Most improved: Tulsa wins top fleet award
After its second-place finish in 2020, the city of Tulsa’s equipment management division has won the No. 1 Fleet Award from The 100 Best Fleets in the Americas for 2021.
“It’s very exciting,” said Brian Franklin, administration manager for the city’s asset management department, which handles fleet management and maintenance, parking meter repair and installation, parking enforcement and parking garage oversight and more. “We’ve been working really hard, and that effort has paid off.”
Franklin said the city began applying for the Best Fleets in the Americas award 10 to 12 years ago when then-mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. hired an outside auditor to evaluate the fleet division and outline those areas in which it could improve. The first year’s results were disappointing but illuminating.
“I think we came in at number 50 or 75, but every year we’ve used the feedback we have received to make improvements, and this year, we took the top spot.”
Room to grow
The 100 Best Fleets in the Americas program recognizes peak-performing fleet operations. It identifies and encourages the ever-increasing levels of performance, improvement and innovation in the public fleet industry.
Tim C. Johnson, founder of The 100 Best Fleets in the Americas organization, said Tulsa’s Equipment Management team is a “best-in-class organization applying innovative thinking to real-world results.”
Franklin said Tulsa’s fleet operation competed in several categories, including accountability, use of technology and information, collaboration, creativity, celebration, evidence of a high trust culture, performance recognition, efficient turnaround, competitive pricing, staff development and resource stewardship. He said staff attended conferences and learned what other communities were doing so that they could determine what practices are best for their own division.
By examining its operations management and identifying those areas that needed improvements, Tulsa optimized its fleet availability by creating a more efficient shop so that departments can get their vehicles back out on the road. It has updated its diagnostic equipment so vehicles can be fixed correctly the first time they are brought into the shop, and it has also incorporated GPS units that help drivers plan more efficient routes.
“Our overarching goal is to get our vehicles into the shop quickly, get them fixed right the first time for less money, get them back out on the road and help our team feel good about the work they are doing.”
That requires making a significant investment in the team, and Tulsa has not been shy in putting its money where its mouth is. Tulsa not only offers pay increases for professional certifications but also creates an opportunity for internal training and development. Since creating this program, Tulsa technicians have earned over 350 certifications and have traveled over 100,000 miles for training before the COVID-19 pandemic kept the team close to home. In addition, they create T-shirts that celebrate various milestones, rotate shop safety captains to give everyone the chance to serve in a leadership position, and they recognize the Technician of the Month, who is presented with a WWE-style belt at a celebratory lunch.
“Food is always a big deal for our employees,” Franklin said. “Each month, the previous winner hands it off to the next winner, and at the end of the year, they participate in a SmackDown type of event to compete for the Technician of the Year. The winner gets to take the belt home for keeps.”
Mentoring the next generation
Tulsa was also lauded for its Learning with a Wrench program, a high school internship program that was developed in partnership with the Union Public School system. The Learning with a Wrench program gives juniors and seniors, who have an interest in learning auto mechanics, the basic job skills that can help them on their path to prosperity. Since its inception seven years ago, 100 students have taken part in the program, and there is usually a waiting list to participate.
“Some kids don’t know what kind of career path they want to go into, but by participating in the Learning with a Wrench program, they get the knowledge and experience of working in a vehicle maintenance facility while we build a stronger workforce,” Franklin said. “We pay them to work in our shop, and in some cases, we recruit them right out of high school. Others go on to tech schools and find jobs at dealerships that offer huge new hire bonuses.”
Johnson said the Learning with a Wrench program is a win-win for all involved. “Their dedicated apprentice program is a service not only to young people in Tulsa but also to the state and America because they are emulated across North America.”
Tulsa’s fleet is one of only two that has won the No. 1 Fleet award as well as the No. 1 Leading Fleet in North America for 2018. Equipment Maintenance Manager Mike Wallace said after taking the 2018 title, the team set their sights on the 100 Best Fleets Award, and he is pleased that the team reached the momentous achievement.
“We’re making history together as a team,” he said.
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