Fairfax County Department of Vehicles leverages best-in-class partnerships to ensure it meets the needs of Virginia’s Fairfax County.
By Bianca Herron, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media
The Department of Vehicle Services (DVS) provides fleet management and maintenance services to the Virginia county of Fairfax’s fleet and maintenance support to the Fairfax County Public School’s (FCPS) vehicle fleet. DVS employs 263 people who work at the Government Center and at four maintenance facilities throughout the county.
DVS services and maintains 6,034 vehicles, and 2,523 units belong to the Fairfax County Public Schools. This includes 1,630 school buses and more than 800 support vehicles ranging from four-door sedans for driver’s education to two-ton dump trucks.
The other 3,500 units in the county’s fleet range from motorcycles to 18-wheelers that move solid waste. The fleet includes trash trucks, fire and rescue and police equipment, sheriff’s office vehicles, 1,000 more than one half ton, 913 police package vehicles (includes motorcycles), 975 light vehicles and 600 off-road vehicles and miscellaneous equipment (such as loaders, dozers and snow plow blades).
In addition, the DVS provides more services, including management of the fuel program including the maintenance of 53 fuel sites, roadside emergency repair services, management of the vehicle replacement fund, operation of a county motor pool of 41 vehicles and technical support/review of all county vehicle purchases.
Keys To Success
Mark Moffatt, director of the department of vehicle services, attributes the organization’s success to cultivating an ownership mentality in its culture over the past five years. “We’ve instilled in our employees’ that we own and maintain the equipment serviced by DVS,” Moffatt explains. “So all DVS employees understand it’s our collective job to ensure the vehicles and equipment safely transport everyone who uses or rides in them and at the best cost. After all, many of us are residents, too, and understand the importance of being conservative because the maintenance and use of equipment is paid for through taxes.”
Fairfax County Department of Vehicles has raised the bar for its organization in regards to being credentialed. Before 2013, DVS had fewer than 10 of its 192 technicians and 29 part specialists certified with the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Corporation. Today, 176 employees are certified. “Our people are certified in everything ranging from automotive, school buses, medium and heavy trucks, and unique equipment,” Moffatt notes. “It’s been very rewarding to see the culture change. Our technicians and part specialists have embraced the notion of improving not only themselves, but also the organization, which has made it one of the country’s leading fleets.”
Over the last year, Moffatt has worked with Daniel Gonzalez and Marguerite Verville Guarino, both of whom serve as deputy directors for DVS, to help the department source qualified talent. “In the automotive and equipment servicing world, we’re finding fewer qualified people,” Moffatt explains. “However, we believe that becoming an automotive, truck or heavy truck technician is a great career and we are working with local high schools to recruit the next generation of technicians that will ultimately carry the department forward.”
Gonzalez and Guarino have teamed up with local high schools to find talent for the department. “We are partnering with the high schools that have trade and industrial education programs and offering paid internships to their best students in one of our four facilities,” Moffatt notes. “This internship provides the students with real-life experience in the service occupation are learning about.”
DVS launched its internship last fall in September with seven interns who worked through December. This spring the department has eight more interns. Each intern is employed for 15 hours each week and they learn about proper repair and maintenance of diesel engines on trucks, school buses, and fire trucks or more traditional engines on police cars, trucks or sedans.
“We actually have one intern working in parts and seven in operations and hope they will be interested in a merit position with us when they graduate,” Moffatt says. “We think this program mirrors an apprentice program and we plan to cultivate a stream of talented young professionals to fill our ever-growing need for qualified technicians.”
To retain its current employees, DVS offers several promotion opportunities, which differentiates it from other industries, according to Moffatt. “Most of the time, a technician doesn’t become a manager,” he says. “In our world, they can work their way up from an entry-level technician to a third-level equipment technician. We have the ability to offer five different promotions if someone joins our operations as an entry-level technician.
“In addition, if someone aspires to be more than a vehicle equipment technician, we have five more opportunities to become a foreman, assistant superintendent, superintendent, deputy director and, ultimately, a director,” Moffatt continues. “We’ve also hired a local consultant that’s working with all of our foremen and above to help them focus on leadership skills and training capabilities. So everyone has the opportunity to be promoted if they put forth the effort.”
The DVS “works very hard” to promote training opportunities as well. “We’ve sent our school bus technicians to Oklahoma to the plant that builds our buses,” Moffatt notes. “We have also sent several of our technicians that work on our motorcycles to the Harley-Davidson plant to learn more about the vehicles.”
Moffatt has been with DVS for five years and says that he is most proud of the collaborative relationships and partnerships that the department has cultivated and maintained. “I’ve encouraged and supported all technicians to earn an ASE, and 176 of the 196 ASE eligible employees earned an ASE certification,” he says. “We helped these individuals study, held lunch and learns, purchased training manuals and hosted training sessions to prepare them for the test. Ultimately, if the person passes the exam, we pay for the exam and give a bonus.”
“In northern Virginia, we have all four of our maintenance facilities certified as Blue Seal Certified by the ASE,” he continues. “This is achieved by having 75 percent of your technicians and parts specialists at one facility earn at least one accreditation from the ASE. We’re very proud of that, as it’s a pretty big deal in the industry and for us.”
He adds that the DVS has six technicians who are five-time master certified. “They are certified in automobiles, schools buses, transit buses, medium and heavy trucks, hydraulics and specialized equipment,” Moffatt explains.
In addition, Fairfax County has 53 fuel sites that dispense either gasoline, diesel or both. Each year, the DVS buys nearly 11 million gallons of fuel for FCPS and to operate all of its equipment and vehicles. “We’ve been able to do this successfully because of our great partners,” Moffatt says. “They help us save the county a tremendous amount of money, both for gasoline and diesel, here in the northern Virginia area.
“Our staff works extremely hard to ensure we have the right amount of fuel at the right locations so that we are always on time and prepared,” he concludes. “Our partnerships also do their best to ensure we receive low fuel prices and we’re the best organization in the parts world by providing us with the best equipment at a fair price. I’m really proud of all of our partnerships.”