New Fleet Management System at MaineDOT
By Nancy Armentrout, Agency IT Director
As you might guess, DOT has a lot of trucks. All those brown and orange “wheelers” you see across the State are the trucks that maintain our roads in the summer and plow snow all winter. This fleet of 1500 vehicles and 1300 attachments is owned by the Fleet Services Division of MaineDOT and has been managed using an old Cobol system called MESIS. This system, which could no longer be compiled for fear of incompatibilities with the IBM operating system, was in need of a new technical solution. Its antiquated presentation and operation were also in need of modernization. Fleet Services found its management options ever more constrained due to software limitations.
Fleet management involves managing an inventory of trucks and attachments -- tracking each truck’s assignments, attachments, usage, fuel consumption, maintenance, and eventual disposal; planning and managing garage and service truck workloads, personnel, parts and fuel inventories; and evaluating various inventory management, and truck capital improvement and replacement strategies. An RFP for a fleet management software product was issued last year and the Fleet Focus product from Maximus was selected. The project consisted of developing new standard operating procedures, configuring the product for DOT’s mode of operation, converting 16 years of historical data as well as current data, designing and developing interfaces between Fleet Focus and several of our other systems, and piloting integrated fuel pumps and use of disconnected PDAs on the roving service trucks. This effort was managed from the business side by Tom Lukas, Assistant Fleet Manager, and from the IT perspective, Jennifer Chisum, Senior Programmer Analyst.
This project had its share of hurdles to overcome, not the least of which was the retirement of the primary IT MESIS support person, Jeff Eaton, who had supported the old system from its inception in the 80s. Working with the Vendor Project Manager at a distance was trying as well, particularly as we came to realize how many other projects this person managed and how few staff he had to support him. It was only through the diligence of an experienced project manager like Jennifer that this project stayed on task and moving forward.
One shining light in this project was the involvement of the user community. Tom involved the users heavily in development of the new SOPs. Due to the establishment of a hosted test application, Fleet Services was able to require all users to practice using the new system over the entire development period. Due to this practice, training and design sessions were highly productive, and system acceptance testing was especially effective. As a result, when this system was started up in production it was a bit anti-climactic. A few minor issues arose but the users were essentially off and running and never looked back.