Each year, Government Fleet magazine conducts a competition for the Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year. Entries are judged by their peers, working fleet managers, and I have had the shared privilege of judging these entries for the last two years. In reading the submittals of these qualified leaders, I found a wealth of information that should be shared with every fleet manager. There are significant differences between agencies, but there were successful management practices in each category that showed genuine merit.

Let’s take each of the competition’s 10 categories and apply the common denominators that sum up to best practices.

1. Business Plan: A good business plan is a road map to success. It should cover where we want to go, how we will get there, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. It should include:
● Long-range financial mapping, projected expenses/savings/ROIs.
● Integrating and quantifying plan sustainability.
● Integrating agency core goals into the internal service plan.
● Defining phased performance benchmarks.
● Strategic timing to re-evaluate progress and make adjustments.

2. Technology Implementation: The best way to describe technology is implementing a system, tool, software, or modernized process improvement to save time and labor and reduce operating cost. Implementing technology without quantifying any operational savings doesn’t equal an improvement. The subcategories are:
● Setting cost-cutting goals before implementing the technology.
● ROI analysis of the technology.
● Utilizing barcoding technology.
● Working toward a paperless shop.
● Any technology proven to reduce direct labor.

3. Productivity: This may be the single most misunderstood category in the fleet industry. It should be noted that 75% total billed hours (of 2,080 hours) is very good, 78% is outstanding, and 85% may be calculated incorrectly. The subcategories are:
● Comparing your productivity to the private sector.
● Total billed hours at 75-80%.
● Compensation for ASE certifications.
● Regularly publishing productivity to upper management.
● Pay-for-performance budgeting.

4. Policies and Procedures: A well-written policies and procedures manual (P&P) will make any fleet manager’s job easier. Include:
● Designated centralized fleet control.
● Defined “cradle-to-grave” cost control management.
● Provisions to integrate changing customer needs.
● An active Fleet Review Committee or similar.
● Standardized practices that track costs of ownership for each asset.

5. PM Program: This is the single most important program in any fleet and the least understood by customers. Communication with your customer is your best tool. The subcategories are:
● Top-down management-supported PM program.
● Efforts to educate customers about the importance of PM.
● 90% or higher customer PM compliance.
● Posting PM inspection checklists that show the difference
between the local Fast Lube and your shop.
● Condition-based follow-through on laboratory fluid sampling.


6. Utilization Management: This is the No. 1 fleet cost driver, and it’s the hardest to manage. Many department managers still believe if a vehicle is parked, it doesn’t cost them anything. Accurate cradle-to-grave total cost of ownership analysis between two identical units, one a well utilized asset and the other a poorly utilized asset, is proof that low utilization is more costly. The subcategories are:
● Established min-max utilization standards.
● Controlling “fleet creep” through a cost-to-benefit analysis for departments wanting to keep a post-replacement vehicle.
● Rotating cost-effective recycled vehicles into low utilization duties.
● Meeting with customers to right-size vehicle class to a job duty.
● Operating a motor pool for redundant vehicles and equipment.

7. Replacement Program: Most Finance Departments consider a funded capital replacement program completely unnecessary. If you have one, make sure it is has a “payback provision,” which protects it from political project funding raids. The subcategories are:
● Fully funded program with long-range fund solvency.
● Multiple replacement/condition measuring criteria used as
 a benchmark toward a target fleet average age.
● Targeting disposal timing with market highest resale value.
● Using reserve fund investment revenues to reduce capital
replacement costs.
● Procedures to control “fleet-creep.”

8. Customer Service: Whether or not you believe your team provides great customer service doesn’t matter; it matters what the customer believes. The subcategories are:
● Customer service agreements, tailored to each department.
● 95% or higher on customer quality-of-service surveys.
● Publishing fleet availability/downtime reports to customers.
● Discussing service performance and future plans with departments.
● Training fleet staff in customer service best practices.

9. Fuel Management: Fuel is our highest fleet operating cost that we all have to deal with daily. The subcategories are:
● Computer tracking and mile-per-gallon conservation programs.
● More than 10% of fleet operating on sustainable energy.
● Formal anti-idling policies and monitoring technology.
● Locking or hedging fuel.
● “Green” goals and measuring reductions in greenhouse gases.

10. Merit: If you truly are a top fleet manager, it’s the performance of your people that makes you successful. Personally, I would like see category No. 10 changed to Safety.

Take this scoring matrix (2 points each) and apply the categories to your agency’s fleet. I don’t believe there is a fleet manager in the world who would score the full 90. If you can score more than 60, consider your fleet way above average.

Steve Kibler is fleet manager at the City of Loveland, Colo. He writes a blog, Competitive Fleet Management.