Photo courtesy of City of Tampa.

Photo courtesy of City of Tampa.

A staff shortage that resulted in rising overtime costs has led the City of Tampa's fleet management division to adjust the way it handles repair work, the city's interim fleet manager told Government Fleet.

The department's overtime use came into public view in a media report by ABC News that cast the practice in a harsh light. One fleet employee racked up 1,217 hours of overtime in 2014 and 950 hours the prior year, according to the report.

Connie White-Arnold, the city's interim fleet manager, has begun implementing staffing adjustments in the short-handed unit that reports to the city's Logistics and Asset Management Department.

The staffing shortage reached a critical point in 2014 following several years of staff downsizing on the fleet unit's busiest repair line that handles work on sedans and light trucks, including police vehicles that provide the heaviest work flow. The line, which is responsible for 1,680 vehicles, had lost seven technicians and service attendants in seven years.

"We have been using overtime to keep up with the workload," White-Arnold said. "We're also looking at ways to change our process and streamline things."

Until recently, the line had been using one service attendant to handle fluid fills and changes. It was this entry-level worker that racked up heavy overtime hours mostly on police vehicles. The fleet unit has hired two workers on the line, including one that started earlier this year, White-Arnold said. There are now six tecnicians and two service attendants on the line.

"The downsizing came as a result of our previous administration," she said. "However, under our present mayor, we have been able to bring back two positions, and fill other critical vacancies within fleet."

To better control costs and continue service levels, White-Arnold closed the fleet garage on Saturdays and altered weekday hours to better manage the heavy workload. The shop moved to two weekday shifts from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. She implemented an express lane that diagnoses work and completes jobs that will take less than two hours. Other jobs go in as a work order.

"We put measurements in effect to control the maintenance process," she said. "By condensing the hours and brining more bodies into the peak hours, I have more of a robust day shift."