Safety & Accident

Bright Ideas to Improve Your Fleet

September 2013, Government Fleet - Feature

by Thi Dao - Also by this author

All fleet drivers at the Eugene Water and Electric Board in Oregon now perform a pre-trip vehicle inspection and turn in a report. These frequent inspections have improved safety and vehicle maintenance.


Photo courtesy of Eugene Water and Electric Board, Ore.
All fleet drivers at the Eugene Water and Electric Board in Oregon now perform a pre-trip vehicle inspection and turn in a report. These frequent inspections have improved safety and vehicle maintenance.Photo courtesy of Eugene Water and Electric Board, Ore.

Improving Safety

Expand Driver Inspection Reporting to Light-Duty Vehicles

  • Plan: Eugene Water and Electric Board, a public utility in Oregon, began requiring drivers of all vehicles, regardless of class, to complete a driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR). The goal was to increase driver safety and reduce liability. Drivers of heavy-duty vehicles — about 25% of the fleet — already performed inspections for their vehicles. With light-­duty vehicles, “we had a lot of gray area in determining what was and wasn’t a commercial vehicle, and this can change depending on your towing trailers,” Gary Lentsch, fleet services supervisor, explained.
  • Execution: Fleet staff created three different inspection reports that detail what kind of inspection is required. The heavy-duty DIVR matches up with FMCSA guidelines for pre-trip and post-trip inspection, light-duty vehicles use a condensed DVIR, and motor pool vehicles have a streamlined version that doesn’t include checking fluids. During a one-month period, fleet staff met with all departments to inform them of the new program and offer training. Staff also makes sure drivers are performing the DVIRs by checking vehicle use through GPS units.
  • Challenges: There’s always pushback to change, Lentsch said. Since this was a fleet advisory board suggestion supported by the executive management team, fleet management was able to enforce the program by making driver inspections part of the utilities safety manual.
  • Results: “Our drivers have now formed the habit of inspecting vehicles before driving them,” Lentsch said. Drivers performed about 37,000 DVIRs for the fleet’s 212 vehicles in a one-year period, finding 1,100 vehicle-related repair items that needed to be addressed. These include check engine lights coming on and off, nails in tires, low tire pressure, and broken lights. Fleet staff repairs these issues the same day, schedules repairs for another day, or delays them for the routine maintenance service, depending on severity. Drivers have also reported such things as safety belts not latching or retracting, an issue technicians wouldn’t have found during their routine services. Additional administrative work has been minimal. Lentsch said 47% of all repair work orders are now coming from DVIR reports. Although technicians are handling more repair requests, early fixes prevent more time-consuming and costly repairs later on. Because vehicle problems are identified early, “the fleet is probably in the best shape it’s ever been in,” Lentsch said. The DVIR expansion reduced breakdowns and yard delays by 30% and has allowed the fleet to reduce its spare vehicles.
  • Advice: Get support from supervisors and managers of user departments in order to enforce the plan, Lentsch advised.

The City of Moline, Ill., uses advertising on its refuse vehicles to cover the maintenance costs of its automated refuse trucks.


Photo courtesy of the City of Moline, Ill.
The City of Moline, Ill., uses advertising on its refuse vehicles to cover the maintenance costs of its automated refuse trucks.Photo courtesy of the City of Moline, Ill.

Generating Revenue

Put Advertising on Sanitation Trucks

  • Plan: The City of Moline, Ill., began advertising on its refuse vehicles in 2006, a project that began to cover the increased maintenance costs of new automated refuse trucks. J.D. Schulte, CAFM, CPFP, fleet manager, wanted to bring in revenue, and he knew buses in the transit agency were doing so through advertising. However, he didn’t have the staff to set this up and manage it.
  • Execution: Schulte contacted the same advertising company the transit agency used, setting up a deal where the City gets a portion of proceeds (explained monthly via a matrix the company sends to fleet services) from an advertising contract without having to do any work. The company manages the program, and the City is only responsible for paying for vinyl repairs if the vinyl is damaged. The City started advertising on all five of its new refuse trucks and has since expanded to six.
  • Challenges: Working out the contract details was time-consuming. “Everyone wanted to make sure we protected the City from untactful and distasteful ads,” Schulte explained. To solve this, the final contract states that Moline staff has the final approval over all ads. There was also concern about the cost of repairing the vinyl, but Schulte reported that in the years this program has been running, this has yet to happen.
  • Results: Annual revenue from the advertising program is currently $39,600 for the six trucks, up from $30,000 back in 2006 for five trucks. This revenue is used solely to cover refuse vehicle maintenance, which will help the sanitation department as garbage collection transitions into an enterprise finance model, Schulte said. The program has also received praise from the local media.
  • Advice: “Forge ahead!” Schulte said. “As public servants, anything we can do to create a revenue stream to offset the use of hard-earned tax dollars is beneficial.” He added that agencies should make sure they don’t leave themselves open to loopholes when creating the contract.

The City of Fargo, N.D. fleet purchased this 6,000-gallon waste oil storage tank in order to store enough oil to burn all year.


Photo courtesy of the City of Fargo, N.D.
The City of Fargo, N.D. fleet purchased this 6,000-gallon waste oil storage tank in order to store enough oil to burn all year.Photo courtesy of the City of Fargo, N.D.

Lowering Costs

Reuse Waste Oil  for Heating

  • Plan: The City of Fargo, N.D., fleet purchased three waste oil furnaces and a large storage tank to collect oil all year. The furnaces are in the parking area and set to 60 to 65 degrees to keep vehicles at above-freezing temperatures and allow any ice on them to melt. In the past, the fleet sold its used oil for $0.25 per gallon.
  • Execution: The fleet purchased the 250,000 BTU furnaces during a facility upgrade. Realizing after the first year that its two 1,000-gallon storage tanks wouldn’t store enough oil to last the entire six-month heating season, fleet staff purchased an additional 6,000-gallon storage tank. Wayne Hegseth, building maintenance, said he sets the regular natural gas heater at about 50 degrees as a backup, in case there are heating problems during the weekend and no one is there to fix it.
  • Challenges: Because of the layout of the facility, the storage tanks are farther away from the furnaces than recommended. To compensate, fleet staff purchased a 5-gallon day tank for each furnace, and oil is automatically pumped from the storage tank into the day tanks. The furnaces need to be serviced every 500-600 hours of use, which takes staff two hours to complete. Finally, Harold Pedersen, fleet services manager, said there are additional labor hours in handling used oil to consider.
  • Results: The fleet uses approximately 8,000 gallons of stored oil per year, which on average reduces natural gas heating costs by $35,000 annually. With all costs considered, Pedersen estimated that return on investment took three years.
  • Advice: For those thinking about starting a waste oil heating program, Hegseth said, “Find out how many gallons of waste oil you create to see if you have enough to run [the furnaces]. It defeats the purpose if you don’t have enough oil.” He added that fleet staff was surprised at how much oil the furnaces used per hour ­— 1.7 gallons per heater.

The City of Columbus, Ohio, fleet facility had 2,650 solar panels put on its roof. Using energy from the collected solar power, the fleet division reduced its energy costs by 60% in June compared to the prior year.


Photo courtesy of the City of Columbus, Ohio.
The City of Columbus, Ohio, fleet facility had 2,650 solar panels put on its roof. Using energy from the collected solar power, the fleet division reduced its energy costs by 60% in June compared to the prior year.Photo courtesy of the City of Columbus, Ohio.

Lowering Costs

Install a Solar Array on the Fleet Facility Roof

  • Plan: When the City of Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Michael Coleman’s office sought potential host sites for a solar array, staff at fleet services volunteered. The no-cost solar array would allow the fleet to lower its utility costs while helping the mayor move forward with the City’s greening goals.
  • Execution: The Mayor’s office had issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for the solar array, and Tipping Point Energy COC PPA SPE-1, LLC, a renewable energy company, won the bid. Following a lengthy engineering review of the roof structure and an assessment of the fleet’s electricity use, the company had the 2,650 solar panels installed on the fleet facility roof. The facility has 151,000 sq. ft. of roof space. The contract is structured as a power purchase agreement — the fleet division buys the power generated by the system, and the company owns and maintains the solar array, merely leasing space from the City.
  • Challenges: Bill Burns, fleet operations manager, said the only inconvenience was during installation. The utility company came in to shut down the power for about five hours on a Saturday to make adjustments to the utility lines. The fleet division simply switched to its back-up generator for those five hours in order to continue working. Burns added that the fleet’s 2008 facility is new and can handle the added weight of the array, whereas older facilities may not be able to do so. He also said the fleet had to dedicate 120 sq. ft. of space in the facility for the installation of two electrical inverters.
  • Results: Kelly Reagan, fleet administrator, said as long as the sky is clear, the solar array is collecting energy. Even at night, it can gather energy from the sun’s rays bouncing off the moon. The fleet division projected an annualized 40% reduction in its energy costs, which totaled $184,000 in 2012. However, in June, the first full month of implementation, the City realized savings of 60% ($8,770 savings) off its electricity costs compared to June 2012.
  • Advice: For fleet managers considering their own solar array, Reagan said it’s best to start by talking to the mayor or sustainability specialist within the agency. If continuing ahead, Burns advised: “Hire a good consultant.” He explained that fleet professionals usually have little experience with solar energy, so a specialized consultant is ideal. In Columbus’ case, the partnering company hired one.

The City of Fort Worth, Texas, sends vehicles such as this one to the nearby schools for their automotive technology classes. Vehicles are limited to light-duty units and exclude front-line police vehicles.


Photo courtesy of the City of Fort Worth, Texas.
The City of Fort Worth, Texas, sends vehicles such as this one to the nearby schools for their automotive technology classes. Vehicles are limited to light-duty units and exclude front-line police vehicles.Photo courtesy of the City of Fort Worth, Texas.

Lowering Costs

Offer Vehicles to the Local School District’s Automotive Classes

  • Plan: The City of Fort Worth, Texas, offered to send its vehicles to schools in a local district for repair after the district stopped receiving vehicles from dealerships. The fleet had worked with the district before by offering its students an internship and having employees sit on the education group’s advisory council, said Wayne Corum, Equipment Services Department director.
  • Execution: After setting up the agreement with the district, each of the five schools sent fleet staff their curriculum, detailing what they would be working on each week. Each week, fleet staff identifies up to five vehicles needing those specific repairs. Vehicles are limited to light-duty units and exclude frontline police units. Repairs are usually basic and include brake jobs, oil changes, and installation and repair of minor parts. Staff makes sure the departments that own each vehicle approve the repair by students, which they mostly do. Fleet staff checks the vehicles, sources the parts needed for repair through NAPA, and sends them to the separate schools. When the vehicle comes back a day or two later, a technician does a quality check before releasing it back to the user department.
  • Challenges: The biggest challenge so far is the delay in delivering the vehicle to the school and getting it back, Corum said. The fleet is using non-billable staff for delivery.
  • Results: The program frees up technician time for other repairs, reducing downtime for more critical vehicles. The fleet doesn’t charge user departments for labor time on these vehicles, which reduces their bills. Corum said he expects $100,000 in labor cost savings in the first year. As for the school, “the big thing for them is they get newer vehicles,” Corum said. After the dealerships stopped providing vehicles, students began working on older vehicles, which have much different technology from newer vehicles.
  • Advice: To start a similar program, get in contact with someone in the automotive program at the school district, get buy-in from the administrative authority, and make sure user departments approve of the program, Corum said. For police vehicles, specify that no frontline patrol cars can be sent to students.

The tire cage at the Wake County, N.C., fleet facility is located in an inconvenient location. By moving it closer to the parts room, the fleet will improve efficiency on the shop floor.


Photo courtesy of Wake County, N.C.
The tire cage at the Wake County, N.C., fleet facility is located in an inconvenient location. By moving it closer to the parts room, the fleet will improve efficiency on the shop floor.Photo courtesy of Wake County, N.C.

Improving Efficiency

Relocate the Tire Storage Cage Closer to the Parts Room

  • Plan: The placement of the tire storage cage at the Wake County, N.C. fleet facility had long been the cause of inefficiencies. With the parts room in the front of the large building and the tire storage area in the back, the parts manager had to continually run back and forth to get tires as part of his duties. When it was time to replace the facility’s in-ground lifts, Thomas Kuryla, director of fleet operations, decided to also move tire storage to the front of the building, near the parts room, in order to improve shop efficiency.
  • Execution: The fleet has a 28,000-lb. drive-up lift near the entrance that takes up the space of three bays. Since this is hardly used, Kuryla plans to donate the lift to a joint local school and community college project and put the tire cage and tire mounting and balancing equipment in its place. He said the few jobs that need such a large lift will be outsourced. In the empty space of the tire storage cage, Kuryla plans to create three service bays for upfitters of emergency equipment. These technicians are currently working out of a secondary maintenance shop on the same property. This move will allow fleet maintenance to consolidate and allow those technicians and the supervisor to work out of the main shop rather than running between the two to get parts. As of August, Kuryla was looking at the first round of architectural designs. The design will then go back to the architect for any changes, then be put to bid. If everything goes according to schedule, the restructured shop could be ready for use in six months to one year, Kuryla said.
  • Challenges: As with any project, the challenges of this one are budget and maintaining operations. Even if the project goes through, the costs have to be reasonable for it to be approved. Kuryla said one reason for doing it now is to time it with the vehicle lift replacements in order to lower costs. Once the project begins, Kuryla will have to ensure normal operations are uninterrupted while construction impacts a large percent of the fleet area.
  • Expected Results: With this change, Kuryla expects to improve facility efficiency, especially that of the parts manager. Consolidation of the two shops will also improve communication and enhance workflow of the staff members in the secondary facility as they will no longer have to go to the main facility for parts.
  • Advice: “Work with your staff who are affected by the change,” Kuryla said. “A project will be successful when you partner with your entire team for input. Their buy-in is essential.”

COMMENTS

  1. 1. Mark Sulzbach [ October 08, 2013 @ 06:53AM ]

    First, let me say that I'm all for saving tax-payer money.

    But I'm surprised that with the oil and gas boom in North Dakota -- that natural gas wouldn't be incredibly cheap and also be the clean fuel of choice.

    I'm concerned about the pollution generated from burning waste oil which contains a lot of nasty chemical compounds. Hopefully, there is some pre-treatment as well as significant emission controls on the furances.

    Following paragraph is from EPA : http://www.epa.gov/ttnchie1/ap42/ch01/final/c01s11.pdf

    The emissions from burning waste oils reflect the compositional variations of the waste oils.
    Potential pollutants include carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx),
    particulate matter (PM), particles less than 10 micrometers in size (PM-10), toxic metals, organic
    compounds, hydrogen chloride, and global warming gases (carbon dioxide [CO2], methane [CH4]).

    Of course I don't know the prevailing wind patterns or where this facility is located in relation to the population.

    Finally,if this is just a parking facility and you want to melt snow and ice 50-55 degrees shoujld be plenty. Why would you heat it to 60-65? That's what I keep my house at in the winter. :-)

    Sincerely,

    Mark Sulzbach
    MN Pollution Control Agency
    651-757-2770

  2. 2. Steve Kibler [ October 08, 2013 @ 01:29PM ]

    First; a great article Thi and much more relevant to fleet shops than Mr. Sulzbach realizes. I'm certain Mr. Sulzbach doesn't open a dozen 14' doors every couple of hours to shuttle vehicles in-and-out at his home. Keeping the thermostat set at 60-65 is highly responsible management and probably only maintains a 50 degree shop average. This is not a "Parking facility" it's a fleet shop where each door is opened and closed an average of 8-10 times per day. In the middle of winter when a road grader is brought into our shop, it is a 25 ton yellow iron ice cube and just sitting there drops the temp in the whole shop by 15 degrees. Waste oil heaters; 20 years ago, yes they were big polluters. Today, they are highly effecient and economical AND they meet California Air Quality Standards but require specific maintenance to keep them that way. Just a friendly suggestion Mr. Sulzbach; I suspect that you didn't mean bad but when the theme of an article is "- - Improve Your Fleet" do some personal research before making so many negative assumptions. Fleet Managers have a challenging job implementing "green" fleet improvements because of negative assumptions from people at "Control" agencies :)

 

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