Government Fleet Top News

Pittsburgh Mechanics Say Repair Shop Privatization Not the Answer

September 21, 2004

PITTSBURGH — Mechanics for the City of Pittsburgh say privatizing repair shops will only put city employees out of work without saving any money, reported the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.The city sent a letter to its workers announcing it had selected Cincinnati-based First Vehicle Services to service the city’s 1,030 ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars, Fred Bell, president of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 52, told the paper. The union represents about 30 mechanics at the city garage in the Strip District.First Vehicle manages municipal fleets nationwide and in Puerto Rico. Pittsburgh began considering privatization of the garage earlier this year for an estimated savings of $1.8 million.According to the Tribune-Review, Dale Perrett, who heads the city’s department of general services, which oversees the garage, has criticized the operation as inefficient and a drag on taxpayers. Perrett did not return calls by the paper for a comment.Bell told the paper the expected savings do not take all costs into account, such as repair costs resulting from accidents and abused vehicles. He added that poor management is the real source of the garage’s problems."They've ignored our suggestion that we focus on things like preventive maintenance," he said. "We can't get them to see that it's cheaper to change the oil regularly on a vehicle than to replace the engine." The Tribune-Review conducted an analysis of the garage last spring and found that many delays in vehicle repairs were due to the following:
  • Slow payment to vendors, which reduced the number of companies willing to sell parts to the city. As a result, the city has had to rely on another garage to buy parts at a 20 percent markup.
  • A lack of training and service manuals, often forcing mechanics to fix the fleet by trial and error.
  • Eight years of employee cuts, prompting the outsourcing of 25 percent of the city's vehicle repair work.
  • An old fleet that increases repair costs and downtime.
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