Below: Fleet technician Paul Williams, left, and Don Mihalevich, fleet administrator for Springfield, Mo., award personnel through a worker incentive program that gives cash awards for meeting productivity levels. Photo: Springfield Public Works. Right: Larimer County's fleet services (director Kim Nohava has instituted a rigorous preventive maintenance program, including oil sampling for heavy equipment. Photo: Larimer County, Colo.
Jim Burke, public works fleet manager public works fleet manager for Benton County, Ore., partners with multiple agencies to save costs on things like fuel and heavy equipment. Photo: Benton County Public Works

His shops maintain some 1400 pieces of equipment, including 750 pieces of rolling stock, with 13 technicians. That includes a body shop and a tire shop. Specialized metal fabrication, transmission work, and radio work are outsourced.

Like Springfield, Durham uses an incentive program. Durham also set up teams—and gave a higher priority to team success than to individual success. If a team made its quota, but an individual on the team didn't make quota, that individual still received an incentive. "Each team had a quota to make, and the biggest reward was for the team," said Cash.

Larimer County offers a customer service award—with a cash bonus of $350— for employees who do exceptionally well. "In the last two years we've given out eight of them," said Nohava. "We wanted to make the award enough money that it would mean something. It's for employees that excel at everything."

Parts Cutback

In the first two years of Springfield's turnaround, the department turned back $30,000 of obsolete and excessive parts to vendors, in return for credits. "Over the past five years, we've seen a total drop of $50,000 in parts," said Mihalevich.

"We run a 24/7 operation," he said. "I do that to satisfy my customers. When we went out for bids, part of the proposal was to have a technician on the third shift. The fire and police departments wanted somebody here on the third shift."

Much of Springfield's success stems from a more even workflow in the shops. "We worked with the departments to schedule PM so that they didn't bring all the vehicles in on one day," said Mihalevich. "We were able to stop shifting vehicle PM to the second shift."

Lease-Purchases For Savings

In another cost-saving scenario, Lincoln, Neb., has been using a number of lease-purchase agreements to acquire sweepers, backhoes, wheel loaders, motor graders, and more, said Jim Dormer, superintendent of fleet services. Including $2.1 million in capital outlays, the city's current budget is $5.1 million.

"We do the lease-purchases with a maintenance agreement, so that avoids having to hire additional mechanical personnel," said Dormer. "The dealers maintain the equipment." He likes lease-purchases because they show the true cost of owning equipment—including depreciation during the lease, and resale value at its end.

"With equipment bought under a lump-sum bid, you don't see the value of it five to 15 years down the road," said Dormer. "We may have a big name-brand machine coming in that's worth $50,000 to $80,000 after five years, but a lower-quality piece might only be worth a buck when it's depreciated."

And the city likes the efficiency of multi-functioning equipment. Dormer said his department just bought a combination street flusher, jet vacuum, and sewer flusher. In former days, it took one separate machine to handle each of the three jobs. The new machine from Vactor Manufacturing Inc., Streator, Ill., can wash streets, open drainage ditches, and has a nozzle that propels itself through a sewer, cleaning as it goes.

What's more, Lincoln uses small compressors—mounted on both backhoes and trucks—to operate power tools. From a backhoe, a compressor can run a breaker to break up concrete. The compressor is mounted beside the engine on a turn-table that folds back toward the machine or away from it. Other compressors fit under the hoods of trucks and can run small tools.