|At a Glance|
|Fleets are employing various strategies to “right-size”:
If you ask Dennis Scamardo, CAFM, when he started working on reducing vehicle fleet size during his more than 14 years at his previous fleet manager position with Ventura County, Calif., he will tell you that question does not adequately address the issue of vehicle utilization. Scamardo, who since became fleet manager for Monterey County, Calif., in January, says “right-sizing” or “smart-sizing” a fleet should be an ongoing process. And vehicles aren’t the only area that should be examined. Ventura County also conducted a study on items such as unused telephone lines within the agency.
The county reduced unused phone lines and a fax line, but in dealing with his area of focus — right-sizing the vehicle fleet — Scamardo found 53 vehicles with low utilization. By not replacing those vehicles, the county saved more than $1.3 million.
Keeping Smart Assets
Scamardo believes that keeping the right number and types of vehicles in a fleet should be part of a government fleet manager’s continuing overall philosophy, and he continues that philosophy to right-size the fleet at Monterey County. Vehicles are an expensive asset, and fleet managers should give increased scrutiny to fleet size in tough economic times. But the scrutiny should take place in good times, as well. And that doesn’t always mean a fleet size reduction. Sometimes an organization needs more or different types of vehicles that are better suited to their mission.
“We want to have the right number of assets, but we also want smart assets,” said Scamardo, who has overseen similar-sized fleets in the two counties. The Monterey County fleet includes 1,164 light-duty vehicles and 144 heavy-duty units. He oversaw about 1,800 vehicles and pieces of equipment for Ventura. “We want to replace or reduce older vehicles that pollute first. Part of our smart-sizing is to replace an older vehicle with a newer vehicle that doesn’t pollute as much and saves fuel. Times have gotten tougher. Obviously there is more emphasis on making use of what resources we have, but this should happen all the time as part of your culture.”
Scamardo’s department worked with INVERS Mobility Solutions to install the company’s vehicle sharing technology for its vehicle sharing program. Using the program, departments pay a mileage and hourly rate to “fractionally share” vehicles and then return the vehicle when they are finished with their tasks. Scamardo said the program has worked well in addressing flex-schedule issues where some county department employees worked four days per week. In the past, the vehicles would sit unused during that fifth day or during off periods, but now users from other departments with opposite schedules can share vehicles when another department might not be using them.
Stressing the Importance of Communication
Challenging economic times have forced other government fleets to conduct utilization studies and consider reducing fleet size. That is especially true for the City of Bellevue, Wash., which faced a $6 million budget shortfall in 2011. A team of five fleet and communications administrators oversees 852 vehicles and equipment, including police, fire, and EMS vehicles and additional light- , medium- , and heavy-duty vehicles and equipment.
Each of the five team members oversees a different area. Tom Wall, who oversees programs and systems, noted that in looking to reduce fleet size, his team collaborated with a governance committee that serves as an advisory panel to the fleet department. The committee is made up of various leaders of departments such as police, fire, utilities, transportation, parks, and the budget office.
The fleet department and governance committee began implementing the program in 2012 and came up with 38 vehicles to cut from the fleet, saving the city $142,000. Sedans, light-duty trucks, trailers, snow plows, a loader, and a chipper were among the vehicles and equipment cut. The work has been ongoing and continues today.
The fleet department worked to communicate about the fleet reduction program with department managers, supervisors, and frontline staff. That communication was a challenge initially, as frontline staff thought the fleet department was making all decisions pertaining to utilization. In reality, the budget office was driving those decisions.
Fleet Administrator Demitri Bergeron, who oversees technology and systems as part of the five-member team, said communication with other departments is an ongoing process, and a utilization policy is part of that work. Communicating with other departments, he said, “was a driving factor for us to start exploring actual utilization, start developing a policy, make other departments aware of how they’re using their assets, and how to increase utilization of what they have.”
Sean Pownall, fleet administrator who oversees inventory and fuel for the City of Bellevue, added that the fleet is making headway in getting buy-in from other departments on the program. “Somebody might have a vehicle that’s underutilized, and they feel justified that they need to keep it regardless of that,” he said. “We actually want them to take ownership of this policy.”
The Bellevue team got the other departments to agree that vehicles traveling less than 50% of the median miles traveled for all assets would be considered underutilized vehicles. If a vehicle falls below the threshold, the user department must write a justification for keeping it. The budget office and the governance committee then decide whether to keep the vehicle, place the underutilized vehicles in another department, or to put them in the motor pool. The fire department is one of the more successful departments in reallocating vehicles and getting them to above the 50% threshold. The police department also watches its utilization closely, rotating its spare motorcycles in and out of active service to ensure the department gets the maximum lifecycle out of all of its assets.
“The utilization report isn’t necessarily to focus on reduction as much as it is to prevent unnecessary growth,” Bergeron said. “We’re able now to have increased usage on some of the low-use vehicles and decreased use on the high-use vehicles so we can get the most out of every vehicle within the fleet.” When departments look to add vehicles, Fleet Administrator Todd Shepler, who oversees vehicle acquisitions, can view the utilization report to see if those departments have underutilized vehicles.
Bellevue’s utilization policy currently only relates to on-road vehicles with odometers, but the city is looking to expand it to measure hours of use for equipment.
Programs Could Save Millions
Scamardo of Monterey County and the fleet administrators for the City of Bellevue said facing realities in the current economic environment was the main reason for looking into reducing fleet size, and Dalton Pratt, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) director of fleet operations, agreed. Pratt kept it simple when asked why the department worked to reduce its fleet size. “To save money,” he said. “We’re looking at more innovative ways to reduce cost and increase efficiency. The program is guided on this principle: We need to make sure people have the right vehicle at the right time at the right cost.”
The department started the program — which it calls Fleet Forward — late last year. Taking inventory of the equipment is the first step currently underway. Pratt said that during this first step, the department has learned that renting some pieces of equipment is more cost-efficient than having them on-hand at times when their use is minimal.
At the time the program started, the fleet consisted of approximately 16,000 vehicles and pieces of equipment. The program has already identified 4,000 vehicles to sell. The department estimates the sale of those vehicles and equipment will bring in $25 million.
The Bellevue fleet department will review utilization data from the various city departments and has asked those departments for reports on how they plan to increase vehicle utilization. The departments are also preparing a list of vehicles they feel they could reallocate to different departments or that they could utilize more.
Fleet Administrator Pat Spencer, who oversees operations, noted that although keeping the various user departments committed to reducing fleet size was a challenge, the results in the end are rewarding.
“I can’t believe anybody else who went through this in their fleet didn’t have some challenges that they faced,” he said. “The first cuts were given by the budget, people were upset about the cuts, and that drove us to create a comprehensive utilization policy that we can monitor and track internally without hiring outside consultants.”
Dalton Pratt, Texas Department of Transportation director of fleet operations, said the department started the fleet size reduction process by conducting a utilization study, collecting the information over multiple years to observe trends.
Fuel consumption against vehicle use was one measurement the department collected. “We compared the results with benchmarks to ensure reasonability,” Pratt said.
The department conducted workshops with field personnel to get those employees’ input and keep those individuals informed throughout the process.
Pratt emphasized that field personnel has been involved in deciding which pieces of equipment to keep or liquidate, to ensure changes would not compromise operations.
● Demitri Bergeron, fleet administrator, City of Bellevue, Wash.
● Sean Pownall, fleet administrator, City of Bellevue, Wash.
● Dalton Pratt, director of fleet operations, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)
● Dennis Scamardo, CAFM, fleet manager, Monterey County, Calif.
● Todd Shepler, fleet administrator, City of Bellevue, Wash.
● Pat Spencer, fleet administrator, City of Bellevue, Wash.
● Tom Wall, fleet and communications administrator – programs/systems, City of Bellevue, Wash.