Doing More for Less: Increasing Fleet Efficiency

November 2005, Government Fleet - Feature

by Paul Dexler - Also by this author

Doing more for less” is the goal of Craig Davis’ fleet program. With a system he calls CATS, Davis increases fleet efficiency to accomplish more goals with fewer resources.CATS stands for credibility, accountability, training, and support - four categories into which Davis broke down his Fleet Services Department operations. “After I identified the main categories,” Davis says, “I compiled a list of recommendations or guidelines for each. One thing you’ll notice about this program is that it requires communication, cooperation, and support from top to bottom and everywhere in between.”Four Guidelines to Doing More For Less
Davis says a plan is essential to reach the goal of doing more for less. State program goals, design a plan, and recruit support before beginning, he advises. Davis lays out the following guidelines for each category:1. Credibility
Fleet staff must be credible, honest, and reliable. Sound decisions must be made throughout, supported with industry benchmarks.Proposals for change and/or improvements must be backed by documentation.Certifications are mandatory for all levels, including the facility.2. Accountability
Costs must be identified, with the justification for those costs. A computerized fleet management system is necessary, particularly to track such areas as:
  • Staff productivity.
  • Vehicle and equipment maintenance schedules.
  • Cost center reporting.
  • Accident/abuse costs.
  • Vehicle and equipment use.3. Training
    Remain current with industry trends, both good and bad ones. Learn how to implement good trends and then do it. Learn how to defend fleet facility from the bad trends and then prepare for them.Train and educate customers and management about fleet’s future goals and plans.Understand what services fleet can do well and outsource the rest, up to 15 percent.Recruit, hire, and retain quality technicians, certified in all applicable areas.4. Support
    You cannot do it alone. Solicit and accept support from:
  • Council.
  • Upper management.
  • User departments (customers).
  • Supervisors.
  • Operators.
  • Technicians.
  • Vendors.According to Davis the CATS system has had positive results for his fleet. “With this program, Midwest City has improved its overall fleet condition, maintained a relatively flat budget, and improved customer service, all with less personnel.”Davis added that when he was asked to give an example of how the system worked, “I looked at all the programs we have in place, and one came to mind that helps with all three areas - our truck recycle/replacement program.”Another key area is documentation. “We have found that everything we do revolves around documentation - computerized and historical fleet information. When you want to figure cost-per-use to develop lifecycles for your vehicles, drivers’ logs are not accurate or reliable enough.”With fleet software in place, he adds, fleet managers can develop a schedule of replacement times. {+PAGEBREAK+} 13 Benefits from CATS
    The CATS system provides fleet managers several benefits, allowing them to:1. Use internal re-issuing to assist underfunded departments.
    One capital purchase can improve several departments by passing units down. Underfunded departments tend to “wear out” vehicles. Completely worn-out units burden fleet maintenance costs.Units with 50 percent of life left are well received by underfunded departments. A worn-out unit is eliminated and a new unit with warranty replaces it.2. Take advantage of new vehicle warranties.
    A new-vehicle purchase can displace and eliminate a high maintenance-cost unit.A new vehicle can defer major repair costs for an operation for years.In tracking warranty periods, “goodwill” adjustments can be arranged for a vehicle just beyond the warranty period.3. Obtain a higher trade-in value, if the vehicle cannot be re-issued.
    Trade-ins can be used to lower capital expenditures. Monies from higher resale values can be used to build special programs. Recapitalization and accident programs can be funded. 4. Take advantage of new fuel injection technologies, which offer:
  • Improved fuel economy in a given class.
  • The ability to run on alternative fuels.
  • Extended service intervals on many new vehicles, reducing downtime.5. Build surplus truck chassis into specialized low-use applications, such as:
  • Hook-lift loaders.
  • Snowplow/sand spreaders.
  • Dedicated tree spades.
  • Dump trucks.
  • Water trucks.
  • Material-handling cranes.
  • Aerial buckets.6. Use re-capitalization to standardize.
    The specification/procurement process can be used to standardize fleet vehicles.Standardizing vehicles also standardizes parts needs, and parts inventory can be reduced. Buying power improves when dealing with multiples of the same unit. Technician training budget can be minimized.7. Take advantage of new emissions technologies.
    Older units may not run on new alternative fuels without costly modifications.New low-emissions units help maintain an area’s clean air attainment status.8. Improve customer satisfaction.
    Operators appreciate a unit that stays on the job, not in the shop.Allowing operator input on new purchases promotes ownership.Operators satisfied with the shop’s performance won’t avoid it. Operators who avoid bringing units in for work wear out those units.9. Reduce abuse occurrences.
    Abuse is more easily identified on a unit in like-new condition. Identifying abuse helps reduce it. Operators are more likely to abuse an old, poorly maintained unit. The operator mindset “If they don’t care, why should we?” can be diminished.10. Seize fleet reduction opportunities.
    Younger, well-maintained fleets require fewer backup units. Worn-out and unused back-up units can be eliminated. A fewer number of multi-purpose units can replace several individual units.Evaluating vehicle use can lead to developing sharing or “pool” programs.11. Reduce staffing levels.
    A younger fleet experiences fewer maintenance problems. A reduced workload can cut staffing requirements.Cutting positions frees up money to pay for certified technicians.Higher quality, well-paid technicians can improve productivity.12. Reduce downtime.
    Newer vehicles have fewer major repairs, reducing downtime. Fewer parts need to be ordered.13. Incorporate new safety technologies, including:
  • Braking technology.
  • Safer cabs and interiors.
  • Advances in airbags, seatbelts, and other restraint technology.
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