Maintaining Quality, Assuring Safety

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Nine Profiles in Fleet Maintenance Software

Over the last 10 years, fleet maintenance software has grown tremendously. More schools are using more programs with greater ease than ever before. New software can help transportation directors schedule preventative maintenance, prioritize repairs and maintain their inventories. Software can help transporters with limited time and tight budgets maximize efficiency and minimize cost while assuring the safety of students on board. School Transportation News contacted nine school districts using nine different programs to review their experiences with fleet maintenance software.

Dolphin Fleet Management by Dolphin SoftSense, Inc.
Jim Field, fleet manager for Edmond Public Schools in Edmond, Okla., had used other maintenance software before trying services from Dolphin Fleet Management. But buying licenses for every station in his shop was too expensive.

With Dolphin, he can buy licenses for all 12 members of his maintenance crew, freeing his mechanics from spending time filling out work orders and making his shop completely paperless.

Exclusively for the school bus industry, the software is designed to eliminate the clutter of some general fleet maintenance programs. It does everything Field expected it to do, like scheduling preventative maintenance and managing parts inventory. He can now avoid potential problems by monitoring tire wear and fuel and oil consumption. He can even track NHTSA recalls and manufacturer bulletins. For users looking for an all-in-one solution, Dolphin also includes modules for routing, field trip scheduling, budgeting and driver management. And, for users wanting added features, it can be personally customized.

Even with all these features, Field says in just six months nearly every member of his shop has become proficient with the system.

“Dolphin is just a whole lot simpler to use,” he added.

Diamond Connection Solution by IC Corp
Suddenly trimming a parts budget from $150,000 to just $40,000 may seem like a district auditor’s dream and fleet manager’s nightmare. But using International’s Diamond Connection Solutions, Tom Pelletier, fleet maintenance manager for Naperville Public Schools in Naperville, Ill., did just that.

Beyond just scheduling maintenance and organizing inventory, Diamond Connection links directly with 1,000 local International dealers and automatically reorders the parts maintenance shops need most. So Pelletier keeps his on-the-shelf inventory and parts budget to a minimum and assures he always has the parts he needs.

Every time Pelletier’s technicians perform a job, they can scan the barcode on the box of each part they use. Diamond Connection automatically deducts from the parts inventory and sends nightly reports to the local dealership. So, instead of spending his time on the phone re-ordering parts, Pelletier can focus on keeping his 130-bus fleet running as tightly as possible.

“It’s almost like having another half of a man,” Pelletier said.

The software can also identify obsolete parts or problem vehicles that require excessive service. For example, if Pelletier had to replace headlights under a 12-month warranty twice in one year, Diamond Connection would notify him of the potential warranty violation, saving him money.

EasyBus by EasyBus, Inc.
Even with a smaller fleet, keeping track of repairs by hand could be a hassle for Danny Hicks, transportation director for Socorro Consolidated Schools, about 75 miles south of Albuquerque.

“I had a catalog of parts, and every time I did a job, I had to make notes of parts I used immediately,” Hicks said.

Hoping to reduce the time-consuming work of scheduling repairs and monitoring warranties, he tried the demos for several fleet maintenance programs. He found EasyBus to be the easiest to use. Within a year, Hicks had his inventory online, and he could come in Monday morning and know what repairs needed to be done, and which were the most important.

Hicks said the straightforward design requires less input than some other programs, but it still provides all the reports he needs to keep his fleet of 21 buses in shape. He said he appreciates that EasyBus works for all of his district vehicles, including buses, maintenance trucks and lawn mowers.

And, if anything goes wrong with the software, Hicks said he can count on “outstanding service.”

“I can get help over the phone or on the Web. It’s really the best,” he added.

FleetPro by Education Logistics
Seven years ago, if John Bettis, director of transportation for Washington Local School District in Toledo, Ohio, wanted to know how much it cost to operate his fleet last year, he would have had to open a year’s worth of fuel and maintenance logs. Then he would have to pull out his calculator. Since purchasing FleetPro, he can know everything from how much fuel he used last week to how many times he had to replace the headlights on his spare buses.

“Going from a bad manual system to a good computerized system is really unbelievable,” Bettis said.

FleetPro can generate work orders, schedule preventative maintenance and track his inventory. But it also helps him make better decisions. By building a database with his inventory, work orders and other data, he can have the historical information to know when to repair and when to replace.

Bettis still has his mechanics fill out pen-and-paper work orders. But he knows that, as his operation changes, FleetPro can change with him. If he wanted to, he could integrate FleetPro with EDULOG’s routing software and third-party fueling software. He could even interface with hand-held pre-trip inspection tools.

Transfinder fm by TransFinder
Paul Widman, the transportation director for Culver Community Schools Corporation, in Culver, Ind., had purchased an older, DOS-based computer software, but it was disappointing, and he never bothered to update the inventory module. Even when working alone in the shop, he found maintaining a fleet by hand trying.

But, in less than a year with Transfinder fm, Widman had his shop running even more smoothly. Working with his secretary, he can enter traditional work orders into the system and easily update his vehicle history and inventory. The colorful interface lets him know when to re-order parts so he can get his work orders done ahead of time. He can now make the most of his budget by monitoring his inventory to make sure he’s getting the best deal on every order.

“It’s the greatest; I’ve never had anything work so easily,” Widman said.TransFinder fm is part of Transfinder’s line of transportation management software, so it can be a solution for users looking for a highly-integrated package by connecting routing, field trip, scheduling and maintenance software.

Trapeze FLEET by Trapeze Software
A few years ago Tom Vaughn, fleet manager for Garland, Texas, Independent School District, used a 20-year-old program intended for mass transit systems.When he decide to switch to Trapeze FLEET, company representatives even came out and set up the software for him.

Vaughn said Trapeze FLEET is just the solution he had hoped for. It lets him track and schedule preventive maintenance easily. But Vaughn said he particularly appreciates the integrated parts ordering system. He can barcode every part and connect parts to photos and documentation. When his stock goes below a pre-set minimum, Trapeze FLEET notifies him and helps him track replacements from multiple vendors.

Trapeze also allows him to import fueling data from other programs like GasBoy and PetroVend. When he creates billing reports, he can separate these fuel costs from repairs, helping him write accurate budgets.

“It just does exactly what we need it to do. It’s perfect for a mid-range operation,” Vaugh said.

RTA Fleet Management by Ron Turley & Assoc., Inc.
Training technicians in 120 different shops with 13,000 buses on a fleet maintenance program, may seem difficult, but John McKeehan said RTA makes his job easy.The fleet maintenance program trainer for Durham School Services can teach shop managers to process work orders, manage parts inventory and monitor fuel use and mechanic productivity over the Internet. McKeehan said everyone can learn how to create a bar-coded inventory or use new features, like dashboard navigation, which gives any user the specific information he or she needs to do their job.

RTA can provide big companies like Durham with information across their fleet too. RTA lets a transporters know the number of daily use buses, field trip buses and spare buses in each depot so they can make the most of their fleet. It also allows a crossover view, allowing fleet managers to compare productivity in multiple garages.When companies like Durham grow, RTA makes it easy to add new garages and incorporate old data into the new system by offering customized programs to import data from other systems. For McKeehan, offering this kind of flexibility is key.“They keep their customers happy and that’s what’s important,” he added.

FleetVision by VersaTrans Solutions
Dan Roberts, the transportation director for Round Rock, Texas, Independent School District is about as demanding a user as fleet maintenance software can have. With 12 years of experience, he continually pushes software to the limit. But, no matter how hard he pushes, FleetVision by VersaTrans makes it work.

“We try to make it do more things, and VersaTrans is responsive. That’s what we need,” Roberts said.

VersaTrans can do everything he expected, like show which vehicles are due for repair, which parts are at their minimum level and how much fuel he is using from the city’s fuel depot. He can even keep tabs on each technician’s certifications.

But Roberts wanted more. After discovering labor hours were unaccounted for, he wanted to create a better way to track productivity. So the designers at VersaTrans helped him create a flat-rate system to maximize productivity and minimize labor cost. With FleetVision, Roberts can now perform longitudinal studies, comparing work hours against the number of tickets turned in against the jobs flat rate.

Down the road, supervisors like Roberts can use Zonar pre-trip inspection RFID readers to automatically create a work order from problems noted on pre-trip inspections.

TransTraks by Perseus Associates, LLC
Before switching to TransTraks, Mike Rea, executive director of West Sonoma County Transportation Agency in Northern California, had used several fleet maintenance programs. He tried a budget program but found it unwieldy and confusing. He tried using expensive programs designed for trucking and other transportation industries, but they were more trouble than they were worth.

“We were spending thousands of dollars just to train clerks to manage the database. It was killing our folks,” Rea said.

When he learned that TransTraks was designed for school buses by a team of school transportation professionals, he was sold. Rather than spending his time constantly entering data or training technicians on confusing software, the all-in-one fleet maintenance, routing, scheduling and training software let him focus on keeping his fleet running.

TransTraks has streamlined his maintenance program with less data than was previously necessary. He can order parts online and produce reports on vehicles due for inspection, parts inventory, shop productivity and engine mileage.

“TransTraks allows us to get data we’ve never had,” Rea said. Best of all, he says he can do this with just one part-time data secretary, letting his technicians focus on the safety of the buses and the children that ride them.

Reprinted from the March 2007 issue of School Transportation News magazine. All rights reserved.