The City of Independence, Mo. recently audited its Central Garage Services division, which provides fleet maintenance services for the City’s 510 vehicles and pieces of equipment. The audit found that the average age of the 385 vehicles maintained by the Central Garage is 11 years, and that 55% of those assets exceed fleet replacement criteria. These assets also cost more to repair on a per-mile basis than compared to similar types of cities.

The higher costs aren’t due to Central Services’ billing rates, though, according to the audit. It found that Central Garage Services provides fleet maintenance and repair at a lower hourly billing rate than local private garages and charges a parts markup comparable to similarly sized cities, which means the significant age of the vehicles in Independence’s fleet are the key issue.

The report went on to recommend changes that could improve Central Garage Services’ ability to deliver services while dealing with funding challenges faced by the City.

First, the report said standardizing the selectors for fleet vehicles in the fleet, in order to stock a standard range of parts, could help reduce the time needed to order parts. Next, the report suggested adding a second shift in order to reduce fleet asset downtime and improve preventive maintenance on-time performance. The report also suggested that the City invest in upgrading its fleet management software in order to improve and consolidate fleet management tracking and reporting.

Two other suggestions in the report are to merge the fire department’s fleet services with those of the Central Garage and to bring the Water Pollution Control Department’s fleet management responsibilities back to the Central Garage. According to the report, the single fire assets technician, who works in the Central Garage but is employed by the fire department, is retiring. Also, the Water Pollution Control Department privatized its fleet management nearly 20 years before, but returning fleet management to Central Garage Services could help centralize fleet management record-keeping and performance evaluation data, the report stated.

Lastly, the report suggested simplify how the Central Garage fund, which funds the department’s operations, is set up and help its customers better understand how it works.

In response to the audit, the City’s Public Works Director John Powell responded by saying that he agreed with the majority of suggestions, strongly supporting the need for fleet management software and fleet vehicle standardization. Regarding the suggestions to merge fleet management of the Fire Department and Water Pollution Control Department, he said both ideas should be further analyzed but doing so could benefit all departments involved. Lastly, regarding the second garage shift, Powell said it could increase access to garage services but that the fleet age and increase in unscheduled maintenance activities limit the resources available for preventive maintenance.

By Greg Basich