Fleet Services keeps city vehicles on the go
The Colony Fleet Services Department is a division of Public Works overseen by Director Leo Lavender. Fleet Services is responsible for helping to acquire and maintain all of the vehicles utilized by city employees.
Yes, all of them. That’s every police car and fire truck, street sweeper and backhoe, passenger van and riding lawn mower. That’s 140 vehicles, ranging from light to heavy duty; and another 250 pieces of equipment such as concrete saws, rollers, and generators, to name a few.
Maintenance work is steady at the shop, located at 1 Harris Plaza. Repairs tend to come in waves, said Sam Marin, Fleet Services manager. Whatever the workflow may be, safety is the No. 1 priority when you’re dealing with large pieces of heavy machinery all day every day.
“Since I started here five years ago, we haven’t had one accident or incident of any kind,” Marin said. “Safety is our main priority, not just in the shop but also with the vehicles we return to service. Check it twice. Check it three times. Whatever it takes to do the job right.”
Marin’s team is comprised of Lead Technician Dwight Cox, Emergency Vehicle Technician Brandon Poe, and Technicians Christopher Gagne and James Magana. The majority of their work is preventative maintenance, or PM for short.
“Preventative maintenance is mostly in-and-out. We find and fix minor leaks and loose parts before they become bigger problems. Our service takes an hour or two depending on the vehicle. We don’t delay,” Marin said. “Major repairs can, of course, take longer but the PM should minimize the need for anything major. We have a very low return rate for repairs, which makes me proud.”
The PM schedule is based around the needs of each individual vehicle, such as mileage and/or hours of service. They perform an average of about 50 preventative maintenance checks per month.
Whether it’s a PM or repairs, technicians move quickly, without sacrificing quality, because they understand that city staff needs the equipment back on the street as soon as possible. “Most of the departments don’t have equipment in reserve so when a vehicle is offline for service we have to turn it around quickly,” Marin said.
In other words, firefighters being without their fire truck is not an option. “As a central point for providing quality service that keeps the city up and running, our responsibility is extremely high,” Marin said.
Despite a rigorous maintenance schedule, sometimes vehicles still break down. Repairs for certain kinds of equipment, like a recently damaged skid-steer with busted axles, must be outsourced because it’s more cost efficient.
“In-house repairs would require a couple weeks of work, which disrupts our PM schedule, requires trips to acquire expensive parts, and ultimately costs the city more money than sending it to the manufacturer for the repairs,” Marin said.
Road calls are another big part of their job. Technicians are on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist any department with roadside emergencies. Many of the city’s vehicles are in operation around the clock. If a police officer, firefighter, or public works staffer breaks down at 1 a.m., Fleet Services responds immediately.
Case in point. The Colony Police Department recently required quick turnaround for transport of a suspect from a hospital to the city jail. In order to ensure safe transport, an ambulance was required, but not an in-service vehicle that might be needed for a medical emergency by the fire department. Fleet techs hit the ground running prior to regular hours that morning to quickly put a reserve ambulance with a malfunctioning AC unit back into service.
Fire and police equipment often have special needs, too, which is why the city has an Emergency Vehicle Technician on staff, Brandon Poe. He maintains certification to work on the unique components of emergency vehicles so that they meet national standards of operational efficiency. An ambulance may have a universal chasse but it also has multiple AC units and specialized air-flow/recirculation components, for example.
“An ambulance has special tires and exhaust systems, too, but the main thing is ventilation and making sure the vacuum pumps and oxygen systems work,” Poe said. “Ladder trucks also have complex water pumps, line voltage, and tons of specialized electrical components.”
Despite their best efforts, nothing lasts forever. City vehicles traverse the same roadways under construction as everyone else, only more so. Some are running nearly 24 hours a day and have high mileage.
“At some point equipment gets replaced but if we can keep it running then we’re providing service and saving money at the same time,” Marin said.
An additional service provided by the Fleet Services Department is serving as a drop-off point for residents wishing to dispose of old tires. Residents may drop off tires between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the facility.
Helping keep the city beautified by accepting old tires is a definitive service for residents but Marin hopes they see how everything the Fleet Services Department does is geared toward enhancing the quality of life in the city.
“The people in this city are fantastic. This community deserves the best,” he said. “From city management down to every department director and staff member, we all share the same goals – we all want to do the best.”