Spares Work Best in Motor Pools

Central motor pools offer cost-effective utilization of extra fleet units. Rotated use and preventive maintenance can extend vehicle lifecycles, while units flexibly serve the collective needs of end-user departments.

November 2009, Government Fleet - Feature

by John Dolce - Also by this author

Spare vehicles are considered extra units, without associated costs, presumed to sit idle, incurring no significant fuel or maintenance costs. At one time, too costly to own and operate, they were replaced with new units. Now, however, we annually review our fleet needs and wants and remove excess units without replacing them.

Replacement vehicles are funded with capital dollars. Extended service-life vehicles are funded with operating dollars. Most replaced units are auctioned off, traded in, or scrapped.

End Users Can Present Obstacles to Managing Spares
End-user departments and executives can present obstacles to cost-effectively managing spare vehicle resources. Many hold on to the “best of the worst” units for backup, a spare that costs nothing to retain. They feel they can’t rent a unit because theirs are application-specific, have standardized controls, are fully marked with fleet decals, and are readily available.

But difficulties occur if the spare units are kept at the end user’s location. The units usually are idle for long periods. Whether stored inside a building or outside in a lot, an idled vehicle deteriorates through non-use and is subject to rust, corrosion, cannibalization, lack of preventive maintenance, and dead batteries due to parasitic drag from in-vehicle technologies such electronic control units, dashboard gauges, electric components amperage, and voltage draw. When finally pressed into service, the idled vehicle performance is non-dependable or even inoperable. The spare becomes despair.

Motor Pools Best Strategy for Cost-Effective Spare Utilization
The best strategy is to put spare vehicles in the organization’s motor vehicle pool. Through a central motor pool system, end-user departments have a ready source to replace units temporarily out of service for excessive maintenance and repair, accidents, and/or excessive abuse. When unused for three to six months, motor pool units can be removed from service as excess and disposed of cost effectively. Fleet vehicle removal is easier in the motor pool since no single end-user claims ownership.

Idled spares cost more to own and operate than the same make and model in the central motor pool. Rotated in service through a central motor pool, spare units avoid deterioration caused by non-use.

A central motor pool ensures the spare vehicle is available, reliable, and cost effective. Operated on a first-come, first-serve basis, motor pools can factor in emergencies to determine adequate size and depth to accommodate prosecutor, sheriff, law enforcement needs, as well as public works’ snow, rain, and ice control services.

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