Rethink Existing Policies & Procedures

September 9, 2016

by Thi Dao - Also by this author

In August, I was chosen to be a juror for a civil trial that lasted almost two weeks. On the second day of jury selection, after our original group had listened to the biographical information of about 40 potential jurors, and listened to their biases and objections to serving on the jury, counting ceiling tiles to relieve our boredom, everyone was ready to just get on with it. As the lawyer was preparing to ask questions of the third group of potential jurors, a woman sitting near me muttered, “I feel like I’m in jail.”

That elicited some giggles, but it was true. We felt trapped in our seats, worrying about the things we would miss or would be unable to take care of: work, children, an upcoming move, the tradition of taking a niece to her first day of school. One day during the trial, we were asked to come in at 10 a.m., but testimony didn’t start until 3 p.m. It became clear that procedures in the courtroom didn’t take into account the value of our time.

It made me think about the inflexibility of some government policies and procedures and how infuriating they can be. In an interview for the trends article in this issue (see page 8), Dave Head, retired fleet manager, commented about how outdated Human Resources policies have a negative effect on technician recruitment. The inability to change, for example, a job description, can affect who you attract when you recruit. The inability to change salaries to match competitive wages in the area significantly reduces the number of candidates for a particular job.

A friend recently recounted this unnecessary procedure at his workplace: photocopying a specific document and filing it in a cabinet that hasn’t been looked through for more than a decade, for no known reason. If there was a reason to begin doing this years ago, nobody knew what it was anymore.

Obviously, policies and procedures exist for a reason — I’ve seen too many audits criticizing fleets for their lack of policies and procedures. But does it have to be done this specific way, if this way isn’t the best way? And is it time to determine if this method is the best method?

Time for a Change

While it may be difficult to change an agency-wide policy, fleet-­specific policies and procedures are more flexible, and fleets are making changes to address their problems. That may be conducting a regional salary survey to get their technicians up to the same pay grade as other agencies and private shops. They may be providing incentive pay for technical certifications. They may make certifications mandatory.

Why do so many fleet managers complain about drivers not coming in for preventive maintenance (PM)? Right now, I’m overdue for a PM, but it was inconvenient to do it last week and is still inconvenient this week and next week. On other occasions, I’ve been afraid it would take too long, or I couldn’t arrange a ride back to the dealership to pick up the car.

Fleet drivers, who don’t own the cars they drive, have less of an incentive to come in for PM — unless you make it easy for them and show that you value their time. That’s why I love the idea of the “quick lube” bay that we’ve written about before. That’s a procedural change that aims to solve a problem and, from what I’ve heard, has.

Another procedural change highlighted in this issue’s “Bright Ideas” article is the prioritization of vehicle upfitting and remarketing to improve customer service.

Is something done a certain way because it was always done this way? Was a policy created due to one negative event, and is it still necessary or has it become too restrictive? Working within the guidelines of your own public agencies, what’s a policy or procedure change you’ve made or are trying to make to improve your operation?


  1. 1. Allen Mitchell [ September 12, 2016 @ 02:46PM ]

    I think it is important to review all policies and procedures at least annually in order to remain up to date and to ensure that the best of both are always in use.

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Thi Dao

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Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

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Patsy Brownson is a fleet professional who retired from Cox Enterprises, Inc. in 2008.

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