Michael Donahue, fleet manager for the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) in Neb., is in charge of a department of 55 people who are responsible for a fleet of over 1,300 vehicles and pieces of construction equipment. Ranging from lawn mowers to locomotives, the team he leads supports the critical mission of supplying electricity throughout the service territory in eastern Nebraska.
His department takes on the planning, acquisition, assignment, maintenance, repair, and eventual disposal of all things fleet. As the industry changes just as much as any other in regard to technology, innovation, regulatory changes, environmental issues, and more, he says managing all aspects involved is fun and challenging.
“The changes we are currently experiencing with vehicle technology, the environmental forces at play, and the number of staff either retired or retiring soon will be a huge challenge – but it keeps it interesting as well,” he says.
He says a big challenge he’s faced during his time with the utility is navigating a large number of changes in the organization of the department.
“When I first started, we were under the Energy Delivery part of the organization. With some changes in our senior management team, the organization wanted to eliminate any implications of favoritism or influence of a user group over the fleet which served the entire organization. With additional changes, we were moved to parts of the organization that served similarly, corporate wide. With retirements and additional management changes, we moved around a little bit and have finally landed in the Financial Services Business Unit. That has provided significant stability for the department, more consistent leadership, and focus to provide our services as we strive for continuous improvement,” he explains.
He says traversing all of that while minimizing the impact on the department took some perseverance, but they now feel they have landed in a great spot and look forward to what’s next.
Donahue says the department is currently working on implementing telematics in the fleet and developing a corporate asset management strategy. One of the challenges an organization like OPPD has is managing numerous different types of assets: buildings, computers, production facilities, substations, wires, poles, transformers, vehicles and equipment, etc. The organization identified an opportunity to improve how all of these assets are managed and implemented a project to accomplish that strategy. As part of their continuous improvement process, it was identified that telematics could be a useful tool that would provide the data needed to help OPPD improve supervision, operations, fleet sustainability, safety, risk, and information to support asset management.
Exposing Students to Fleet
Donahue got his first taste of fleet when he had the opportunity to participate in a co-op while he was a student at Iowa State University. He had an excellent experience at OPPD, and was exposed to a wide range of vehicles supporting critical infrastructure which really intrigued him. He had a history with trucks and equipment while growing up on a farm in central Nebraska, so a lot of the work was not out of his wheelhouse.
“The people here were great, and it just so happened the position became full-time not long after I graduated. I applied, got the job, and the rest is history. I don’t know if I truly envisioned a job in fleet until I had that co-op, but I have enjoyed my journey since then,” he explains.