At a Glance

Three of the 2012 Elite Fleets have been continuing in the tradition of fleet excellence:

  • The City of Portland, Ore., is offering pay compensation for ASE Master Mechanic certifications.
  • The City of Troy, Mich., stepped up insourcing.
  • Hillsborough County, Fla., is analyzing vehicle performance data to extend lifecycles if possible.


The Elite Fleets, award winners of previous fleet awards, continue to contend with the same challenges other fleets face. Three of the 2012 Elite Fleets — City of Portland, Ore., City of Troy, Mich., and Hillsborough County, Fla. — persist in battling industry challenges, but they’re also continuing in the tradition of excellence, accomplishing such actions as increasing insourcing, improving technician incentives, and succeeding during audits.

City of Portland Boosts ASE-Certified Technician Numbers

John Hunt

John Hunt

A high-priority initiative for the City of Portland, Ore., City Fleet is strengthening the technical expertise of its technician team. The ultimate goal is achieving a designation such as an ASE Blue Seal of Excellence.

Fleet Manager John Hunt, CPFP, gained a valuable incentive toward that goal last year when he and his Portland team successfully negotiated with the labor union for premium pay compensation to technicians holding ASE Master Technician status.

“In an unprecedented motivational program, mechanical staff  now are offered $160 per month for ASE Master certification,” Hunt said. Since the pay incentive program began, the number of ASE Master Technicians has quadrupled.

Fleet staff serves city bureaus with a total of 2,950 units and is funded by a $17 million operating budget.

According to Hunt, the fleet operation must deal with such obstacles as budget constraints (a recent 8% reduction), technician shortage (increase in equipment with a cutback of six staff members since 2001) and training, a scarcity of specialized tools and diagnostic equipment, and aging facilities.

Strategies Hunt has employed to surmount those obstacles include leveraging technology to promote efficiencies, increasing training activities, proactive business planning, and enhancing communications and collaborations with management and customers.

Technology improvements include upgrading to a Web-based fleet management system to increase efficiencies and streamline the vehicle repair process. Additionally, a computer-based technical training program has been implemented.

Expanded  insourcing activities help compensate for reduced budgets, while a 24-hour, Monday-Friday, main garage operation minimizes vehicle downtime.

As a result of the City’s ranking in the 100 Best Fleets program, Hunt described several networking and learning opportunities helping his fleet operation remain a leader in the public sector. Notably, the Department of Homeland Security invited Hunt to join the agency’s Sustainability and Efficiency Task Force and share Portland’s fleet expertise. Hunt also was appointed to the City of Portland’s Office of  Management and Finance Strategic Planning Committee.

“These opportunities offer new avenues to learn the latest and best information as new networking relationships are developed,” Hunt said.

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City of Troy Passes Audit, Avoids Cutbacks

Sam Lamerato

Sam Lamerato

In 2011, budget issues prompted the City of Troy, Mich., to initiate audits of each City division, conducted by the International City/County Management Association.

The City’s fleet organization sailed through the audit.

“Unlike many other City divisions, fleet management was declared sustainable, meaning no cutbacks in staff or budget,” said Sam Lamerato, CPFP, fleet superintendent. “Fleet, especially, received high marks for being ahead of the curve and proactive in anticipating challenges.”

The 17-member team manages a diverse 500-unit fleet, with a budget of $6.5 million. Nearly all technicians hold ASE Master certifications or double Master designations. The City of Troy is the only Municipal Blue Seal repair facility in the State of Michigan.

Lamerato has “stepped up” insourcing activities and now services 13 other city and county agency fleets.

“Our insourcing started with just a handshake between agencies; then, as word of mouth of our operations spread to surrounding jurisdictions, we developed a service agreement,” Lamerato said. “Budget-­compressed agencies realized reducing garage staff and outsourcing maintenance/repair could significantly trim costs.”

The City of Troy fleet operates two facilities, one with a two-shift schedule. “The second shift allows insourcing customers to drop off vehicles at the end of the day and pick them up the following morning, ready for work,” Lamerato said.

Among the fleet’s current challenges is retention and recruitment of qualified technicians. Lamerato has worked closely with City officials to stabilize salary, benefits, and job security for his staff.

Retirement packages offered to senior staff present another, longer-term issue for fleet management, Lamerato noted.

“These packages are attractive and difficult to overcome. However, they deplete the organization’s pool of experienced personnel who could step up to management positions,” Lamerato said.

He also promotes awareness among management and residents of the fleet’s importance to the efficient delivery of City services.

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Management Supports Hillsborough County

Bob Stanton

Bob Stanton

The Hillsborough County, Fla., fleet operation contends with many of the same challenges facing most public sector fleets. The most challenging, of course, are relentless budget pressures.

Over the past two years, for example, 14 fleet administrative positions have been cut. Today, 51 technicians and support staff comprise a fleet organization that numbers 3,100 vehicles and equipment units with an operating budget of $8 million (excluding fuel and capital expenses). Director of Fleet Management Bob Stanton credits his “strong staff plus a supportive upper management” for helping make “all current challenges and obstacles easy to overcome.”

Stanton has built upon a collaborative relationship with County management initially cultivated by his predecessor, Sharon Subadan, CPM, CAFM, CPFP, now the deputy county administrator for public safety and community services.

Stanton joined Hillsborough County’s fleet team in May 2011, after 20 successful years as the fleet management director for neighboring Polk County, Fla.

“Sharon’s knowledge and experience in the fleet world has benefited the entire County organization and my organization specifically,” Stanton said. “Our collective initiatives are more readily accepted for that reason.”

One initiative to counter ever-tightening budget dollars has been expanding insourcing efforts for nearby fleet operations, enhancing revenues for Hillsborough County while providing cost-effective options for neighbor fleets.

Stanton and his team are also analyzing vehicle performance data to extend unit life cycles wherever possible.

Additionally, Stanton has worked to exploit cost allocation opportunities.
“The budget challenges over the past five years have made the accurate allocation of all cost categories critical to ensure our expenses are both accurately stated and fully supportable to our customers,” Stanton explained. “We’ve identified several opportunities where cost allocation accuracy can be improved.”

Overall, Stanton promotes a spirit of innovation in his team to ensure the organization’s ability to meet future challenges.

Notable Numbers
The Hillsborough County, Fla., City of Portland, Ore., and City of Troy, Mich., fleets and their managers collectively boast of:
Total years of fleet management experience  105                  
Fleet manager industry association affiliations, committee chairmanships, certifications, and awards  30
ASE certifications held by fleet technicians  425

Volusia County, Fla., is also a 2012 Elite Fleet.


SOURCES:

  • John Hunt, CPFP, fleet manager, City of Portland, Ore.
  • Sam Lamerato, CPFP, fleet superintendent, City of Troy, Mich.
  • Bob Stanton, director of fleet management, Hillsborough County, Fla.
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