Have you thanked your city’s fleet manager recently? Supervising a diverse supply of vehicles and machinery is a huge job.
The American Public Works Association has a National Fleet Services Committee, which keeps up with new trends and regulations that affect fleet operations. It offers click-and-learn programs dedicated to fleet issues and also a certification program that is for public fleet professionals. Then at the National Congress, there are programs geared toward fleet service professionals.
Tommy Brown, who is in his fourth year as regional director of the National Board of Directors for awpa in Region IV, has completed his certificate of Public Works Management Program through the Georgia chapter of apwa. He has stayed active with the continuing education in the program, which has proven a useful tool in his management responsibilities.
Brown is a purveyor for information from the six states he represents: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. He’s also the superintendent of Fleet Services in LaGrange, Ga., where he has worked for more than 40 years and was promoted to fleet superintendent in 1988.
Although the predication is that cities will be buying more fleet vehicles this year than during the recession, Brown was quick to point out that the public sector is not feeling the effects of the recovery as swiftly as the private sector.
“The public sector weathered the storm longer … most government agencies operate on tax revenue and will only be able to purchase new equipment after the money comes back in. You will see some equipment bought, but I think we are a few years from a full recovery,” he said.
What process does Brown use for evaluating what kind of vehicle will best fit his needs?
“We sit down with the user departments and see what their needs are. We then put together bid specifications, which are then sent out, and we evaluate the bids by price, availability, past performance and vendor performance. We also have equipment that comes from sole-source vendors.”
When Brown assumed the duties he now has, he recalls his early days as “not having computers, automated fuel systems and we didn’t charge labor rates.
“I have implemented all these programs, and now we run a modern shop that covers the cost of our internal service department, and we charge a labor rate, a markup on parts and a fuel surcharge to our user departments. I also implemented a program where we sell gasoline and diesel to outside agencies for profit.”
One of the biggest problems that he sees in the future of fleet services is the aging professional technician.
“Over the next 10 years, we are going to lose a lot of good experienced techs,” said Brown. “There isn’t anyone currently available to take their places. I think that public fleet shops are going to have to invest a lot of money in training personnel for future hires.”