paul exited the freeway onto the dark streets of Medford, Oregon, frowning as he passed the un-lit Azteca Mexican restaurant. It was just past 1 a.m. when he pulled into the Howard Johnson Hotel.

At 7:45 a.m. the following morning, Paul walked into the training facility doors, greeted his students with a smile, and set down the trip’s sixth cup of coffee. Twenty sets of eyes stared up at him in anticipation as he began the presentation.

Victory had never felt so sweet.


Every Employee Is a  Brand Ambassador

By Kasia McBride, Marketing Manager, NGVi

“Marketing is everyone’s job, marketing is everything, and everything is marketing.”
– Regis MacKenna, Marketing Guru

 

While NGVi’s core business is training and consulting, we often are called upon by industry members to assist them in various aspects of marketing.  For example, we recently helped one of our sponsors recruit, establish and train its network of dealers.  Many times our industry thinks of marketing in the strictest sense--advertising, customer contact, promotions and the like.  Our philosophy is that marketing is anything that influences customers, including every interaction that every customer or potential customer has with the company.  Read on to find out how wide and deep this philosophy penetrates.

According to the American Marketing Association
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” However, in his book All Marketers Are Liars, Seth Godin, marketing expert and bestselling author, says that the primary function of marketing is “telling stories and spreading ideas.” In other words, it is about delivering your company's message to the minds of your customers.

All companies, regardless of size or number of employees, use marketing to win new clients and customers. While many organizations leave the difficult job of lead generation to the marketing department, in reality, everyone in your company performs a marketing function. This includes not only obvious people such as executives, but also anyone who works for the company. Whether you are a fleet manager, a receptionist, a procurement specialist or a vehicle maintenance technician, what you say about what you do - is marketing. Each employee represents your company by delivering your brand promise to customers, and has an impact on customer relationships. Marketing is:

 

  • The manner in which your employees answer the phone
  • Every email sent out from your company
  • Your company’s social media platform
  • Customers’ experiences  when they visit your website
  • Your facility’s appearance
  • Every invoice your billing department sends out 

At any time, anyone in your company, whether they are conscious of it or not, contributes to your organization’s brand, and plays an important role in winning or retaining customers.

But to contribute effectively, each member of your staff must understand what is expected of them when interacting with customers, and that all their actions and decisions have a marketing impact. Employees must recognize that each customer’s experience determines whether they will do business with your company again.

Furthermore, while winning customers through a big marketing campaign promise might be easy, it is even easier for that promise to be broken and for customers to be disappointed because of a service or an experience they’ve had with your employees that does not meet their expectations.

 

To ensure quality customer service, build a customer-oriented culture and maximize the power of your staff, several things must happen.

 

Business leaders must answer these questions in order to set a clear framework for others to believe in and follow:

  • Do your employees know the values of your organization?  Do they have a working knowledge of all your products and services, and the value you create?
  • Is there a unified brand message that is used by everyone in the company and can your employees explain it?
  • Are employees encouraged to create more value from the work they do?
  • Are employees empowered to deliver on your brand promise?

 

Everyone in your company needs to understand how their work helps the organization advance.

They need to understand the company brand values and how their work fulfills it. If they don’t understand, then they are much more likely to make bad decisions which ultimately can hurt your organization.

 

One of the largest delivery fleets in the US, FedEx, follows a viewpoint set by its founder and CEO, Frederick Smith, who said, “When people are placed first they will provide the highest possible service, and profits will follow.” Built on this principle, the company’s philosophy is that the people priority acknowledges the importance of employee satisfaction and empowerment to create an environment where employees feel secure enough to take risks and become innovative in pursuing quality, service and customer satisfaction.

 

Organizations must recognize that the human element of their resources is a key component to meet their financial goals, and that people must be placed at the center of their business. In addition to receiving technical and functional training to do their jobs, employees need to be coached on maintaining a positive attitude, the importance of the lifetime value of a customer, word-of-mouth referrals, and knowing the company’s products, customers and marketplace. Each employee should be encouraged to take that extra step in ownership and responsibility to give customers the greatest level of care and attention. It should be understood that the responsibility of company leaders is to continually develop the employees, to inspire them, educate them and give them the tools to perform at the highest level.

 

In his interview with CNN Money, Steve Jobs, co-founder and former chairman and CEO of

 Apple Inc. said "My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to ... take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be."

 

Even with the plethora of marketing functions at an organization’s disposal today, including print, broadcast, advertising, email-blasts, social media, the greatest assets a firm must count on for brand success are its people. Each employee in your organization is a marketer and has a direct impact on building customer satisfaction and loyalty. The constant empowerment and development of your employees is the most sustainable path to financial success.


Casella Waste Safety Manager Wins NGVi Kindle Drawing

NGVi announces the winner of the June Amazon Kindle drawing. James Worster, a Safety Manager at Casella Waste Systems, was randomly selected from a group of new subscribers who signed up to receive NGVi’s eNewsletter between June 5 to June 15, 2012. The grand prize featured an Amazon Kindle Fire and $50 Kindle store gift card.

A former NGVi trainee, Worster performs training related to compressed natural gas (CNG), landfill, and gas energy to Casella employees. Casella Waste Systems is an integrated regional solid waste services company that provides collection transfer, disposal, recycling and resource management services. Casella utilizes an innovative business strategy that implements a variety of sustainable practices beyond the traditional disposal system, one of them being the conversion to CNG as a transportation fuel. Casella introduced Vermont’s first CNG-powered collection fleet vehicles in 2011, in an effort to reduce smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions, reduce vehicle noise, and minimize dependence on foreign oil.

“One of the biggest reasons we value our conversion to CNG is because it is a domestic fuel source,” said Peter Vanderhoof, Corporate Maintenance Manager at Casella Waste Services. “Internalizing energy needs is always a good thing.”


Since then, Casella’s CNG fleet has grown to 25 vehicles and is projected to increase to 39 by the end of this year.
In addition, Casella operates three of its own CNG fueling stations and is currently building a fourth in New York
.


CNG Fuel Price Report
From Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report published by Argonne National Laboratory for DOE's Clean Cities Program

Overall Average Fuel Prices (as of April 2012)

 

Nationwide Average Price for Fuel This Report

Nationwide Average Price for Fuel Last Report

Change in Price This Report vs. Last Report

Units of Measurement

Gasoline (Regular)

$3.89

$3.37

$0.52

per gallon

Diesel

$4.12

$3.86

$0.26

per gallon

CNG

$2.08

$2.13

$0.05

per GGE


Did You Know?  

CNG fueling stations are very unique from those for liquid fuels.  Because the fuel is a high-pressure gas, sizing and designing CNG fueling stations requires specialized knowledge. Plus, CNG fueling stations must be designed according to more than a dozen U.S. codes and standards, including National Fire Protection Association, American National Standards Institute, the Society of Automotive Engineers and American Society of Mechanical Engineers to name a few. Understanding what all the codes cover and how to apply them is critical in the successful and safe sizing and design of any CNG fueling station.


NGVs & CNG in the News

Feds Give OSU $700K For Natural Gas Research--OPB News

Pioneer Natural Resources Makes the Move to Westport™ WiNG Natural Gas Systems for its Light Duty Fleet--Market Watch

Natural Gas Stations in Utah Most Per Capita in the Nation--Standard Examiner

Clean Energy Launches "The Road to Natural Gas"--Market Watch

CNG Vehicle Sales Will Grow, Global Hybrid Sales Will Grow More by 2015--Auto Blog Green

To read more, click here.


Upcoming Training from NGVi

CNG Fuel System Inspector Training

September 20-21, 2012 | Dallas, TX
October 17-18, 2012 | Chicago, IL

Training for technicians on the information and skills required to knowledgeably inspect CNG fuel systems, detect and assess damage and determine necessary next steps.

Driver & Technician Safety Training for CNG Powered Vehicles

September 19, 2012 | Dallas, TX
October 16, 2012 | Chicago, IL

Training for drivers and technicians on safe driving, fueling and maintenance of today's natural gas vehicles.



Click here to Register

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September 12, 2017
Chicago, IL

Level 2: CNG Fuel System
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September 13-14, 2017
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About NGVi

Natural Gas Vehicle Institute is North America’s leading provider of training and consulting on natural gas as a transportation fuel.

Our services address the full range of natural gas vehicle and fueling issues, including:

Technical consulting services – Sizing and designing compressed natural gas fueling stations, vehicle assessments and technical assistance for fleets, CNG fueling station troubleshooting, natural gas vehicle maintenance facilities upgrades, liquefied natural gas fleet and fueling management.

Technical training – NGV Essentials and Safety Practices, CNG Fuel System Inspector Training, Heavy-Duty NGV Maintenance and Diagnostics Training, Light-Duty NGV Maintenance and Diagnostics Training, CNG Fueling Station Operation and Maintenance Training, CNG Fueling Station Design Training and CNG/LNG Codes and Standards Training for Fire Marshals and Code Officials.

 

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