Fleet Certifications Save Money for City

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Fleet Certifications Save Money for City

Posted: 03/13/2009
Not too long ago there was a steady stream of city-owned vehicles flowing to local vehicle dealerships for repairs that were covered by a warranty or a dealer recall.

But that's all changed in recent months. "At one point we were like Niagara Falls sending stuff out (for repair)," said Fleet Services Division Director Mark Kolander. "Now, we're more like a leaky faucet." 
That's because over the past 18 months the mechanics and staff of the City of Knoxville's Fleet Services division have taken steps that will keep many repairs in-house and result in at least $100,000 worth of benefit to the city through a combination of savings and generation of additional revenue.

Since 2007 Fleet Services has earned certifications to do warranty repairs and recall work, and what is known as "drop/ship receiving" of new vehicles, from Chrysler, General Motors, Freightliner/Sterling and Ferrara Fire Equipment Inc. In addition Fleet has received warranty certifications from Jasper Transmission and Transmission America.

Late last year Fleet Services Light Shop received the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Blue Seal Certification, making Knoxville one of only four municipalities in the state to have the certificate which indicates its mechanics are at the top of their game.

What all that translates into is that instead of sending city vehicles under warranty to a dealership for repair now the city can do the repairs - and then charge the vehicle manufacturers for the work.

With a fleet of nearly 1,400 vehicles including those driven by the Knoxville Police Department, Fire Department, Public Service and Engineering Departments the savings will be significant. That number includes support equipment like pumps and trailers. 
"This is great example of a city department that�s gone the extra mile to make a difference for the residents of Knoxville and for their fellow employees," said Mayor Bill Haslam. "This effort is going to save the city money in tough economic times and keep city vehicles on the road instead of sitting in a lot waiting to be repaired. Fleet Service has done a great job and we're very proud of what they have accomplished." 
Kolander said Fleet began the effort to obtain the necessary certifications with the idea of bringing in extra revenue for the city and improving downtime. That reduced downtime is reflected in both a quicker turnaround for repairs, in part because mechanics don't have to leave work to deliver cars to be repaired. 
"If I have to transport your car that often ties up two mechanics each way," Kolander said. "If I don't have to take it to a dealer I've just eliminated all that pick-up and delivery time. That's a cost savings." 
Drop/Ship receiving involves the dealer charging the city to deliver a new vehicle. With these certifications the city now picks up the cars and pockets the dealer charge it used to pay.

But getting to this point wasn't an easy process. The city's 23 mechanics (10 in the Light Shop for smaller vehicles and 13 in the Heavy Shop for vehicles one-ton and up) had to successfully complete continuing education courses in several different categories ranging from transmission repairs to air conditioning to suspension and steering. Kolander said the city had to have a certain number of master mechanics to qualify for the certificates. 
"They aren't just going to give them to you if you can't do the work," he said. "Without all this extra training and know-how they wouldn't have been able to get the ASE's. The manufacturers also visited the city's facilities off Prosser Road and checked out the city's diagnostic equipment and mechanic's certificates among other things.

Fleet Services other staff, including the parts employees folks and service writers also took courses to help it qualify for the various certificates.

There are other benefits to earning the certificates. "It means we have higher quality mechanics and that also helps keeps vehicles on the street," said Kolander. "Transmissions, air conditioning, you name it, we can do internally." He indicated that the city's shops are able to turn most repair jobs around in a 24-to-48 hour period, a much quicker turnaround than when the cars and trucks were sent out for warranty repairs.

Currently Fleet Services is working to add the Ford Motor Company's certifications to its list.

Fleet Services is part of the City of Knoxville's Department of Operations & Efficiency, which is led by Senior Director Sam Anderson.