With so many buses, rail rolling stock, non-revenue vehicles, stations, facilities, tracks, signals, switches and more, the amount of work it takes to keep all the assets in working order is a daunting task. Finding ways to cut costs while doing all that seems inconceivable. Using the technology that is available today monitors what you have, alerting you to when you need to repair or replace, it schedules the work that needs to be done, it tracks the labor and parts and it tracks and maintains the total cost of ownership per asset.
Cutting Your Costs
Precisely how do these technologies cut costs? The key areas are preventative maintenance, accurate tracking of maintenance, parts inventory and warranty management.
Everyone knows preventative maintenance is much less expensive than reactive maintenance. Jim Schnepp, vice president, sales and marketing for Maximus Inc., Asset Solutions, says, “If you’ve got a real robust scheduling system and you’re bringing your vehicles on and making sure that everything is checked, oil is replaced, etc., that tends to reduce breakdowns later on in the waning years of the life of that asset.”
First Transit has developed electronic preventative maintenance using DataStream software. First Transit Vice President of Maintenance and Operations Todd Haskins says, “Every quarter, we schedule them a time in their scheduling system to do electronic preventative maintenance.
“We have a series of reports that we have them run and based on the outcome of those reports, it makes them run other reports. What it does is line out all of the issues, whether it be training, fleet, personnel, parts failures, fleet failure, road call issues, anything.” This report includes the cost and it prioritizes it automatically. He emphasizes, “They do that every quarter and it really does help. It has really lowered our cost.”
With good preventative maintenance practices in place, reliability of vehicles is improved and agencies are often able to reduce the size of their fleets. Having the minimum amount of vehicles on hand to perform effectively reduces costs. Marty Osborn, senior director, EAM Industry Marketing of Infor, states, “The reliability is important. In the past, they really were not taking care of it using maintenance management software.
What they ended up doing was having a bigger stock available.” He explains, “They may have had 15-20 percent extra vehicles. If you know that they are going to run, then you might be able to decrease that size to 10 percent. That might be 100 buses in a fleet of 1,000, which is big dollars.”
Technology available reduces the diagnostic time for maintenance. Joe Saporita, product manager for Clever Devices, explains how the automatic vehicle monitoring (AVM) product continuously monitors all the systems on board the bus including engine, transmission, event data recorders, camera systems — a multitude of systems. The software wirelessly uploads information from the bus and it is communicated to maintenance people through email reports. Saporita says, “We deliver a piece of paper that tells you exactly what’s wrong with the bus so all you really have to do is go fix it.” He explains how this process can reduce diagnostic time for the maintenance people by about 75 percent. “It used to be someone had to let them know. Once they’re told, they would have to find the bus. It’s parked in a lot with, say 200 buses. They have to find that bus, get on the bus, they have to hook wires up to some connectors to each system and then figure out what’s wrong with the bus.” The software enables the maintenance staff to fix the issues right away, before it becomes a road call or critical alarm and they need to take the bus out of service.