File photo

File photo

The City of Richmond, Va., can improve its fleet operations by taking back partially outsourced fleet maintenance, the city auditor wrote in a January report.

In January of 2014, fleet implemented a one-year pilot project to outsource its heavy-duty vehicle and equipment repairs to comply with recommendations from a 2007 audit. Users are not satisfied with the vendor's services, which could be causing excessive downtime and affecting vehicle operator productivity. The auditor suggested the city should discontinue using the vendor.

"Rather than pursuing additional outsourcing efforts, fleet needs to be given additional time to make the needed improvements," the auditor wrote.

In addition, the city should consider leasing vehicles because of limited fleet replacement funding and high maintenance costs on old units. A prior consultant’s report found that 43% of the fleet's vehicles were operating beyond their expected service life, and fleet management said repairs were being performed on units where maintenance costs exceed the units' current value. Fleet needs $9 million in annual funding to replace fleet vehicles. However, the city has other priorities and "the city may never have adequate funding for optimal replacement of fleet vehicles," the auditor wrote.

The auditor suggested conducting a study to see if leasing vehicles would alleviate the problem. A higher number of vehicles can be replaced without causing additional burden on city resources, and new vehicles would lower operating costs.

These recommendations among 19 suggestions for fleet improvement suggested in the audit.

Other recommendations address weak internal controls, lack of usable and meaningful data, poor customer satisfaction that affects vehicle operator productivity, and unsatisfactory parts availability from its outsourced parts vendor.

The Fleet Services Division in the Department of Public Works oversees 2,629 vehicles and had an operating budget of $21 million for FY-2013.

The director of Public Works requested the audit in order to identify opportunities for improvements. It covers the 12-month period ending June 30, 2013. As of January, fleet had already implemented nine recommendations and was in the progress of implementating another eight recommendations.

To view a PDF of the full audit, click here.

By Thi Dao