As vehicles in government fleets age, fleet managers must make critical decisions on keeping or letting go of their vehicles.
While retaining old vehicles can be cost-effective, it can also pose safety and environmental risks. On the other hand, replacing vehicles too frequently poses a financial burden.
To make informed decisions, fleet managers must consider a variety of factors, including age, fuel efficiency, application, resale value, and overall usage.
By conducting an analysis and weighing the costs against the benefits, fleet managers can determine the best course of action for their government fleet.
We spoke with West Palm Beach, Florida, Fleet Manager Dave Persad, CAFM, CEM on the factors needed when deciding if a vehicle should be kept in the fleet or replaced.
Persad added around 50 vehicles to West Palm Beach’s fleet in 2022 and 2023. There were new vehicles purchased for just about every department including Altec 18T Crane for utilities, Mack LR Residential ASL refuse trucks for sanitation, and Horton Rescue Units for health.
When it comes to deciding when to keep or let go of a vehicle Persad says his top deciding factors are:
- Age, mileage, or hours
- Life cycle cost analysis
- Application – Is it a specialty, administrative, or support vehicle?
- Overall condition
- Resale market analysis.
Safety First: How Old Is Too Old
Each vehicle in a fleet is different from the next. Some are used more often than others while others are rarely used but still necessary.
It’s recommended that fleet managers prioritize employees’ safety and take appropriate measures to ensure that older vehicles are properly maintained, equipped with safety features, and safe to operate.
Some factors that may make a vehicle too old to use and unsafe are:
- Outdated safety features: older vehicles may not have the same safety features as newer models, such as airbags, electronic stability control, or backup cameras. This can increase the risk of accidents and injuries to the driver and passengers.
- Wear and tear: As vehicles age, their components may become worn, damaged, or less effective. This can affect the vehicle's braking, steering, and overall performance, making it less safe to drive.
- Maintenance issues: Older vehicles may require more frequent repairs and maintenance, which can lead to higher upkeep, unexpected breakdowns, and failures while on the road.
- Lack of technological advancements: Newer vehicles often come equipped with advanced safety technologies, such as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking. These features can greatly improve safety and reduce the risk of accidents.
For Persad’s fleet, he explains, “It all depends on the application the vehicle is being used in to determine its life cycle.”
It’s good for fleet managers to calculate the average years each vehicle will last to get a better understanding of when it is time to replace those vehicles.
For West Palm Beach’s fleet, the average years of vehicles usage per department are:
- Administrative vehicles: 8 years
- Heavy equipment/Yellow Iron: 12 years
- Residential and Commercial Refuse trucks: 5 years (depending by geographic area, and population density)
- Medium duty trucks: 8 years
- Fire Rescue Ambulances: 7 years
- Fire Suppression Apparatus: 10 years.
Can it be Resold?
Reselling older vehicles that no longer meet the fleet’s standards is a great way to add extra cash to the fleet.
Persad even says we’re in a great time to resell vehicles as the resell market is booming. When asked if he has recently sold any vehicles, he responds, “Absolutely, especially in today`s market where vehicle availability is slim and delayed. The returns on the resale of vehicles and equipment from your well-maintained fleet are at an all-time high.”
A high resale value is everything when planning on reselling any vehicle. There are two best practices to help achieve this:
No. 1 —Research the current market value of the vehicle and compare it to the cost of repairs and maintenance needed. If the cost of repairs and maintenance is higher than the resale value, it may not be worth reselling.
No. 2 — Maintenance records: Keeping accurate maintenance records is important not only for maintaining the vehicle's performance but also for reselling it. Potential buyers will want to know the vehicle's maintenance history to assess its condition and value.
Using Tech to Extend Vehicles’ Lifespans
For fleet managers wanting to get the longest life out of their vehicles, certain fleet technology can help extend a vehicle’s lifespan and get more bang for your buck.
Fleet technology can track and analyze driver behavior, such as harsh braking, speeding, and aggressive acceleration. This can minimize wear and tear.
Other tech such as fleet management software provides diagnostics and predictive maintenance features that can detect and address vehicle issues early on. By proactively addressing maintenance needs, fleet technology can help prevent costly breakdowns and extend the lifespan of vehicles.
Utilizing tech might be a big investment to start, but the benefits of extending vehicles’ lifespans and having to purchase fewer new vehicles will even it out.
As for Persad’s fleet, he uses fleet tech to “do oil sampling of the fluids at service intervals to assist in identifying issues or possible failures in the components to minimize unscheduled and costly repairs.”
Overall, by carefully assessing the lifespan and usage of their fleet, fleet managers can make informed decisions that balance cost-effectiveness with safety and environmental concerns.