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A ship-shape shop

A ship-shape shop

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    In addition to public works vehicles, Sam Lamerato, superintendent of fleet maintenance in Troy, Mich., maintains police fleets from his own city as well as from other Detroit suburbs. Photo: City of Troy

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    Where do in-sourcing customers come from?Of the nearly 900 people who responded to an exclusive survey, most answered that maintaining other city departments' fleets was on the top of the list These fleets might include fire, police, or other maintenance vehicles. Source; PUBLIC WORKS

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    Why don't you do in-sourcing?Many fleet maintenance departments are stretched too thin to be able to do any kind of in-sourcing. Most respondents (70%) who do in-sourcing charge time and materials costs for their work. Source: PUBLIC WORKS

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    Charlie Caudill (right), fleet manager, and Oliel Gonzalez, fleet maintenance supervisor in Yuma, Ariz., in-source some fleet maintenance work to help balance the budget. Photo: City of Yuma

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    David Higgins, director of fleet maintenance Boston's Central Fleet Maintenance division, does all equipment tracking electronically. Photo: City of Boston

Managing PM

All three cities have a rigorous preventive maintenance (PM) program. Boston's CFM division calls in vehicles based on a combination of elapsed time and fuel usage. The fuel system is connected to a Gasboy computer. Higgins set up a spreadsheet that shows quarterly fuel consumption, and vehicles are called in accordingly. "For everybody's fleet that we manage, I have an e-mail list," said Higgins. "Halfway through June, for example, I notify the fleet managers that they have one, two, or 12 vehicles that need to be brought in for preventive maintenance or a state inspection."

CFM's system is “semi-paperless.” Mechanics are assigned jobs by a shop foreman, and they then log onto that repair order on FF software. When the mechanic completes the job, he goes back to the shop foreman to get his next job. A service writer completes the paperwork for the job just finished.

“We have toyed with the idea of a paperless shop,” said Higgins. “But I have seen cases where the paperless shop is a horrific nightmare.” In a paperless shop, vehicles are bar coded, and the service writer scans in the bar code. The job is assigned to a technician, who reads work to do from a screen. “I've not seen a paperless system that works that well,” said Higgins. “The mechanic will end up writing down things that he needs to remember. I'm not a fan of the paperless shop.”

In Troy, all specialty equipment such as salt trucks, lawn mowers, and street sweepers get an exhaustive preseason inspection. “Our preseason inspection was put together by all the technicians as a team, with management input,” said Lamerato. “That inspection is bulletproof. For trucks, for example, we have a checklist with 40 to 45 specific inspections—drive train, engine, lighting system, brakes, frame, steering—the works. One or more technicians complete the inspection, and it's reviewed by the shop supervisor.”

For vehicle information management, Troy uses FASTER software by CCG Systems Inc., Norfolk, Va. Fleet maintenance reviews PM schedules at the beginning of the month and at mid-month. “The last few months we've been at 100% compliance in getting our PMs done,” said Lamerato. “That is the reason our vehicles are on the road, not in the shop.

“I would say that when a vehicle goes down, 80% of the time it's back up within 24 hours,” he added. “We try to stick to 80% to 85% back up in 24 hours. And right now we're at 97% vehicle availability, maybe closer to 98%.” Lamerato said the city's two Tymco street sweepers have missed fewer than five days of work in the past five years.

Lamerato said Troy has switched most vehicles to synthetic oil, not only for the engine, but for transmissions and rear axles as well. He said it extends oil-change intervals, lowers the cost of oil, and increases fuel economy. “And it's lowered the operating temperatures of our transmissions,” said Lamerato. “Heat is the number one enemy of a transmission.

“Your transmission oil is cooled by the radiator, and if the transmission oil is running cooler, it puts less strain on the cooling system, so the engine will run cooler as well,” said Lamerato.

Growth In Yuma

For its size, Yuma is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, with the population increasing 36% between 1990 and 2000, Caudill said. Accordingly, the city's equipment replacement fund is growing to $2.9 million in fiscal year 2005–2006, up from $2.25 million in fiscal year 2004–2005. “That's aggressive,” said Caudill. “It allows us to maintain a younger fleet.”

The replacement fund is managed by an Equipment Replacement Committee composed of Caudill from Fleet Services, and members from each user department, such as streets, fire, and police. The group meets twice a year to review new equipment needs.

User departments pay a “rental charge” for equipment and vehicles. Whenever a vehicle is put into the fleet, it's given an amortized life. The rental charge includes a flat depreciation plus a cost of money that allows the city to pay the increased cost of vehicles, said Caudill. “An inflation factor is added on, based on the type of vehicle it is,” he said. “The cost of steel has gone up rapidly. We've had to redo a lot of numbers.”

Equipment and vehicles are examined for replacement two years earlier than the life expectancy. “We look at them two years out,” said Caudill. “We look at the condition, the life in miles, the repair expenses to date, and more.”

Looking at replacement needs early gives Yuma the chamce to “push a vehicle out by another year, or pull it back, replace it early,” said Caudill. “The equipment replacement fund is a living, breathing fund. We try to identify any vehicles that may be money pits.”

Yuma has 22 different accounts that contribute to the Equipment Replacement Fund. The largest share, 63%, comes from the general fund, which is sales tax dollars. Money must stay within each of the 22 accounts to be spent. But the general fund can shift money among various needs, for example, from police vehicles to fire apparatus or parks and recreation.

Before Yuma established an equipment replacement fund, equipment was 12 to 20 years old and deteriorating, Caudill said. Prior to 1985, the city approved a $2.5 million to $3 million bond issue to buy equipment. “We bought all new sedans for the police, all new refuse trucks, and went to the side loader refuse business,” said Caudill.