Zac Haffner originally started his government fleet journey in the budget office for the City of Reno, Nev. He was eventually asked to audit fleet management, and provided some recommendations for process improvements and other changes to be made. A year or two later, it was requested he fill the role of maintenance and operations manager to continue helping the department be the best it can be.
Saving Taxpayers Money
He’s always trying to be a good steward of taxpayer resources and dollars. It’s no secret fleets are expensive to operate.
“One of the responsibilities I hold paramount is being as efficient as possible and saving money whenever we can.”
He gives the example of a meeting where he received a quote for a couple of new stencil truck beds that were way too high: $50,000 and $75,000, respectively. In essence, the beds were similar to a utility bed, of which the city buys for about $12,000. When they received the quotes, Haffner did a litmus test with his team.
“I asked them what they thought was reasonable, and after they heard what the quote was, they said it’d be best to do it in-house.”
In the end, the decision will save the city about $100,000, and the department is currently looking at recycling a bed from another truck next year to save the city around another $50,000.
“It’s government, so I think a lot of times you get a quote and it's either a specialized piece of equipment or there are not very many people providing alternatives. Then you have all these government bids, and just because they have a way to sell you something doesn't mean it's necessarily a good price. We ask ourselves if there are any ways we can do it cheaper in-house. Or can we do it for the same price, but provide better service?”
He credits the team he works with on a daily basis with being absolutely phenomenal in helping the department achieve its goals.
Facing Funding Issues
Lack of funding is one of the biggest challenges he faces as a fleet manager. During the early 2000’s, replacements were properly funded. When the Great Recession happened, all of that money dried up and the reserve fund was depleted. It became a pay as you go situation.
Something the department has done to combat lack of funding is reviewing service life schedules. Police vehicles went from a three-year to five-year replacement schedule and other vehicle replacement schedules were pushed back as well. They look at each individual piece of equipment on an annual basis to determine whether it can last another year or not, and then schedule replacements off of what has the highest need.
A current project the department is working on is implementing electric vehicles. However, Haffner says he only decides to purchase them based on a positive return on investment.
“We're looking at going green both fiscally as well as environmentally…not doing one without the other.”
He says he usually gets questions in regard to calculating gas savings, but there’s more to consider than just that factor.
“You do that, then add in the electricity cost, and you still have wear and tear on tires and other aspects to think about. We believe we're going to get a return on investment on these, but it's going to happen later because the cars are more expensive at year eight or nine on a 10-year life vehicle, so you're wearing that cost on the initial up-front.”
Organization is Key
Fleet managers can never be too organized. Depending on the size of your fleet, there are so many pieces of equipment that you need to have a solid way of tracking inventory and becoming more familiar with each piece of equipment.
“The more organized you are, the better suited and prepared you are to answer questions from the finance team, your boss, and customers. With that, I think you can provide better uniformity. Keep things as similar as possible across the fleet…you're dealing with a bunch of material that can't talk back to you, so the more notes you have the better.”