A Top 100 tale

A Top 100 tale

You can't have a high-performing fleet without high-performing technicians, according to George Baker, director of fleet management for Volusia County, Fla. He should know because his fleet was named one of the Top 100 Fleets in North America by Fleet Equipment magazine (Nov. 2006, page 32).

Baker says empowerment, incentives, effective management are keys to achieving high-performing technicians and fleets.

You can’t have a high-performing fleet without high-performing technicians, according to George Baker, director of fleet management for Volusia County, Fla. He should know because his fleet was named one of the Top 100 Fleets in North America by Fleet Equipment magazine (Nov. 2006, page 32).

Theoretically, all fleets have access to the same equipment, tools and technology. So what sets one fleet apart from another is the quality of people it hires and how it manages those people.

Baker’s organization takes great care when it comes to hiring and retaining technicians, measuring technician performance and productivity, and providing feedback. Employee empowerment and outstanding benefits are two keys to retaining good technicians, according to Baker.

“We offer a comprehensive benefits package, which includes good health insurance featuring dental, a wellness program that pays up to $300 of premiums, life insurance of one-year’s salary that’s employer-paid, more than a month of paid leave per year to start, nine holidays, state retirement entirely funded by the employer, 457 deferred compensation, uniforms, boots, free fitness facilities, and preferred-employer discounts at banks and credit unions,” he says.

Benefits also include annual cost of living wage increases, an annual pay-for-performance merit raise, a well-defined career path and a philosophy of promoting from within.

“We empower technicians to suggest and implement operational changes, to work with customers in specifying vehicles and to suggest tools, training or technology items to incorporate into the budget,” he says.

The county attracts technicians through all the traditional methods – online and paper advertising, referrals and posting notices at parts vendors – in addition to conducting intern shadowing of college and technical school students.

“We’ll also recruit technicians from other agencies,” Baker says. “Volusia County has a more professional reputation than many other local fleet maintenance organizations.”

Once technicians are hired, they will receive annual written performance evaluations with quantifiable goals and pay-for-performance raise percentages, he says. Additional lump-sum bonuses can be awarded to exemplary employees.

“We also offer a voluntary program – a written Technician Progression Agreement – with four levels of pay and several levels of skill-based pay incentives,” Baker says. The agreement spells out levels of pay and work, as well as ASE certifications that are required to advance.

“Our Caught in the Act cards document technician excellence, and can be filled out by employee work groups, supervisors, managers or customers,” he says.

The county also offers employee-of-the-quarter and employee-of-the-year awards, and a Golden Wrench award for capturing 1,550 or more billable hours per year. Technicians are responsible for reporting their monthly billable hours, and they are aware of their goals.

“They must accumulate 1,550 billable hours per year to be promoted from pay level 1 to 2, 2 to 3 or 3 to 4,” Baker says.

Technician productivity also is reviewed daily by supervisors, who compare the work completed to standard, acceptable times for frequently performed labor codes.

If repeated vehicle repairs indicate that deficient performance is a problem, managers or supervisors will conduct and document technician-coaching sessions.

Formal and informal procedures exist for technicians to communicate with supervisors and other groups.

“When technicians complete a work order, a push technology e-mail is sent to the department liaison saying the vehicle is ready,” he says. “Also, technicians are selected to serve on the Business Improvement Team with customers to generate service enhancement goals. Technicians also work with customers on new vehicle specifications and make-ready.”

Improvement ideas are solicited from technicians and when they prove valuable are incorporated into the fleet management business plan. Training and shop tool ideas also are solicited and prioritized for inclusion.

“Technicians are paid to attend training courses, except for evening classes after work hours,” Baker says. “Supervisors or the fleet director conducts post-course interviews with them to see what training materials they received and to determine if the class is worth sending others to.”

A variety of training programs are offered, including a written Fleet Management Division Technician Progression Agreement, ASE certification programs, vehicle manufacturer and parts vendor training, Cater-pillar heavy equipment training , in-house CDL testing, safety training for all personnel, mobile fuel truck training and disaster response training.

The county also offers empathy training as a team-building exercise.

“Technicians will work one day in auto parts and parts personnel will work one day in the shop,” he says. “This expands peoples’ paradigms and increases their level of understanding about the business.”

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