With about 600 vehicle service appointments per month, it’s safe to say the Fleet Services Department keeps the City running. Daily, the six bays at the Service Center are filled with fire department apparatus, police department cruisers, solid waste and recycling trucks, parks and recreation vehicles, water utilities, construction and facilities maintenance vehicles, Senior Center vans, riding lawnmowers and more.
The Driving Force
Ernie Ramos, Fleet Materials Manager, said, “The City would not be able to function without a Fleet Services Department. It wouldn’t be able to provide a lot of the services that the people of Richardson need.”
The 24 fleet employees give the City’s fleet of more than 600 vehicles the maintenance and care they need to run efficiently in order for other employees to conduct their daily jobs. Automotive technicians perform maintenance services related to batteries, tires, oil, belts, hoses, filters, water pumps, bulbs and similar items.
The department outfits vehicles with use-specific equipment like light bars, radios and inverters, and even places graphics on vehicles for several departments. The center’s car wash provides the finishing touch.
“I sleep well at night knowing the City of Richardson and the citizens are protected because our emergency and everyday equipment is maintained properly,” Ramos said.
Fleet Services performs annual inspections on vehicles, many of which rack up miles and wear quickly. City vehicles are often driven for extensive periods daily as part of jobs like trash pickup and police patrol.
In many maintenance and repair operations, technicians learn one make of a vehicle well, but for the City, workers must be adept at diagnosing and addressing issues on a range of makes and models, from Ford to Freightliner, including fire engines, large-truck diesel engines, and an assortment of gasoline-powered and hybrid engines.
The technicians are ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified, and receive ongoing training to understand the technology updates of the newest models.
“We have people who really care about what they’re doing and who are able to handle a lot of different scenarios,” Ramos said. “This is a highly technical field. It requires a lot of training, time and effort.”
A Well-Oiled Machine
For Ramos, ensuring proper maintenance begins with the acquisition of each vehicle.
“We will generally work with our manufacturer each time we need to buy and make sure that we have a record of all the automobile components and an understanding of any training that is needed,” he said. “We put protocols in place for the life of the vehicle.”
In case of emergency, select technician staff are on call 24 hours per day to respond to emergency maintenance issues. The department sends vehicles elsewhere for services like paint and body work, to keep the center focused upon the elemental maintenance items.
The department is equipped with storehouses of gasoline, diesel and oil. The Service Center keeps 70,000 gallons, or about two months’ worth, of gas and diesel on hand, making the City independent from commercial fuel stations in case of emergency. An automotive warehouse on site serves as an efficient source of supplies. Buying in bulk allows the City to purchase at lower costs.
“I think the way we are set up, the fuel infrastructure we have in place, the way we plan vehicle purchases and the way we maintain units has saved the City money,” Ramos said.
Since he began the role in 2000, Ramos has worked to ensure the department remains ahead of the curve.
“Our operation is so broad range with all the different types of vehicles and pieces of equipment, as well as the changes in technology through the years,” he said. “I read every owner’s manual, every warranty manual, and even every technical manual.”
The employees of the centrally located center are certainly never idling.
“We’re definitely busy all the time and we’re glad to serve,” Ramos said.