In talking to the fleet staff at Cobb County, Georgia, about their new maintenance facility, it struck me how outdated their previous facility was — and how many government fleet technicians today are working in old shops that may be dark, dusty, and cramped. Some fleet operations that have outgrown their buildings have technicians working on larger vehicles outside.
When the industry talks about how difficult it is to hire good technicians and retain them while being unable to match private sector pay, an updated fleet facility could be a major factor in attracting talent and keeping them motivated.
Each person I’ve ever talked to about their new facility has been very happy with it — understandably so since they’re often moving out of 50-year-old buildings. The new facilities had features that either solved major problems or addressed inefficiencies or inconveniences.
I recall visiting San Diego County’s new training room; it had shiny red drawers, and fleet management said it provided a place for technicians to gather for training and for multi-purpose use.
At the City of San Francisco, the new fleet building’s meeting/lunch room had a moveable wall, so it could be divided into two if needed.
At the City of Madison, Wisconsin, radiant floor heat keeps the building warm and is energy efficient.
Montgomery County, Maryland, had a vertical lift module where parts were kept, allowing more to be stored in less space.
Cherokee County in Georgia expanded its facility to a larger location to allow technicians to work on ladder trucks.
All these features, designed into the facilites by staff members, undoubtedly made employees’ workdays a bit (or a lot) easier.
A facility upgrade can cost less than a million dollars, while a centralized, state-of-the-art shop can cost upwards of $30 million. If you’re worried about recruiting and retention, asking for a raise of a couple of dollars per hour, per tech, sounds like a lot less in comparison!
But for those with less funding, a new fleet facility doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles. It doesn’t have to be certified in environmentally friendly design, with solar panels on the roof and all-new tools and equipment. It can be as simple as a space large enough to handle the vehicles that need to be serviced, with enough light, and designed for workflow efficiency.
While it would be ideal to take into consideration future growth and advanced technologies, those moving into existing buildings or who are making minimal updates can focus on addressing their most pressing issues. After all, easing the work of technicians is one way to keep them around.
Have you moved into a new fleet facility recently? What were technicians’ favorite features?