Procurement & Fleet: Working Collaboratively Through Cooperative Contracting

Cooperative procurement can help fleets acquire vehicles quicker, for less money, and for situations such as after natural disasters.

November 2017, Government Fleet - Feature

by Tammy Rimes

Public agencies can use cooperative contracts to purchase their fleet vehicles. Photo: Getty Images
Public agencies can use cooperative contracts to purchase their fleet vehicles. Photo: Getty Images

The survey results are in: Procurement professionals in the public sector feel overworked, making it difficult to engage with their customer departments — including fleet.

Onvia, a provider of intelligence in the business-to-­government marketplace, received 668 responses to its 2017 Survey of Government Procurement Professionals.

The results of this survey are probably not surprising to fleet managers. The survey shows nearly 40% of procurement staff and managers indicated being “stretched” to the limit or working extra hours to meet deadlines. The ability to conduct adequate research and planning, regulatory compliance and regulations, and staffing limitations rose to the top of the list as areas where procurement teams feel frustrated and unable to conduct the adequate level of effort necessary to do it right. Procurement professionals admit they are not always as engaged as they would like to be with their customers.

At a glance

Cooperative procurement can help fleets by:

  • Avoiding the lengthy and costly bidding process
  • Allowing them to purchase vehicles and equipment faster
  • Helping with standardization efforts.

Because they rely on procurement to obtain the goods and services needed to run their operations, fleet departments also feel the frustration. Many successful agencies are looking to improved ways to conduct business to mitigate the problem of limited resources and lengthy bid processes. The result is a growing phenomenon across the nation — the use of cooperative contracting.

Savings in Pricing & Time

The idea is a simple one — using an already established contract put in place by a designated cooperative organization or government agency that can be used, or “piggybacked” upon, by another government organization. Approved by the American Bar Association and viewed as an alternative contracting method, its benefits can result in savings — in both pricing and time. By leveraging the spend capacity across a larger number of agencies, suppliers can often provide more advantageous pricing or increased benefits. Since the solicitation process is already done, it saves time spent conducting research, issuing bid documents, and performing a lengthy evaluation and award process by the agency.

Data: Onvia Survey of Government Procurement Professionals 2017
Data: Onvia Survey of Government Procurement Professionals 2017
Data: Onvia Survey of Government Procurement Professionals 2017
Data: Onvia Survey of Government Procurement Professionals 2017

For fleet, cooperative contracting can offer additional ­specific benefits. These include filling gaps where current contracts do not provide the specific supplier or product, or providing an easily accessible solution during emergencies. For example, during the recent hurricanes that covered the southeast, some fleets had vehicles that were severely damaged or destroyed, particularly due to flooding. As a result, many agencies needed to increase their capacity for surplus auction services. Utilizing cooperative purchasing allows a fleet manager to quickly take advantage of contracts that are already put in place, to swiftly disperse damaged equipment, and to make room for new incoming replacement vehicles. Where one might experience higher costs during an emergency, an already established contract minimizes those “spikes” in pricing.

Ultimately, both fleet and procurement teams have the same goal — to serve the public good as they meet the operational needs of their organization. Working better as a team, and using resources such as cooperative contracting, can assist toward meeting that goal.

Adapted from NCPP’S Roadmap to a Cooperative Procurement Strategy
Adapted from NCPP’S Roadmap to a Cooperative Procurement Strategy

Cooperative Contracting to the Rescue — For a Fire Department

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue (TVF&R) is a special district that provides fire protection, emergency medical, and rescue services to approximately 490,000 residents living in 11 cities and four counties in Oregon. With almost 400 firefighters and 26 fire stations, the district is the largest fire department in the state. When faced with planning large, diverse fleet purchases to cover a metropolitan area as well as surrounding wildland urban interface, Fire Chief Mike Duyck determined that standardization would benefit fleet operations by ensuring effectiveness and maintenance efficiency. In addition, district leadership wanted the ability to quickly acquire the exact equipment needed within a consistent standard.

The prospect of bidding out each individual purchase over time could potentially undermine TVF&R’s goals. So district leaders chose to use cooperative procurement to select equipment needed over time. Using the NPPGov contract through the local dealer, TVF&R purchased two Pierce Quantum Pumpers through a streamlined process for a total of $1.27 million. Using this same option, TVF&R plans to purchase up to eight more apparatus within the next few years to complete fleet upgrades consistent with the district’s overall strategic plan.

In addition to standardization, using cooperative procurement saves staff time and provides accountability to investors, who are also ultimately taxpayers. TVF&R’s Purchasing Manager Eric Wicks stated, “The traditional procurement process would have taken months and significant staff resources. In this case, the choice of cooperative procurement, with due diligence inspection, saved us weeks on the procurement process and significant staff time.”

The Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue used cooperative purchasing to standardize its fleet. Photo courtesy of TVF&R
The Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue used cooperative purchasing to standardize its fleet. Photo courtesy of TVF&R

About the Author: Tammy Rimes is a procurement consultant and serves as executive director of National Cooperative Procurement Partners. She can be reached at [email protected]


  1. 1. Brian Reynolds [ November 28, 2017 @ 11:55AM ]

    Tammy, as always you provide great insight how things are supposed to work with procurement. Unfortunately, breaking down the silos and getting to this state of joy between departments is harder than it appears on the surface in many cases. In the realm of state agencies, the politics often take precedence over practicality. In my case, cooperative purchasing is only allowed if delegated authority is granted by the CPA. Unfortunately, they have a revenue stream tide to the procurement process and are not prone to delegate. Agencies are held captive by the comptroller with little or no recourse.


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