The best way to receive what you need to get your job done right is by gathering solid data to back up your requests. Paul Colell, fleet manager for the Town of Castle Rock, Colo., knows this, and has seen it make a large difference when presenting his desires to the powers that be.
Colell’s biggest challenge the past few years has been trying to expand his shop, in addition to receiving permission to hire an additional parts person. The one he had was starting to feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work they had to do by themselves. Colell was able to overcome this by providing management with facts derived from fleet management software reports.
It took persistence, but he kept pushing. They were finally able to expand the shop a little over a year ago, and he got approval for an additional parts person almost two years ago.
“We just had to show them the number of vehicles that were sitting in our ‘ready to work on’ line before we could bring them into the shop and get to work. We were falling behind and we weren’t turning them around in a timely manner. Our customers were starting to notice, and I showed management we needed the space and personnel to be as efficient as we can to be able to keep everyone moving. We are a fast-growing community, so it was imperative we be able to catch up.”
Meeting Obstacles Head-on
Colell is currently trying to figure out vehicle ordering for 2021 with all of the obstacles COVID has thrown in the way. Some manufacturers are taking orders, some aren’t, and some are taking a very long time to deliver. Upfitters may not be able to get the parts they need to finish a vehicle. On top of that, there’s the question of budget disruptions caused by the pandemic.
“I'm working on a couple different versions of our upcoming budget. We've been asked to do that to be ready in case we have a drastic drop in tax revenue. It hasn’t happened so far, but we want to be prepared.”
Luckily, his current fleet is relatively new, so he can defer some vehicle purchases without creating havoc.
Another project he’s working on is trying to get the fleet to become certified as an official Ford in-house warranty provider. He was recently contacted by a representative stating the Fleet Department was well on its way to being qualified, and there were only a few more criteria it needed to meet to achieve the status.
Colell’s staff is Ford-trained and also uses a lot of Ford diagnostic equipment, making this a natural fit. If they can make it happen, it would save a great deal of shuttling time (about 90 minutes round trip) up to Denver for recalls. They will first apply and wait for the local Ford dealer to approve or deny their request.
Turning the Negative to Something Positive
It’s difficult to think anything positive could come of the pandemic, but Colell says if he had to name something it would be the comradery that has formed within his team.
“I really think it's drawn us closer together and improved our communication and teamwork. It's critical we support each other and not drop the ball on certain things, because our customers are relying on us to keep their vehicles on the road for them. What we are all going through isn’t easy; my team expressed concerns early on, but we’ve taken great precautions to ensure the safety of them and our customers.
The department has made a few operational changes like locking down their service center and implementing an alarm and camera system to help keep non-authorized personnel out to reduce the chances of spreading infection.
Dealing with Snow
A large operational challenge his fleet faces is monster snowstorms.
“Last year we experienced a bomb cyclone, and that was quite hairy, because it wasn't so much the amount of snow as it was the insane winds causing whiteout. You couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you, but of course, everybody still had to drive.”
In preparation for future scenarios, he’s brought up creating a written plan of operations that will hopefully ease difficulties if/when similar situations occur.
His department uses the FASTER web fleet management program, which Colell says has helped tremendously with creating vehicle replacement plans. The software captures all expenses and provides a point value to specific vehicles. He’s also purchased an additional program called Profits that tracks expenses and specializes in replacement scores as well. He can then show these scores to management to make a case for why a vehicle needs to be replaced, or why it will have to wait.