At a Glance

A facility program becomes the foundation for the facility design. To ensure a strong program, understand the elements of an operation and how they are linked:

  • Workload: What needs to be done.
  • Workforce: Who will do it.
  • Workplace: Where it gets done - the fleet maintenance facility.


The success of any large-scale building construction project begins with a comprehensive facility program. Programming a new maintenance facility requires significant time, effort, and expertise. This initial phase of the project should not be confused with the final facility design. Design defines space, systems, and components, forming them into a building. It is a "blueprint" for the construction teams and instructs them what to build and where to build it.

A facility program, on the other hand, becomes the basis or foundation for the actual design. This critical phase defines the functional application of space, the interrelationships between spaces, and the allocations of space. In many specialty building projects, such as fleet maintenance shops, health care facilities, and educational institutions, the facility program is accomplished by expert programmers working in their specific field of interest. They work in close collaboration with the owner or user organization to determine how the space will be used, who will occupy it, and what services will be provided.

Understand Operational Characteristics

In the development of a fleet maintenance facility program, there is nothing as valuable as a working knowledge of how the organization operates - how it conducts business, both strategically and tactically. These are the underlying principles of any program development of new or even modified fleet maintenance facilities. Once the operational characteristics (the business of managing, maintaining, and repairing a fleet) are understood, the foundation is in hand and a meaningful facilities program can be developed.

Define the Elements of an Operation

Every fleet maintenance operation is comprised of three essential elements:

  • Workload: What needs to be done.
  • Workforce: Who will do it.
  • Workplace: Where it gets done - the fleet maintenance facility.

They are inexorably linked. The workload must be harmonized carefully to the workforce, and together the workload and the workforce must match the workplace. When any or all of these three elements are too small or too large, they will not match up. Efficiencies and effectiveness will suffer, and costs will be unnecessarily high.

Workload can be described as "the measured accumulation of duties and responsibilities." For fleet maintenance, the associated maintenance burden must be identified. This includes preventive maintenance services, corrective repairs, vocational equipment testing (e.g., fire apparatus pump testing), and other services the fleet organization regularly provides.

Many factors affect the workload, including the size and composition of the fleet, age of the fleet, and types of work performed in-house versus tasks typically outsourced to commercial vendors. Workload is best represented by vehicle equivalency units (VEUs) and not simply the number of vehicles and pieces of equipment in a fleet.

VEUs are used to determine the maintenance effort associated with different types of vehicles and equipment. For example, a standard passenger sedan may be rated at 1.0 VEU whereas a tandem axle dump truck may be rated at 4.5 VEUs.


Analysis of the VEUs will provide valuable information that can be used to define the number of technicians required to maintain the fleet. However, additional scrutiny of fleet composition is needed to determine, for example, the number and size of maintenance bays. A light-duty maintenance bay sized at 15-feet wide x 28-feet long may be appropriate for maintaining a passenger sedan but not a 24-cubic-yard automatic side-loader refuse truck. If the fleet organization is responsible for maintaining and repairing small engine equipment, a separate small engine repair bay or room may also be appropriate.

The workforce is the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs) employed to address the workload. Dozens of variables exist that require careful review to determine the correct number of FTEs, including the skill sets of the technicians, amount of outsourcing, support staff, administrative burden, and other responsibilities. The workforce, or the number of people assigned to the fleet maintenance facility, will impact space requirements such as restrooms, locker rooms, lunch rooms, and exterior space for employee parking.

The workplace is the environment in which the fleet is managed and/or maintained. Once the workload is defined and the appropriately sized workforce is determined, then workplace programming (fleet maintenance facilities) can begin.

The workplace can be thought of in a few major space groupings: shop (the area where maintenance and repair activities take place), shop support areas (the parts room, technical reference library, fluid distribution room), administration (the fleet manager's office, administrative assistant workstations), employee amenities (the locker room, lunch room), and exterior staging areas (dead line, ready line, employee parking, waste containment).

Consider Additional Factors

When developing a facility program for the shop, additional factors that could impact workload, workforce, and workplace must also be considered. For example, consider the impact of a new service mandate from City Council or a county manager to perform residential leaf collection. This new service will undoubtedly require additional vehicles and equipment, which will have a direct impact on the workload. As we have already pointed out, workload has a direct relationship to the workplace. The result of the new leaf collection mandate may very well require the inclusion of one or two additional maintenance bays.

Population or service area growth may also dictate expansion of current services. This too, would impact the size and composition of the fleet. Consider the annexation of a formerly unincorporated area. More territory means additional police patrols, more solid waste trucks, and more dump trucks with salt spreaders and snow plows. Whether these changes are imminent or just long-range strategic discussions, the new fleet maintenance facilities program must account for them.

Locating and Allocating Space

Another very important facility programming issue is the positioning of space. The goal is to achieve a balance between an organization's operational requirements and effective design solutions. By establishing proper adjacencies and ensuring that certain workspaces are within close proximity to others, efficiencies can be created that make important contributions to productivity. The question that needs to be answered is: "Which functions and stations deserve to be positioned adjacent to - or at least in close proximity with - each other, to make the operation efficient?"

When planning new facilities, there are obvious adjacency implications that relate to the type of space allocated - the five groupings of administration, amenities, shop, shop support, and exterior. That is to say, the space allocations for "shop" should generally be adjacent, as should those categorized as "support," and so on. It is clear to most fleet professionals that the parts room should be adjacent to the maintenance bays. Other adjacencies are perhaps less evident. The technical reference library, for example, should be adjacent to the general maintenance area so technicians can have direct access to industry manuals and other research tools.

Given the importance of defining the workload and workforce, it is easy to see how a facilities programmer with expertise in fleet maintenance can add value to the programming and planning effort.

Provide the Best Tool for Staff

Fleet vehicles are to be maintained efficiently and effectively, reflect the major investment they symbolize, retain a high degree of reliability and availability, and bring top dollar at auctions when they are replaced. In order to do this, the fleet staff must be given every opportunity to succeed, and that includes operating within and around facilities equal to the task. The facilities are a tool, and if the tools are not available, even the best mechanics cannot provide the expected level of service.


About the Author

Tony Yankovich is a senior manager with Mercury Associates, Inc., a fleet consulting company.


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