With more electric Class 8 trucks hitting North American roadways each day, ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) is racing to develop ideal safety processes for fleet owners and service shops to use on battery electric vehicles (BEV) in the field.
On Monday at TMC’s Annual Meeting in Orlando, TMC’s Service Provider study group kicked off development of a proposed recommended practice for Safety Aspects for Electric Vehicles.
Chaired by Navistar’s Chas Voyles, the task force hopes to develop a final document within the next two years and bring a fully formed RP to ballot at TMC’s Fall Meeting in 2024. Voyles admits the timeline is accelerated—most RP take twice as long to develop—but says it is necessary. Most technicians in heavy-duty service bays today have never serviced a BEV in any capacity.
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Voyles said, “50 volts can stop a human heart” and added “education is of the upmost importance.”
Most of Monday’s discussion focused on the scope of the RP and what it should focus on. Voyles and his other task force officers shared their initial scope as “to bring knowledge to service providers and fleets by focusing on all aspects of safety when working on an electric vehicle by identifying all safety concerns that could potentially present itself during a service event.”
The audience quickly added to the scope, noting the RP also must address roadside service, towing, vehicle storage, de-energize times and thermal events (battery fires). The discussion then touched on how technicians can safely identify if a truck is a BEV, how the RP can utilize language and safety terminology from OSHA, tooling and personal protective equipment required to service BEVs.
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As expected, emergency response also covered a large portion of the hour. Attendees noted it would be useful for TMC to develop corresponding guidance and checklists for drivers to follow when using BEVs that can be easily communicated to and understood by technicians during a service event or dangerous situation. Warning signs would be useful too, such as interior and exterior notifications that signal a failure could be imminent or that a vehicle should be carefully avoided, attendees said.
Even washing a BEV requires safety procedures. Attendees noted BEVs can’t just be run through a wash bay like a conventional Class 8 diesel tractor.