For a company with just a few vehicles to manage, and with crews working out of them daily, Everclean Maids tells Business Fleet in this web exclusive how it relies on its drivers to not only manage the accompanying cleaning crews but the vehicles as well.
— By Joanne M. Tucker
With just seven vehicles in fleet, Everclean Maid Service based in Alexandria, Va., provides residential cleaning services in the metro Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia areas. And with the vehicles and workers out of the office throughout most of the day, keeping vehicles lined up to individual supervisors has proved the most effective in keeping the fleet managed.
The company works out of a 15 mile radius and puts more than 1,000 miles a month on each vehicle, according to Everclean Maid Service Owner Mike Zalatoris. The fleet includes two newly purchased Honda Fits, four Ford Focuses — some of which have been in service for almost 10 years — and one 1999 Honda CR-V.
Few Drivers, Many Responsibilities
Because the staff and fleet are small enough, Zalatoris is able to give his drivers the directive to head their teams and vehicles, and considers his drivers the supervisor for that team and vehicle. The supervisors take the vehicles home, and pick up and drop off the crew at the beginning and end of the day, and get any product and equipment needed either in the morning or the evening before.
Each driver is also responsible for getting the vehicle in for regular maintenance intervals, including brake, oil and tire work, and making a record of it at the office. “It really is a cooperative thing,” Zalatoris says, adding though that the company relies more on the maintenance shop’s records since sometimes drivers forget. The company has a policy with the mechanic’s shop to call immediately if there is something that needs to be done while it’s in for regular maintenance.
(To read more about small fleet preventive maintenance, click here for "How to Start a Preventive Maintenance Plan for a Small Fleet.)
Managing the fleet wasn’t an original concern for Zalatoris when he started the company in 1986 with one van. But now, after growing the company to what he feels is a comfortable size, Zalatoris hopes that soon one of his supervisors will look to acquire the business, and is taking certain steps such as utilizing fleet tracking to help streamline the fleet management, and is also working on company branding, such as logos for the vehicles, aprons and shirts.
When he isn’t gloved up cleaning vacuum brush rolls and maintaining the motors, Zalatoris is watching his vehicles through GPS fleet tracking platform Nextraq. “The biggest thing was knowing where the vehicles were and why they weren’t where they should be,” he says.
However, using vehicle tracking in order to keep assets safe has resulted in an even better and unexpected benefit: Working out a few kinks to the company’s customer service. While each supervisor has a cell phone, sometimes that signal is weak or the ring can’t be heard over the humming vacuum cleaners. So, if a team is late on a job, Zalatoris can immediately look and see where that team’s vehicle is located — whether they’re on the way to the next house or still at the previous job.
“For customer service it’s a great update,” Zalatoris says. “It facilitates our response time with a client. And, also the idea that you can playback a day’s route has been great, such as if someone is having a problem getting to a house on time.”
Zalatoris says that if he wasn’t spending most his time cleaning vacuums, he would likely use the system more, but for now he uses it for the basic capabilities. “The program has a lot of reporting that I just haven’t had the time to really look at,” he says.
The company also has fuel cards for each supervisor from Wright Express.
Until It Dies or Is Too Expensive to Drive
The 1999 Honda CR-V is used on as-needed basis for larger equipment, Zalatoris says, calling it the company’s specialty truck. “We just watch the expenses for the cars,” Zalatoris says, adding that he often gives a vehicle to either a staff member or charity once he’s ready to take it off service.
Purchasing a vehicle is no problem for Zalatoris. He has a secret shopping fetish and gets a kick out of going to dealer lots and perusing for vehicles.
The most recent purchase, the Honda Fit, is a little smaller than the cleaning crews were used to, which prompted an equipment organization revision. “We drove around with about four pounds in extra chemicals when we used the bigger wagon because we could, but now we don’t have the capacity so we don’t carry it around,” he says. “I don’t think we really needed to have gallons in reserve in the vehicles anyway. Plus, it’s probably wiser in getting that extra vehicle weight out.”
Zalatoris says that his staff’s storage container of choice is milk crates because they’re easy to see through, are sturdy, lightweight and because “they fit.” From here the crews pack their aprons and caddies as they move through a client’s home.
Meanwhile, Zalatoris hopes to shrink the company’s service region and service more clients closer to the office so as to put fewer miles on each vehicle. “Our goal is to territorialize,” he says.
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