Advice from the Top Winter Maintenance Leaders: Extreme Equipment Maintenance and Fleet Management
The economy is still faltering. Cutbacks are the norm. And that may mean no — or very little — new equipment is being purchased. That means you need to know to hold on it, when to let it go, and how to care for it in between it all. It shouldn’t be a gamble. And you shouldn’t be robbing Peter to pay Paul.
by Tina Grady Barbaccia
Spring equipment tune-ups and fleet maintenance can be likened to the Peter-Paul principle: You rob Peter to pay Paul.
By putting off preventive maintenance, that’s essentially what’s being done, says John Scharffbillig, director of fleet services for the City of Minneapolis and member-at large for the American Public Works Association (APWA) Technical Committees. “You can either pay now or pay later,” he says.
Some agencies and contractors unintentionally adopt this rule by holding off on necessary maintenance. Instead of paying now for a potential problem, they pay later for a major problem that could have been staved off.
It seems like common sense to take care of minor problems. To keep your equipment running properly, you have to keep up maintenance. It’s just like putting off vehicle repairs. That odd engine noise could turn into a complete engine replacement if the problem isn’t taken care of. Either pay now or pay later.
The same goes for your fleet of equipment. The snowplows and deicing equipment are starting to be put away, and pavers, milling machines, loaders and patch wagons are being brought out of storage. However, many capital equipment purchases — which would supplement current equipment — are being put on hold, making it even more imperative to properly care for the equipment.
According to the Associated General Contractors of America’s (AGC) national construction hiring and business outlook released in a conference call attended by Better Roadsin late January, nearly nine-in-10 contractors say there will be no recovery in 2010. As a result, fewer contractors plan to purchase construction equipment, says Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. (For a full report on the construction business forecast, including links to the survey data, go to http://www.betterroads.com/ and click on “The Roadologist” blog and to http://bit.ly/BetterRoads.)
Agencies and contractors have eliminated capital equipment purchases because of budgetary constraints, says Mark DeVries, maintenance superintendent/superintendent of operations, McHenry County (Illinois) Division of Transportation and APWA Winter Maintenance Committee member. “They are still allowing us to purchase plow trucks,” DeVries says, “but they have eliminated everything else. We aren’t buying any other equipment…no tractors, etc.”
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