Officials review vehicle records

County fleet management was charged with not having trucks inspected

Record-keeping system blamed

Department will revamp how it tracks maintenance

Carroll County

December 26, 2003|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Carroll County transportation officials are reviewing vehicle maintenance records and revamping their record-keeping system after being charged with violating a state law requiring annual inspections and repairs for large trucks.

Ralph E. Green, director of the county Department of General Services, which oversees the Bureau of Fleet Management and Warehouse Operations, said recently that confusing record-keeping led an inspector from the state police's Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section to believe that county-owned vehicles were not being inspected, when the county was mostly in compliance.

"The majority of the problem was in our internal record-keeping program, which I take full responsibility for," Green said. "And I'll take full responsibility for correcting it."

Still, Green acknowledged that there may be a dozen vehicles or pieces of equipment, such as unused trailers, overdue for inspection. A list of those vehicles is expected to be completed early next week. In the meantime, any vehicle found to be overdue for inspection will be looked at immediately, Green said.

Responding to an anonymous tip, a state police inspector issued a citation Dec. 3 charging that county fleet vehicles were not being inspected as required by law. The county was fined $1,023. The citation did not say what types of vehicles were alleged to be overdue for inspections.

Under state law, trucks of more than 10,000 pounds, passenger buses, tractors and semitrailers must be "inspected, maintained and repaired" every 25,000 miles or every 12 months, whichever comes first.

The state police inspector found that county fleet management did not maintain complete records on all vehicles that it owns, according to the inspector's audit report. "Not all vehicles inspected within last 12 months," the inspector wrote in the report.

A state police spokesman said the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section could not comment on an open case.

Since the citation was issued, Green said, he has been overseeing efforts to make fleet management's record-keeping system more efficient and understandable. That includes creating a new form to be used for inspections.

"If we see a flaw in our system, we're here to fix the flaw," Green said, noting that he hopes to have his review completed by Wednesday. Green is expected to brief the county commissioners on his progress during the first week of next month, said county chief of staff Steve Powell.

The Bureau of Fleet Management is housed with facilities and road operations in the county's 60,000-square-foot maintenance building on Meadow Branch Road, near the Carroll County Regional Airport. All kinds of county-owned vehicles - including school buses, dump trucks and road graders - are parked at the 31-acre site.

Fleet management, which has a $3 million annual budget, repairs and maintains about 700 vehicles. Thirteen full-time mechanics perform service work such as changing the oil and replacing engines.

One room in the center holds 15,000 auto parts, including bolts, filters, hoses and belts. In a separate area, dozens of spare tires are stacked side by side.

On Monday, about a dozen vehicles - including a van used by the Carroll Area Transit System and a small boat used at Piney Run Park - were parked at mechanics' work stations. One mechanic was replacing the brakes on a maintenance truck.

"It gets pretty crowded sometimes," said Everett "Chip" Purkins, chief of the Bureau of Fleet Management. "We keep pretty busy."

Of the 700 vehicles, 200 to 300 fall under the state Department of Transportation's law requiring annual inspections, Purkins said. Fleet management performs additional maintenance checks on vehicles every 4,000 miles.

Fleet management keeps two sets of records - one for DOT inspections, the other for its own preventive maintenance examinations, Green said.

What happened during the visit by state police Dec. 3, Green said, was that the inspector reviewed only the records detailing the required annual inspections, which were outdated.

But the records for the bureau's inspections would have shown that most of the checks required by the DOT were completed, Green said.

As a result, fleet management has created a form covering both types of inspections, which Green is reviewing.

"Although the DOT files showed that there was a deficiency in the inspection process, it's my contention that the items on the DOT list were in most part done in the preventive maintenance program," Green said.

There are also plans to create a database listing the vehicles that need annual inspections and a computer program to remind fleet management officials of inspections 30 days before they're due, he said.

"We have not had an accident attributed to a mechanical failure, which says a lot," Green said. "It's not like we take our maintenance program lightly."

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