Aside from purchasing equipment and spec’ing vehicles, Lance Hopper, fleet manager for the City of Midland, Mich., says he feels the most interesting aspect of his job is keeping up with the evolution of equipment.
“I love when you find a piece of equipment that does everything and anything, above and beyond what you've actually asked for. It’s definitely satisfying.”
However, he does have a wish list when it comes to standardization in the garage.
Searching for Standardization
Hopper’s biggest challenge is lack of standardization in software that works for various pieces of equipment, from heavy to medium and light duty vehicles. He currently has separate laptops for various types of repairs needed.
“It’s interesting how in this day and age nobody’s come up with a universal piece of diagnostic equipment for doing check engine diagnosis. We have four or five different software running on three different computers at the moment.” There should be an industry wide standard that one software program or diagnosis laptop that works for all vehicle manufactures. “If Ford, Chevy, and Dodge can do it, why can’t John Deere, Mack, and Cummins make it happen?”
Another challenge he is facing is keeping up with the changes in city equipment.
“It’s tough to keep up on all the emission changes coming down the pipeline. We are just trying to stay informed to the best of our ability.”
Protecting Your People
The city has a fleet of 15 buses, and Hopper is currently trying to work on a Plexiglas door that will protect drivers and passengers from Covid-19 that is not only easy for the driver to use, but also still gives them the feeling of safety being behind it without losing vision while driving the bus.
“We went from a shower curtain to a full plexiglass to a half plexiglass, and I think we’ve now finally figured out what's going to work best and keep both driver and passengers safe.”
Another project that’s been on going is the replacement of a new roof for their building, which should be finished by the end of the summer. In addition to this, there are plans to implement a new fueling station.
Their current one is becoming antiquated and they are going to be upgrading their fuel system to one with a data ring around the filler neck. This allows an operator to pull up, grab a nozzle, stick it in the inlet, and have it recognize their vehicle, mileage, and date, thus eliminating the need for a key punch by the driver. In a time when reducing as many points of contact as possible is key to fighting COVID-19, this is sure to reduce risk. It will also help improve getting data form equipment.
While there's a lot of red tape involved in government purchasing, Hopper says you can’t let it get you down.
“We have to budget for what we want, then get the budget approved. Then we have to spec vehicles out, and so on and so forth. Buying equipment is probably the most trying aspect of the job at times, but over the past few year it seems to be getting better and definitely more efficient now that we are allowed to use Sourcewell, state contracts, and co-op bidding, this has helped in streamlining the process.”