Whether it’s a new technology or a different way of approaching operations, fleets can boost efficiency both within vehicles and on the shop floor. Fleets and industry providers share some methods for improving efficiency.
1. Vehicle Efficiency: Reduce Emissions & Fuel Spend
The City of Port St. Lucie, Fla., Police Department (PD) wanted to reduce its fleet carbon footprint, and Bill May, police administrator, thought engine calibration technology would enable this. After testing, the PD found it not only reduced carbon emissions, but also reduced fuel costs.
Derive Efficiency tunes the engine control module (ECM) of each vehicle, adjusting the software of the ECM to reduce revolutions per minute (RPM) while idling, enforce a top speed, optimize shift points, and modify torque and throttle response.
The PD started a pilot with five cars, both Ford Police Interceptors and PI Utility vehicles.
After three months of testing, the PD found that police vehicles idled 76% of the time, much higher than its estimate of 50%. Reduced fuel savings from an optimum idling speed reduced fuel costs by $8.50 per vehicle per month, while savings from improved fuel efficiency was $14 per month. This equates to annual savings of about $270 per vehicle annually. May estimates return on investment for the product is less than 16 months.
Additionally, the product is reporting a reduction of 204 lbs. of CO2 emissions per vehicle per month.
The PD’s goal is to eventually calibrate all 178 patrol vehicles in the fleet. It just ordered the calibration for 73 of its MY-2013 and newer vehicles and hopes to add the technology to any new vehicles purchased.
“If this pans out like we think it will, I’m sure the city would be interested in adding it to utility vehicles, Public Works vehicles, and other vehicles that idle a high percentage of the time,” May said.
Rob Mann, fleet manager, said the improved fuel efficiency makes it easier for Police Departments to justify purchasing an SUV instead of a sedan. “You are losing some of the [fuel] efficiency of the small sedans, but the sedans are just too small to operate efficiently, so this clears up this area. You can have both worlds — you can have that efficiency back and give officers the vehicle they need,” he said.
2. Vehicle Efficiency: Optimize Vehicle Space
Propane autogas fuel tanks can take up valuable trunk or truck bed space in a vehicle. But when transitioning to propane autogas, the fuel has to go somewhere. Worthington Industries’ toroidal propane autogas fuel tanks fit in the spare tire space of a car or pickup truck, which allows fleets to use their entire trunk or bed space or boost vehicle range if they use it in conjunction with cylindrical tanks.
“These tanks are specifically designed to fit in the spare tire area in a passenger vehicle or light truck. That means you’re utilizing 100% of a circular space that is already built in a vehicle,” said Chris Hanners, product manager for alternative fuels, Worthington Industries.
The tanks are available in eight sizes (with capacity ranging from 12 to 25.5 gallons), are constructed in accordance with American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) regulations, and cost 25-35% less than cylindrical tanks, which Worthington also manufactures, Hanners said. For fleets converting vehicles to run on propane autogas, that could mean a lower conversion cost while optimizing vehicle space.
3. Driver Efficiency: Reduce Vehicle Collisions
To improve driver safety and reduce millions of dollars in non-targeted vehicle repairs, the City of Kansas City, Mo., is using a new tool: the Lytx DriveCam driver safety system. Using the system, the city has been able to reduce collisions within its first group of 195 vehicles by 48%, according to Eric Hallerud, corporate safety & risk manager, and Kristin Danner, assistant corporate safety manager.
The system uses video event recorders to capture collisions and risky driving habits. If an event is triggered by g-forces, the recorder captures a 12-second video clip, which is then analyzed by Lytx staff to provide a risk score. The driver and his or her supervisor review the video and discuss the clip in order to help the driver change his or her driving behavior.
Three of the first departments with the safety system have shown significant safety improvements — in a little more than two years, General Services reduced its risk score from 13.25 to zero, Neighborhoods reduced its risk score from 4.65 to 0.61, and Parks and Rec reduced it from 1.87 to 0.56.
In addition to coaching those who need help, the city recognizes those who have improved their driving scores or haven’t had recorded events.
“We have recognition events annually, and I think that really helps because there are a lot of drivers who don’t have clips, and the more we are able to acknowledge or recognize them, the more that behavior continues,” Danner said.
The city rolled out the program one division at a time on every single vehicle within that division — including vehicles that managers and supervisors drive — to help create a culture change in which everyone is accountable, Hallerud said.
Many of vehicles with the system in place are sedans, small trucks, and buses. Recent additions to the program, however, include larger and more specialized vehicles in the Public Works and Water Services departments. It’s these larger vehicles that Hallerud hopes will bring the most savings in repair costs.
“What we hope to find in the future is that our non-targeted repairs will see a drastic reduction, especially on very large vehicles,” he said.
He also believes there are significant savings in fuel costs, but that data is not yet available.
The city now has 482 vehicles equipped with DriveCam, out of its total 2,000 units. Risk Management’s (and the city manager’s) goal is to eventually get the devices in every city vehicle.
4. Driver Efficiency: Improve Vehicle Routing
It’s not just large fleets that benefit from vehicle tracking — a few units equipped with telematics can help boost employee productivity, improve accountability, and reduce fuel use.
That was the case with the Butler County, Ohio, Auditor’s Office. The department has nine fleet vehicles, and three vehicles in two divisions are equipped with the GPS Insight telematics system.
“I used the tracking extensively to make sure our assessors were following a route while in the field that made sense, that would be efficient in terms of fuel usage,” said Berkley Rose, property assessment manager. After installing telematics tracking, driver routing improved significantly, which has reduced fuel use.
He added that during the latest county re-appraisal during 2013-14, telematics in six of seven assessment vehicles was essential in improving assessors’ productivity. Optimal routing was important due to the high volume of visits during the re-appraisal process, which happens every six years.
5. Shop Efficiency: Bring Work Back In House
When it comes to sending work out to private shops, many fleets send out large repairs, such as transmission work, or projects that require specific tools or skills, such as paint and body work. However, technicians may want to do this work in-house, and giving them the opportunity to do so can reduce costs and improve morale, said Jim Wright, CEO of Fleet Counselor Services.
Wright has worked with various fleets that allow technicians to bid on a project that is normally outsourced. The shop supervisor and technicians work together on a quote.
“They actually have to perform within that quote at their fully burdened labor rate and the parts markup cost. You get the parts room involved, and you create a team environment where you compete with the private sector,” Wright said.
Fleet staff members then get a quote from the private sector, and whoever has the lower quote gets the job. Wright stresses that this is extra work, on top of the regular preventive maintenance and repairs they normally perform. During a slow period, it’s a great way to bill hours and challenge staff with a new project.
If the fleet continually wins the bid, it’s a sure sign it’s competitive with the private sector. If it is consistently losing, it may be time to re-evaluate whether it’s these services that should be bid on, or even reduce staff.