Alternative Fleet Storage Options: A Case for Covered Storage

November 2012, Government Fleet - Feature

by Roger Thompson

To construct and maintain a covered and protected parking area can cost one-third as much as it costs to store vehicles outdoors in a 50-year facility life span.

To construct and maintain a covered and protected parking area can cost one-third as much as it costs to store vehicles outdoors in a 50-year facility life span.
At a Glance

While protected, covered parking is ideal, less expensive options include:

  • Lean-to storage
  • Covered canopies with open sides
  • Fabric structures

A fleet of vehicles can represent a multi-million dollar investment in equipment for a public agency. To protect this investment, it is best to store vehicles in an indoor/­protected facility. These facilities provide safe, long-term cost-efficiencies and benefits in public safety, employee safety, cost savings, operational efficiencies, equipment protection, and reductions in impacts to abutters and the environment. However, a less expensive solution is outdoor covered storage, and there are several ways to keep vehicles warm in cold climates.

Construction Investment Can Pay Off

Ironically, a vehicle and equipment storage garage is one of the most inexpensive spaces to construct, but it is responsible for protecting the single largest investment in equipment in many communities.

Cost/benefit analyses identify the most cost-effective, efficient, and safe storage of fleet vehicles and equipment based on a comparison of the cost to construct, maintain, and operate a new storage garage versus the additional costs incurred by storing vehicles outdoors (increased maintenance, reduced vehicle life expectancy, and non-productive labor for vehicle preparation).

The data shows that the cost to store vehicles and equipment outdoors over the life of the building will cost approximately three times the cost to construct, operate, and maintain a new vehicle/equipment storage garage.

For example, for a fleet with 60 vehicles, the cost to construct, maintain and operate a new 41,000 square-foot storage garage (approximate measurements) over a 50-year anticipated life span is calculated at $13 million. The cost to store vehicles outdoors over the same time period is approximately $38 million. This total includes such factors as additional vehicle maintenance costs, reduced life expectancy, non-productive labor due to events such as storms, and reduced employee safety. The following items may result in additional costs:

● Potential injuries to the public due to unsafe conditions resulting from inclement weather and/or delayed response times.

● Impacts to abutters.

● Property damage or infrastructure damage resulting from delayed response times to emergencies such as water main breaks or sewerage system blockages.

Many organizations have tried to resolve the problem of insufficient vehicle and equipment storage with equally insufficient ideas. Some take whatever available covered storage space they have and jam trucks and construction equipment bumper to bumper, pack drive aisles, and block fire escape walkways, creating very unsafe conditions. All this over-capacity parking is done in the quest for warm engine starts.

Unfortunately, some of these municipalities have lost large numbers of vehicles and equipment in their fleets, while others have lost the entire fleet plus buildings and materials from late-night fires as a result of improper and overcrowded storage. There have also been vehicles and equipment stored in salt storage facilities, which results in fast corrosion of the chassis and accelerated failure to diesel engine supercharges from the hydro­scopic action of the salt. 

However, because of funding challenges, many agencies in need of safe indoor vehicle storage must forego new facility construction. In such instances, less expensive short-term systems, though not ideal, can be constructed to provide vehicles with safe protection from the elements. Alternatives such as lean-to storage, covered canopies with open sides, fabric structures, or even parking under viaducts can help prevent vehicle exposure to rain, snow, and falling debris.

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