Over the last few months, fleet operations have had to adapt to social distancing and keeping workplaces disinfected in ways that are practical while still maintaining a sense of comradery and teamwork. Peter Bednar, fleet director for the Fleet Management Department of the City of Albany, Ga., has collaborated with his staff to make sure everyone feels safe doing their job to the best of their ability.
Encouraging a Safe Mindset
While many fleet managers are figuring out how to work around the complications caused by COVID-19, depending on where you’re operating, those challenges can include weather. Hot, humid Georgia temperatures don’t make mask wearing any easier. The department has implemented plexiglass barriers to protect staff, and is using smoke machines to keep vehicles clean. This is in addition to spraying down the office several times a week and following CDC hand washing and disinfecting recommendations.
“The rule of thumb is unless you're eating or drinking, you've got to wear your mask. If you're in an office where you're by yourself, you can take it off. As long as you're not exposed to others, that’s fine. We've had to keep a lot of vehicles we would have typically surplused because our customers are trying to separate their drivers and crews so they're not driving with a bunch of people in the vehicle.”
He says this has added pressure, because it means one more vehicle to maintain, which in turn makes more work for the staff.
The department has also installed plexiglass dividers on buses to protect drivers from those getting on and off the bus.
“We worked with our facilities group to put up partitions where you can still see everybody. We have limited the amount of actual hand-to-hand transactions and put up tables to assist in keeping distance from each other. We took out our lounge chairs we would normally have for customers to be able to sit down and wait. It’s definitely been a challenge, but I think we've done a great job addressing it. We were taking temperatures of our staff and as they walked in…we did a lot right off the bat.”
Safety Benefits of Going Green
The city is using CNG for all of its transit. They started off with a single filling station, and are looking to start building a second one. Construction on the original station was started in 2014 and completed in May of 2016. They got their first CNG buses in the fall of 2016.
“It has a huge benefit for the citizens from a quality of life standpoint because you get close to 90% reduction in emissions. That makes a big difference running around the city all day long,” he says.
Switching to CNG has also had the added benefit of making drivers happier because the buses run much quieter, which therefore reduces noise pollution as well.
Putting Heads Together
Something those outside of the profession might not know is a fleet director has to wear many different hats.
“Anybody who gets into this business has to understand that. One minute, you're the person in charge of finance and the next minute, you need to be a mechanic or an engineer…you have to understand buying, selling, and the safety aspect of this job, which is huge.”
He says there's one thing unique to the profession he hasn’t seen anywhere else.
“If I ask my peers for information, they give it freely. They don’t see hoarding information as power. They are so willing to share information with each other and aren’t threatened by helping others.”