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W


hen the time comes to choose maintenance software that’s right for a particular vehicle fleet, industry veteran Denny Coughlin


adheres to 10 basic rules. One that might seem counter-intuitive rises to the top. “The No. 1 thing I always say is don’t


worry about cost. It doesn’t matter what it costs,” commented the retired fleet man- ager for Minneapolis Public Schools and a frequent presenter at School Transportation News conferences. “The reason is that you want to focus on function. You absolutely need function. If you chance it on price and something doesn’t serve your needs, or it’s clumsy to use, you’ve wasted your money. Two or three years later, you’re going to end up going out and buying something all over again.” Coughlin, who is now the president of School Bus Training Company, based in Park Rapids, Minnesota, reported that more and more decision makers are recognizing the difference between value and cost. “It used to be that 30 years ago, every-


Smart, Cheap


When it comes to selecting computerized maintenance software, the focus should be on value, not cost


Written by ERIC WOOLSON


body bought on low bid,” he told STN. “That doesn’t happen so much anymore. People are now saying, maybe we should pay more. I’ve had the belief for 30 or 35 years that we’re responsible for taxpayer dollars. But that doesn’t mean we go for the cheap- est price. It means we buy the best value.” Coughlin uses the example of compar- ing a $2,000 program with a $20,000 one. While the up-front prices are dramatically different, the more expensive system costs less than $3 per workday to operate over a 25-year span. Coughlin has consulted with districts


nationwide on a number of good and bad systems, and others that simply weren’t the right fit for the operation. “Most systems also have far more capability than users need,” he observed. That leads to Coughlin’s rule No. 2:


Research. This includes reading trade journals and attending trade shows to develop new ideas. “Don’t just go to a conference and have


somebody demonstrate one to you when you’re not very familiar with them. Don’t purchase anything you can’t check out in person … and don’t buy the first one that comes along,” Coughlin advised. “Picking a maintenance program should not be a


www.stnonline.com 47


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