Fleet Management keeps the wheels turning

Inside the City of Asheville’s Fleet Management garage on South Charlotte Street, there is a good sampling of the kinds of vehicles that keep city departments moving: Asheville Police cruisers are up on lifts. A Water Services Department pickup truck is getting its fluids checked. Technicians are testing the hydraulic arm of a knuckle boom truck, the heavy-duty vehicle used by the Sanitation Division to pick up brush. And nestled in between all of this, a Parking Services electric cart sits waiting for a checkup.

There are about 850 vehicles that make up the City of Asheville’s fleet of vehicles, and every one goes through this garage at some point.

“Pretty much you name it we have it. There is a wide, wide variety,” says Fleet Manager Mark Stevens, who moved into the position nine months ago. “If it’s manufactured, we probably have one or will have one down the road.” Apart from the examples above, the garage also handles fire trucks, streetsweepers, mowers, dump trucks and even the APD’s three Segways.

The division also maintains the fleet’s fuel stations. New alternative fuels means not just gas fueling stations, but also natural gas and biodiesel. (All City of Asheville diesel-powered vehicles operate on biodiesel.)

Keeping all 850 vehicles operational falls to nine shop mechanics: four automotive, four heavy equipment, and one service technician. Typically, two A-B Tech students are on hand as well, working at the garage while completing their programs at the college. That crew is constantly working to get vehicles back out on the road. “We do about 30 or 40 work orders a day,” Stevens says. That pace is necessary to keep the organization moving. “Unless we get a vehicle repaired, other people can’t get their job done.”

A support staff works alongside the mechanics to make sure they get everything they need, including an in-house parts department, and a shop supervisor keeps track of what is coming in and going out. That task does not go unrecognized; earlier this year, the Fleet’s Shop Supervisor Kevin Haughinberry was awarded Supervisor of the Year for 2009 by the city.

Within the year, says Stevens, improvements to the division will help track and streamline operations at the fleet garage. Upcoming software enhancements will keep up with mileage, use and maintenance schedules of vehicles and provide easy-to-reach data about the fleet.

“Once we have better access to this information, we can better see what’s working and what’s taking us time,” Stevens says. The system will also help to identify when vehicles need replacing.

Another upcoming enhancement in the upcoming months is the hiring of a Service Writer who will act as a customer service representative. “We want to run the operation similar to a dealership,” Stevens says.

“We are excited about some of the upcoming changes in Fleet Management operations,” says Cathy Ball, the city’s Director of Public Works. “Our hope is that departments will receive better customer service and more timely information in additional to quality service of their vehicles.”

“We’ve already made huge strides, and we’ve gotten great support, so we are very close to getting everything in place and improving our service,” Stevens says. “These folks are our customers. That’s what we do.”