FLEET MANAGEMENT/County employee invents multi-purpose truck
Washoe County (Nev.) Equipment Supervisor Brad Block has invented a truck transfer system that eliminates the need for the county to maintain a fleet full of single-task trucks. Now available to other cities and counties, “The Washoe Edition” has improved service, increased productivity and reduced costs for the county.
Washoe County’s fleet used to include trucks with two-way beds that dumped to the rear for regular dirt hauling and tilted forward to spread sand. To increase dirt-hauling capacity, the county would attach pup trailers to dump trucks, and the county had different trucks that spread water.
For security reasons, the county would not keep its trucks at construction sites when they were not being used. That meant that employees needed to travel back to the county yard to pick up different trucks as they were needed.
Block knew there had to be a better way to manage the county’s equipment needs. “I had watched the growth of transfer truck technology and thought that we could really put it to work for the county by developing a single system that could meet the hodge-podge of missions and challenges of government work,” Block says.
He started putting his ideas on paper. His design expanded the transfer trailer technology to include pedestal-mounted units that could be left at job sites, reducing travel time to and from the county yard. Small displacement engines with large horsepower capabilities were used to carry large loads and to keep fuel costs low. The rear suspension was made for off-road use to reduce maintenance costs.
Block discussed his concept with B. H. Workman & Sons of Prineville, Ore. The company suggested the system would be stronger, faster and longer lasting if it used a hydraulic chain drive to replace transfer units on the truck. The company also manufactured a water tanker and sander “slide-in” trailer based on Block’s concept and invented a sliding hitch to allow the transfer trailer system to be used on trucks with automatic transmissions.
“No one that I was aware of had a transfer system that could be used in conjunction with an automatic transmission truck. Since most of our trucks are equipped with automatics, that was a must,” Block says.
The county contracted with Sierra Freightliners of Reno, Nev., to engineer Block’s design and create a prototype. The new transfer system has been officially dubbed “The Washoe Edition.”
In November 2000, the county began using the new truck, which surpassed expectations. “The Washoe was able to do more work, with fewer trips and fewer manhours than the rest of the fleet,” says Jean Ely, manager of Washoe County Equipment Services. “Brad has done for trucking what cable has done for television.”
In March, the Iselin, N.J.-based National Association of Fleet Administrators awarded Block the Larry Goill Award for Quality Fleet Management Ideas. A few days earlier, Block received the Cashman Good Government Award from the Nevada Taxpayers Association.
The Washoe proved so successful that, in late February, the county board of commissioners approved the purchase of four additional systems. The truck costs around $156,000, but interchangeable trailers reduce the need for purchasing additional trucks. For example, a dedicated water truck costs about $105,000, while a water tank slide-in unit for the Washoe truck runs about $18,000. The county saves up-front purchase costs as well as long-term fleet maintenance costs. The versatility of the system allows for more flexible maintenance schedules and less equipment down time.
“The fact is, if you put this system to work, you have to re-think the way you operate equipment. The combination of uses are only limited by the imagination of the operator,” Block says.