On March 23, Government Fleet hosted a roundtable for public sector fleet managers to discuss the coronavirus. About 10 public fleet professionals from various states gathered to talk about changes to their operation and to learn from each other. Here are some takeaways from the discussion:
Make your own cleaners.Cleaners and disinfectants are in short supply, and fleet managers wanting to keep their employees safe have resorted to making their own. These include bleach with water, peroxide, and a 70% isopropyl alcohol and water solution. One fleet purchased sprayers to disinfect vehicles with this alcohol solution — although a disinfectant company is on hand to take over biohazard cleaning in case a driver tests positive for the virus. When diluting alcohol, check to see what the solution is beforehand to make sure you end up with a 70% solution. Also, make sure these cleaners, as well as those used by anxious drivers, are safe for vehicles — ammonia-based cleaners can damage the displays on in-vehicle terminals. Another fleet is offering cleaning supplies to all fleet drivers to come and pick up. And whether it’s the driver or a technician cleaning out vehicles after use, make sure that person knows the procedures and is protected as well.
Consider UV lights for decontamination.UV lights are used in ambulances to decontaminate the vehicle, and fleet managers can consider these for decontaminating other vehicles as well.
Stock up on parts.Make sure your parts room is full of commonly used parts. One fleet manager was notified that a bus manufacturer had shut down and parts would be limited — if those are no longer being delivered, unrepaired buses might end up being parked. It may be harder to get parts for older, specialty vehicles as companies temporarily shut down. Stock up on tires as well, as some tire manufacturers have also closed. Unfortunately, fleet managers will have to make an educated guess as to what parts to stockpile.
Have staff members work on certifications while at home.After staff members prepared vehicles for use, one fleet manager sent his crews home to study for their certifications, including ASE and CAFM certifications. Each staff member is expected to provide certificates of course completion to justify their paid time. In the meantime, there are additional pool cars to be checked out in the event of wrecks and if vehicles are taken out of service. Preventive maintenance was delayed for the rest of the fleet during this time, and the fleet manager is in to fix vehicles in need of repair.
Reduce your motor pool size.The fewer vehicles in rotation, the better. Encourage drivers to use their personal vehicles; work-from-home policies and teleconferences should make this easier to do.
Talk to other fleet managers for resources and to vet companies.Have good contracts in place for sourcing supplies and equipment. Know that it may take longer to get certain supplies than usual. And if using a new vendor, make sure the company is legitimate before ordering anything — work with your procurement teams to ensure that products meet the agency’s standards and specifications. Talk to other fleet managers about reputable vendors and consider sharing resources or even parts with local government fleets if possible.
Your cleaning company may not have a COVID-19 virus protocol.One fleet manager said that while his agency uses a specific company for biohazard cleanup, this company won’t come if it’s for a coronavirus-related cleanup because it doesn’t have the protocols to handle it. Until the company figures this out, any vehicles suspected of contamination are parked and quarantined.
Practice social distancing at work.Make sure that employees keep six feet between each other on the shop floor, which may not be difficult if technicians stay in their own work bays. Employees can wear gloves and are encouraged to wipe down shared workstations, and one fleet operation is asking for a doctor’s note before employees can return to work after a sickness. However, take into consideration that HIPPA Privacy Rules prevent supervisors from divulging medical information about employees; talk to Human Resources about what you can and can’t say about an employee who might have the virus.
Protect drivers at fuel sites too.While fleet managers are understandably concerned about vehicle contamination, they should also consider contamination at fuel sites, where everyone is touching dispensers and displays. Fleet managers can consider issuing gloves — both latex and non-latex — or encourage drivers to use paper towels when touching dispensers.
No concerns about fuel supply yet.Refineries and fuel providers are considered essential or critical, according to the Department of Homeland Security, so fleet managers probably do not need to worry about fuel supply. Additionally, lower utilization means fleet operations are going through less fuel now. However, one fleet manager was concerned that alternative fuels such as ethanol, renewable diesel, and biodiesel may be tough to get.