Accepting the NHTSA Award on behalf of the City of New York and DCAS. - Photo: Eric Richardson/DCAS

Accepting the NHTSA Award on behalf of the City of New York and DCAS. 

Photo: Eric Richardson/DCAS

After 23 years with NYC's Department of Administrative Services, Eric Richardson is closing the chapter on his career as DCAS Deputy Chief Fleet Management Officer to open a new role in the fall working on road safety projects and events as an advisor, including with Together for Safer Roads.

After graduating college with a major in history and a minor in political science, Eric Richardson never thought his path would lead him into fleet management

But looking back over his more than two decades with New York City's Department of Administrative Services, he is "truly glad it did."

Eric Richardson reprenting the City of NY at the 2023 Fleet Vision International Forum in London - Photo: Eric Richardson/DCAS

Eric Richardson reprenting the City of NY at the 2023 Fleet Vision International Forum in London

Photo: Eric Richardson/DCAS

Where the Fleet Journey Began

Richardson's work career started in 1992, but his first step into fleet began in 2001 when he began working as the help desk manager for the city's first citywide human resources system and then soon after onto the informational technology world of fleet managing the city's old legacy fleet management system

Richardson explained that in those days, each city agency had a separate database, there was no cross-collaboration, and every fleet operation followed its own ways of entering data. 

In 2011, fleet management became a citywide effort centralized at DCAS, and the systems that they had used needed to be changed to support a more cohesive, cooperative, and standard ways of doing business. The entire suite of fleet management systems from asset management, parts ordering, and repair orders to fuel tracking to how salvage was processed was either replaced or significantly modified.

While the focus of the next two years was on systems improvements when Hurricane Sandy hit New York in October 2012 everything for Richardson's city trajectory changed. 

"The first few days of recovery were focused on system performance and uptime, but when the fuels crisis became so dire my focus was changed to supporting a 24/7 fuel operation with the National Guard, which broke me out of the world of back-office operations to a more public-facing member of the DCAS fleet team," Richardson said. 

It was this work that started the shift toward Richardson’s newer roles and that of Deputy Chief Fleet Management Officer.

As DCAS Deputy Commissioner and NYC Chief Fleet Officer Keith Kerman explained, "Richardson has had a lasting impact on NYC's fleet program and on fleet safety nationally." 

New York State DMV and NASCAR Seat Belt Awareness event. - Photo: Eric Richardson/DCAS

New York State DMV and NASCAR Seat Belt Awareness event. 

Photo: Eric Richardson/DCAS

The Value in Mentorship and Continuing Leadership

"As I move into my current role, I am very grateful to those who have guided me and influenced my career," Richardson said. "Of course, our NYC Chief Fleet Officer Keith Kerman has played a major role in my career development and helped guide me into the world of road safety and sustainability, but I also have to give credit to some of my close colleagues who are still with DCAS, such as our long-time Fleet Chief of Staff Sherry Lee and our Deputy Chief Fleet Officer for Acquisitions and Administration Tamika Johnson and those who have gone on to different roles such as Mahanth Joishy and Jon Ells."

Being able to mentor peers and working with automotive high school students and interns has been a part of Richardson's role and something he is fond of leading. Internally, the team he has worked with the closest has been part of his work path for the last 10 years. 

"We have developed a sense of common goals, shared experiences, and not only built our knowledge of the fleet industry, sustainability, and road safety together, but also how to best work in the government space and with external partners," Richardson explained. 

Regarding being a part of the high schools, serving as co-chair of the Automotive and Transportation Committee for the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at NYC Public Schools has given Richardson first-hand knowledge of the challenges youth are facing and how to assist them in preparing for their post-high school life. 

"Working with students and our city agencies to find summer and spring internships, teaching them about sustainability and road safety, and connecting them to industry for job opportunities, education, and materials such as vehicles and engines to learn skills on has been a joy and a way to give back to the city and public school system in which I was raised," Richardson added. 

A Closer Look at Changes Within the Fleet Industry 

Over the last twenty years, Richardson explained, the fleet industry has changed significantly. The biggest shift was the role of technology in fleet and fuel management systems, telematics, and even the tools needed to maintain fleet operations properly.

In addition, fleet in general and at DCAS has become a major player in meeting sustainability goals such as reducing emissions and making streets safer. DCAS and fleet also play a more visible role in city operations and focus through citywide initiatives such as the Vision Zero Task Force. Richardson partnered with US DOT Volpe on the city's Safe Fleet Transition Plan as part of Vision Zero and helped establish the Fleet Office of Real Time Tracking (FORT). 

"When Vision Zero was first conceived as a New York City program, bringing in professional drivers and city fleet operations was one of the changes to the concept," Richardson noted. "The fact that the US DOT now includes safer vehicles in their safe system approach to road safety is also a major change for the industry."

Richardson's efforts to see these initiatives through have had a lasting impact on the city. 

"Under Eric's coordination, NYC is on the forefront of important safety innovations with national implications including truck side-guards, intelligent speed assistance, direct vision for trucks, and live telematics tracking for fleet," stated Kerman. "These initiatives are reducing crashes today in NYC and have broad applicability to public and commercial fleets everywhere."

Eric Richardson and Mayor Eric Adams. - Photo: Eric Richardson/DCAS

Eric Richardson and Mayor Eric Adams. 

Photo: Eric Richardson/DCAS

Government Policies and Adapting to Changes

There have been numerous local laws and executive orders in New York City regarding sustainability, such as real-time fuel tracking, the use of biofuels, and the electrification of city vehicles and for safety, including truck side guards, telematics, and surround cameras which have created new challenges for fleet management but also opportunities to reimagine how the fleet operates not only when providing critical services such as emergency management, law enforcement, parks operation, sanitation, and more, but also how this can be done in a safer and more sustainable manner. 

"With the support of city officials and agency leadership, fleet in New York City has often been at the forefront and ahead of federal and state policies through various clean fleet and safe fleet initiatives," Richardson noted.

For example, the federal government through NHTSA recently finalized a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that will make automatic emergency braking (AEB), including pedestrian AEB, standard on all passenger cars and light trucks by September 2029. 

This same standard was part of a New York City Safe Fleet Transition Plan for newly owned vehicles operated by the city for passenger vehicles back in 2018. 

Technology's Impact on Fleet Management Now and Tomorrow 

Richardson believes that the most prominent technology impact has been the creation and advancement of vehicle telematics and how fleets use them.

"In the very early days of telematics some systems were very limited in what data was collected, how it was reported, and the ability to act quickly on what the vehicle behaviors were," he said. 

Now, Richardson relates how telematics systems are truly real-time and use multiple sources to record and report data, including additional satellites for vehicle location, provide robust sustainability and safety reporting, as well as live alerting, integrate with vehicle camera systems and can support the transition from fuel tracking for ICE vehicles to support the tracking of charging and battery use for electric vehicles.

"If you turned the clock back fifteen years I could have said then that telematics was not even on my radar as a tool to manage our fleet and to meet the sustainability and safety challenges that we faced," he explained. "I would tell you today that without telematics, meeting these goals, including measuring and managing, would be extremely more difficult."

Challenges Faced and What the Future Looks Like

Richardson acknowledges how the world changed in 2020 with COVID and even today, still seeing the effects when it comes to supply chain pressures, shifting market forces, and increased demand for certain types of vehicles but at the same time a reduced capacity for manufacturers to provide. 

"Fleet managers are certainly being challenged by longer life cycles and increased maintenance and repair costs as they wait for replacement vehicles to arrive," Richardson explained. "I would also point to the challenges that climate change is causing for fleets across the country and world."

Richardson said he has seen more severe weather from hotter days that start earlier in the year, major flooding events, tropical storms, and more tornados than ever before. This change in weather patterns and associated issues such as blackouts and fuel shortages has made fleet management even more difficult as more and different assets such as in-house fuel trucks and generators are needed Richardson stated that ideas for electric vehicle charging infrastructure require re-evaluation, and resiliency must play a larger role in decision making.

Eric Richardson (second from right) at a Road Safety Roundtable at the United Nations. - Photo: Eric Richardson/DCAS

Eric Richardson (second from right) at a Road Safety Roundtable at the United Nations. 

Photo: Eric Richardson/DCAS

Predictions for the Future of Fleet Management

Looking at technology from a vehicle standpoint, Richardson views cybersecurity and the protection of data as one of the future concerns for fleet management.

Vehicle manufacturers are making vehicles that can be connected, that offer software, and other upgrades over the air, and with safety systems such as built-in telematics and other automation such as braking and remote access, he noted. 

"In the past, fleet managers only had to worry about protecting vehicles from physical access either via a key or breaking into one but now that access has become digital and can be done from anywhere in the world," said Richardson. He pointed out that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a set of voluntary guidelines for vehicle cybersecurity, which can be referred to by fleet operations so that they can better understand the risks and how to mitigate them.

Richardson added that "it is also vital that any aftermarket devices used on vehicles are reviewed for any cyber security review needs."

So what should fleets do? Richardson advises continuing to push the envelope when it comes to improving fleet operations and services and finding ways to improve and reinvent them where needed. 

And this goes for other areas of the operation. For Richardson, it’s about finding ways to do the right job with the right vehicle, be more sustainable, and improve fleet safety should always be at the forefront of fleets' efforts.

"I have had many opportunities here at DCAS to create moments or events that I can be very proud of," Richardson said. 

This has included a successful Vision Zero Fleet Safety forums, working with his colleagues from DOT, DHMH, TLC, NYPD, and state DMV on the recent seat belt safety awareness event with NASCAR driver Ross Chastain, being named as the 2023 Fleet Safety Award winner by Automotive Fleet magazine, and representing DCAS when they received one of the 2024 NHTSA Public Service Awards. 

"That said, I think I am the proudest of the trust given to me by our safety advocates at Families for Safe Streets that I would always keep close to my heart their grief as we worked towards making our streets less dangerous and better for all," Richardson said. 

What Makes a Successful Fleet? 

The first step for a successful fleet operation is to take stock of what you are responsible for and how they all integrate, according to Richardson. 

"The systems that you choose to help manage your operations will make a significant impact on the ability to report on successes and concerns as well as address issues as they arise," he said. "The saying 'you can't manage what you don't measure' is certainly true in trying to be a successful fleet manager."

Second, he recommends that fleet managers find ways to interact with colleagues from local utilities, other cities, private fleets, and public fleet and road safety organizations such as NAFA, Together for Safer Roads, and local sustainability collations like Empire Clean Cities. 

These connections are essential to understanding what works and, more importantly, what does not work and why. He added that it should be noted that conferences and events when attended for the right reasons can be very beneficial in understanding the products and systems that are in the marketplace.

Third, work on building a team and focus on the set of expertise and skills that you need to succeed rather than what some might view as a "typical" fleet operation. 

"Of course, fleet managers need auto mechanics and service workers, but they also might need expertise in budgets, project management, IT, and safety," he noted. 

Fourth (Richardson points out that this might sound strange if you are "building" towards a successful fleet) is to apply for fleet awards and recognition.

"As you fill out the applications these are a good way to take stock of where you are, what your goals are to be better, and how you plan to overcome some of the challenges being faced," he stated. 

As Richardson looks to his future, he advises flexibility, which is vital to both the here and now and external forces in the future to succeed in a role like the one he is leaving. 

"I would also state that we should all remember not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good," he added. "If you can make your fleet more sustainable today through efficiencies and biofuels instead of going all-electric, then do so now and be better later. If you can change the safety equipment in your fleet to include telematics and surround cameras as we wait for vehicle design changes to more direct vision truck cabs you should do that too."

About the author
Nichole Osinski

Nichole Osinski

Executive Editor

Nichole Osinski is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She oversees editorial content for the magazine and the website, selects educational programming for GFX, and manages the brand's awards programs.

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