Fleet management within the federal government has changed significantly over the last few years. Some changes are steps already taken by most fleet management organizations outside the federal government, such as implementing a fleet management information system. However, several of the most recent and potentially far-reaching strides have occurred since October 2009 when President Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.

Efforts to improve federal fleet management have been under way for some time, but increasingly stringent reporting requirements have given teeth to laws, regulations, and policies. These strides can be summarized as two overriding strategies:

  1. Improve management of the federal fleet at all levels.
  2. Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and petroleum consumption.

Federal Fleet Characteristics

The federal government separates equipment management from vehicle management, consequently concentrating on:

  • Sedans and station wagons.
  • Passenger vans.
  • Sport/utility vehicles.
  • Light (4x2 and 4x4), medium, and heavy trucks.
  • Ambulances.
  • Buses.

Fleet size: Based upon data gathered by the General Services Administration (GSA) for its Federal Fleet Report (2009), the federal government's worldwide fleet grew by nearly 1 percent in fiscal year 2009 (compared to 2008), reaching 651,703 vehicles. The trend has been an increase in size since 2006.

Lease versus own: The respective agencies, including the military services, lease just under one-third (31 percent) of the federal fleet from GSA under what can be described as a working capital fund for the federal fleet, and purchase more than two-thirds (68 percent), with the remainder being commercially leased. This distribution has not shifted markedly over the reported years.

Vehicle type: At 43 percent, light-duty trucks represent the largest vehicle class by a significant proportion, followed by sedans/station wagons (17 percent), medium-duty trucks (14 percent), and sport/utility vehicles (11 percent).

Reporting Fleet Information

One of the most important tools intended to improve federal fleet management is the requirement for increased vehicle data reporting by agencies. For the last decade, the Federal Automotive Statistical Tool (FAST) regularly expanded the type of fleet data gathered from the vastly dispersed federal fleet operation. For example, for the 2010 data call, federal agencies must now identify all low GHG-emitting new-vehicle acquisitions and provide statistics on low-speed electric vehicles. At the same time, the quality of data on the federal fleet has improved due to experience, training, and oversight.

Gathering federal fleet data across the government is a significant effort because it starts at the grassroots level, with local activities ranging from embassies and military installations around the world (some in high-threat locations) to parks within the National Park Service scattered across the United States and several territories. The data then ascends within the respective organizations through their management levels until it is aggregated at the respective agency's headquarter level. Over time and across changes in administrations, FAST has continued to increase in importance as a reporting and management tool.

At the same time that laws and regulations have called for more data reporting, the federal government has instituted a program to assess agency compliance with fleet-related policies and best practices. In 2007, GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy created a Center for Policy Evaluation (CPE). Through the work of the CPE, the federal government is gathering information from agencies to assess steps taken to implement mandated changes and best practices.[PAGEBREAK]

For example, in March 2009, GSA issued a Federal Management Regulation that agencies must have in place a vehicle allocation methodology (VAM). Through the VAM, agencies are to implement a process that will enable them to better determine the appropriate types and number of vehicles for their fleets. The Center for Policy Evaluation, in its 2010 Motor Vehicle Policy Evaluation, is surveying agencies on their implementation of that regulation, among others. The agency response to the survey must include process documentation, not just a yes or no answer.

Enhancements to FAST and creation of the CPE represent two significant steps to improve federal fleet management.

Implementing Fleet Management Information Systems

The Federal Management Regulations also now requires agencies have a fleet management information system (FMIS). Consequently, identifying and implementing a FMIS represents a federal fleet management trend.

However, no trend is discernible in FMIS choices made, except that agencies generally have opted for an enterprise-wide software system. For example, the Department of the Interior has been programming its SAP financial software system to fulfill some required fleet functionality. Several military services appear to have settled on Maximo, the maintenance management software system now owned by IBM. At least two agencies opted for an off-the-shelf fleet software system. Agencies that lease vehicles through GSA have access to its online Reports Carryout, which provides various reporting options for users to manage, view, and analyze vehicle-related data via the Internet.

In general, because numerous agencies opted for enterprise-wide software systems as their FMIS solution, significant sums have been spent on programming, as each organization builds a tailored software program. However, a common denominator for every FMIS is that it must be able to deliver fleet data into FAST.

Overall, the federal government remains several years away from successful implementation of FMIS programs by the respective agencies.

Controlling Fleet Size and Composition

The Federal Management Regulations now include a requirement that every agency have a VAM in place. This is a significant initiative implemented across the federal government. The goal of a VAM is for agencies to establish and control fleet size and composition, more succinctly and popularly termed "right-sizing." From the standpoint of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a VAM documents the basis for fleet size and, consequently, fleet-related budgets. From the standpoint of EO 13514, a VAM provides a tool that federal fleet managers can employ to control if not reduce petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

On August 26, 2005, GSA released Bulletin #9, Documented Structured Vehicle Allocation Methodology for Agency Fleets, the purpose of which was to guide agencies in the development of a VAM. The fleet management goal was for agencies to establish a standard way to document the objective criteria of a vehicle fleet. Objective criteria included such numerical measures as:

  • Per vehicle mileage.
  • Trips per vehicle.
  • Fleet condition.
  • Downtime.
  • Number of vehicle users (to develop user/vehicle ratios).

Subjective criteria included user opinion of vehicle criticality. Assuming the objective criteria data was available in an agency FMIS, a fleet manager could gather subjective criticality information through a survey or interviews.[PAGEBREAK]

Reducing GHG Emissions

Two recently released documents make clear that federal fleet management is undergoing a transformation. Section 141 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) prohibits federal agencies from acquiring light- and medium-duty passenger vehicles that are not low-GHG-emitting vehicles. It also stipulated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must develop guidance for federal fleets to comply with the prohibition. In February 2010, the EPA released that document. The guidance and the GHG requirement applies to all newly acquired vehicles, not the current fleet.

The EPA has assigned a GHG score to light-duty motor vehicles manufactured for sale in the U.S. since 2000. For example, any gasoline-, diesel-, or CNG-powered passenger vehicle that achieves a score of seven or higher is categorized as a low-GHG emission vehicle. The scores for these and other light-duty motor vehicle categories can be found in EPA's Green Vehicle Guide.

At the same time the EPA released its guidance, the Department of Energy's Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP), working with GSA, released the first part of a comprehensive guidance document, providing a strategic overview of the program as it relates to federal fleet management, required by EO 13514. A second document, A Comprehensive Federal Fleet Management Handbook, is intended to assist agencies in implementing federal fleet GHG and petroleum reduction requirements. These documents are too long to address here, but topics selected from the Table of Contents establish the new emphasis in federal fleet management, including:

  1. Developing an Agency Fleet Profile and Optimizing Fleets to the Agency Mission.
  2. Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled.
  3. Increasing Fleet Fuel Economy.
  4. Implementing Alternative Fuel, Biodiesel Blend, and Electric Vehicle Strategies.

Accompanying these and numerous other tactics for reduced petroleum consumption and GHG emissions are new reporting requirements for evaluating the effectiveness of petroleum reduction efforts.

Finally, a table of responsibilities in the Handbook details the new requirements for two fleet manager personnel categories: the Agency Headquarters Fleet Manager and the Agency Fleet Location Manager. The latter category includes all federal fleet managers "on the ground" in the far-flung federal fleet. Their new responsibilities include:

  • Ensure the fleet at the fleet location is right-sized to that location's ­mission.
  • Determine the optimal petroleum reduction strategy for that location (based on evaluating the fleet characteristics and requirements at the site).
  • Implement the optimal petroleum reduction strategy at the fleet ­location.
  • Monitor the performance of the fleet location in reducing petroleum use.
  • Ensure the fleet location is in compliance with all applicable fleet requirements.
  • Refine the strategy based on changes in fleet characteristics, performance, and location mission.

This represents the most significant change in federal fleet management to date, as the federal government undertakes the long-term effort of reducing GHG emissions.

Adlore Chaudier, PhD., is the director of federal management consulting
at Mercury Associates. He can be reached at achaudier@mercuryassoc.