Richard Battersby, CAFM, CPFP, spent almost 13 years in the U.S. Army, working mainly in logistics and fleet, although the military refers to fleet as “motor pool.” Battersby didn’t think he would spend his career in fleet, but when he got out of the service about 22 years ago, he saw a job announcement for a fleet manager at overnight shipping company Airborne Express.
|At a glance|
Highlights of Battersby’s fleet career include:
“I said, ‘That’s what I did in the Army. Maybe I’ll try this fleet thing.’ And I’ve been here ever since,” said Battersby, who currently oversees about 1,500 vehicles and pieces of equipment as acting assistant director, bureau of infrastructure and operations for the City of Oakland, Calif., Public Works Department.
Battersby’s peers honored him for his work in fleet this past June, when he received the Legendary Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the public fleet industry. The announcement took place at the Government Fleet Expo and Conference (GFX) in San Diego.
Sponsored by Sourcewell (previously the National Joint Powers Alliance), the award recognizes one member of the Public Fleet Hall of Fame for his or her lasting contributions to the industry. Fleet professionals selected the winner through online voting.
A Passion for Clean Fuels
Battersby’s road to winning the Legendary Lifetime Achievement Award has included work for various organizations, dating back to his time with Airborne Express, when an area Clean Cities coordinator contacted him about switching some of his company’s fleet to alternative fuels.
“Hey, I’ll try anything,” he told the Clean Cities coordinator. Battersby and his team went on to oversee the acquisition of natural gas vehicles, Airborne Express’ first alternative-fuel vehicle project.
“The interesting thing is I wasn’t really motivated to save the environment, and it wasn’t necessarily cost savings, per se,” he said. Instead, access to high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes was the main motivation. Up to that point, two occupants were required in many vehicles to gain access to the lanes. Being able to use one passenger per natural gas vehicle in the HOV lane saved time and money.
That initial experience turned into a careerlong passion for alternative fuel. After a six-year stint as assistant chief for the State of California Office of Fleet Administration, Battersby took over as fleet manager for Contra Costa County, Calif., where the fleet’s diesel fueling operations were switched to 100% B-20 biodiesel.
He went on to become director of fleet services for the University of California, Davis, where he and his team obtained more than $250,000 in grant funding for clean air vehicle projects. He was named Government Fleet’s Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year and the American Public Works Association’s Professional Manager of the Year, Public Fleet, in 2013.
A Focus on Training
When he came to the City of Oakland in 2014, the city was still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. Battersby and his team added back vacant positions and turned to training.
“We were trying to increase the skill level of the staff and get them up to speed on the latest technologies. That’s one thing that gets cut when you hit a budget issue: training,” he said.
The team began focusing on certifications such as Certified Public Fleet Manager (CPFP) and Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM) for its staff members as well as technician training.
“It’s not just sending folks out to the classroom,” he said. “We bring the manufacturers here on site. I like to host the training here at my location, even though it’s a little more expensive. It allows me to send the maximum number of our staff without having to empty the shop floor and send people overnight for travel.”
Fire apparatuses have been a recent area of training, but past training has also focused on hybrid and battery-electric vehicles. In addition, the department receives training from fire truck producer Pierce Manufacturing, engine manufacturer Cummins, and other vendors.
Another benefit of Battersby’s training emphasis: Several people he mentored at his previous organizations have moved on to higher positions.
A Plan to Upgrade Equipment
Vehicle replacement and restoration was another area of focus when Battersby joined the Oakland fleet. Prior to 2014, the city’s last major equipment replacement cycle took place in 2002. The fleet team is now implementing a Master Lease program for new equipment.
“We have been using a municipal finance model where we take the existing pool of funding available and we go out and see how much financing we can leverage using the initial seed money,” he said. “We calculate how much we can make in payments each month throughout the year and we leverage that by borrowing money and having a huge infusion of new equipment right on the front end versus parceling out the money each year as part of a series of smaller capital acquisitions. This has an immediate impact on repair and maintenance costs by getting the new equipment in service without delay.”
Battersby feels honored to be in the company of previous Lifetime Achievement Award winners such as Sam Lamerato and Bob Martinez. “These are guys I’ve worked with and respect. They have the respect of the industry and I’ve always looked up to them,” he said.
He also thanked his wife, Kathy, for her support of his fleet career. “She has accompanied me to so many fleet events in the past that a lot of people think she’s a fleet manager. I couldn’t be successful without her support and my family, so I have been blessed she’s been able to follow me into the fleet world.”
More Accomplishments, by the Numbers
Additional accomplishments by Richard Battersby and his fleet teams over the years include:
$11.8 million and $11.5 million
Amount of two municipal financing programs that enabled vehicle and equipment acquisitions without draining reserves at Oakland Public Works
Grant funding obtained for risk mitigation programs at University of California, Davis
Savings from designing and implementing underutilized vehicle reporting to redirect underused equipment at Contra Costa County
Reduction in fleet size/increase in revenue per vehicle over five years after implementing right-sizing and utilization strategies at the State of California