Brent Wahl, director of fleet management for Pasco County, Florida, says two of his “silver bullets” in the areas of purchasing vehicles and equipment are using lifecycle cost analysis in vehicle procurement decision-making, and using ID/IQ multiyear contracts, or indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity. Those contracts provide an indefinite quantity of services for a fixed time.
“These things are awesome,” Wahl said of the contracts, which he noted he uses for all the county’s light-duty vehicles and for its fire equipment. “I have never had a better purchasing experience crossing year to year than I have using these ID/IQ contracts.”
Wahl held an educational session on vehicle procurements at the Government Fleet Expo & Conference, which took place in Detroit this past May.
Getting Support from Elected Officials
Obtaining elected officials’ approval in the budget is another vehicle and equipment purchasing “silver bullet” Wahl mentioned in his presentation.
“If you don’t have it, ask for it or see what it is that’s keeping you from getting it,” Wahl said.
“When you spell out 100 vehicles at $3 million in the budget, and the budget is approved, you don’t have to go back for approval to do the bid or award or whatever it is. That is a really, really nice tool.”
Wahl, whose more than 25 years in experience in fleet management and related industries includes eight years of military service in the U.S. Army, oversees a fleet of 1,900 units for Pasco County. That fleet includes fire, transit, construction, utility, and other types of vehicles and equipment.
Wahl’s session — titled, “Thoughts for Purchasing Vehicles & Equipment (While Maintaining Your Sanity)” — covered everything from purchasing and how it works, to the obstacles fleet managers may go through, and some things to keep in mind during the process.
Three Keys to Procurement Improvement
Wahl described what he calls “the three-legged stool of a procurement improvement plan.” The first of those three legs is “purpose,” or, “what do I want to achieve?”
He related various comments to his work at Pasco County, noting that his current fleet is the most varied that he’s ever had.
“It’s not the biggest that I’ve worked in, but it is by far the most diverse,” he said. “That means there’s more different types of things to purchase. So you got to do more transactions, and time can be an issue.”
He discussed “pure-fleeting,” or using a hodgepodge of different manufacturers. When he first came to Pasco County, the fleet included 11 road graders by five different manufacturers.
Expanding on that hodgepodge, he said his county is “growing like a weed,” with 30 to 40 new units per year. His largest customer is the utility group, which plans on adding more than 20 vehicles and 50 people in 2023.
He addressed the variance within vehicle class specifications at his fleet, noting that in the Florida heat, some departments wanted tinted windows and others did not.
“I’ve always been a big fan of giving the customer what they want,” he said. “If they wanted tinted windows, yes, a few more dollars. Is it really a big deal? No. [With] all the times you have to tell a customer no, is it worth it on tinted windows when it can make them happy? It might be a few more dollars, and maybe they don’t really need it. But if it makes that operator that much more involved with his vehicle, is he probably going to take care of it a little bit better? Probably.”
“Method” is the second leg of the three-legged stool of a procurement improvement plan. The first of the three methods Wahl laid out were “yours,” such as a request for proposal (RFP) or ID/IQ. The second method is “piggy-backing” or using another agency bid or award, and the third is regional and national co-ops.
All methods have advantages and disadvantages, and cost savings fluctuate between methods.
“Bottom line here, every agency has different methods, and they all work differently compared to the environment that you have,” he said. “What’s going to be best for me is not best for you.”
“Path” is the third leg, or in other words, “what processes are used versus what processes should be?” He discussed the involvement of elected officials, “who are heavily into the process of selecting vendors and awarding bids.”
“Purchasing departments can also be gatekeepers in this process, too,” Wahl said.
Consider the Lifecycle Cost
Regarding the use of lifecycle cost in decision-making as another of Wahl’s silver bullet recommendations, he offered an example of a purchasing department wanting to buy one vehicle over another simply because that vehicle cost $29,800, compared to the other that cost $30,000.
“When you go back through and say ‘OK, resale is going to be this, the maintenance costs are going to be [this], here’s the data that backs that up, you have the ability in an RFP to make those adjustments for those types of things, rather than going off the lowest initial price,” Wahl said. “Don’t be afraid to use an RFP.”