Coughlin, Garcia and Hausman all agreed that com-

puterized maintenance systems can make fleets safer to operate, and transportation departments more efficient and cost effective. Their return on investment for fleets that are larger than 10 to 15 vehicles can be faster and more significant. “A lot of fleets lose money because they don’t claim warranties on parts that go bad. Why? Because they don’t have a good way to track parts in warranty,” Coughlin said. “There’s a lot of hidden value that can save you a lot of money down the road—if you’ve got the right system.” Lastly, he noted that maintenance program developers

have been an industry fixture for roughly four decades. Over time, many companies have come and gone, so staying-power matters. Coughlin’s ninth rule is to be sure to purchase telephone and online support, as well as upgrades. That goes to the heart of Coughlin’s final warning: Con-

verting data from one manufacturer’s system to another is difficult, if not impossible. Old systems can be main- tained to provide historical data, but maintenance staff must realize that there will be associated costs, he added. Hausman concluded that the system in his shop monitors per-vehicle expenses. “You can see if you

have a vehicle that’s taking a lot of time and effort, and a lot of parts. You can start to monitor that tendency … and say, ‘OK, this particular unit is exceeding nor- mal repair costs, and what do we need to do to change that?’” he assessed. Financial benefits can also be achieved when clean

recordkeeping prevents liabilities, such as lawsuit judgments, from ever hitting the ledger. “There’s a saying I always use: If you didn’t document

it, you didn’t do it,” said Coughlin, who also serves as an expert witness in vehicle-crash cases. “You really have to cover yourself with records and with verification. Every time you bring a bus into the shop, you should generate a work order for it, so you have a documented trail. That work order, whether it’s paper or electronic, becomes a legal document.” If a bus is involved in a crash, law firms on both sides

will request vehicle records, he pointed out. “If you don’t have records, or your records are destroyed

for any reason, it doesn’t help your case and it always raises a question: What are you trying to hide?” he said. “That really increases your liability. Cases today are not in the realm of thousands of dollars. They can turn into millions of dollars in a hurry.” ●


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52 School Transportation News • FEBRUARY 2020

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