July 28--MANATEE -- A fleet of 1,328 vehicles traveling an estimated 9 million miles a year racks up a lot of oil changes, wiper blades and more.
On Friday, Richard Svec was doing an overhead valve job on a big six-cylinder Cummings (sic) engine that powers an Manatee County Area Transit bus.
Someone else had a bus up on a massive lift, repairing the differential -- commonly known as the vehicle's rear end.
Mike Delarosa was performing preventive maintenance on a trolley that serves the beachgoing public on Anna Maria Island.
And Dave Gagliano had the hood up on a "Walking Excavator," a Menz Muck used to clean out ditches.
Manatee County government's Team Fleet, under the leadership of manager Mike Brennan, has been recognized as among the top-10 government fleets in the United States by Government Fleet Magazine and Governing magazine.
"We are judged by our peers," said Brennan, the fleet's longest-serving employee with 36 years service.
When Brennan went to work at the facility in the 1100 block of 26th Avenue
East, it was still called a motor pool. In 1978, the county maintained 250 vehicles, less than one-fifth the size of the current fleet.
Since then, automotive technology has rapidly evolved with computerization of vehicles and the advent of hybrid fuel cars and trucks.
County technicians today maintain all transit buses, EMS ambulances, dump trucks, backhoes, mowing tractors, street sweepers, vacuum trucks and more.
Any discussion of work around so many large vehicles begins with "safety first," Brennan said.
"The most valuable resource that we have here is the people. They are the folks that make this organization the best that it can be," Brennan said. "They are the ones doing the job and pulling the wrenches."
The staff of 35 keeps the fleet operating at an enviable 95 percent rate.
Keys include aggressive preventive maintenance to correct problems before they cause a breakdown, and intensive training and cross-training, Brennan said.
Svec paused from doing an overhead valve job to say he likes the smooth way the fleet operation works and the teamwork in the shop.
In addition to the facility on 26th Avenue, Team Fleet also has a facility on 66th Street West, where it maintains equipment for the utilities system and vehicles for parks and natural resources.
A third facility at the Manatee County landfill on Lena Road is used for heavy equipment maintenance, including bulldozers and offroad dump trucks.
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.
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