Keep the Lines of Communication Open When Reducing Fleet Size

Fleets are conducting utilization studies to determine the right number of vehicles to use. To get buy-in from affected departments, they’re working to get employees and drivers to take ownership of the fleet reduction policy.

May 2014, Government Fleet - Feature

by Daryl Lubinsky

When it began its Fleet Forward program, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) had 16,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment. It has identified 4,000 vehicles to sell. Photo courtesy of Michael Amador/TXDOT
When it began its Fleet Forward program, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) had 16,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment. It has identified 4,000 vehicles to sell. Photo courtesy of Michael Amador/TXDOT
At a Glance
Fleets are employing various strategies to “right-size”:
  • Make keeping the right number of vehicles part of the fleet department’s continuing overall philosophy
  • Communicate often with the affected departments and have them take ownership of the policy
  • Make sure the reductions will not adversely affect daily operations and will allow the same level of emergency response.

If you ask Dennis Scamardo, CAFM, when he started working on reducing vehicle fleet size during his more than 14 years at his previous fleet manager position with Ventura County, Calif., he will tell you that question does not adequately address the issue of vehicle utilization. Scamardo, who since became fleet manager for Monterey County, Calif., in January, says “right-sizing” or “smart-sizing” a fleet should be an ongoing process. And vehicles aren’t the only area that should be examined. Ventura County also conducted a study on items such as unused telephone lines within the agency.

The county reduced unused phone lines and a fax line, but in dealing with his area of focus — right-sizing the vehicle fleet — Scamardo found 53 vehicles with low utilization. By not replacing those vehicles, the county saved more than $1.3 million.

Keeping Smart Assets
Scamardo believes that keeping the right number and types of vehicles in a fleet should be part of a government fleet manager’s continuing overall philosophy, and he continues that philosophy to right-size the fleet at Monterey County. Vehicles are an expensive asset, and fleet managers should give increased scrutiny to fleet size in tough economic times. But the scrutiny should take place in good times, as well. And that doesn’t always mean a fleet size reduction. Sometimes an organization needs more or different types of vehicles that are better suited to their mission.

“We want to have the right number of assets, but we also want smart assets,” said Scamardo, who has overseen similar-sized fleets in the two counties. The Monterey County fleet includes 1,164 light-duty vehicles and 144 heavy-duty units. He oversaw about 1,800 vehicles and pieces of equipment for Ventura. “We want to replace or reduce older vehicles that pollute first. Part of our smart-sizing is to replace an older vehicle with a newer vehicle that doesn’t pollute as much and saves fuel. Times have gotten tougher. Obviously there is more emphasis on making use of what resources we have, but this should happen all the time as part of your culture.”

Scamardo’s department worked with ­INVERS Mobility Solutions to install the company’s vehicle sharing technology for its vehicle sharing program. Using the program, departments pay a mileage and hourly rate to “fractionally share” vehicles and then return the vehicle when they are finished with their tasks. Scamardo said the program has worked well in addressing flex-schedule issues where some county department employees worked four days per week. In the past, the vehicles would sit unused during that fifth day or during off periods, but now users from other departments with opposite schedules can share vehicles when another department might not be using them.

At Monterey County, Calif., Fleet Manager Dennis Scamardo, CAFM, is trying to right-size the fleet. Photo courtesy of Monterey County
At Monterey County, Calif., Fleet Manager Dennis Scamardo, CAFM, is trying to right-size the fleet. Photo courtesy of Monterey County

Stressing the Importance of Communication
Challenging economic times have forced other government fleets to conduct utilization studies and consider reducing fleet size. That is especially true for the City of B­ellevue, Wash., which faced a $6 million budget shortfall in 2011. A team of five fleet and communications administrators oversees 852 vehicles and equipment, including police, fire, and EMS vehicles and additional light- , medium- , and heavy-duty vehicles and equipment.

Each of the five team members oversees a different area. Tom Wall, who oversees programs and systems, noted that in looking to reduce fleet size, his team collaborated with a governance committee that serves as an advisory panel to the fleet department. The committee is made up of various leaders of departments such as police, fire, utilities, transportation, parks, and the budget office.

The fleet department and governance committee began implementing the program in 2012 and came up with 38 vehicles to cut from the fleet, saving the city $142,000. Sedans, light-duty trucks, trailers, snow plows, a loader, and a chipper were among the vehicles and equipment cut. The work has been ongoing and continues today.

The fleet department worked to communicate about the fleet reduction program with department managers, supervisors, and frontline staff. That communication was a challenge initially, as frontline staff thought the fleet department was making all decisions pertaining to utilization. In reality, the budget office was driving those decisions.

Fleet Administrator Demitri Bergeron, who oversees technology and systems as part of the five-member team, said communication with other departments is an ongoing process, and a utilization policy is part of that work. Communicating with other departments, he said, “was a driving factor for us to start exploring actual utilization, start developing a policy, make other departments aware of how they’re using their assets, and how to increase utilization of what they have.”

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