Keep Your Fleet in Tip-Top Shape

California plumber looks at replacing vehicles when odometer tops 200,000.
Keep Your Fleet in Tip-Top Shape
Nick Kastanes

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Nick Kastanes, a master plumber with 34 years of experience, has owned Sac Val Plumbing in Sacramento, California, since 1991. His fleet of 10 vehicles (mostly 1997 to 2015 Chevrolets) and 13 technicians circle a 75-mile radius of the Central Valley of California metropolitan area, serving seven cities with a combined population of about 1.44 million. Kastanes says the key to providing top customer service comes down to qualified technicians and timely vehicle maintenance.

Q:  Who does your maintenance? Do you have a mechanic on staff?

A:  We had an in-house mechanic, but he recently retired and we are using an outside shop at this time for all fleet maintenance.

Q:  What do you look for when selecting an outside shop?

A:  Honesty and reliability, and somebody who can turn around the vehicle in a timely manner.

Q: Will you consider bringing in someone to perform these duties in the future?

A: If we had a mechanic like the person we had before, we would. He was a part-time mechanic who through the years became a part-time technician. We don’t have enough vehicle work for a full-time mechanic. We were fortunate to have him.

Additionally, vehicles these days are very technical. If we had someone, it would be to perform tasks such as replacing brakes, belts, alternators. We would still go outside for diagnostics.

Q: Do you have a maintenance program you review on a daily basis?

A: Nothing on a daily basis at this time. Our software is capable of doing that, but we haven’t had time to get something up and running. We are in the process of doing some upgrades to have better control.

Q: What are the primary duties of fleet supervisor Ruslan Zavorotynskyy?

A: Ruslan, among other things, reminds our plumbersd they need to check the fluids, have the oil changed, check the transmission and brakes and contact him when there are issues.

Q: What type of vehicle do you prefer?

A: We need a variety that includes vans for our light-duty technicians — drain cleaning and small maintenance jobs. Plumbers who do larger jobs need a box truck or van with a larger compartment or doors that roll up or have double doors at the back, like walk-in box vans.

Q:  How do you determine when it’s time to retire a vehicle?

A:  If the mileage goes over 200,000, we take a look at the vehicle and the condition, how many repairs and how often. I’ve had vehicles go 300,000 miles with no problem. We look at each one individually. I’ve gotten rid of a vehicle with 120,000 miles that was breaking down too often. But at 200,000 we look closely.

Q: What do you estimate is the inventory value of a typical service vehicle in your fleet?

A:  It varies from vehicle to vehicle, depending on what it’s used for; probably from a few thousand to $30,000.

Q: Since you serve such a large metropolitan area, do you follow any special routing?

A: As we grow, we will try to lock down technicians in certain areas based on their skills.

Q:  Do your plumber/technicians take their vehicles home at the end of the day or return them to the shop?

A:  They have the option, but they all take their vehicles home.

Q:  How important is GPS to proper fleet management?

A:  Extremely. I recommend that even the smallest companies have GPS.

Q: What do you find most satisfying about your fleet management program?

A: At this time I don’t have a comfort zone. In the future I will, once we get more technology developed and have it all in the computer. Computers don’t make mistakes. That’s what we’re working on right now. You have to take care of your fleet. It’s your bread and butter. 


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