Dating back to the 1640s, Yonkers is one of the oldest cities in New York state. Today, the 20-square-mile municipality located north of New York City on the Hudson River is the state’s third largest city.
Supporting the 210,000 residents and many large and small businesses that call Yonkers home is a fleet of about 1,400 vehicles used by a variety of departments. All the equipment is managed and maintained by the Department of Public Works (DPW) Vehicle Maintenance Division. In a typical year, along with preventive maintenance, the division performs about 5,000 repairs and handles nearly 1,200 road calls.
When Thomas Meier became the commissioner of the Yonkers DPW 10 years ago, one of the first initiatives he spearheaded was to take a close look at what he called the city’s “fleet and maintenance posture.” The review resulted in a three-part plan that has since led to significant improvements in efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and productivity.
“First, we looked at updating the fleet because we knew that older vehicles require more service resources and have higher maintenance costs,” Meier explained. “We also focused on right-sizing by analyzing vehicle use and availability and eliminating extra units.”
“The third part of the program was aimed at reevaluating the qualifications we needed in our mechanics,” he continued. “The majority of our fleet is made up of trucks, so we wanted people who are highly qualified in that area of maintenance and repair. Over the past four years, we’ve recruited proven truck mechanics by offering competitive pay and benefits.”
Heading up the Yonkers Vehicle Maintenance Division is Deputy Commissioner Thomas Tiedemann. He oversees a team of 32 people and brings to the organization nearly 40 years of heavy-vehicle maintenance experience and knowledge that Meier said he relies on every day.
The Yonkers fleet is maintained in a single shop with bays dedicated to the city’s fire and police vehicles. In a third bay, mechanics service and repair trucks, including refuse, dump, vacuum, asphalt, and other models.
For the past five years, the entire operation has been managed using FleetWave software from Chevin Fleet Solutions. With scheduling and work orders, fleet personnel use the platform to access information from their Gilbarco Veeder-Root fuel dispensing and tank monitoring systems. The city fleet also integrates FleetWave with the point-of-sale system from IEH Auto Parts that operates the shop’s parts room.
“FleetWave reduces data entry and provides valuable information,” Tiedemann explained. “In addition to integrating with supplier platforms, by interfacing with the financial and billing systems we use to chargeback user departments for maintenance services, it improves accuracy. And it lets us create detailed analyses. We can report on any data and monitor trends in the system by generating real-time [key performance indicator] reports.”
That capability via FleetWave includes vehicle replacement modeling projections, which have come in handy as the DPW supports the city’s new green fleet standards. Joining forces with the Yonkers Office of Sustainability, the city DPW is working to transition its fleet to alternative fuel vehicles.
“City departments write specifications for their vehicles because they are the experts about what they need,” Meier said. “We review those orders to make sure we can support them with maintenance and parts, and the Finance Department works with Sourcewell to find cooperative purchasing contracts, state programs, or to solicit bids from suppliers.”
“Part of our green fleet focus is to help user departments give first consideration to alternative vehicles, especially plug-in hybrid, and electric models,” he continued. “We recently added Toyota RAV4 hybrids for administrative use. We’re also looking forward to operating medium- and heavy-duty electric trucks, and we will go in that direction as production units become more available.”
Also, in concert with the Office of Sustainability, Yonkers DPW is facilitating the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, including public stations and facilities where electric fleet vehicles are based, such as at police precincts and the maintenance facility. The city is taking advantage of grants from New York state and its electric utility, Con Edison, to offset the costs. The city DPW also is looking into grants for electric vehicle purchases and charging programs from manufacturers.
“A modern, growing city like Yonkers needs equally advanced fleet and maintenance programs,” Meier said. “That’s why we’re continually striving to efficiently apply the best possible technologies and management practices at the lowest possible cost.”