Article

Teamwork + Proactivity = Success for the city of Fresno

July 2005, Government Fleet - Feature

by Cheryl Knight - Also by this author

Getting a handle on customer satisfaction, environmental compliance, and cost efficiencies can prove challenging for even the most talented government fleet manager. However, successfully handling these tough tasks has brought out the best in city of Fresno Fleet Manager John Hunt, Government Fleet’s 2005 Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year. Presented by Government Fleet magazine, the award is sponsored by Automotive Resources International (ARI) and co-sponsored by Fleet Counselor Services, Inc. Hunt sees Fresno’s Fleet Management Division as an organization that can make a difference.“What I am the most proud of is creating an organizational ‘culture of excellence’ that is dynamic, alive, and never fearful of change,” says Hunt.Perspective: From Heavy Equipment Mechanic to Fleet Manager
Hunt’s role with the city of Fresno’s fleet began in 1987, not as a fleet manager but as a heavy equipment mechanic working on refuse trucks. He used the city’s tuition reimbursement program to attend California State University, Fresno, and then moved into fleet administration in 1991.In 2001, Hunt became the provisional Fleet Manager for the city of Fresno, and permanently filled the position in 2002. From sweeping the floor to preparing the annual division budget, Hunt has worked in every bay and behind every desk. Knowing both the hands-on and administrative functions of operating a fleet has enabled Hunt to make sound business decisions that continue to move Fresno’s Fleet Management Division forward.Hunt and his team of 70 manage and maintain approximately 1,800 city-owned vehicles at three shop facilities. Vehicle types range from patrol vehicles to refuse trucks to sweepers to construction vehicles, all essential to the operation of a city with a population that exceeds 450,000.Hunt’s customer base spans citywide and includes the police department, department of public utilities, public works, airport, convention center, fire department, general services department, parks and recreations, community services, and planning and development.Excellence: City Encourages Initiative and Proactivity
Fresno’s Fleet Management Division has taken on enormous challenges of late, including implementing a cryogenic fueling infrastructure, converting to Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) refuse trucks, obtaining diesel exhaust after-treatment verifications, implementing a prototype medium-duty hybrid truck technology, and designing the most technologically advanced police patrol sedan available today.“Our staff is committed to excellence,” says Hunt. “They work hard and never give up. I believe in our culture and in our people. They are the best of the best.”And the city of Fresno encourages the best. Out of 3,800 city employees, 1,700 have been through an intense four-day training - called Imagine 21: Fast Track to Change - which focuses on encouraging and delivering the best.“The Pacific Institute teaches our employees how to be the best that they can be, as well as how to deal with change and move successfully into the future,” says Hunt, who is a citywide facilitator of the program. The goal is for all 3,800 employees to attend the program by year’s end. This type of encouragement has fostered a positive culture within the city, leading to some impressive results for fleet management.{+PAGEBREAK+} Results: Hunt and His Team Are Among the Best of the Best
Hunt and Fresno’s Fleet Management Division seek excellence in everything they do, including keeping drivers happy, complying with alternative fuel mandates, and being competitive with their services.“Managing with the philosophy ‘run it like you own it’ drives our organization to be consistently competitive with the private sector,” says Hunt.The city of Fresno’s fleet results are significant and include:
  • Ratio of shop technicians to overhead staff exceeds 75 percent.
  • Fleet availability exceeds 95 percent.
  • Average scheduled versus unscheduled repairs exceeds 75 percent.
  • Average preventative maintenance compliance exceeds 95 percent.
  • Billable hours exceed 75 percent.
  • Parts fill rate is 77 percent.
  • Parts inventory annual turn ratio is 4 to 1.
  • Customer satisfaction is at 96 percent.Fresno’s Fleet Management Division achieves its competitive edge by continuously improving business performance with a detailed business plan, liaison meetings, performance measurements, facility enhancements, and an annual report. The fleet also uses:
  • Customer satisfaction surveys.
  • Operator questionnaires.
  • Customer service brochures.
  • Environmental stewardship.
  • Advanced training.Competition: Fresno’s Business Model Rivals Private Fleets
    To remain competitive with private fleets, Fresno’s Fleet Management has implemented several innovative strategies.“Customers are charged fully-burdened labor rates that are consistently 25 percent less than the local retail market,” says Hunt. “And, actual technician repair time is compared to industry time standards.”To maintain the lowest possible parts costs, cooperative parts bids are utilized that include a local school district, the county of Fresno, and the nearby city of Clovis. The quantities of parts are large enough that the agencies realize considerable savings. Typically, the average cost is 34 percent less than the Fresno retail market.Fuel savings represent another area of excellence for the city, which purchases more than 2.6 million gallons of fuel per year. To ensure the lowest possible fuel cost, annual contracts are developed for all fuel types, including liquid natural gas. Typically, the average cost is 15-25 percent less than the Fresno retail market.The city does partner with outside vendors to complete certain vehicle repairs, including radiators, transmissions, towing, glass work, and upholstery.“It is more efficient to outsource to the private sector where peak demands and specialization make it more cost-effective,” says Hunt. “This also allows us to avoid overstaffing and improve vehicle availability.”Satisfaction: Fresno’s Fleet Earns High Customer Marks
    Vehicle availability, high driver satisfaction, and advanced vehicle technology set the pace for Fresno’s fleet.“Fleet availability is key for our customers,” says Hunt, who points to the city’s 95 percent availability rate. “The key is an aggressive preventative maintenance program that catches problems before they occur in the field. Also, scheduling repairs during customer off-time maximizes vehicle availability and customer satisfaction. Vehicles that must remain down due to safety-related items are communicated to the customer through a daily down list.”Great customer service is the essential ingredient to Fresno’s success. Customer Service Evaluation Survey’s consistently report a high customer satisfaction at 96 percent.Hunt measures customer satisfaction by using both a customer service evaluation and an operator questionnaire. If Hunt receives any negative feedback, he addresses the issue and fixes it to the customer’s satisfaction. “We have a service guarantee, if we did something wrong, then we will make it right at no cost to the customer,” says Hunt.According to Hunt, a big piece of the success puzzle includes evaluating and then communicating customer feedback to the fleet team.“The key is to get feedback from all levels of our customers, from the supervisory level to the driver level,” he says. “We really need to know if we’ve helped our customers do their jobs.”Customer satisfaction comes in all forms, from prompt service to cost savings. One recent city innovation includes a modified integrated wireless technology on a touchless carwash system. This cost control measure enhanced customer satisfaction and helped lower cost per wash to 50 percent below the local retail market. Hunt used the existing fueling computer chips aboard city vehicles, which automatically authorized and tracked fuel transactions.Hunt leveraged that existing technology by putting an additional ring underneath the car, which now authorizes drivers to pass through the carwash. “It reads the vehicle number and then authorizes the car wash,” says Hunt. “We don’t have to stand out there with a clipboard and document it. We charge $4 per wash, and right outside the gate private washes want over $9; it’s a cost savings for both the driver and Fleet Management.”Hunt also points out that the system uses wireless technology to track and then chargeback the customer, again saving additional staff hours.{+PAGEBREAK+} Technology: Alt-Fuel Vehicles Save Fuel and Environment
    Since 2000, Fresno has moved ahead an aggressive program to purchase natural gas fueling infrastructure, alternative fuel trucks, buses, and hybrid technology. In April 2003, Fresno’s Mayor Alan Autry - working with other mayors, county supervisors, and various public and private leaders throughout the valley and state - came together in Fresno and established “Operation Clean Air,” the first regional approach to improving air quality in the nation.“I am extremely proud of the success we’ve achieved in improving air quality for our citizens of Fresno,” says Hunt. “We’ve worked really hard to come up with different technologies to clean up the San Joaquin Valley air and reduce our dependency on foreign oil.”The program’s goal is to reduce both nitrous oxide and particulate matter emissions by 300 tons per day to meet federal air quality standards by 2013.Only a few years after implementing the clean air initiative, the city has assembled the largest “clean air” fleet in the San Joaquin Valley. It now operates 69 refuse trucks on liquefied natural gas (LNG); 27 compressed natural gas (CNG) transit buses, with 10 more on order; five CNG-powered trolley buses; two diesel-electric hybrid transit buses; and numerous other alternative fuel vehicles.“To achieve the greatest emissions reduction, reduce petroleum dependence, and get the biggest bang for the buck, the city developed a vehicle application-based approach to reducing emissions,” said Hunt. “We’ve focused on natural gas powered heavy-duty vehicles, with an emphasis on transit buses and refuse trucks due to the large volume of fuel they consume annually.”Further petroleum fuel reductions have been realized by implementing O2-Diesel fuel in the transit fleet and hybrid technologies wherever feasible.The city installed a 12,000-gallon capacity public-access LNG station and has a high-capacity public-access CNG station under construction. These efforts helped the city displace more than 838,000 gallons of diesel fuel in 2004. It also has a program that allows zero-emission vehicles and super-ultra-low emission vehicles to park free in city of Fresno garages and at parking meters.“To successfully roll out our alt-fuel programs, we met with the public regarding fuel station safety, explained the technology to customers, and trained our technicians,” says Hunt. “Everything rolled out very smoothly.”In May 2005, the city received the 2005 Clean Cities National Partner “city Fleet of the Year” Award, confirming the success of the ambitious clean-air program.Partnership: Hunt Continues the Pursuit of Excellence
    Hunt attributes his success to an exceptional fleet team, a can-do attitude, and supportive partnerships.Hunt has become a champion of technology, cost-effectiveness, and teamwork for the city of Fresno.“My team and I are committed to the relentless pursuit of excellence,” he says. “We never give up and always see a project through until we have achieved our goal. If there’s a will, there’s a way.”
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