Pandemic-affected change has shifted the lens in viewing various mobility options — motor pools, ridesharing — for today’s public sector fleets. A panel of experts recently explored the opportunities that new perspective offers.
The panel, presented at last fall’s Government Fleet Expo and Conference in Orlando, Florida, included Chris Butler director of fleet services, Johnson County, Kansas; Sebastian Reszka, senior government account executive, Uber; and Ed Smith, president/CEO, Agile Fleet. Sara Burnam, fleet management director for Palm Beach County, Florida, moderated the discussion.
A Changing Industry
The most striking industry change coming into focus, panel members agreed, is the increasing realization of the numbers of idle fleet vehicles. Additionally, government services business models, transformed by technology in response to COVID-19, require fewer in-person or in-office duties, also idling more vehicles. Importantly, these shifts offer the opportunity to reduce vehicle numbers and more precisely right-size fleets.
“We’re starting to see people seeing the obvious things and starting to make changes in their fleet, but more importantly, they’re saying, ‘We don’t have the right metrics to start making the right decisions yet. How do we get those?’ So telematics is a big thing,” observed Smith, whose firm offers Fleet Commander, a fleet-management system focusing on right-sizing and vehicle sharing.
“Coming out of COVID, we’re still going to learn a little bit about where we’re going. I don’t think we really know where we’re at yet,” said Butler, whose 500-vehicle fleet operation includes a successful motor pool system. “But we can look at where our metrics were and are now. Dive deeper into them and realize the story they are telling. Find those vehicles that aren’t being used. Convince more people to use car sharing, carpooling, and things along those lines.”
Rethinking Mobility Options
Some more progressive fleet managers have begun examining the metrics of their unused vehicles to inform mobility decisions going forward.
“We starting to see a real openness to new ideas, and the way people are looking at ride share, where previously it wouldn’t be an option or part of the overall solution,” commented Reszka. “When you’re looking things like right-sizing and electrifying fleet, now is a great opportunity to look at other modes like ride share and motor pool as potential solutions. They provide flexibility and supplemental options, saving on costs, creating efficiencies while still servicing the end user, which is the most important ingredient here.”
Motor pools and ride sharing are particularly effective for short-term or repetitive duty tasks, Butler noted. These options can be used as buffers, allowing fleet managers extended time to analyze data and make accurate right-sizing decisions.
Panel members suggested using metrics and fleet policy that clearly define vehicle use mileage to convince department and agency customers reluctant to relinquish vehicles. Bring the data together, make it more visual and easier to understand, and point out the benefits customers will reap, they recommended.
Finally, with sustainability a global force, Butler advised, “Don’t lose sight of the fact that ride sharing, carpooling, and overall vehicle reduction is also sustainability. I can’t think of a better example of sustainability.”