George Hrichak, fleet manager of Central Fleet Management for the City of Chesapeake, Va., served in the US Army for 20 years as an aircraft maintenance officer, and knew that when he retired, he wanted to continue to serve others in a similar way.
When a position opened up in fleet management for a transit fleet, he took it and smoothly transitioned thanks to the knowledge he had already gained in his previous position. He was able to use those skills to improve the operation, and then moved on to a job with the city of Chesapeake five years after that. Here’s what he’s accomplished since.
Hrichak oversees a fleet of 1,500 vehicles that travel about a million miles a month. Not only does he spec, purchase, and see vehicles through their lifecycles and everything in between, he also acts as a liaison to the local small regional airport for everything transportation related and facilitates interactions between it and the city.
One of the main reasons he was hired was to change the culture at the garage.
“It wasn’t initially customer service focused,” he says. “Now, we are consistently rating above 90% excellent on customer satisfaction surveys on a monthly basis.”
This was a long process, but Hrichak knew creating a team of people who lead by serving starts from the top and works its way down. He had HR conduct a lot of training on customer service, and stressed to and educated the workforce on the duty they were hired to uphold.
“We have customers and tax payers we are responsible to, and therefore we have to hold ourselves accountable to them.”
Getting Techs to Stay
The department sees low personnel turnover because of the goal the culture was built on. Even so, finding qualified technicians to replace those who do leave or retire is challenging. That’s why the department has teamed up with the local high school and community colleges to create an internship program.
“We want to be able to expose them to the city fleet and how things are done here. That way, if we have vacancy down the road, we can hire them. It gives them insight into whether they might enjoy working here so they’ll want to come back and apply for a job or recommend us to one of their friends.”
Building for the Future
The department has a CNG powered solid waste fleet, but no facility where they can store them inside and work on them. They are currently in the process of building a satellite maintenance facility specifically for CNG vehicles, half of which will be leased out to schools for their bus fleets.
Creating an Improvement Mindset
Hrichak’s best words of advice for fellow fleet managers is never be afraid to ask for help from others more experienced than yourself.
“Many fleet managers have a wealth of experience and knowledge and are willing to help anyone with questions. I always say the room for improvement is the largest room in the house; you can always get better, you just have to have an open mind.”