-  Photo: Pixabay

Photo: Pixabay

Many fleet managers don’t like to hear about outsourcing. They take pride in their teams doing their own work and even being able to perform work for other public entities. Their technicians are well trained, quick, and make few mistakes — so why would they send their work somewhere else?

It’s understandable. Outsourcing can be an existential threat — if all fleet maintenance and repair is sent to a private company, what’s left for the fleet maintenance team to do?

Several years ago, a couple of very well-­regarded fleet operations were outsourced or underwent managed competition. Government Fleet covered both cases extensively, and I recall the fleet community was spooked. If these outstanding fleets that had won awards and done all the right things could be privatized, what’s to stop that from happening to them? A few fleet managers wrote to me asking if I knew of instances in which privatization hadn’t gone well, so they could use it as evidence that it wasn’t always the best option. I couldn’t provide any concrete examples at the time.

in this issue

We often hear about data as one way to proactively counter the threat of privatization. If you can prove your operation is cheaper and more effective than other providers, showing higher-ups labor rates, time savings, expertise in a variety of equipment, etc., and you can whip it out at the first whiff of outsourcing, you might be able to stop discussions from going any further.

The City of Ventura, California, fleet operation faced this issue during the pandemic, and its management team had to make presentations to the right people to show why its in-house operation was better and was simply sorely lacking in resources. Read more about this by clicking here.

Also in this issue, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, Illinois, is taking a proactive approach to in-house fleet services. A new maintenance facility allowed it to bring alternative-fuel repairs and conversions in house, and it recently became a Ford warranty repair shop, allowing fleet technicians to do more work than they could previously. Read more about that by clicking here.

Not always the best solution

I understand the need to justify your department’s existence and work, and to keep your staff employed. Oftentimes, if you consider travel and coordination time in sending out a repair, in-house work can be the better solution.

Reading this issue, you might think we advocate for more internal fleet work. But just because we highlight successful in-house work doesn’t mean the alternative is always a bad idea.

Towing is one example — fleet consultant Bob Stanton made a case for outsourcing towing in a 2019 article for this magazine. We also highlighted a city fleet’s case of outsourcing weekend towing for cost savings.

Numerous fleet operations have outsourced their parts management, and I’ve only heard good things afterward. Specialized or time-consuming work — such as electric vehicle servicing and engine rebuilds — are often successfully sent out. As is work that staff members can’t take on promptly due to workload.

When it comes down to it, just because you can service something in house doesn’t mean you should.

In my work, I find outsourcing certain tasks a necessity. Want to write for us? Proofread the magazine? Edit a video? Handle a portion of planning for our event? Yes, please! This frees me and our staff up for other duties, whether that’s going more in-depth on other articles we’re writing or focusing on the content of a video rather than the technical aspects of editing. If we’re talking about outsourcing all editing and content work entirely, well, that’s a different matter!

What do you think? When’s the last time you evaluated the work your team does, and did you make any changes after the evaluation?


Thi Dao
Thi Dao

Executive Editor

Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

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Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

View Bio