Apopka Finds Creative Ways to Save Money with Vehicles

Repairs can be pretty costly when debris from inside a garbage truck catches fire. It’s twice as expensive when the fire happens a second time within just a few months.

So mechanics with the City of Apopka’s Fleet Services Division pieced together copper pipe, hoses and sprinklers to create an original emergency extinguishing system. Now garbage truck drivers can simply flip a switch to spray a shower of water onto a fire around the vehicle engine and storage bin.

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The new safety feature prevents hoses from burning and machinery from being damaged. It also can protect the garbage truck from more significant fire loss. That’s a big benefit considering that repairs can cost thousands of dollars and a new garbage truck costs more than $300,000.

The fire system is among several creative ideas from the mechanics to build unique vehicle improvements from scratch, making fleet maintenance more efficient and saving public tax dollars.

Apopka City Commissioner Sam Ruth complimented their efforts to reduce costs. “I think it’s fantastic – at the end of the day, the money does not belong to us. It is taxpayers’ money,” Ruth said. “They also are maximizing materials that we already have and using them in different ways to better serve the community.”

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Fleet Services recently rebuilt a specialized and updated vehicle for Apopka’s wastewater division. The previous vehicle – a van used since the 1990s – included camera and monitoring equipment to explore underground sewer lines for damage and blockages. The operator of the machine sat on a plastic bucket inside the van to watch equipment that used an old-style video recorder with VHS tapes and a large, bulky computer monitor for viewing.

Instead of replacing the aging van with a new, commercially available truck to inspect sewer lines, the city opted to buy a cheaper, basic van and to rebuild the equipment inside.

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Mechanics used a seat from a retired ambulance to replace the bucket. They replaced the VHS video recorder with a new digital recorder. The bulky computer monitor was replaced with a flat-panel monitor. For additional safety, they installed LED lighting for night-time work. A rack was fabricated on the front bumper to hold bright orange traffic cones.

Staff members estimate the in-house renovations saved tens of thousands of dollars.

On another project, mechanics built a chassis assembly with a fifth-wheel plate that attaches to a front-end loader to tow large trailers. The device allows mechanics to move the trailers without the need of a large over-the-road tractor. Fleet Services is currently repurposing a retired ambulance, removing the large, box body and adding metal clamps to the truck frame to haul garbage dumpsters.

 The city garage includes nine technicians who service more than 300 vehicles and maintain an additional 500 pieces of equipment.

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