|Resident-focused care does not stop at a facility's door. If transportation services are provided, care extends beyond the property into the local community and beyond. Whether a facility simply offers local, convenient trips or has advanced activity programming that includes educational and adventure travel for its residents, the first and foremost concern is resident safety-and that means vehicle safety. Whether it's a minivan or a small (16 passengers or less) or large bus, purchasing a facility vehicle is an expensive proposition. The question is: When is it time to revitalize your transportation? Is your vehicle still reliable and meeting your needs, or is it beginning to cost more to maintain than the value it provides?|
To answer these questions, Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management recently asked Halsey King, president of Halsey King & Associates, maintenance educator, and speaker on transportation issues, for his advice.
When should a facility begin to think about replacing its current transportation vehicle?
What are the first warning signs that a vehicle, whether it is a bus, van, minivan, or paratransit, is nearing the end of its usefulness?
Another trigger revolves around frequent and costly body and component maintenance. Generally, a vehicle with 150,000 miles of service will begin to have mechanical body issues. For instance, if the facility is in a northern climate, environmental conditions can affect the vehicle's body. Driving over salt-treated streets can rust out the muffler and exhaust system and other components under the bus.
In some cases, the last straw in the decision hinges on repeated problems and breakdowns on the road. Heaters don't keep the bus warm in the winter, and in summer the air-conditioning doesn't keep the interior cool. Your riders-your residents-get tired of complaining about these malfunctions and you, the administrator, become concerned about the continuing comfort and safety of the vehicle.
How long is it wise to keep "fixing" problems with the vehicle?
The warranty won't necessarily be the determining factor because when you match it against vehicle life, it's a footrace. Small buses (16 passenger or less), minivans, and vans are generally good up to 250,000 miles, but some vehicles go farther.
Should every facility provide some type of transportation service?
What maintenance tips would you recommend to help keep a vehicle in top working order?
Meet with the garage owner and develop a scheduled preventive maintenance program. Make sure that the garage owner has the tools and skills necessary to service your vehicle. Chances are your bus or van has some technology on it that is not familiar to the mechanic. The first thing that will "hit him between the running lights" is the wheelchair lift. The mechanic probably is familiar with the in-dash air conditioner, but can he work on the rear air conditioner? In addition, many buses are ADA compliant and therefore are equipped with bright yellow handrails, LED lighting systems, and larger windows, which means that the mechanic (or garage owner) will have to become knowledgeable about ADA requirements and why they are important to maintenance staff.
Other than serving the residents, have you come across ways that a facility can make more use of its vehicles and get more for its investment?
If you have a bus or van that does a morning run and returns at 9 a.m. to sit idle for the rest of they day, a good dispatcher or marketing person can keep that bus going (and profitable) during the facility's off hours.
Halsey King is President of Halsey King & Associates in Carlsbad, California. With more than 26 years of experience, he has provided consulting services and training to more than 700 fleets worldwide. He provides seminars on maintenance for a number of organizations. For more information, phone (760) 434-2400. To send your comments to the author and editors, e-mail email@example.com .
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