At A Glance

Battersby’s accomplishments at the University of California, Davis include:

  • Reversing an $800,000 annual deficit trend
  • Completely revising the fleet’s financial structure, lines of business, and rate structure
  • Surviving potential outsourcing by clearly establishing the fleet’s value
Richard Battersby, CAFM, CPFP, director of Fleet Services for the University of California, Davis is this year’s Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year.

Richard Battersby, CAFM, CPFP, director of Fleet Services for the University of California, Davis is this year’s Public Sector Fleet
Manager of the Year.

For public sector fleet managers, “doing more with less” is much more than a catch phrase tossed around the organization; it’s how they operate on a daily basis. 

Richard Battersby, CAFM, CPFP, director of Fleet Services for the University of California, Davis, is all too familiar with the concept. Despite a 25% reduction in workforce, he and his staff of 25 employees have successfully managed to stabilize the fleet department’s operations, improve efficiency, and correct an operating deficit of $800,000 annually over the past three years.

“What makes this even more significant is that we did this in the face of escalating costs including increased health care contributions, increased retirement contributions, bargained salary increases, an across-the-board departmental assessment, and of course escalating equipment and fuel costs,” Battersby noted.

This is just one accomplishment that helped Battersby earn Government Fleet’s 2013 Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year at the annual Government Fleet Expo & Conference (GFX), which took place in San Antonio.

Sponsored by Fleet Counselor Services, the award recognizes fleet manager accomplishments from the prior year. Battersby was selected out of a pool of 16 highly qualified candidates, including finalists Paul Condran, fleet services manager for the City of Culver City, Calif., and William Griffiths, fleet management division chief for Montgomery County, Md. A panel of judges reviewed candidates based on 10 criteria: business plan, technology implementation, productivity, policies, preventive maintenance program, utilization management, replacement program, customer service, fuel management, and safety.

Finding a Home in Fleet

Battersby has more than 25 years of experience in vehicle fleet management in the public and private sectors. However, it may come as a surprise to learn that he actually never planned on a career in fleet management — or was even aware such a field existed.

After high school, he took a position as a technician at Big O Tires and Brakes, and then spent nearly 13 years as an ordnance officer in the U.S. Army. While in the service, he transitioned over to fleet management. “I didn’t even know fleet management existed as a career field until after I got out of the Army,” Battersby recalled, noting that in the Army, the fleet manager role is referred to as motor officer.

“The Army’s great for promotional opportunities, and I found myself in a leadership position pretty quickly,” he said.[PAGEBREAK]

After leaving the military, Battersby got a job working in an official fleet capacity at Airborne Express, for the first time on the management side. Since then, he has worked at the State of California General Services and at Contra Costa County, Calif., before finding his current home at UC Davis. Battersby has been working for the University for four and a half years now.

The UC Davis fleet consists of approximately 1,400 vehicles, including sedans, vans, light- and heavy-­duty trucks, buses, and off-road equipment.
Photo courtesy of UC Davis.

The UC Davis fleet consists of approximately 1,400 vehicles, including sedans, vans, light- and heavy-­duty trucks, buses, and off-road equipment.

Photo courtesy of UC Davis.

As director of Fleet Services, Battersby is responsible for the UC Davis fleet, which is comprised of 1,300 on-road vehicles (including most major domestic and imported brands). The majority of these vehicles are light- and medium-duty pickup trucks, vans, and sedans, but the UC Davis fleet also includes transit buses, refuse vehicles, public safety emergency vehicles, and about 100 off-road units.

Proving the Value of Fleet

While most vehicles in the fleet stay on campus, some researchers and field workers take them to other states or countries.
Photo courtesy of UC Davis.

While most vehicles in the fleet stay on campus, some researchers and field workers take them to other states or countries.

Photo courtesy of UC Davis.

Showcasing the value the fleet department brings to the campus has been critical over the past few years to reduce the likelihood of possible outsourcing, Battersby said.“It was brought to our attention that Fleet Services was being considered for possible outsourcing, and we knew we had this deficit challenge of $800,000. So we had to take action. That just brought a sense of urgency,” he said.

According to Battersby, the deficit was a consequence of frozen service rates due to a budget shortfall — the entire campus was under a rate freeze. “Unfortunately, our rate package hadn’t been updated since 2005-2006, so obviously the cost of living goes up in the ensuing years, and the vehicles we were purchasing were costing more. But, we were required to hold our rates steady at those 2006 levels. We were OK for a while because fleet had a surplus of about $1.1 million going back to 2007 or so. When I was hired in 2009, there was still a about $300,000 left of the surplus, but by the end of that first fiscal year, the pendulum had swung all the way in the other direction, and we were facing $500,000 in deficit,” Battersby explained.

The fleet team developed a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis and came up with a general business plan. However, things were changing so rapidly that the team ended up deviating from the original business plan within the first 30 days. “It became more of a living document rather than something that was written and chiseled in stone because really it felt like the ground was moving underneath us,” Battersby said. Fleet identified outsourcing and the deficit as its two main threats that needed to be tackled head-on. “We came up with the deficit recovery plan, and as part of that plan we documented all the efficiencies we were deploying. It was basically just a breakdown of our operation, the value we brought to the campus, what our costs were, and the potential costs if we were to outsource those services,” Battersby said. The fleet analysis served as a chance to document many of the services and benefits the fleet brings to the campus that perhaps were not as well known or acknowledged as coming through fleet (e.g., safe driver training program, regulatory compliance and reporting, the Employer Pull Notice MVR program, etc.).

Because the fleet belongs to the university, the customers are slightly different than when dealing with a county or state, Battersby noted. Customers include academic departments, administrative units, building maintenance, custodial, public safety, and other units. Doing the fleet analysis, Battersby learned how competitive the UC Davis fleet rates were — especially on the larger equipment, such as vans and utility trucks — when compared to a third party.

According to Battersby, Fleet Services charges about 50% under market of what customers would pay if they went to a third party to lease the equipment.[PAGEBREAK]

“If you go to a rental or leasing company, there’s a whole host of restrictions that are placed on the vehicles. Sometimes they don’t want you to operate them off-road and they certainly don’t like you taking them out of the country,” Battersby said. “Because we’re an educational institution, we do research and field work. We have vehicles going to Mexico all the time and throughout the U.S., so again an intangible benefit that folks may not be aware of is that when you get a UC Davis fleet vehicle, all this is accounted for.”

To communicate the detail of the Fleet Services operation, the fleet analysis report documented important metrics and broke the program into lines of business with budget details. The analysis also featured cost comparisons to private industry to indicate the savings realized by maintaining an in-house fleet operation. It separated all the major operating lines of business —leased vehicles, motor pool vehicles, charter bus, and shuttle bus operations — and qualified their expenses along with an executive summary and cost-competiveness evaluation. It also detailed the pass-through lines of business in the same manner for insurance, fuel, vehicle depreciation, and accident repairs.

“Presented in this format, it was very obvious to executive staff that eliminating or outsourcing Fleet Services would actually only impact a portion of the department’s overall budget. For example, the analysis made readily apparent that almost $3 million of Fleet’s budget is simply passed-through expenses that will still be incurred regardless of what entity is managing the budget. This annual fleet analysis, along with newly created monthly business reports that quantify performance, communicate to executive management that Fleet is monitoring our performance, we are cost effective, and we are providing real value,” Battersby said. “We are known as problem solvers who have the ability to assist our customers in controlling costs.”

Battersby advised keeping accidents and fuel separate when providing customers with a rate for services. “The price of fuel fluctuates so you should just keep passing that through to your customers. Whether it’s up or down, it’s out of your control. If you put it into your monthly rate then you’ve got problems. But it’s mainly for accountability,” he said. “If you want a department to monitor their fuel spend or you want them to become active in controlling their accidents, you have to make it visible and readily apparent to them, and having it separate and not included in a rate does just that.”

Pumping Up the Productivity

Richard Battersby, fleet director, said the award is an acknowledgement of the fleet team at UC Davis, which includes highly skilled individuals, some of whom have been around for decades.
Photo courtesy of UC Davis.

Richard Battersby, fleet director, said the award is an acknowledgement of the fleet team at UC Davis, which includes highly skilled individuals, some of whom have been around for decades.

Photo courtesy of UC Davis.

Behind every great leader is a great team, and the UC Davis fleet is no exception.

“We have a very active team atmosphere at work,” Battersby said. “I’ve been given this Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year award, but it’s really an acknowledgement of the team at UC Davis. When things go well, I’m just one gear in the cogs of that system.” The staff includes tenured individuals who have been around for decades, which Battersby said makes his job much easier. One employee recently retired after 38 years in Fleet Services.

Every technician on staff is ASE certified, with some even holding multiple ASE Master Technician certifications. The shop has also been ASE Blue Seal certified for more than 10 years. Battersby leads by example and has more than 40 ASE certifications, including five Master certifications, as well as CAFM and CPFP designations. He said having ASE certifications helps him establish credibility with the technician staff.

“They understand that I speak that language and that I started as a technician. It helps me communicate that I will not ask my staff to do something that I won’t do myself and if I ask them to spend their time and effort and energy getting ASE certification, they can look at me and see that I do the same thing,” Battersby explained.

Battersby also credits his staff with coming up with some of the best ideas to benefit operations.[PAGEBREAK]

One example would be the shuttle bus program. Previously, no payment was required to reserve a vehicle, and the department was experiencing an average 50% no-show rate, which made it difficult to send an appropriate-sized bus. “One of our employees said, ‘If you make somebody pay when they make a reservation, then they’re going to show up for that bus trip,’ ” Battersby recalled. When the fleet implemented this, the no-show rate dropped to less than 1%.

Battersby said the idea hadn’t been implemented before because the fleet department was unable to obtain a license to accept credit cards. To solve this problem, fleet staff got creative and partnered with the campus events department, which sells tickets for football games and concerts. “They had a credit card license and we needed one, so we did an interdepartmental agreement with them. What they’re doing is selling our shuttle bus reservations as if it’s an event. That’s how we were able to get around not being able to get a credit card license. That’s just another example of getting out of the way of the staff and giving them enough free rein where they can run with it,” he said.

Staying On Top of the Game

Aside from his full-time fleet manager role at UC Davis, Battersby is also heavily involved in the industry outside of typical work hours and is a member of 10 fleet professional organizations.

These associations include membership in the Public Fleet Supervisors Association and the California County Fleet Managers’ Association. He is also a past chairman and officer of the NAFA Fleet Management Association, San Francisco Chapter, as well as the executive director of the East Bay Clean Cities Coalition. Earlier this year, he was inducted into the Clean Cities Hall of Fame for his dedication and outstanding accomplishments in reducing the California Bay Area’s dependence on petroleum in transportation.

Balancing all these important responsibilities can be challenging, but Battersby said prioritizing and creating extensive lists can help a lot. “I’m constantly writing stuff down because I’ve got so much going on that I will forget things,” he said.

At the end of the day, Battersby suggested going back to your list and double-­checking that you haven’t overlooked one of your goals for the day. He also e-mails himself reminders about ideas or projects so he won’t forget about them. In addition, he makes calendar appointments to block out enough time to address deadlines for projects and assignments.

At the same time, fleet managers should also give themselves a break if they can’t get everything done right away. “Folks have come to accept by trying to do more with less, you simply can’t get to everything, so you need to accept that you’re not going to be able to tackle everything that comes across your desk,” Battersby said. “You need to prioritize which the important ones are, keep track, and if you need to delegate them, then go ahead.”

Make a Mark in the Industry

If anyone knows how to set himself apart from his peers, it would be Richard Battersby, GF’s 2013 Public Sector Fleet Manager of the Year. How can you stand out and get recognized? Battersby shared a few tips:

Gain an understanding of your organization and leverage all your resources. “See how things are working and just understand the system. Then get out and network with other fleet managers and see how they are doing things, how their systems are set up. Then evaluate the different practices and make an informed decision as to what might work best in your organization. What works in one fleet may not necessarily work in another, so it’s important to get a broad range of opinions and practices.”

Participate and get involved. “Join the professional fleet organizations; attend the fleet conferences and workshops, and volunteer within that professional organization. Whether you serve as the secretary or chairman, the whole point is to get involved. Volunteer to get on the agenda of the educational programs at industry events. If you have a particular strength or subject area you’re comfortable with, or a specific topic or project that’s unique, share it with others.”

Practice the Golden Rule. “Treat others as you would like to be treated. Go out of your way to help others. If it takes a few extra minutes of your time and you can save someone a lot of effort or help expedite their project, then do that.”

UC Davis Fleet's Key Numbers
On-road units: 1,300
Off-road units: 100
Maintenance facilities: 1
Budget: $7.2 million
Fleet employees: 25
PM compliance in 2012: 95%
Replacement cycles:

Hybrid sedans: 8 years/120,000 miles
Sedans: 8 years/ 120,000 miles
Light-duty trucks:12 years/120,000 miles


  • Richard Battersby, CAFM, CPFP, director, Fleet Services, University of California, Davis