Tom Westergaard has been the fleet manager for Prince William County, Va., for the past 16 years. He has also been a member of the American Public Works Association since December 2012, and uses it as a springboard to share his knowledge with and learn from others in the industry.
Taking the apwa self-assessment program using the Public Works Management Practices Manual seminar was beneficial to his job as an operator, said Westergaard. He had previously been in the fleet-based customer service industry of car rentals.
That business was concerned with “providing timely delivery of suitable vehicles in a cost-effective manner,” he said. Municipal fleet management involves the same technical details, along with some additional specialization of equipment up-fitting to provide for mission-specific needs of public safety and infrastructure support.
Vehicle rotation is planned out five years in Prince William County, so that the user, finance, and fleet are aware of the expiration of current vehicles.
“This lead time is vital to prevent last-minute expenses from unexpected changes,” said Westergaard. “It’s very important to work with the user to meet the evolving mission he or she is tasked with.” Playing into the decision to replace a vehicle are budget constraints, expected life of service, ability to support a new platform and changes in user’s methodology.
“For example, formerly, a van would work to take clients to the store in groups. Changes in rules mean the user now takes clients on individual trips, and a smaller vehicle is now a better choice of vehicle. This reduces both the greenhouse gas footprint of the assigned vehicle and the capital investment.” County employees also had to take supplemental training to drive vans: The smaller vehicle eliminated that administrative overhead.
Supplied and skilled
Currently, Westergaard is involved in keeping his staff supplied and skilled, so that they can provide the citizens with top-notch service.
Prince William County Fleet Management Division has earned a 100 Best Fleets designation for six consecutive years, operates an Exemplary Environmental Enterprise certified facility and is part of an Accredited apwa Department of Public Works. Westergaard is a member of the county’s Environmental Management System Council, sits on the Safety and Health Committee and has presented at 100 Best Fleets seminars. He manages a gamut of motorized equipment including general municipal sedans and trucks, motorcycles, patrol vehicles, medics and fire apparatus, solid waste heavy equipment and backup power generators.
Two factors impact fleet capability more than anything else, he said. The changing mission makes vehicles obsolete before end of life, and manufacturers change design or discontinue existing models. “These both require compromise to get the customer into an acceptable vehicle,” he acknowledged.
The Ford Crown Victoria has been a police car of choice for decades with a wide catalogue of equipment designed for performing varied functions, from K-9 to patrol to prisoner transport. But Ford recently discontinued production of the Crown Victoria, forcing police departments to redesign their mission and vendors to find ways to support them.
“For fleet operations, the change is trial and error with up-fit equipment. Our police department decided to pick the all-wheel drive Ford Interceptor as the replacement vehicle, he said. “The biggest challenge is performing dynamometer certification on all-wheel drive vehicles with a two-wheel drive dynamometer. The mechanic must spend an extra 90 minutes to disconnect one set of drive wheels and the reconnect after the test. This has to be done to each patrol car twice a year in our jurisdiction.”
One mechanic developed a prop shaft hanger that reduced the effort by 25 minutes.
“The conversion from two-wheel to all-wheel drive vehicles is running about 60 cars per year. This is adding a workload of about 3.3 man weeks each successive year, and increases the vehicle downtime. We’ve looked at alternatives and were able to get funding for an all-wheel drive dynamometer, which will restore productivity especially as the fleets convert from the outgoing model.”