The city of Buffalo, New York, now has a fleet manager, ahead of the 2023-24 winter season. Mayor Byron Brown announced the appointment of James J. Cross as Fleet Manager.
Before now, the city did not have a fleet manager over the entire city's fleet. Brown and other city leaders believe the once-in-a-lifetime blizzard that slammed the region in late 2022, straining the winter response equipment, highlighted the need for a fleet manager, Government Fleet reported in January.
Other departments across the city, including the department of public works, police department, and fire department have fleet managers. However, these roles only serve the individual fleets within each department.
The fleet director seres as a central figure, overseeing and cross-coordinating all fleets within Buffalo during normal operations and emergencies, ABC 7 Buffalo reported.
Defining the Fleet Manager's Role
Cross will be tasked with overseeing the fleet of city-owned equipment and vehicles, and is the primary contact for fleet maintenance and operations.
Cross's management duties will include the management of equipment repair and acquisitions/procurement, as well as ensuring compliance with safety standards to promote efficiency and safety.
Cross will also be responsible for assisting the departments in ensuring maintenance shops are adequately equipped and mechanics are properly trained, as well as assist with the review of incident reports.
The position reports directly to the commissioner of administration & finance. One of the Cross's primary roles is to provide a comprehensive and coordinated view of all the fleets across city departments.
During an emergency response, Cross will provide strategic direction for the safety and performance of all city fleet operations, in order to manage effective utilization of vehicle assets.
At one time, there was discussion about whether an Emergency Management Coordinator could handle the responsibilities of managing the fleet in addition to coordinating emergency response. Ultimately, the council chose to create the fleet manager position during its Jan. 10 meeting.
About the New Fleet Manager
The city conducted a national search for the position, but decided on Cross. According to a news release, he has more than a decade of experience in fleet management.
Cross most recently served as the Assistant Fleet Operations Manager for AAA of Western and Central New York. Cross has a Bachelor of Arts from the University at Buffalo. He is also a lifelong resident of East Buffalo.
Cross released a statement saying, “I am excited to join the Brown Administration to manage the city’s fleet of vehicles. My first order of business will be to fully inventory and assess the city’s current vehicle fleet to help plan for the future needs of the fleet moving forward.”
In addition to Cross, the city also hired an Emergency Services Manager, another position that was created following the 2022 winter storm.
Bolstering the Fleet
The city just released its 2023-24 Winter Snow Plan. The Department of Public Works' Streets & Sanitation division is responsible for the snow removal and street cleaning of more than 1,600 lane miles of city roadways.
The department maintains a snow fleet of 36 plow trucks that will be used to plow streets and apply salt, as well as 14 front loaders that will be used to remove heavy snow.
The mixed fleet consists of:
- Tandem axle/dump trucks.
- Tandem axle/wing trucks.
- Single axle trucks.
- Pickup trucks.
- Skid steers.
- Small dump trucks.
- Front end loaders.
- A tandem dump trailer.
- A backhoe.
Additionally, four new snow plows are anticipated to arrive before the end of the year.
The city has also budgeted $1 million dollars to be used for emergency snow removal across the city. The funding will be allocated to private contractors to assist the city's fleet in its snow removal efforts. The funding is a 350% increase from the 2022-2023 winter season.
In addition to snow removal, the streets & sanitation division is also responsible for collecting and disposing of of all municipal solid waste at more than 86,000 weekly locations.
The Buffalo Fire and Police Departments are responsible for providing emergency services to 278,000 residents.
As mentioned above, Cross's first order of business will be to fully inventory and assess the city’s current vehicle fleet.
The department of public works' snow fleet is tracked and directed through GPS. All plow trucks and front end loaders are equipped with components that utilize satellite technology to provide up-to-the-moment information to the department on the fleet’s geographic location while logging historical data related to vehicle metrics and snow plowing/clearing path.
The data collected is used to monitor and analyze the operational effectiveness of the fleet.
Unveiled for the 2022-23 winter season, the department will also continue to provide public-facing information on its street clearing process through the use of the Street Clearing Map, which provides information as to the status of individual streets across the city by indicating when a street was most recently passed by a public works vehicle.
Preparing for the 2023-24 Winter Season
According to the Winter Snow Plan, although the snow fleet equipment is assigned to every district across the city, the equipment may be reassigned depending on whether certain areas have a heavier rate or depth of snowfall than others.
When weather conditions subside, the department of public works' focus will shift to a more detail-oriented roadway clean-up of roadways. This includes clearing snow from curb to curb in the street.
The city will also remove snow from roadyways, hauling it to designated locations if needed.
"The key element for this potential removal is preparing the city’s streets and infrastructure for the next snow event that occurs – creating the 'capacity' in the streetscape for additional snow plowing," the plan states.
The department's goal is to have every street across the city plowed, at least one pass, within 24 hours after the end of a snow event.
Tier 1 Weather Events
During and after a typical snowfall event, which the city labels Tier 1, the main goal of the snow plow operation is to initially focus on primaries and secondaries and streets/thoroughfares surrounding critical city service and/or life-saving facilities, like city service facilities, fire houses, warming centers, and police stations.
Following those initial focal points, the fleet will transition to residential streets with the goal of completing at least one pass on all residential streets within 24 hours after the snow event ends.
More severe weather events, or Tier 2 events, generally include snowfall amounts in excess of 12” per day over multiple days or 24”+ from a singular, short-term event in one portion of the city.
These kinds of weather events typically deposit snow amounts greater than the ability of the city's fleet to plow, because a depth of snow beyond 24” is not typically plowable by most municipal plow trucks. In these cases, the snow must be removed and not plowed or cleared.
Tier 2 Weather Events
Tier 2 events will typically be handled by both city-owned resources and any combination of city-engaged private contractors, and/or Erie County facilitated private contractors performing snow removal efforts.
During Tier 2 storms, the fleet resources will focus on plowing primaries and secondaries and streets/thoroughfares surrounding critical City service and/or life-saving facilities when able.
Outside resources will typically be dedicated to snow removal as needed.
Tier 3 Weather Events
Tier 3 weather events may encompass numerous conditions. In general, they will include a regionwide snowfall amount in excess of 24” from a singular, short-term (24-36 hours) or in excess of 36” from a continuous multiple-day event across the entire city.
An example of a Tier 3 event is the December 2022 Blizzard. These events can be catastrophic in nature.
Similar to Tier 2 events, these kinds of storms deposit snow amounts greater than the ability of the department's fleet to plow, because snow beyond 24” is not typically plowable by most municipal plow trucks.
That will mean that these events will also require snow removal efforts.
A Tier 3 event will be handled by a coordinated combination of city resources and any combination of private contractors from the city, county, or state performing snow removal efforts.
When the weather events impact the entirety of the city of Buffalo, the response network of equipment will be distributed across the city as well.
Initial response efforts will focus on critical infrastructure and life safety efforts, and will then transition to snow clearing/plowing and snow removal efforts.
For snow removal coordination, the department will coordinate and direct the city, county, and state equipment across the affected region as a way to expedite snow clearing across the entire ciity and reduce the potential duplication of efforts.
Preemptive Preparation Plans
Both Tier 2 and Tier 3 events will be coordinated at the Department of Public Works' Snow Response Command Center established at the outset of the storm.
Additionally, the pre-placement of contractor resources — snow removal equipment mobilized before the storm arrives — is an element to the response that has been emphasized for the 2023-24 winter season for Tier 2 and 3 weather events as a way to better prepare.
After weather events, individual front end loaders from contractors will be dedicated to the fire and police departments in the affected areas of the city, and to the parking division.
Front end loaders and dump trucks may also be staged in parts of the city to assist with snow removal.
“I’m proud of all the work department heads and staff have done to prepare the Snow Plan,” Mayor Brown said. “This plan is comprehensive and will help our city and community members prepare for the winter season.”