Government Fleet is excited to announce a new series called Fleet of the Week where we will highlight a public sector fleet to talk about trends, challenges, and what's ahead.
It would be an understatement to say government fleets have had their share of challenges. But how each fleet has been, and is, dealing with these challenges, plus a push for change, is unique to them. The heart of a fleet is made up of its people. It is from their experience and dedication that the vehicles and equipment they run continue doing just that. There’s no doubt a considerable shift has happened in the world of fleet, but to understand just how this affects fleets themselves, it’s important to speak with the people behind the vehicles.
For Morgan Jackson, fleet division manager for the city of Sioux Falls, this has been a time of reevaluation. But before digging into hurdles that need to be crossed, it’s important to understand the fleet itself. Jackson oversees Sioux Falls' current fleet of 2,000 pieces of equipment that serve all the city’s divisions, from the landfill to the zoo.
Sioux Falls has five maintenance shops: fleet main, the police department, fire department, landfill, and parks and recreation. There are 37 full-time and part-time staff.
As for Jackson himself, the path to fleet division manager started with family. His uncle retired from the city of Houston, Texas, and, as Jackson tells it, “I always marveled at how rewarding his job was, as he had the opportunity to serve the public.”
After spending 18 years in big box stores as director-level management, the opportunity arose to work with the city of Sioux Falls’ fleet division. It was an easy decision that this was where he wanted to take his career.
Now, fully immersed in the industry, Jackson, like many other fleet managers, has witnessed the transformations that have taken place within this world.
“The biggest change and challenge have been the supply chain issues no one ever expected,” he explains. “We all have had to reevaluate how we do things with lead-time issues and new equipment purchases.”
Anticipating lead times on new equipment versus fixing what the fleet currently owns has also been a part of this.
“On the surface, the expense appears to be very high, but when we look at resale of our surplus units through our online auction site, the vehicles are bringing dollars we haven’t seen before,” Jackson states. “While that’s a good thing for the city, at some point when the new vehicles begin to level out with demand again, we will also see used car prices level out.”
Nevertheless, these challenges do not put a pause on what’s being planned. Right now there are a few new projects being planned for the Sioux Falls fleet. The city purchased and is piloting its first electric car, they’ll be using automatic vehicle location for vehicle tracking, and they plan to leverage that data with the Geotab platform. The fleet also piloted the use of biodiesel last summer.
“These are exciting projects that we’ll continue to monitor and evolve,” Jackson says.
So what advice does Jackson have for other fleets of his size?
“Be versatile and analyze but also validate the data that you see on your fleet,” he notes, adding that “if your fleet doesn’t have a fleet management platform, I highly recommend finding one.”
According to Jackson, the fleet team has learned through their Asset Works platform how to be more efficient and how to downsize or repurpose equipment for other areas.
When asked what is the most exciting thing happening right now Jackson has one word: snow.
As of mid-January, Sioux Falls has been battling heavier-than-normal snowfall in 2023. Around Jan. 20, the city reported around 30 inches on the ground. In the last several years, 30 inches has been the area’s average for the entire season.
The heavy snowfalls could be a representation of the fleet world: unexpected change and challenges that have to be dealt with. It’s not always fun but if there’s one certainty, fleets like Sioux Falls are resilient.
“While certainly not abnormal for South Dakota, back-to-back snowstorms and severely cold temperatures present unique challenges,” Jackson adds. “And no one storm is exactly the same.”
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