10 Features of Modern Fleet Facilities

November 2014, Government Fleet - Cover Story

by Thi Dao - Also by this author

Natural lighting sources and light-reflective floor and wall surfaces are some sustainable design features that help improve lighting at a maintenance facility. Photo courtesy of MDG
Natural lighting sources and light-reflective floor and wall surfaces are some sustainable design features that help improve lighting at a maintenance facility. Photo courtesy of MDG

Fleet facilities are designed to last decades, and good facility maintenance can help the building last even longer. But, as vehicles and technologies change, and as fleets grow, public agencies find they need new or upgraded facilities that will meet the requirements of their operations.

New facilities are multi-million dollar investments and they’ve changed to become larger, cleaner, safer, and brighter than the buildings they replace. From special building features to advanced technologies, the newest trends in maintenance facility design are helping fleets operate more efficiently and safely.

1. Facilities Designed for Alternative Fuels

While fleet managers can only guess at the new technologies and changes in the decades their facility will be in operation, they should plan for future trends. One such trend happening now is the switch to alternative fuels and building stations to accommodate these fuels even if the agency doesn’t have immediate alternative-­fuel plans.

Many fleets are or should be designing facilities for vehicles that run on fuels that are lighter than air, such as compressed natural gas (CNG), propane autogas, and hydrogen. Roger Thompson, president of Effective Management Decisions, explained that for gasoline and diesel, facilities are designed to capture fumes up to 18 inches off the floor. Lighter-than-air gases need to be captured from the ceiling, which means electrical services must be placed 18 inches beneath the ceiling, except for a methane detector.

“This is something we’re striving for people to do because the cost of doing it when we’re building it new is really going to be cheap. Actually there is no cost differential at all,” he said. “But if they have to renovate a facility to work on vehicles that run on CNG, the cost can be staggering.”

Thompson works in collaboration with Weston & Sampson, an engineering group, to design and plan facilities. He is working on the design of a 56,000 square foot maintenance facility for the City of Fort Wayne, Ind., that has yet to be built.

Mark Ellis, central region manager of Maintenance Design Group (MDG), a firm that designs transportation facilities, said the main changes the company is making for fleet facilities are upgrading them for alternative fuels and facility expansions. To avoid a future upgrade, plan for alternative fuels in the initial building design.

In addition to lighter-than-air fuels, new fleet facilities can also have electric vehicle charging stations set up. The City of Fort Wayne has a charging station at its present, upgraded facility and will also have them at the new facility. Montgomery County, Md., which opened its 274,000 square foot maintenance facility in October 2013, has four electric vehicle charging stations.

2. Improved Security

Thompson is working on improving site security at the Fort Wayne facility — that is, making the shop floor accessible to only technicians and fleet staff and keeping everyone else out. Operators would enter through a specific door and meet with a service writer.

“The operators drop their vehicle off and unless that service writer lets them in there, they’re not coming into the shop,” Larry Campbell, CPFP, fleet director for the City of Fort Wayne, said.

Vendors would enter a vendor access area and drop off oil, parts, or tires there without needing to enter the shop.

Increased security solves a safety issue, as the shop floor can pose hazards to those not working there, Thompson and Campbell said. It’s also a productivity issue, as it cuts down on the time operators talk to technicians. And finally, technicians often don’t want others in the shop while they are working.

3. More Service Bays Per Technician

Reserving only one work bay per technician can result in lost productivity. At Fort Wayne’s new facility, heavy-duty technicians will have access to 1.5 bays each, and light-duty technicians will each have two bays to work with, an increase from its current 1 to 1.25 bays per technician. Leaving a vehicle on a lift waiting for parts takes up a bay, Campbell explained. Taking the vehicle down, of course, can be time-consuming.

Will Massey, CFM, CAFM, acting fleet manager, City of Gainesville, Fla., knows how it is to deal with limited bays. Before the city opened up a consolidated maintenance facility in October 2013, technicians working with one bay would need to pull down the vehicle if it was waiting on parts to put another vehicle on the lift, which was an inefficient process. At its new $10.7 million, 44,000 square foot facility, each technician has two service bays, which improves technician productivity.

“We built our shop with fleet growth in mind,” Massey said. “The two bays per technician may shrink some as the fleet grows and we add on staff, but right now, that’s how it’s worked out for us.”

A water collection system collects rainwater and stores it to be used for fire pump testing and vehicle washes. Photo courtesy of Weston & Sampson
A water collection system collects rainwater and stores it to be used for fire pump testing and vehicle washes. Photo courtesy of Weston & Sampson

4. Sustainable Design

The goal of many sustainably designed buildings is LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Montgomery County’s $40 million facility is LEED Gold certified and includes features such as a green roof, which includes plants and grass; radiant floor heating; photovoltaic array that pumps out 44 kW per day; solar-powered lights; CNG backup generator; and a water recovery system.

However, LEED certification isn’t for everyone, especially cash-strapped ­agencies. Thompson said when he works on facility designs, he doesn’t focus on the certification. “We do not try to make it LEED certified, but we follow every possible practice we can,” he said. “Just getting the certification is expensive.”

For example, the City of Fort Wayne’s facility will also have a water recovery system that stores collected water in an underground storage tank. This water will be filtered and used for testing fire pumps and for vehicle washes, Thompson said.

Ellis added that other sustainable design elements include natural lighting; LED lights; and high performance flooring systems that are highly reflective, easy to clean, and last longer.


  1. 1. Keith Kerman [ November 05, 2014 @ 10:46AM ]

    Very helpful story, Keith

  2. 2. Dennis Hogan CAFM/CPFP [ November 05, 2014 @ 12:44PM ]

    Since the summer of 2008 our primary fleet maintenance facility has been a temporary site, from maintenance tents in a parking lot to a flood mitigated facility to a warehouse converted to a garage in September 2014 we finally moved our Consolidated garage in to its final home, The City Services Center. Articles like this interest if nothing else for comparative purposes, and looking at our design versus the "recommendations" herein. Our maintenance garage is part of a LEED certified building and we have average 1.5 sdtalls per FTE. We also learned from our flood to put absolutely everything surface mounted and nothing sub-surface, just in case we need to pack up our circus tent and move again to support mother natures plans. Great and timely article.


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