An Eye-opening Visit to Fleet Services

It has been a challenging winter for Edmontonians. Record snowfall, followed by freezing rain and yo-yo temperatures. Not to take anything away from snow removal crews, but their graders and plows wouldn’t get very far without the people working 24/7 to keep the equipment running. That’s where Fleet Services comes in. Donning safety glasses and steel-toes, I check things out firsthand.

Efficiency during these busy times is key at the Davies Fleet Services Facility. Foreman Steve Kluss talks about having all hands on deck at the end of shifts for a quick bumper-to-bumper check of equipment. Catching maintenance needs at this point prevents breakdowns later. “You have to do the little things to prevent bigger things from happening,” Steve tells me.

When snow-blowing equipment does break down, a mechanic is dispatched immediately and has 20 to 30 minutes to either fix it on the spot or bring in a back-up unit. There’s no time to lose with private contractors lined up behind it to haul away the snow. “We try to minimize their wait time keeping the taxpayers in mind,” Supervisor Dan Bergeron adds.

Both Steve and Dan agree that communication is vital. They’d rather have a phone call at 2 a.m. to help make a decision, than to have something go wrong.

We help keep the City moving,” Steve says. “If the roads aren’t getting cleared, people can’t get to work. If the parks and rinks aren’t getting cleaned, people can’t get out and enjoy themselves.”

The value of communication comes up again in discussion with Karl Borle, a foreman at the City’s Westwood Municipal Facility. Gone are the days of a street being repaved one year and dug up again the next for a sewer line replacement. Now there is better communication and co-ordination of projects. “It’s crucial that we all work together as one city,” Karl stresses. He may be quoting a slogan, but it clearly guides his work and his attitude.

Karl has seen lots of other improvements in his 22 years with the City. Rather than having equipment sitting around during the off season, there has been a shift to multi-purpose equipment that can be used year-round. Snow plows and sanders come off and dump boxes for hauling soil and gravel go on. Mowers become sweepers. “That way, the City’s getting their money’s worth.”

Fleet Services also does fabrication work of new fleet equipment like trailers, snow plows and dump boxes. “A truck comes in as a bare chassis and we build and install virtually everything we need—the truck goes out of our shop as a complete unit ready for service” explains Keith Blumhagen, Supervisor of Fabrication Technologies at the Westwood Facility.

Designing and building their own equipment means that the user departments get the equipment they need to do their jobs and because it is built in-house the parts they need are always in stock. The focus is also on making the City’s fleet last. “In the past the City was lucky to get 10 years of service out of the old mild steel sanders because of rust and wear. Now that we are building them with stainless steel it cuts down on maintenance and we can get 20 or 30 years of service out of it,” he says.

Fleet Services may not be the first thing we think of when it comes to City infrastructure, but there is no question that it has a vital role to play in operations. I’m impressed.

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About the Author
Shirley Serviss
Shirley Serviss is the City of Edmonton's first Writer-at-Work. She is a founding member of the Writers' Guild of Alberta and Edmonton Poetry Festival. Her poetry, essays and articles have appeared in numerous anthologies, magazines and textbooks. She currently teaches in Communications for MacEwan University, works part-time as the staff literary artist for the Friends of University Hospitals' Artists on the Wards program and is president of Artists Urban Village.
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