Joseph Clark, fleet management director for the Fleet Management Department of the City of Durham, N.C., says if he could give one piece of advice to newer fleet managers, it would be “be very flexible.”
“Things change rapidly in this industry with new technology coming in left and right,” he says. There’s a challenge in getting people to understand there’s no stopping change, and you need to be able to adapt. If you make an effort to do so, it won’t be as uncomfortable.
“The old days of ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ is a recipe for failure.” Clark has faced some changes in his time, and has always come out stronger for it.
Getting His Start
He has an associate’s degree in auto diesel technology as well as a bachelor’s degree in business. When he first started working for the city, he was an MRO buyer of fleet related equipment. He then became a spec writer, and did a lot of fleet related tasks while he was in the finance department. After becoming well-versed with the needs of a fleet and how it needs to run, he discovered he wanted to participate in more ways than just the finance side, and switched over to fleet management.
Now, he’s in charge of vehicles from cradle to grave. He specs and purchases, works with the finance and budget department, and oversees multiple garages taking care of everything from fire trucks to garbage trucks and police cars.
Facing A Digital Threat
When asked about his biggest challenge, he says while retaining good mechanics is an issue his department and many others face, surviving two malware attacks in the last three years has been a difficult learning experience.
“We had to revert back to paper work orders and rebuild our critical systems from scratch. It took two months to get the system rebuilt and back up and running,” he explains. Working with a younger generation that’s not used to doing things on paper, it becomes a scramble to get the organization on the same page.
“You have to get everyone together and make it clear what you’re going through and how important it is to document everything you’ve got.” Luckily, the year end audit of their parts department went well, and they didn’t permanently lose a lot of info.
Although it was a challenge, Clark says he is proud he and his team were able to come through it successfully. “It’s tough to prepare for something like that, as we thought we had measures in place after the first attack. It’s vital to have a good IT department, and our city has cyber insurance, which goes a long way to help rebuild systems.”
Keeping Up With Green Demand
The mayor of Durham has set the aggressive goal to be carbon neutral by 2040. With this, both vehicles and buildings need to become greener. The fleet department is working with a consultant to figure out what they can do to achieve this goal.
“A big challenge is getting an assessment of the electrical infrastructure of buildings to see if they are capable of handling new changing systems. Most older buildings don’t have the capacity to deal with fast chargers or level two chargers,” he explains. Panels must also be upgraded and new transformers located.
“The easy part is buying the electric vehicle; the harder part is finding out how many you need, the logistics of getting the chargers here, and where to locate them.”