Manager: J Scott Mitchell
Title: Fleet Supervisor
Fleet: Interstate Worldwide Relocation, Springfield, VA
Operation: Nationwide moving company running own fleet along with contracted owner-operators
“Do it yourself” is more than just a saying at Interstate Worldwide Relocation. It's a business strategy. For example, the company spends anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000 annually to train prospective employees on how to move household goods in what it regards “the right way,” using its own specially constructed training facility complete with a mock house and truck trailer.
The same goes for vehicle maintenance, which is handled internally via a three-bay facility housing a paint and body repair shop and staffed by six technicians. The company even maintains its own 10,000-gal. gasoline- and diesel-refueling site and truck scale on its property to help control costs.
But managing the size of its maintenance facility and the type of work it handles proved a challenge to Interstate's “do-it-yourself” philosophy on more than one level. The company manages a fleet numbering some 287 vehicles, including 65 tractors, 110 trailers, around 75 medium-duty trucks and 12 forklifts. And it keeps an eye on the 60 tractors provided by its owner-operator contingent.
“The biggest thing a full-service shop gives us is the ability to respond immediately to a problem,” says fleet supervisor Scott Mitchell. “Cost-wise, however, maintenance can get expensive - in terms of the repair itself, the technician's time, and how long it occupies one of our bays. How we tie up our shop's resources is a concern.”
As a result of Interstate's internal shop analysis, there are now four things the fleet doesn't handle anymore - air conditioning servicing, front-end axle alignment, vehicle painting and tire mounting. And while Mitchell's staff can overhaul engines and do heavy transmission work, they do so only sparingly.
Outsourcing painting proved a key decision as it reduced the cost of providing ventilation and other safety equipment necessary to protect employees from exposure to paint chemicals. It also freed up a bay for more preventive maintenance (PM) work, which accounts for 80% of the shop's workload.
Today, PM work — oil and fluid changes, tire rotation, light repairs, etc. — and safety-related maintenance such as brake work are done in house. To that end, Interstate keeps $26,000 worth of parts inventoried.
However, big-ticket items such as engine overhauls, frame repairs, and front axle work get outsourced more frequently. And that keeps precious shop space reserved for safety checks.
“We're like an emergency room in a lot of ways now,” says Mitchell. “We can handle almost any kind of vehicle ‘trauma’ if we need to, but we try and keep as much of our shop space free as we can. We're cycling five to seven trucks a day through here on average, going up to 15 a day during the summer, which is the peak moving season. So we need as much space as possible for us to handle that volume.”
Maintenance Bay presents case studies detailing how fleets resolve maintenance-related issues.