Buses to bulldozers: Vehicle management literally drives the force

  • Published
  • By Jaima Fogg
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio - If you have ever traveled in a government vehicle across Wright-Patt, the important work of the Vehicle and Transportation Contract Management Flight has served you.

Falling under the 88th Logistics Readiness Squadron, this small but mighty flight manages and maintains a fleet of over 800 vehicles at Wright-Patt. Like many operations and organizations on the base, a team of federal civilians oversees a group of contractors who conduct the vehicle fleet’s day-to-day management and maintenance.

Vehicle management and maintenance

From sedans to snowplows, vehicle management and maintenance is the flight’s focus.

The Air Force owns and maintains the larger service vehicles in the fleet such as refueling trucks, cargo conveyers and buses. At Wright-Patt, these vehicles are serviced in a warehouse-sized garage on Area A. Contracted mechanics diagnose, repair and quality check the vehicles for regularly scheduled maintenance and emergency services. 

Refueling trucks for aircraft on the flight line are maintained and repaired in an explosion-proof building due to the hazardous material they transport, 88 LRS officials said. Aircraft fuel is highly flammable, so extra precautions are required to avoid sparks when servicing the trucks. The vehicles are grounded, electrical components within the building sealed and the space well-ventilated to mitigate danger.

Light-duty trucks, SUVs and sedans are managed through the General Services Administration’s cradle-to-grave vehicle-leasing program.

Squadron officials say GSA leasing is a cost-effective, end-to-end management service that includes vehicle acquisition and disposal, maintenance control and accident management, loss prevention and fuel services. Although GSA manages servicing of the vehicle, the Vehicle and Transportation Contract Management Flight manages the contracts and ensures procurement of the right vehicle with the right accessories for the mission.

Contractors who maintain the large vehicles are considered mission-essential during inclement weather. If a snowplow breaks down down during a storm, mechanics must be available for repairs so it can get back to clearing the roads and runways.

“It’s an overlooked and dirty job that doesn’t get a lot of pats on the back,” said John Henderson, flight chief. “They’re not shooting bad guys or taking care of sick people, but the warfighter wouldn’t be able to focus on their mission if these guys weren’t doing their jobs.”

Ground transportation

The unit’s Ground Transportation Section is responsible for planning, managing and executing the movement of personnel and shipments, and receiving cargo during both day-to-day and contingency operations for the base.

“Under vehicle management, we have the main vehicle maintenance technicians who turn the wrenches and fix the trucks,” Henderson said. “And then we have the Fleet Management and Analysis Section. It’s the nucleus.”

FMA is like a dealership service writer. It analyzes the customer’s needs and determines the best course of action by clarifying requirements, identifying problems, and maintaining records and service schedules.

Ground Transportation’s dispatchers coordinate the vehicles and drivers for all mass transportation, official taxi services, cargo movement and tow truck operations needed to move personnel and equipment around the base. Bus and taxi drivers transport people daily between Area A and B for a range of reasons, including student movement, community engagement tours and aircrew transport.

This section also provides license testing to service members who require specialized permits to drive large vehicles such as tractor trailers, buses and box trucks. It also manages the U-Drive-It vehicles, essentially a GSA-leased rental fleet.

To assist with mitigating corrosion and maintaining the large and small vehicle fleet, ground transportation also operates an energy-efficient, environmentally friendly and touchless car wash. The car wash can accommodate vehicles ranging from sedans to firetrucks.

Future of the fleet: Zero-emission vehicles

In response to the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, Wright-Patt officials are beginning the process of what it will take to transition fuel-powered light-duty vehicles to electric and the infrastructure involved.

An all-electric fleet will require specialized maintenance, charging stations and other infrastructure support. It will also require a plan for charging the vehicles, which can take upward of 12 hours depending on the charger level.

“They looked at every vehicle each base organization has, where each vehicle is parked and will come up with an infrastructure plan for the electric chargers,” said Greg Gonyea, a transportation specialist. “A good example is law enforcement – they have about 20 vehicles and their mission is 24/7.”

Vehicle and Transportation Contract Management Flight officials said safe and reliable transportation is essential to the WPAFB mission, and the unit’s civilians and contractors are “dominating the dirty work” to ensure its success.

“My flight touches just about everybody on this base one way or the other,” Henderson said. “I can guarantee that LRS is involved in something that makes everyone’s jobs possible, every day.”