This is a part of Government Fleet's "Fleet of the Week" series where we will highlight a public sector fleet to talk about trends, challenges, and what's ahead.
If fleet is anything, it's a bit of everything—challenging, groundbreaking, frustrating, fulfilling; that list could go on depending on who you speak with. But it's nothing without its people who metaphorically, and literally, keep the fleet wheels well-oiled and turning. It's important to understand each fleet's unique position and where it is headed.
If you're headed to Texas, take the highway southeast out of Houston nearing the Gulf of Mexico and you'll come to the city of League City, Texas. Here, the city fleet is comprised of 370 vehicles, 198 pieces of equipment (classification includes trailers, generators, and heavy construction equipment), and one shop consisting of 10 bays.
There are 10 employees that make up this department: an administrative assistant; a shop foreman; a service writer and parts lead; and six technicians.
Rounding out the tenth role is Fleet Manager Yvonne Calderon, who is responsible for the vehicles and equipment in the city’s fleet.
Calderon began her career with the city of League City in April 1993 as an office manager for facilities maintenance and emergency management. Around 2005 she participated in a fleet audit of inventory where she found that she enjoyed the day-to-day operations. So when a fleet administrator position opened up in 2007, she put in a transfer request and started her journey in the fleet world.
In 2013, the fleet manager separated from the city and, after applying, Calderon was awarded the position of fleet manager.
Other than the growth of fleet, the biggest change Calderon has seen is the transfer of data to an integrated fleet management information system.
"For over 30 years the fleet was using an antiquated system that was not designed for fleet specifics," she explains. "The majority of repair orders, including preventive maintenance schedules, were handwritten and then entered into the system."
According to Calderon, FASTER was implemented in October 2021 and already fleet staff has seen an increase in productivity and metric tracking. And technicians now operate on tablets with real-time labor and parts calculated.
As for challenges, Calderon points to the supply chain.
"Since 2020, like the majority of the country, we have been having problems with supply chains, vehicles and equipment procurement, and delivery delays," she states, adding that budgeting has also been a big issue as pricing has increased across the board. "So it has been a challenge to anticipate fleet replacement costs and stay within budget."
Still, Calderon looks for those silver linings in challenging times. When asked what she sees as the most exciting thing happening at present, she states this: "The most exciting thing we are experiencing right now is when we see a vehicle ordered over a year ago actually show up."
Her advice for other fleets is to "enjoy what you do, don’t stress, and have fun." Calderon has a hardworking team, but she points out that they also know the importance of being able to laugh and enjoy each other’s company.
"With the challenges we’ve been facing it would be easy for me to stress and worry things aren’t moving fast enough, but I’ve learned to take a deep breath and realize I can only control things going on in my orbit and not the world," she notes.
As for the future, Calderon's time as fleet manager is coming to a close. She plans to retire in the first part of 2024, which means she is working on a succession plan with her team to allow for a smooth transition upon her departure.
"The fleet department has maintained a level of respect with all departments throughout the city," Calderon states. "Other employees realize we work as fast as we can within the limitations we face, such as manpower, parts availability, outsourcing schedules, etc."
By having transition plans in place and cross-training she feels confident there will be a smooth shift upon her departure. As an aside, she advises anyone else looking to enter this field to obtain certifications such as the CAFM or CAFS.
Looking back, Calderon remembers being apprehensive when she first applied for the fleet manager’s position as she was under the mindset that if she wasn’t a mechanic then she shouldn’t be running the office.
However, she learned that it wasn't so much about having a strong automotive background as it was about having the respect and backing of a knowledgeable staff able to communicate and handle the day-to-day technical workload. With that, she realized the position meant she had to support the team as a manager, purchasing agent, attorney, counselor, and financial wizard.
"I love working with such a great team and consider myself fortunate to have a stable and knowledgeable group with the majority having over 20 years in the fleet department," Calderon explains.
Now, with her own fleet experience built up over those years, Calderon can impart her own wisdom when it comes to the fleet world she's been a part of.
"If you enjoy a challenge and wearing multiple hats then don’t let the lack of automotive or heavy equipment knowledge stop you," she explains. "I have learned so much while being here."
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