Kent State University Fleet Superintendent John Croop has the unusual background of once being a police officer. Immediately before his current position he was assistant fleet manager for a sheriff’s office and before that he was a police officer with the duties of fleet manager. Below he shares his experiences in fleet management, vitalness of networking and his tips for fellow fleet managers:
Q. What led to your transition to fleet management?
A: My transition to fleet was a natural progression. I trained and worked as an automotive technician for several years after high school. Approximately six years after joining the Ravenna, Ohio, Police Department as a patrolman, I was assigned the extra duty of fleet management. Taking on the assignment, as a trained automotive technician, I saw the shortcomings with an outsourced repair system. I was able to assure that repairs were completed properly. With my personal oversight and knowledge, I was able to ensure that the police department was getting what we paid for. All too often private vendors take advantage of government entities thinking they are a bottomless pit of cash.
After serving in this capacity for a short time, I read an article that mentioned NAFA. I made contact and joined the organization and started my professional network. I actively would seek out any and all information on efficient, effective best practices in fleet management. This network is probably one of the most important benefits of my career in fleet management.
Q. Was there any particular training that you took as you went from police officer to fleet management? (Or first went into fleet management?)
A: In particular, my training and certification through NAFA. But any and all classes as they pertain to fleet management and operations.
As a side note, until March 2014 I maintained my position of sworn peace officer in the state of Ohio, completing 34 years of service. So, in effect, I have carried a trade — Master Certified Automotive Technician — and two professions — Certified Automotive Fleet Manager and sworn peace officer — for the majority of my adult life.
Q. Given the broad range of vehicles in the fleet — including agricultural tractors, dump trucks, electric carts and vehicles, weed eaters, mowers, construction equipment, police vehicles, and medium-duty trucks — how has your planned cross-training of workers gone?
A: Cross-training is going well. Some of the hands-on training is limited in availability. So a lot of it is technicians reading online manuals and learning as they go. I am working on securing some hands-on training for primarily the automotive side of hybrid vehicles; this would be hybrid-focused training for mechanics in the shop.
We have hybrids and electric carts and low-speed vehicles. We are examining expanding our fleet electrically. With the arrival of the Chevrolet Bolt model, we are moving more in that direction. We are purchasing some new electric vehicles, but still not as many as gas-powered ones in this coming year.
Maintenance in hybrids concerns the internal combustion engine. On the electric side of vehicles, there’s not a lot of maintenance. The life cycle is about the same as gas-powered vehicles. With the current low price of gasoline, the cost of electric vehicles is not recouped as quickly as when gasoline costs were higher.
Q. How many vehicles are you in charge of?
A: The number of licensed vehicles in the fleet is 220. We also have 650 pieces of equipment on top of that — weed eaters, mowers, ag tractors, generators, etc.
Q. What is your greatest challenge in fleet management?
A: Data collection and management in our fleet management system is difficult. We work with software called FAMIS, which is not fleet management software. A system more designed for fleet management would be much more functional for what we do here. On the cutting edge are AssetWorks, FASTER and Fleet Commander.
Q. What steps have you taken that you feel best about?
A: I have felt best about reexamining maintenance intervals and adjusting them accordingly.
I also combined our fleets parts warehouse with a parts warehouse located elsewhere on the property. This saves technicians time to procure certain parts, which had been a big time waster.
We are just beginning a contracted fleet consulting service provided by Mercury and Associates. This is a fleet consulting and review. They will provide a complete overview and forensic dissection or our fleet and where we are. This will be compared to where we should be in terms of other fleets and industry standards.
Q. What are some things you liked about municipal fleet management?
A: The variety. Every day is different with multiple different pieces of equipment. Every day’s demands are prioritized differently on a daily basis.
The structure of the governmental fleet environment.
That the most important thing was that I got to play a role in providing the most cost-effective service to the taxpayers.
Q.What advice would you give to fleet managers in cities?
A: Don’t become blinded by any one function. Step out of the box on occasion and get the 30,000-foot view of your operation.
Network with your peers. Become involved in fleet associations. Find out what others are doing. That network has been very valuable to me.
Don’t lose touch with the people on the shop floor. Walk the shop floor daily and touch base with the technicians there.