San Bernardino County Maximizes Equipment Utilization

Careful maintenance, effective staff training, strategic equipment placement, and use of GPS tracking help the nation's largest county maximize its equipment utilization.

November 2011, Government Fleet - Feature

by Mike Scott - Also by this author


At a Glance

Some strategies San Bernardino County uses to maximize equipment utilization are:

  • Keeping equipment in various locations for easy access.
  •  Having a welding shop for attachment modifications.
  •  Training staff to handle a wide scope of responsibilities.
  •  Using GPS to track location and utilization.

The challenge of clearing, paving, grading and otherwise handling many types of roads is no greater for anyone than it is for the Public Works Department in San Bernardino County, Calif.

The country's largest county is responsible for more than 20,000 square miles of land. Its service area ranges from 7,000 feet above sea level in the Big Bear Mountains to the depths of Death Valley and the Mohave Preserve in the desert. What's more, San Bernardino County faces just about every type of weather element imaginable.

"We see it all, from snow and ice to floods to the effects of extreme heat," said Brendon Biggs, deputy director of operations for the County of San Bernardino's Department of Public Works.

The County's wide range of weather and service locations means Public Works must be ready to handle any incidents that come up, from floods to fires to heavy snow. Having the right equipment available and maximizing utilization is essential. Public Works is able to do this through effective staff and operator training, strategic equipment placement, GPS tracking, and having stocked parts ready.

Ensuring Equipment Availability

The San Bernardino County Public Works department includes divisions for transportation, flood control, solid waste, and surveyor. Among a wide range of tasks, the department is responsible for maintaining County roads and a very extensive system of flood control and water conservation facilities.

The department is split up into a number of areas, but the two most impacted by fleet issues are the transportation and flood control divisions. It is responsible for roads and also road yards and flood control zones scattered across the County. The department's large pool of vehicle equipment is spread around the County, but common equipment allows for easy parts servicing.

The County's Fleet Management Department employees have been trained to modify various attachments and pieces of equipment to fit on multiple vehicles for such functions as snow plowing, road grading in the desert, and clearing. The extreme remote areas where some County or state roads intertwine make it necessary for the County to stockpile some of its equipment in road yards year-round. There are five alone located in the mountainous areas during the depths of winter, Biggs said.

"The only way to get to some of those areas is by state roads, and the State may not always clear them in time, so we need to have equipment on-site," Biggs said. "In case of a big storm, we need to be ready."

In all, there are 14 road yards spread around the County's deserts, mountains, and valleys. There are also six flood ­control zones with maintenance yards to control flooding, a fairly common occurrence during heavy spring melts.

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