“Our Fleet Services Department falls under our Sustainability Division within the public works department,” said Carlos Berriz, fleet program manager with the city of Fort Lauderdale since 2012. “That puts the environment in the forefront of the way we do things.” With an estimated vehicle replacement cost of nearly $71 million, it also takes an energetic, united-in-mission, openminded and think-outside-the-box team who are engaged, focused and committed to keep the city of Fort Lauderdale rolling.
The fleet services department is responsible for maintenance, repair and effective replacement of nearly 1,500 cars, vans, trucks, backhoes, trenchers, loaders, cranes, fire department pumpers, rescue trucks and aerial ladders, as well as marked and unmarked police vehicles. It’s also in charge of managing the city’s gasoline and diesel fuel inventories, including an allocation of reserves for emergency use, and for the operation of four fueling sites. Berriz’s department is then tasked with reducing the environmental impact of fleet operations by purchasing vehicles that maximize fuel efficiency and are of the right size and type to meet specific needs, thus decreasing both environmental and financial costs.
Annual operating budget for the city’s fleet ranges between $9 and $10 million. The annual capital budget is roughly $5 million, and yearly fuel costs for gasoline and diesel run over $4.8 million. To administer all of it, the city employs a fleet team of three people — Berriz and two administrative assistants — whose job it is to contract with professional service providers for the maintenance, repair, upgrade and purchase of vehicles, fuel and equipment.
Maintenance and repair of city vehicles and equipment has been privatized since 1981.The fleet team is responsible for overseeing the service contract awarded via RFP and currently held by First Vehicle Services, which provides a labor force — including service technicians, managers, administrators and various specialists — of 47.
“One of the things that we require of the contractor is that their technicians are ASE Certified,” said Berriz, referencing the standardized nationwide automotive-professional testing and certification administered by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Among other criteria, master mechanics must also be Emergency Vehicle Technician certified.
“We make sure they are meeting those contract goals by meeting every single morning to look at what’s in the shop and having knowledge of what’s important for the day.” Every vehicle and service is tracked with fleet management software so that information is fresh at all times. They also talk about any bottlenecks that may be happening and address those.
“Priorities change, sometimes minute-tominute, based on what is going on, so we send out daily notifications of vehicle status, which forecast how long a vehicle will be in the shop,” he said. This is done every day, too, so other departments can organize their work schedules by having information about when a particular vehicle will be back in service.
In August the service workflow was augmented with a tablet system via which repair work is assigned to technicians in electronic format. Once assigned a vehicle, the technician brings it into the shop, diagnoses the issue, requisitions or orders parts and estimates the time needed to do the work. All information is tracked at each step by the software system. When the technician completes the work and the vehicle is ready to go back into service, the supervisor in charge of that vehicle is notified by email.
“We’re really proud of the tablet system because the technician, right from the work area, can access so much information,” Berriz said. He also explained that the team is in the process of changing over to a paperless shop in which not only will all information be transmitted electronically, but service manuals for the various autos, trucks and pieces of equipment that must be maintained will be readily available in digital format on every technician’s tablet.
Once a month fleet user meetings are held, which provide perspective on how the different departments being served are viewing the fleet services department and some of the challenges they’re going through. “It’s all communication both ways. A lot of the changes that we do internally have come through the fleet user meetings,” he noted.
“Our fleet team enhanced our data tracking and reporting capabilities to include idle time, miles driven by vehicles and mpg comparisons. These reports are shared at every monthly meeting, and strategies are put in place to improve those metrics.”
Berriz’s Fleet Team has been together just over three years. They look at problems as an opportunity for improvement.
“We understand that what may have worked yesterday may not work today or tomorrow, and we recognize that sometimes ideas that look good on a piece of paper may not work in practice. We encourage the flow of ideas from any level of the organization,” he acknowledged.
Notably, even though the people who provide the hands-on service are employees of the private sector, Berriz sees them all as “one big team with a common goal. There is no ‘them and us,’” he assured. “It’s all us, and our team’s relentless pursuit of perfection has honed our sense of urgency. Regardless of significant improvements to the fleet, we firmly believe in our environmental and fiduciary responsibility to the current and future citizens of our community.”
Using the International Organization for Standardization Environmental and Sustainability Management System brought a systematic approach to improve to the department’s service performance, lowered costs, improved safety, introduced new technology and involved all of employees in energy and water conservation, pollution prevention, waste reduction and natural resource protection.
“We made changes to our procurement practices to include capital cost as well as projected fuel cost when determining each vehicle replacement … We increased the number of ultra low emission hybrid vehicles replaced from 2 percent of the vehicles scheduled for replacement in fiscal year 13 to an average of almost 30 percent since then. We have a goal to reduce our fuel consumption by 20 percent by FY2020 from FY2010 baseline, and we are committed to meet or exceed this target,” he said.
The best advice Berriz offers is to never stop learning, never get set in one’s ways and always keep an open mind to ideas offered from any level in the organization.
“Be dedicated to the development of staff by encouraging continuing education through formal and certificate training. Remain energetic and always listen to your customer needs. If you are not making mistakes, you are not doing. Never be afraid to fail, own them, learn from your mistakes, and move on. Our team is the greatest asset we have, and our development is paramount to our success.”