By NICHOLAS SAKELARIS | CoServ
In one scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Marion jabs at an injured Indiana Jones for his worn appearance after getting dragged under a Nazi troop carrier.
In true Harrison Ford style, he quips, “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.”
For CoServ’s fleet of bucket trucks, digger trucks and other vehicles, it’s a combination of years, mileage and, for many of our heavy duty trucks, it’s also the hours they put in.
That’s because these vehicles spend so much time on the side of the road while CoServ linemen and gas technicians work on electric and gas infrastructure. It’s up to Fleet Coordinators Aubrey Fortenberry, Donnie Morgan and Michael Hartin to look beyond the odometer readings to keep track of how many hours this fleet spends working in the field.
CoServ linemen want to respond to power outages as quickly and safely as possible – so having a breakdown is unacceptable. But more than that, when a bucket is hanging 50 feet in the air next to a power line, the lineman is putting his life in the hands of that truck – and the Fleet Services Department that maintains it.
“The way linemen look at power lines is the way I look at their trucks,” Aubrey said. “The most important thing is getting these guys home safely.”
The fleet logged more than 3 million miles in 2020 driving to places like Justin, McKinney, Pilot Point and Forney to service CoServ’s combined 400,000 electric and gas meters.
As the co-op grows, so does the fleet – CoServ has 60-plus vehicles on order for the next few years. In 2019, CoServ leadership saw the need to create a Fleet Services Department to modernize our fleet management practices.
Every 90 days or so, CoServ vehicles are cycled through an inspection to check fluids, common wear points and other potential problems. That’s in addition to the bi-annual inspections and dielectric testing conducted by CoServ Fleet Services.
Avoiding those big-ticket repairs has reduced CoServ’s repair budget by 15 to 20 percent month-over-month compared to 2020’s repair budget, Fleet Manager Tim Meyer said.
“We want to have eyes on every CoServ vehicle at least four times a year, even if that truck isn’t driven that often,” Tim said. “Reactive maintenance is always more expensive than preventative maintenance.”
In April, CoServ started a new idle reduction policy aimed at reducing wear and tear on the fleet while cutting emissions and fuel costs. If the temperatures are between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, operators are asked not to idle unless necessary for their job functions, such as working a bucket or digger.
One hour of idling is equivalent to putting 25 miles of wear and tear on a vehicle, Tim said. Through the second quarter, CoServ drivers cut idling by 41 percent. That equals approximately $400,000 in annualized savings.
“This has been one of many successes thanks to the dedication of CoServ drivers,” Tim said.