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Keeping HVAC and Plumbing Fleets On Track

August 2017, Work Truck - Feature

by Roselynne Reyes - Also by this author

Home service companies have a large number of jobs to accomplish. Whether that’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) alone or includes plumbing, electrical, or other services, this industry can require a lot of tools and equipment.

HVAC and plumbing companies often seek vehicles with plenty of space for parts, upfits to keep parts organized in the vehicle, and an attractive vehicle design that catches potential customers’ attention.

When it comes to managing these vehicles, these fleets also need a system that lets the main office keep track of vehicles for efficient routing and dispatching.

Stocking Up for Jobs

128 Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electric (128 PHCE) serves cities and towns all over eastern Massachusetts, including Boston and Cambridge, and continues to grow.

128 Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electric serves eastern Massachusetts and manages a fleet of
28 vehicles. (Photo: 128 PHCE)
128 Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electric serves eastern Massachusetts and manages a fleet of 28 vehicles. (Photo: 128 PHCE)

The Wakefield, Mass.-based company offers a variety of home services, including plumbing, heating, cooling, drains, and electrical. This requires hiring and training a team of employees with different backgrounds covering a wide spectrum of expertise.

The company owns 28 vehicles that are mainly used for service and installation. This includes vans and trucks, all with the 128 PHCE’s signature blue-green vehicle wraps. Each vehicle travels an average of 12,000 to 15,000 miles every year.

Vehicles feature lightweight aluminum upfits that keep supplies organized. Organization is a key to success for the company. Since it offers such a wide variety of services, trucks must be stocked with enough parts and supplies to accomplish any job as needed.

“We service and install boilers, furnaces, and so many other products that require different parts,” said Ryan Williams, general manager of 128 PHCE. “We need to make sure that the trucks are stocked for all disciplines we offer.”

Williams said the company purchases vehicles and upfitting custom-made for HVAC, plumbing, and electrical technicians. All of this work is done before the vehicles arrive at 128 PHCE’s offices.

“Our trucks don’t hit our lot until they are upfitted, racked, and wrapped. Our dealer coordinates with the other vendors to execute that,” Williams said.

To streamline this process, the company keeps material kits on hand, which include all equipment and supplies a technician may need to do a job.

Once a vehicle arrives, it is loaded up with a material kit and ready to hit the road the same day. This allows the company to eliminate downtime and keep as many vehicles on the road as possible.

Williams stressed the importance of preventive maintenance to keep a business running smoothly.

Vehicles are sent to local dealers for maintenance during their warranty periods. For vehicles past their warranty period, a local service provider picks up and drops off vehicles for service, maintenance, stickers, and any other needs. Williams said this arrangement saves labor time.

The company installs GPS tracking systems for its vehicles, enabling the customer service team to notify customers when a technician is due to arrive.

Battling Rising Fuel Costs

Colepepper Services is very conscious of fuel costs. The company is based in San Diego, Calif., where high fuel costs are typical. At the moment, the price of gasoline in San Diego is about 60 cents above the national average.

Colepepper Services regularly updates its fleet in an effort to increase fuel efficiency and keep expenses low. (Photo: Colepepper Services)
Colepepper Services regularly updates its fleet in an effort to increase fuel efficiency and keep expenses low. (Photo: Colepepper Services)

High fuel prices can add up, too. The company offers plumbing, drain, and HVAC services across southern California, from its main office in San Diego to Los Angeles, and each vehicle travels an average of 60,000 miles annually.

To keep fuel costs under control, the company replaces vehicles regularly.

“The trucks don’t get very good fuel mileage, especially with all of the equipment and parts weighing them down,” said Mitch Kenney, owner of Colepepper Services. “Although our gasoline vehicles achiever lower miles per gallon than diesel, we have found that by turning over the trucks every five years for new vehicles will prove to be more cost-efficient than purchasing more expensive diesel trucks.”

In addition, Kenney said GPS has been installed on every vehicle, which the main office uses to keep track of vehicles and dispatch jobs to the closest available location.

This allows employees to respond to calls more quickly and ensures that vehicles are dispatched efficiently so they aren’t crossing routes or driving all around town.

Colepepper Services maintains a fleet of 10 vehicles, including two box trucks used for installation and six high-roof vans used for service calls. Each van is stocked with two drain cleaning machines and the company’s most commonly used stock.

Due to the small fleet, it is important that vehicles are on the road as much as possible which can make fleet maintenance difficult to manage. For that reason, vehicles are only sent out to the dealership for major repairs, and preventive maintenance is handled in-house.

“We do have excellent warranties with the trucks from the manufacturers; however, we cannot afford to have the trucks off the road for very long, waiting at a long line at a dealership for the trucks to be fixed,” Kenney said. “The mobile mechanic is affordable and can make quick fixes on the spot. This way the truck never has to be off the road.”

Kenney also credited the company’s bright orange vehicles, which help gain impressions on the road.

“By wrapping our trucks, we have had a significant increase in brand awareness in our community. We get a lot more people that tell us they see our trucks everywhere,” Kenney said. 

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