From mid-sized sedans, to tall bucket trucks, to colossal coal-moving equipment, CPS Energy’s Fleet Operations team keeps the utility’s fleet inventory of approximately 2,300 pieces of equipment in tip-top condition and rolling along.
Through their hard work and can-do spirit, the Fleet Operations team has maintained a 98-percent equipment availability rate and was recognized nationally in the past year for their achievements: Top 50 Green Fleet Award (ranked 39th); 100 Best Fleets (ranked 75th), and Government Fleet magazine’s Top 50 Leading Fleets.
Fleet Operations is staffed with 61 team members, who oversee mechanical work at eight garages companywide, outlying service centers and our Coal Yard situated at Calaveras Power Station. Additionally, they provide road-side assistance across our 1,515-square-mile service territory – changing flat tires or making mechanical repairs even during inclement weather.
“Because we work on such a wide assortment of equipment, our mechanics must be trained and proficient in the automotive/truck and heavy equipment fields,” says Tommy Johns, interim manager for Fleet Operations.
While our fleet mechanics routinely perform preventative maintenance like oil changes and brake jobs, they must also possess the skillset to rebuild, repair or replace newer models of equipment that incorporate advanced technology, as well as diagnose and fix decades-old engines and items. Oftentimes, they’re perched on ladders or using a crane to work on the really big stuff – aerials that can extend from 36 feet to 200 feet into the air; a ginormous D-10 Caterpillar bulldozer that’s rated at 800 horsepower and weighs 155,000 pounds; thick metal dozer tracks that each stretches nearly 25 feet; and emergency generators mounted on long tractor trailers.
“The size of the equipment can be intimidating and can make you [mechanics] apprehensive in the beginning,” says journeyman mechanic Roger Gonzales, dwarfed by the scraper next to him at the Coal Yard Garage. “There’s also the challenge of working under pressure, knowing that you have to quickly and safely get critical pieces of equipment back in working order, so power produced for our customers isn’t interrupted.”
A rotational training program gives mechanics like Matthew Patteson, who’s been the company since 1999, a broader range of experience and exposure to working on various types of equipment. “At every location comes a different learning opportunity. The training rotation is a valuable way to see how other mechanics work, and on a more personal level it has helped me grow in areas that I was lacking confidence in,” he says. A journeyman mechanic, Patteson spent the last nine months at our Salado Garage immersed in learning the ‘nuts and bolts’ about hydraulic systems, diagnosing safety interlock systems and repairing aerial units, before recently returning to the garage bays at the Tuttle facility.
Aside from their hands-on experience, approximately half of our fleet mechanics hold ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) certifications in one or more mechanical areas such as brake systems, fueling systems, electrical diagnostics/troubleshooting, emissions and drive/power trains. Five team members have earned master technician status, signifying they’ve passed a series of ASE tests.