An early Christmas present for the City of La Vergne came from a pair of master mechanics in the city’s public works department who saved the city more than $150,000 by becoming qualified to perform maintenance and repair on the La Vergne fire trucks.

The fleet mechanics are Phillip Sanderson and Thomas Daniel. Both have been working for the city for approximately seven years. 

About 18 months ago, Garlon Russell, manager for the street and fleet department, had a conversation with Fire Chief Chris Clark. 

“We talked about doing some work for them on their vehicles, because you have to be certified. Chief Clark didn’t want to overload us,” Russell said. 

Russell discussed the concept with Sanderson and Daniel, and they were up for the work. When discussing the maintenance for the fire trucks, Daniel said, “Pull the cab up, and it’s a dump truck.”

It’s a little bit more complicated than that, of course. 

Fire trucks require an Emergency Vehicle Technician. EVT Certification is a more rigorous, safety-oriented program, with many more checklists, logbooks and other paperwork. 

The city helped with the cost of the classes and certifications, and Russell budgeted for a suite of quality, Snap-On Tools in a huge green roll-around chest. 

In approximately a year and a half, the maintenance work by Sanderson and Daniel has saved the city $150,000 by reducing the need for outsourcing the fire truck maintenance to a specialist company. There are other benefits as well, as the down-time for the fire trucks is substantially reduced. Instead of being out of service for a few days, the fleet mechanics can be very responsive. The firefighters might find a problem on a truck at 3 a.m., and by 7 a.m., Sanderson and Daniel can be making the repair. 

Sanderson has been a mechanic for more than 20 years. 

“The best part of working on the fire trucks is knowing how much we can help the city, and especially making sure that our guys are safe. It’s all about safety,” he said.

Daniel has been a mechanic for more than 15 years.  

Daniel said the EVT classes are “kind of like the (automobile maintenance certification) work, but there’s more safety and out-of-service criteria. There is a process for taking a vehicle out of service, and to get it back into service.”

Daniel used an oil leak as an example. 

“There are three levels of leaks. If the leak is making the seal wet, but it’s not dripping, it’s a Level One leak. If the leak drips onto a piece of metal on the vehicle frame, it’s a Level Two leak. If there is a puddle of oil on the ground under the vehicle chassis, it’s a Level Three leak and that will take the fire truck out of service,” he said. 

The firefighters closely inspect their trucks daily. Daniel said, “That’s all a part of their fire school. We do a preventative maintenance check twice a year for the fire trucks, and if they have a problem like an air leak or something’s not working, they’ll call us.

“The work is fun, it’s something different every day.” 

Daniel and Sanderson say they also have a good relationship with the firefighters, who trust them to keep the trucks in good repair. 

Russell said the arrangement has benefitted the city.

“They have taken on more work,” Russell said. “There is still some work that has to be outsourced.” 

For example, the fire trucks are very heavy and require a specialized lift to raise them off the ground and the city does not have a lift heavy enough for that work.

The collaboration with the Fire Department has been a high point of the project. 

“We’ve all come together and it’s working out very well,” Russell said. “There are substantial savings on the hourly rate, along with the reduction of per diem and travel, and the increase in the in-service rate for the fire trucks. We are saving the city money.” 

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