Stankus said he is an advocate of standardizing fleets and over the nine years he’s been with King County, he’s had success with his goal. “It’s very important to me for service and for parts interchangeability,” Stankus said.
Regular, routine maintenance is also vital, he said, adding that his regimen includes full service every 250 hours or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. “We do a thorough annual on each apparatus too,” Stankus said. “We want to make sure everything is OK.”
A tag line on Stankus’ emails reads: “We might not be the pride of the fire service, but without us, the pride don’t ride.” And that sums up his philosophy on apparatus maintenance.
Weeks has been with the Los Angeles County Fire Department since 1994. He remembers the day when there were literally dozens of applicants for a half-dozen openings in fleet maintenance. Today, the department may not have more than a handful of applicants for a like number of openings.
“It takes us quite a long time for us to promulgate a list of five or six qualified candidates,” Weeks said. “…Nearly everywhere around here are help-wanted signs for technicians.”
Weeks draws a similarity between the crush for computer-savvy people a couple of decades ago and the need for technicians today. He is also hoping the parallel continues and the reverse happens with a glut of technicians as the market shifts so fire departments can have a selection and pick the best and most qualified people to work on apparatus.
In his shop, there are 50 technicians and there often are needs for new technicians. That’s why the department developed a relationship with the community college program to recruit technicians. He hopes to renew that program in 2013. He will need the help to keep the department’s 1,700 pieces of rolling equipment maintained, including at least 600 primary apparatus.
“Everything that is one ton or less we contract out…but we still have a lot of work,” Weeks said, noting that everything else is done in house.
Unlike some departments, Los Angeles County is not experiencing headaches with emission systems and he can attribute it to a decision the department made that has paid off.
“We opted for smaller-displacement engines with higher horsepower,” Weeks said, explaining that the engines run faster and at higher temperatures, which makes for fewer regenerations and happier emissions systems. “We’ve had no, major, complex problems.”
The only thing that has become a chore is the distribution and tracking of the Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) for his large department. “We’re trying to get accountability and control over DEF distribution,” he said.
Weeks is not a fan of multiplexing for apparatus and he avoids it whenever possible. Specifications for new apparatus specifically say no multiplex electrical systems, except where absolutely necessary for engine and transmission controls.
“We need to be able to diagnose and repair apparatus that may be three or four miles off the highway,” Weeks said, noting that some wildland strike teams travel up to 500 miles, a long way from their home repair shop, to fight wildland fires.
With the ability to go out to bid for as many as 15 apparatus at a time, Weeks said he has not had problems with manufacturers balking at the no-multiplexing request. “We have a little more leverage than most,” he said.
Another specification Weeks requires on apparatus is complete accessibility to all parts that may need serving or replacing. He does not want to spend a half-day in the shop taking off panels and components just to fix a minor issue. “If an item is not completely accessible, it doesn’t belong on our trucks,” he said.
Getting the right apparatus up front can save a lot of maintenance down the road, Weeks said. That is why he has been working on ways to reduce the amount of heat generated by apparatus, rather than worrying about heat rejection. He has noticed that cabs are getting bigger on apparatus with little or no room going to the occupants. Rather, it is going for bigger radiators and heat-mitigation systems.