Parts of a simple plan
When a resident’s trash is not picked up, the problem often can be traced to a truck that is out of service. To help avoid vehicle downtime, Virginia Beach, Va., has a rigorous maintenance program coupled with a simplified parts replacement approach.
Among the city’s 3,300 pieces of rolling stock are more than 100 that are used for refuse collection, including automated side loaders, rear loaders, mechanical boom trucks, swap-loaders and pick-up trucks. Keeping those units up and running can be challenging, especially because of the many different replacement parts needed from numerous manufacturers.
To simplify its maintenance operation, the city buys its refuse replacement parts — as well as parts for its general fleet vehicles — through a local distributor, Mid-Atlantic Waste Systems. By ordering from a central source, the city can issue a single purchase order for diverse products, reducing administrative time and expense.
“Local support is important when you’re talking about this kind of business,” says David Driscoll, equipment maintenance supervisor for the city. In refuse, for example, the city services 35,000 residences four days a week. “We need to receive excellent customer service [from the parts distributor], so we can provide excellent customer service,” Driscoll says.
The city purchases parts as needed, and only items that are replaced frequently, such as spill shields, pressure switches and O-ring kits, are stocked in city maintenance facilities. “This minimizes us having to tie up any of our money in keeping parts on the shelf,” Driscoll says.
While the city performs its own vehicle maintenance and repairs, a nearby distributor can offer more than parts, he says. It can troubleshoot vehicle problems, identify necessary parts and provide guidance on their installation. City and distributor personnel also are able to work together to develop new procedures for minimizing a vehicle’s downtime.
On average, Virginia Beach’s refuse fleet is available more than 80 percent of the time — a factor Driscoll credits to hard work, including extensive preventive maintenance. Each vehicle operator has a checklist to follow while inspecting his truck every morning before heading out. If there are any issues, the vehicle is taken into the shop.
Because a fast turnaround is important, the maintenance facility is open five days and three nights a week. Preventive maintenance is completed on each refuse collection vehicle once a week, and every vehicle is serviced at least quarterly.
As a result of careful planning and regular maintenance, Virginia Beach can draw on four to five back-up refuse collection vehicles at any time, so that garbage collection can continue uninterrupted for residents. That luxury also has allowed the city to come to the rescue of some of its neighboring cities and counties when they have needed to borrow one of its vehicles, Driscoll says.
No matter what type of equipment, Driscoll recommends using original equipment manufacturer (OEM) replacement parts whenever possible. “Nobody builds it like the original manufacturer,” he says. “You’re not going to get the longevity out of a copycat part as you are out of an OEM part. And if you’re going to take the time to replace a cylinder, for example, you want it to last. You don’t want to be replacing the same one a few months later.
“You get what you pay for,” Driscoll says. “If you’re going to save money buying cheaper products upfront, you’ll pay for it down the road. It will cost you in inconvenience, and you will be working your service people harder because you’ll be changing parts more often.”
Bob McHugh is operations manager of Parts Central, a Heil company, based in Chattanooga, Tenn.