Fleet Project Management: Take it Step by Step

Whether constructing a new facility, retrofitting a parts department, or initiating a vehicle replacement cycle, completing major, capital-intensive ventures involves three critical phases: planning, execution, and evaluation.

May 2012, Government Fleet - Feature

by Steve Riley

At a Glance

Elements of successful project management include:

  • Careful, methodical planning.
  • Involvement of all stakeholders, staff, customers, and relevant jurisdictional departments.
  • Clear, accurate, and consistent communication with all participants.
  • Use of such tools as cost tracking programs and project management charts.

Accurate and effective management of a major capital project from start to finish can make the difference between success and failure. The process involves three phases: comprehensive planning, carefully directed execution, and diligent evaluation. The following tips can help build a successful project management plan.


Every successfully completed large-scale project requires deliberate, methodical planning with input from stakeholders, staff, and customers. This multifaceted process begins with a project description.

Define the Project

Describe in detail its ultimate function and intent, potential users and visitors, and benefits to the fleet operation. Identify project stakeholders — all those with “skin in the game,” including elected officials, executives and managers, joint-­project partners, regulators, customers, etc.

Determine a timeline and the point at which the project will be considered a success.

Perform a realistic cost-benefit analysis. Avoid committing to grandiose programs or initiatives that are clearly out of reach or don’t make good business sense.

Analyze Funding

When all costs are determined, review funding sources. Will available funding cover all expenses? What are the accessibility, reporting, and accounting requirements? What are the options if costs exceed budgets?

If a portion of the funding involves federal or state grants, review and understand every element of the grant and plan accordingly. Most grant documents contain a multitude of small details with restrictions and requirements. Consider the following:

  • What is the amount of matching funds?
  • Will the grant payment schedule impact project completion? If so, does the fleet’s agency have funds to support the project spending schedule while waiting for grant reimbursement?
  • What specific reporting and performance benchmarks are specified in the grant? If certain benchmarks are not met, will funding be reduced? Federal grants are particularly sensitive to stated project deadlines since the government payment schedule is based on project cost at the time the grant is issued.
  • Is grant funding restricted to specific project elements, e.g., materials, but not salaries?

Determine Required Resources

What resources will be needed to plan and execute the project?
If project construction is contracted out, determine what tasks may remain the fleet operation’s responsibility. For example, will the project site require clearing and preparation? Which party will provide work-site security?

  • Equipment. Specify the kind of equipment required,when each piece of equipment is needed, and for how long.
  • Materials. Determine each type of material, quantity, and cost.
  • Personnel. List the individuals who must be involved in the project planning and execution as active players and contributors. These can be from the fleet organization, stakeholders, partner agencies, and representatives from such departments as legal, risk/safety management, etc.

Consider the impact of external contributors, such as federal, state, and local regulators, energy resources, building and code inspectors, permit-issuers, etc. For example, will these parties have the manpower to meet the project needs and timeline? Are their activities restricted by regulatory requirements? Will other government entities require reimbursement for services they provide?

Define team member responsibilities and include specific skill-set requirements.

Review each contributor’s significance to the project. If a primary contributor leaves, particularly in a multi-agency project, how will this impact the project timeline? Can a replacement be brought on board easily?

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