What Would You Do?

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Would you be able to solve the problems we’ll analyze in this case study, based on a fictional fleet?

The setting for our case study is a mid-sized city with two separate fleets, Transit and Public Works.

Bob Bertram was the fleet manager for Public Works, which had about 600 vehicles used by several divisions. He had been on the job for six months. His boss was the acting Director, Lesley Harrison, a landscape architect by training. Bob’s direct reports included the Fleet Planning Supervisor and the Garage Supervisor.

The Fleet Planning Supervisor, with a staff of four, was Carol Parent. Carol had been a shift supervisor for five years in the transit garage and loved her job there. In a recent reorganization, she was offered the choice of the Fleet Planning job or no job and accepted the move to Public Works with bitterness. In her opinion, the Public Works fleet was a second-rate operation.

The Garage Supervisor, John Shields, had started with the city as a mechanic 24 years earlier and was now 45 years old. His career objective was retirement at age 55.

John’s staff included one foreman, ten mechanics, one shop helper, two stock keepers and two clerks. The foreman, Don Crawford, managed two satellite garages and filled in at the main garage when John was on vacation.

Meetings with fleet services staff

Bertram had spent quite a bit of time meeting with his staff beginning the day after he started. He recalled feeling like a therapist after having one-on-one conversations with Parent, Shields, and Bette Fischer, the accounting supervisor (who reported to Harrison).

Carol vented for a while about her treatment at Transit and being sent to Public Works. Although she had a good opinion of her own staff, it was clear that she felt that Shields fell short of herself as a shop supervisor. Her other concern was that the city’s permit to operate heavy trucks was racking up a lot of demerit points and might soon receive a warning from the authorities.

Bob’s interview with John was next. John said, “This whole budget thing is out of line. For some reason, Fleet has the budget for maintenance. The users, they’re like farm animals at the trough, each one fighting for their share before it runs out. We have to keep the plows running; they come first. After that, waste, I guess. Councillors were mad during the last strike. Garbage wasn’t picked up for three weeks in the middle of summer.”

Internal issues

John was also concerned about friction between the mechanics and some of the users. “The users don’t take care of their equipment. They break it and then say to the mechanics, ‘Here, you fix it.’ The mechanics aren’t respected.”

Fischer said she never understood why Fleet held the budget for maintenance, as well as fuel and the capital reserve fund for new vehicles. “The users pay for it in the end,” she said. “It’s done through a cost allocation process. Whatever Fleet spends in a month, I allocate back to the users based on how many vehicles they have. They don’t explain it in their operating budgets. It’s a ‘below the line’ entry. If there are any questions at Council, Fleet answers them.”

The operating budget was $8.7 million, which had increased 14 percent from the previous year. The capital budget had remained flat at $1.6 million for several years.

Bob also arranged a “ride around” with Crawford to visit the satellite shops. At one point, Don said, “I need more mechanics. Most of our day is stopping work on a preventive maintenance job to fix a breakdown. We can’t keep up with the inspections to be compliant with the regulations.”

What needs to be addressed? What are the possible solutions?

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