Fleet Acquisition

North Dakota Finds Purchasing Solution for Complex Snow Plow Truck Delivery

January 2012, Government Fleet - Feature

by Paul Hanson, CAFM

At a Glance

The NDDOT improved its equipment procurement process by:

  • Adding a bonus/penalty clause to vendor contracts.
  • Hiring a retired employee to guide vendors in acceptable practices and expectations.
  • Purchasing one type of truck with minor variations, built by one vendor.
  • Adjusting the process each time a problem arose to find the best solution.


Like perhaps other fleets challenged to procure multiple complex pieces of equipment from a single or multiple vendors but have a hard time with obtaining on-time delivery, the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) State Fleet Services was faced with that challenge when procuring turnkey snow plow trucks. The following process the NDDOT went through to improve its purchasing process and ensure on-time delivery may be adapted to a number of large complex procurement situations.

Vendors Considered Vehicles Low Priority

NDDOT has a complex snow plow truck specification that uses state-of-the-art electronic hydraulic controls to control a front plow, underbody scraper, snow wing, sanding, and pre-wetting equipment, and in some cases anti-ice trailers or 22-foot tow plows that contain anti-ice equipment. The NDDOT State Fleet Services division owns and manages all State-owned on-highway vehicles used by all State agencies and universities. The procurement of complex snow plow trucks falls under the division's responsibilities.

There are a limited number of vendors in the region that will bid to assemble the NDDOT snow plow trucks and since the trucks were awarded to the lowest bidder meeting specifications, the vendors all considered it low priority work. It didn't matter if the fleet ordered four or 14; it would take 11-15 months from order to delivery. This was unacceptable, but under North Dakota procurement law, Fleet Services' only recourse was to cancel a contract, disbar the vendor, and rebid. This was also unacceptable with the small vendor pool and the further delay until delivery. In addition, final inspections for specification compliance and quality were made after delivery, so it was often difficult to coordinate correction of the defects by the vendor, which could be more than 400 miles away. Oftentimes, it was just easier if the fleet just absorbed the cost and made the repair.

Working toward a Solution

Fleet Services had unsuccessfully made empty threats to the vendors to get them to speed up delivery. Eventually, I asked myself: "What can we do to create an urgency whereas the vendor(s) will give the NDDOT snow plow truck builds a high priority? Is there some method used by others - a carrot to lead them, so to speak?"

Fleet Services didn't have to look far for a solution - the highway construction division already had a method. To get highway contractors to complete a project early or on time, the division includes a bonus/penalty clause in the project contract. The bonus is based on a dollar amount per day prior to required project completion date; if the project goes beyond the required date, a per-day penalty is applied.


  1. 1. Allen Geisler [ February 01, 2012 @ 05:40AM ]

    Your article was very enteresting. I too experience long delays recieving snow equipment that has gone out on bid and was looking for ways of improvement. I will share this information with my directors as well as our procurement department for futher bid.

  2. 2. marvin smith [ September 10, 2012 @ 12:09AM ]

    Yes! for complex or place where heavy snowfall occurred needs some best implements for cleaning.
    snow plowing - http://www.theroadcleaners.com/snow_plowing_salting


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