Keeping a fleet up and running is vital in day-to-day operations. A large part of this is staying on top of what is happening and being prepared for what could, and does, happen. This is where a checklist comes in. Two fleets break down how they follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure nothing gets overlooked.
SOPs and the City of Madison, Wisconsin, Fleet
For the Madison, Wisconsin fleet, SOPs can be found in check box form for every single thing that the team does as a division. While the method to ensure all parts of the SOPs are being followed is standard — regular check-ins and working to fix issues when they crop up — the checklists that need to be followed are extensive.
Like most large fleets, Madison has dozens of different types of vehicles and equipment, from golf carts and grass tractors to police cars and ambulances, vans and pickups, to fire department ladder trucks and winter plowing and salting equipment, to heavy construction equipment. The city is has also been aggressively purchasing electric vehicles, hybrids, Geotab telematics devices, EJ Ward CANceivers, and 100% biodiesel (B100) retrofit equipment.
And despite the city also seeing an increase of its fleet count by over 9% the in-service rate hovers around 97%. This number means more availability and dependability of important resources for customers and has allowed for a focus on new initiatives.
For Fleet Superintendent Mahanth S. Joishy, the only way they can keep track of doing Preventative Maintenance Inspections (PMIs) correctly for all these widely varying types, with so many retrofits, is for technicians to use checklists. And this goes hand-in-hand with the goals of the fleet.
“The priorities of Madison fleet are to be the greenest, safest, and most efficient fleet in the world, all while supporting the local economy of Madison and the state of Wisconsin while doing so,” Joishy explained.
Maintenance Checklist Priorities for the Fleet
As a best practice, the Madison fleet has a fleet maintenance administrator, Brett Rosenau, who spent multiple years as a mechanic before being promoted. Whenever a brand new vehicle is being set up, PM parts kits are put together in coordination with the parts room, and a schedule of PMs (such as A/B/C/D/additional attachments like ladders), based on the individual vehicle manual. These PMs are scheduled using a combination of meter readings and time for optimum efficiency.
Joishy pointed out that checklists provide accountability to the customer departments that the team has done the work that they said they did, along with the billable hours they said they did.
Missing individual steps on any checklist can be costly, and even cause damage to a vehicle.
“I like to draw the analogy to the doctor’s physical check-ups that all of us should be doing,” Joishy added. “I wouldn’t want my doctor’s office to miss a critical point of the checkup, whether that’s blood pressure, blood tests, etc. so that we can catch issues early and draw up a plan to fix those.”
Avoiding Asset Downtime within the Operation
According to Joishy, fleet divisions, like Madison, exist to maximize the availability of assets for their customer departments. This can be achieved by buying the best equipment available for the mission at the best pricing, and a strong inspection and maintenance program for the life cycle of the asset, some of which we will run continuously for 20 years or more.
In addition to maintenance checklists, Joishy stated that priorities for limiting asset downtime should include going entirely paperless for operations similar to what Madison has, tightly organized parts rooms and parts ordering processes, keeping all shop facilities clean, maintaining excellent customer service and responsiveness at all times, annual physical inventory where every single part in every parts room is counted, studying the data closely to determine which jobs should be done in-house versus by an external vendor for maximum cost and time efficiencies, as well as spending the maximum amount of time and effort by management in recruiting new employees.
“We want and encourage staff at all levels to help each other rather than compete against one another,” he explained. “Human resources are by far the most important piece of the puzzle.”
PM Compliance Program at City of Fort Wayne, Indiana Fleet
With more than 2,400 fleet vehicles and equipment, the Fort Wayne, Indiana fleet has no small job when it comes to staying on top of maintenance and servicing operations. A key area of focus is a preventative maintenance (PM) compliance program to ensure tasks are being done in a timely and effective measure.
Alongside this, Larry Campbell, CPFP, who recently retired from his role as the director of fleet operations explained that it's vital for them to make sure each department knows when the units in that specific department fleet are due for service and that each is scheduled on time. Campbell prioritized turnaround times and fleet availability, not just for the whole fleet but individual departments.
This means keeping track of when equipment is down, such as heavy trucks, construction equipment, and fire apparatus. This may result in needing to track down the factories that make the parts that are needed to see when they will become available. And last, but not least, Campbell added that staying on top of technician availability is just as important as the other fleet priorities.
Taking on the Checklist for Each Fleet Service
The Fort Wayne fleet has a checklist for every type of service that the technician performs and has to record or check off those items on the sheet. And there is a different type of check-off sheet depending on the type of equipment. For example, a light-duty sheet will be different than a heavy-duty service sheet, a piece of construction sheet or a specialty equipment sheet. If an item on the sheet is not applicable, technicians mark NA on that line.
As for key components that should be included in a maintenance checklist, Campbell includes all fluids, tire wear, brake thicknesses within spec, battery load tested and recorded, drive train components, and body damage.
“If the unit was involved in an accident, the check sheet shows that your maintenance program keeps the units in safe operating conditions,” Campbell explained. “This has been asked for at times when we are involved in an accident.”
Additionally, if the battery goes bad within a week of being serviced the fleet team then can refer back to the recording that the battery tested” good” when it was serviced.
“It helps in reducing the liability of your fleet when all is recorded properly,” Campbell added.
The Why Behind the Fleet's Checklist
It’s a simple question, but one that needs answering. Why should fleets keep an up-to-date checklist? For Fort Wayne’s fleet, if that piece of equipment is down then the department cannot provide that service or task that unit was purchased for. Public safety is a major factor, not just regarding police and fire within public safety, but snow plow trucks, and equipment such as water pumps for flooding or bucket trucks to handle storm-related issues.
Campbell has also recognized the importance of having a proper parts innovatory in addition to checklists.
“You cannot stock everything, but you should know your turn ratios of certain high-usage parts,” he said. This includes specialty parts, which can be a whole host of items for different types of equipment. He explained it’s also important to know the makeup of the different types of fleet equipment trucks, specialty equipment, and usage of the items. Is it a seasonal piece of equipment? Can this be serviced and repaired when the department is not using it?
“Snow equipment repaired in the summer, paving equipment, mowing equipment repaired in the winter months,” Campbell noted. “This is if you have different seasons throughout the year.”