Florida Bus Maintenance Staffing Practices

(Center Identification Number: 77924)

This project will focus on the staffing practices of the maintenance departments of Florida transit agency bus maintenance departments. The availability of an adequate transit bus fleet is a key element for a transit agency’s ability to provide high quality, reliable, and safe bus transit service. A critical resource needed to keep a transit bus fleet available for revenue service is providing a functional maintenance department structure, proper staffing plans, and an adequate level of maintenance staffs.

Principal Investigators:

Jay A. Goodwill, Senior Research Associate
Phone: 813-974-8755
E-mail: jaygoodwill@cutr.usf.edu

Deborah Sapper, Senior Research Associate
Phone: 813-974-1446
E-mail: sapper@cutr.usf.edu

Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
Fax: 813-974-5168

External Project Contact:     

Robert Westbrook
Project Manager/Operations Administrator
(850) 414-4533
Email: robert.westbrook@dot.state.fl.us

Start and End Dates

Start Date:  February 2010               Expected End Date: August 2011

I.  Project Objective/Problem Statement

This project will focus on the staffing practices of the maintenance departments of Florida transit agency bus maintenance departments. The availability of an adequate transit bus fleet is a key element for a transit agency’s ability to provide high quality, reliable, and safe bus transit service. A critical resource needed to keep a transit bus fleet available for revenue service is providing a functional maintenance department structure, proper staffing plans, and an adequate level of maintenance staffs.

Nationally, there are a number of factors in transit operations that make it impossible to develop simple rules-of-thumb that any agency might use in developing their own organization structure and staffing levels. In fact, there is considerable risk in an agency implementing another agency’s practice without fully understanding the critical inputs under which it evolved.

With fleet maintenance accounting for approximately 20 percent of a transit agency’s operating budget, combined with the capital investment for the acquisition of the fleet, it is critical that the business process of organizing and staffing an agency’s bus maintenance department be tailored to each individual agency. There is no single, up-to-date authoritative source on how to go about managing this aspect of a transit operation.

The objective of this project is to help Florida’s transit agencies identify the optimal organization structures and staffing plans and adequate staffing levels for their bus fleet maintenance programs and to identify those critical factors that may help define those factors. Critical factors will be identified that impact these decisions. These critical inputs will be outlined for transit agencies to use in either staffing up a new program, or re-aligning an existing program. A case-study format will be developed and an on-going method of sharing experience through an accessible knowledge base will be proposed.

Research is needed to identify the key inputs to staffing a fleet maintenance program. Experience suggests that such inputs may include:

  • Fleet factors
  • Size of fleet
  • Vehicle manufacturers and models included in the fleet
  • Fleet age
  • Engine and key component types
  • Maintenance  Staff
  • Who is it?
  • What are they called
  • Job Description
  • Skill Level
  • Technology deployed in buses
  • Number of maintenance shifts
  • Number of maintenance facilities
  • In-house maintenance functions
  • Contracted maintenance functions
  • Availability of tools and equipment
  • Existing maintenance practices and philosophies
  • Maintenance budget levels
  • Operating environment
  • Organizational structure
  • Negotiate work rules and union contract provisions
  • Maintenance philosophy
  • Availability of adequate work force
  • Safety Culture and associated practices
  • Attendance policies, practices, and experience

 

II.  Project Abstract

This project will focus on the staffing practices of the maintenance departments of Florida transit agency bus maintenance departments. The availability of an adequate transit bus fleet is a key element for a transit agency’s ability to provide high quality, reliable, and safe bus transit service. A critical resource needed to keep a transit bus fleet available for revenue service is providing a functional maintenance department structure, proper staffing plans, and an adequate level of maintenance staffs.

III. Objectives/Tasks

The proposed scope of service for this project consists of the following tasks. Work not included in this scope of service is not to be performed and will not be subject to compensation by the Department.

Task 1. Project Administration

This task will provide the project management activities associated with this project, including preparation of quarterly progress reports, consultation with the project manager, review of draft reports, technical memorandums and final report.

This task will also include all activities associated with working with the project steering committee, which will be used to provide direction to the project team throughout the project. The principal investigators will use the Florida Maintenance Training Consortium as the project steering committee.

Task 2. Literature Review

NCTR will conduct a literature review to identify methodologies and findings, if any, from past studies to serve as a starting point for the research. This will help refine specific gaps and deficiencies in the existing body of knowledge. NCTR will seek to obtain and review the maintenance plans for Florida’s FTA Section 5307 funded system to help identify maintenance philosophies and approaches, agency organization structures, staffing patterns, and other relevant information that may assist in the project. NCTR will also poll the members of the Bus Maintenance Forum Listserv that NCTR manages to seek input on the experience of over 100 maintenance managers from throughout the country to determine if they might have any staffing decision tools that they use or that they are aware of. This information will provide a background upon which to develop the project agency survey instrument and key questions for the more in depth follow up interviews and case studies.

Task 3. Survey Florida Transit Agencies Regarding Current Bus Maintenance Staffing Practices

Based upon the findings of the literature review, the review of the system maintenance plans, and the guidance of the project steering committee, NCTR will develop a survey instrument to collect a series or array of information on current transit agencies overall organizational structure and specifically the bus maintenance organizational structure, staffing patterns (i.e., position types, number of positions, position descriptions, etc.), bus fleet information, and related factors that help drive the bus maintenance staffing needs. NCTR will administer this survey instrument to all of Florida’s FTA Section 5307 funded systems. It is envisioned that the survey process would require the NCTR to follow up with transit agencies and their maintenance managers to encourage completion of the survey, to clarify responses, and ensure quality control and consistency of the responses. With involvement through the project steering committee, NCTR anticipates conducting interviews with several Florida transit agencies. NCTR will compile the survey responses and stratify the results by a series of common categories, to include but not be limited to: type of agency, system size, number of buses in the fleet, types of buses in the fleet, maintenance organization types, etc.

Task 4. Case Studies

Findings from the literature review, surveys, and standard operating procedures will be analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively to determine the manner in which agencies are currently organized and staff to conduct bus maintenance responsibilities.

Six Florida transit agencies (probably one small, two medium and three large will be selected for in-depth case study including interviews and site visits. These visits will focus on the relationships of maintenance organization structure, staffing patterns, and overall approaches to overall maintenance success as measured by quantifiable performance measures and outputs. A report will be produced that will summarize the data gathered from each case study.

Task 5. Documentation of Current and Best Practices

This task of the research will be to summarize the results of the previous tasks and provide a snap-shot of the bus fleet maintenance organization and staffing practices of Florida’s public transit agencies.

Best practices will be highlighted and key factors driving the staffing of fleet maintenance programs will be identified. An overview of the key variables that impact the maintenance staffing needs for Florida’s transit agencies will be presented.

The potential of developing guidelines or parameters that could be used by transit maintenance professionals to properly organize and staff their agencies will be detailed. Future research needs will be identified for moving toward the goal of developing a guidebook to provide objective inputs and factors that could provide a correlation between current staffing levels and the desired outputs.

Task 6. Final Report

The final task of the research will be to give practitioners and other transportation professionals a resource that will provide a greater understanding of the bus maintenance organizational and staffing plans, identify future research opportunities, synthesize results of the previous tasks and produce a final report that can help assist small, medium and large transit agencies to organize the staffing of bus maintenance programs for either staffing up a new program, or re-aligning an existing program. The report will be designed in a clear, concise summary format that will facilitate easy reading and application by public transit maintenance professionals.

The Department’s approval of the final report does not constitute approval of future research opportunities.

IV. Deliverables

Deliverables for this project will include the following:

Project Kickoff Meeting
A kick-off meeting shall be scheduled to occur within the first 30 days of execution by the university. The preferred method for the kick-off meeting is via teleconference or video conference. As a minimum, the project manager and the principal investigator will attend. The Research Center staff must be advised of the meeting and given the option to attend. Other parties may be invited, as appropriate. The subject of the meeting will be to review and discuss the project’s tasks, schedule, milestones, deliverables, reporting requirements, and deployment plan. A summary of the kick-off meeting shall be included in the first progress report. 

Quarterly Progress Reports
NCTR will submit quarterly progress reports to the Research Center. The first report will cover activity that occurred in the 90 days following the issuance of the task work order.

Technical Memorandum 1 – Literature Review and Survey Results
NCTR will prepare the first Technical Memorandum which will summarize and document the findings of Project Tasks 2 and 3. This deliverable will be submitted within 30 days of the completion of Task 3.

Technical Memorandum 2 – Case Studies and Documentation of Best Practices
NCTR will prepare the second Technical Memorandum will summarize and document the findings of Project Tasks 4 and 5. This deliverable will be submitted within 30 days of the completion of Task 5.

Draft Final Report
The Draft Final Report is due 90 days prior to the end date of the task work order. The draft final report will be submitted to Sandra Bell, sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us.

It should be edited for technical accuracy, grammar, clarity, organization, and format prior to submission to the Department of technical approval. The Research Center expects contractors to be able to provide well-written, high quality reports that address the objectives defined by the scope of service. Draft final report must be prepared in accordance with the “Guidelines for Preparing Draft Final and Final Reports” posted at http://www.dot.state.fl.us/research-center/Program_Information/Guidelines%20for%20Preparing%20a%20Final%20Report%2012-07.pdf.

Final Report
Once the draft final report has been approved, NCTR shall prepare the final report. NCTR will deliver a minimum eight (8) copies of the final report in MS Word on CD or DVD. The CD/DVDs should be labeled in a professional manner and include at a minimum the contract number, task work order number, project title and date. The final report is due no later than the end date of the task work order and should be delivered to the follow address:

The Florida Department of Transportation
Research Center, MS 30
605 Suwannee Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450

V. Project Schedule

Start Date:  February 2010               Expected End Date: August 2011

V.  Project Budget

        Total Budget    $118,000

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