Tampa International Airport is adding a new vehicle to its fleet of staff cars – and this one comes with a plug. As of August 1, a 2013 Chevy Volt is the latest addition to the airport’s fleet, replacing the 1995 Buick Regal known as Staff 4.
Staff 4 was a generic white station wagon that looked more like a prop from a 1970’s movie than a 1995 vehicle. It was the old folks’ car, the wagon, the “Griswald family truckster.” For many it was also a last resort.
When two employees needed the cars, there were often friendly arguments and a mad dash for the keys over who would be forced to drive it instead of the newer Crown Victoria known as Staff 3. Then it was finally time for the old girl to be put out to pasture.
Director of Maintenance Paul Ridgeway said that it was essential to replace the wagon and the new car is a welcome addition.
“Our fleet team is good – they can keep the engine running. It’s the rest of the car that starts to fall apart over time,” said Ridgeway. “The new one has everything – well, almost everything. There’s no slot for an eight-track player like in the Buick.”
The Volt is among the latest generation of green vehicles and operates on a lithium-ion battery that allows for about 38 miles of gas-free driving, but also has an onboard gas generator that increases the range to 380 miles on a full charge and gas tank.
The new vehicle adds to the growing list of sustainability initiatives including natural gas shuttle buses for the employee and economy parking lots, hybrid staff vehicles, reclaimed water for landscape irrigation and electric vehicle charging stations in the cell phone lot and valet parking facility.
The Chevy Volt presents a new opportunity to the airport’s vehicle maintenance team, which is responsible for keeping about 320 vehicles and other machinery in tip-top shape.
The mechanics have already received training on compressed natural gas vehicles, learned to work on the unique components of the hybrid vehicles and will soon learn about working on the latest technology to service the Volt.
The fleet maintenance team of Dale Amberger, Nhut Huynh, Gregg Shields and Cesar Yepes all specialize in different types of vehicles and equipment with each member of the team citing their background for their expertise.
Amberger was raised on a farm in Northern Kentucky and specialized in tractors, while Huynh first began to work on machinery in France then in California. Shields worked on helicopters while in the Coast Guard and Yepes learned to repair trucks while growing up to help out the family business.
Leading the team is Horace Rose who has 29 years of experience in maintenance at Tampa International. As he worked his way up through the maintenance department, Rose has worn many hats and personally operated most of the equipment in his various job at one time or another.
Fleet Superintendent Ray Fanti says that the team keeps up with new technology through regularly scheduled training sessions.