COVID-19 hasn’t just thrown a wrench into how work gets done; it’s thrown the whole tool box into the mix. Nevertheless, hardship tends to give birth to ingenuity, which is apparent when one looks at people like Darryl Syler, CPFP, state fleet administrator for the office of fleet management, general services division for Ohio. He’s used the pandemic as a chance to improve the way the state’s fleet runs.
Coping With COVID
When COVID-19 hit the US, Syler and his team started working from home on March 13…and are still doing so. Of his 11 staff members, some do go into the office as needed. However, they abide by mask requirements and ensure they follow all safety guidelines and procedures.
“Working from home has come with several challenges, but it's also allowed us to look at our utilization and determine whether or not we may need as many vehicles as we currently have,” he says.
Over the next three to six months, he hopes to reduce the size of the state’s fleet and maintain steady control of it.
“COVID-19 has also opened our eyes to how we take things for granted; simple things such as cleaning vehicles in our motor pool after they're used.”
They’ve established strict procedures for when a vehicle comes in after use. Either one of his team members cleans it or, depending on the circumstance, their procurement office has contracts with multiple cleaning and fumigation services to provide service. “It's been a challenge, but it's been a good learning challenge and a lot of ways.”
Getting the Budget Right
The department started its 2021 budget on July 1, and ended up having to cut 20% of its budget the last quarter of the 2020 fiscal year.
“We were able to do so because we didn’t have as many assets on the road and were controlling our costs. We started with a little bit of a deficit going into ’21, but we're looking at ways each and every day to combat that,” he explains.
Now, Syler is able to look deeper at utilization and determine if the state really needs all these vehicles currently in service or if they can move them to a motor pool to get more usage out of them.
“We do have agencies that have budgetary issues we're helping along the way too, because we have a chargeback program in our fleet program where agencies pay for usage of their vehicles.”
He’s also using the results of a state audit report that came out in June of 2019 as a benchmarking tool, which has allowed him to take a good, hard look at fleet usage and size.
“We want to make sure we're doing the correct thing from an environmental standpoint as well,” he says.
Caring for the Environment
A project he’s personally initiated along with his staff has been developing a green sustainability policy for the state.
“We do have electric vehicle charging stations on our state procurement contract now and we are expecting some fully electric and hybrid vehicles, not only for us, but also to allow municipalities and county governments around the state to be able to piggyback off our contract,” he says.
Listen and Adapt
One of the things he’s learned during his time as a fleet manager is you should never underestimate the power of listening to your customers.
“Stay customer focused, but also listen to your staff because they are your subject matter experts on the floor doing the job.”
He’s also fascinated by how quickly technology has evolved over the years.
“It's so far advanced and we're not even on the cusp of where we could be in the next five to 10 years. I think the aspect of it being something ever-evolving is just amazing.”