After twenty-two years and eight months with the city, George Hrichak will be retiring on August 31, 2023. - Photo: George Hrichak

After twenty-two years and eight months with the city, George Hrichak will be retiring on August 31, 2023.

Photo: George Hrichak

“As a kid, I enjoyed working on cars with my friends…back when you didn’t need much to repair a car, but it was just a hobby,” recalled George S. Hrichak, CEM, CPFP, MSM, reflecting on his journey into the world of fleet management. “I didn’t have any formal training.” 

The Chesapeake, Virginia, fleet manager’s journey took a transformative turn when he enlisted in the U.S. Army working as an aircraft maintenance officer and a helicopter maintenance test pilot. He worked at various levels of aircraft maintenance from organizational up to major rebuilds. 

When he retired from the Army, Hrichak was trying to decide what he wanted to do for his next career. Then a job as the maintenance director for a regional transit company piqued his interest. 

“The Army provided excellent maintenance management training and I thought the skills I learned in the Army could be valuable in the transit arena,” Hrichak said. 

He applied and not only got the job but was able to help increase bus availability by tracking performance through various metrics using those key performance indicators to identifytraining needs and premature parts failures along with measuring reliability of various bus manufacturers.

After five years in transit, a job opened up with the city of Chesapeake as their Director of Automotive Maintenance. Chesapeake was looking for someone to improve the culture of their fleet operation.

Hrichak applied, showed them the impact he was making at the transit company, and the rest is history. The fleet currently consists of more than 1500 vehicles, plus 1200 off-road, construction, and lawn and turf pieces traveling over 900,000 miles each month.

In the 22 years that he worked for the city of Chesapeake, the team at Central Fleet Management accomplished the following:

  • An average of 80% of all work orders are closed within 24 hours
  • Average monthly fleet availability exceeds 98%
  • Customer satisfaction ratings of Excellent exceeding 90% in all eight categories
  • Annually designated an Environmental Excellence facility since 2005 by the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program 
  • Held the ASE Blue Seal of Excellence annually since 2009
  • EPA Waste Wise Partner since 2012 until program ended in 2020
  • Recognized in the 100 Best Fleets eight times, highest ranking #1 2017
  • Recognized in the 50 Leading Fleets eight times, highest ranking #4 in 2018
  • Recognized by local Elizabeth River Project as a River Star Business annually since 2014 for our environmental practices
  • Accredited as a Tier 2 Sustainable Fleet 2015 to present by CALSTART / NAFA 
  • Recognized in the Green Fleet Awards both times entered, highest ranking #29 2019
  • Recognized in the NAFA Green Garage Contest, highest ranking #1 in 2021

Hrichak's dedication earned him personal accolades as well. “I was awarded the NAFA 2009 Larry Goill Memorial Quality Fleet Management Idea Award, and the 2020 NAFA Fleet Excellence Award for excellence in public fleet and mobility management.”

Retirement and Looking at the Challenges within the Industry

Now, after twenty-two years and eight months with the city, Hrichak will be retiring on August 31, 2023. 

As he contemplates retirement, Hrichak acknowledges the challenges facing the public sector, mainly surrounding the post-pandemic supply chain issues

“Municipalities used to have great working relationships with our vendors and OEMs,” he stated. “Now it seems OEM’s are limiting our supply of equipment needed to take care of our citizens, while earning record profits by producing less vehicles. The whole vehicle ordering process is chaotic. Now we must buy vehicles and equipment when order banks are open even though they might not be at the top of our priority, because we don’t know when we’ll be able to get it again. Then, when our number one priority order bank opens, we may have already used up funds on low-priority items, which means we may not get to purchase all we need.”

Looking at future challenges, Hrichak points to a technician and skilled trades workers shortage facing both municipal and commercial fleets. 

“The military and trade schools only graduate about half of the technicians that the economy requires annually,” he explained. “Municipalities are competing against higher paid technicianpositions in the private sector.”

Within Chesapeake, the team has been working with the local community college, trade schools, and the military to obtain technicians and those continue to be somewhat successful. 

The city will be opening a new satellite maintenance facility this fall, which will be shared with the public school’s fleet. However, Hrichak acknowledges that it has been extremely difficult finding technicians to work a second (evening) shift there.

Hrichak’s Advice for incoming fleet managers:

Fleet organizations have been immensely helpful for me, the members of NAFA, AEMP, APWA, TMC, are all eager to assist someone who has a question related to fleet management. Same with regional and local organizations. Even attending out-of-state conferences, such as FLAGFA, can be incredibly beneficial in making contacts and learning more about the trade.

Driving Success: Hrichak's Legacy at the City of Chesapeake

“Our team has risen to meet many challenges over the years: snowstorms, hurricanes, nor’easters, the pandemic, and even day-to-day operations, and we worked hard to support our customers so that they can in-turn serve and protect the citizens of our city,” Hrichak stated. 

For years the city of Chesapeake has been working to find more opportunities to share operations with the public school division. One such opportunity started in 2018, was the creation of a new satellite maintenance facility. 

The new facility will be opening in the fall of 2023 and will have 12 bays for the city fleet and 12 bays for the school fleet, both being used predominantly for preventative maintenance inspections. The second floor of the facility will house the school’s transportation offices and some city offices. 

“This will be a nice addition as both city and schools are currently operating out of old garages built in the 1950s,” Hrichak pointed out, adding that the fleet also partnered with the Sheriff in 2018 to create a training facility at the city jail to teach select trustees how to repair small equipment. 

The program uses training material created by STIHL and, once completed, trustees earn a STIHL Certificate, which positions them for employment opportunities when they’re released from prison. The facility has one fleet technician, a Sheriff’s Deputy, and four trustees who work on all the city’s small equipment, mowers, tractors, etc.

As for what he enjoyed most about his time in this role, Hrichak points to “the fleet community, our team, the outstanding support from my bosses in the City Manager’s Office, and, the variety of challenges each day presented which made the time fly by.”

New Leadership Advice and Looking Ahead

After a nationwide search, the city hired Bill Griffiths as the new Central Fleet Manager. An Air Force Veteran, Griffiths most recently served as senior vice president, Fleet & Maintenance, for Beacon Mobility, a nationwide organization operating more than 12,000 vehicles in 22 states. 

He previously served in fleet management roles for a variety of public and private entities including the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Smithsonian Institution, and the U.S. Forest Service. He has also been honored as the National Public Fleet Manager of the Year (2015), the Greater Washington Fleet Manager of the Year by the DOE Clean Cities Coalition (2016), and the National School Transportation Association School Bus Innovator of the Year (2023).

Griffiths will be starting on August 28, 2023. 

And from one fleet manager to the next, Hrichak’s advice for Griffiths is simple: “A valuable lesson I learned in the Army still holds true today … take care of your troops and the troops will take care of the mission.”

About the author
Nichole Osinski

Nichole Osinski

Executive Editor

Nichole Osinski is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She oversees editorial content for the magazine and the website, selects educational programming for GFX, and manages the brand's awards programs.

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