2020 FLEXY Winner: Managing Accountability

2020 FLEXY Winner: Managing Accountability

By Donald Dunphy

May 2020

Managing complexity makes the challenge of accountability more dramatic. Overseeing a fleet of more than 2,400 units and seven maintenance locations, with an operating budget of more than $16 million, including fuel cost is impressive. Add to this hard winters with major precipitation serviced by snow plows, sweepers, salt spreaders, and other heavy-duty equipment that cannot be out of commission when needed. This is the complex fleet that FLEXY winner Brad Salazar, Fleet Management Director for the City and County of Denver Department of Transportation & Infrastructure (DOTI) manages.

God Is in the Details

We recently caught up with Salazar to get the inside story on how his fleet exceeds expectations. The fact that DOTI has 95% or better fleet availability rates for all units with 90% of repairs completed within three days (the remaining 10% of repairs are targeted for over the next three days) is surpassed by  a 70% same-day repair standard.
The key, Salazar says, is in relentless oversight: “We perform a lot of pre-inspections. These are split up between shops and shifts, and each is assigned a certain amount of equipment.”
Salazar’s team has developed, in conjunction with the OEMs, specific weekly checklists for their refuge equipment and street sweepers: among these are the seals for hydraulic cylinders, the grabbers and arm assembly for refuge equipment; elevator flights, the conveyor system, and all components related to the main and gutter broom assemblies on the street sweepers. Their fleet also provides rebuilds of spreaders, plows and paving equipment during the off seasons. “These take place on top of our usual preventive maintenance, and we also do a top-to-bottom safety inspection of any equipment before it leaves the shop,” Salazar adds.

Relentless Discipline

By being so focused on monitoring equipment, Salazar’s team has identified emerging problems that could become massive headaches. “Inspections like these keep the shop less bogged down with minor repairs as we are catching them before they become big problems,” Salazar says. “That way, we can focus on big repairs, preventive maintenance vs. reactive maintenance.”
This approach expands beyond the shop. “We have lead technicians at their main locations, and during the week they will randomly pull recently repaired equipment off the line for a quality control reinspection,” Salazar says. Any organization is as productive and efficient as its staff. “We monitor our key performance indicators (KPIs) through dashboards built into our fleet management software,” Salazar explains. “Supervisors are required to review these -- as well as work orders -- daily. Managers will review all these monthly. We make sure we are consistent in meeting KPIs,” he says. “If we can find where inefficiencies are, we can change our game plan, move staff around, update how often they should be monitored, and determine who will be in charge of that monitoring.”
The emphasis on accountability has paid off, but it is only one aspect of DOTI’s success of Fleet Management.

Knowing When to Change Oil and When Not To
Salazar’s combined shops have saved an estimated 76,000 quarts of motor oil by using onsite testing to extend drain intervals for heavy-duty vehicles. Typically, oil changes are made according to rigid schedules based on mileage or months and are seldom deviated from. Yet that oil may still have a lot of life left in it.
Plus, oil is a great way of discovering other issues that are going on in a vehicle. Unnecessarily dark oil could indicate overheating. The appearance of additional chemicals finding their way into the oil could tip off additional issues, from weakening seals to failing cylinders in the motor.
“Before doing this in-house, we sent samples out for testing,” Salazar explains. “That was a lot of wasted time, as we would complete the PM, send the vehicles back out, and then get the samples back. If there was an issue, we would have to pull it back in to address it.
“Now we know right away, and because of it we have revamped the PM program, avoiding overdoing oil changes,” he adds.
Another effort to increase oil value comes from decreasing unnecessary vehicle usage. Telematics-powered route optimization has helped reduce fleet CO2 emissions by 2.7% per year on a miles-traveled basis. Telematics also track idle time, and idling is a major contributor to emissions, equipment wear, and oil/fuel waste. “Street Maintenance utilizes route tracking across the spectrum, so it doesn’t matter which driver gets into which vehicle to perform snow plowing, they know what their route is,” Salazar said. Furthering his insistence on accountability, the reports are shared with all the agencies Denver DOTI serves. “This lets them know their highest hours/minutes the vehicles have been idling and how much that will cost them in fuel consumption.”
Telematics also report which vehicles are being under-utilized, and this provides an opportunity to support other agencies that might put that equipment to better use.

Getting People to Work
The fleet industry faces many challenges concerning the recruiting, onboarding, and retention of service technicians. By teaming up with the city’s human resources staff, brokering meetings with vocational and technical schools, Salazar’s team has bolstered their curriculum to meet real-world requirements. “The schools tend to teach toward standard mechanics - motors, transmissions, and brakes - so we let them know about our hiring requirements. We need mechanics who know about the range of equipment we have, which includes hydraulics.”
These instruction programs can now update their curriculum to match the real-world needs of the field, and by extension, graduate students with the most potential for being hired. Further, through DOTI Fleet Management’s participation, one school shortened its two-year program to one year, accelerating graduates’ entry into the workforce. The fleet has already hired three students from local schools.
It is of great importance to Salazar that mechanics receive most-current education. 68% of the fleet’s technicians have ASE or comparable certifications. He has set goals for technicians to participate in 80 hours minimum of training per year. The fleet currently has six leadership positions enrolled in NAFA’s CAFM program. Salazar’s 5-year vision is for employees to complete the following certifications: For Directors, CAFM and Sustainable Fleet Certification; for Managers, CAFM Certification; for Supervisors, CAFS; and for Administrators, at least one Fleet Discipline certificate. The fleet is also working on its Certified Fleet Management Operation re-certification and is in the process of obtaining its ASE Blue Seal.
Working with the OCFO and BMO on an internal pay equity, 61 technicians received an average annual pay increase by $2,828. DOTI’s Fleet Management team also provides an ASE Stipend for their technicians.
Additionally, Salazar’s team partners with Denver Day Works, a  city program devoted to helping people experiencing  homelessness the opportunity to work. “The program helps them get back into the workforce. For fleet, they start with our nightly sweeper wash and lube program. We have offered participants from this program full time positions. We do hands-on assessments during our interview and hiring process that includes computer systems, brake systems, hydraulic systems, electrical systems and welding. The hands-on assessment is standard for all potential hires.”
For those connected to Denver Day Works, it is a chance to get and grow skills to obtain jobs, whether with Denver DOTI or elsewhere. It is also a chance for participants to get a paycheck. “Their starting pay is not the same wages as our new hires, but it certainly helps and offers the potential to be hired and increase salary and obtain benefits for the long-term.”
Accountability, in Salazar’s eyes, is not just about taking responsibility for your work, but also in taking pride in one’s achievements. In this, he shares his FLEXY win with his team and his support staff, for they were equally instrumental in this accomplishment.

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