A couple of nights ago, at a pizza place, I ran into an acquaintaince who lived in the neighborhood. He was a city employee who was driving a fleet vehicle for the first time. It was a motor pool vehicle and he had been told he could take it home because he was working late.

I was excited to ask this fleet customer about his experience. What did someone with no previous interaction with fleet think about his first motor pool experience? At the same time, I was nervous that a government vehicle might be seen at a place it shouldn’t be.

Fleet is Customer-Driven

The driver said he had a fairly positive experience and liked that a fueling facility was located on-site, which meant he wouldn’t have to fill the vehicle up when he turned it in.

A high school friend, employed at another public agency, had just driven her first fleet vehicle the week prior, after two years of employment. She was pleasantly surprised to receive a newer Toyota Prius pool vehicle. The car was conveniently located in the basement of the building where she worked, and a fleet employee was there to show her the vehicle features. She also had a positive experience.

“In government, you don’t know if you’ll have an efficient experience or a bureaucratic one,” she said.

Another friend echoed her feelings about bureaucracy. He had worked for a large city for nine years in three different departments. His favorite fleet experience was one where the department had its own vehicles, and he could just take the keys and go. In the department where he works now, a motor pool vehicle requires supervisor approval, then reservation and checkout from fleet. He thinks this process is more bureaucratic — this coming from the person who once told me he is a bureaucrat.

The handful of times he’s taken out fleet vehicles, they’ve included hybrids and natural gas sedans. He seemed indifferent to what vehicle he was driving, and he was fine with filling up a natural gas vehicle.

We often write about driver policies and automating the motor pool experience — the behind-the-scenes information about determining whether or not to purchase an automated motor pool system and the features of each one, deciding to show drivers new vehicle features, and converting department vehicles to centrally pooled vehicles. Talking to these government employees who have no fleet knowledge about their experiences reinforced just how customer-service-oriented fleet is.

I’ve heard someone say that you often don’t hear about fleet unless something has gone wrong. Knowing my friends and acquaintances had fairly positive experiences makes me think these fleets are providing a streamlined experience for their customers. It’s also not surprising that a department-­assigned vehicle is more desirable to customers than a central motor pool vehicle. ­

A Fleet Vehicle at a Pizza Place?

Back to the fleet vehicle at the pizza place. While the driver had dinner, the shiny white Dodge was sitting out in the parking lot of a strip mall, city decals and all.

I was thinking, “But it’s a fleet vehicle at a pizza place!” This employee wasn’t doing anything wrong — he wanted to have a pizza a couple of blocks from home, on his way from work. And yet, I thought about how it would look to some taxpayers. This is because I see the complaints about fleet vehicles at suspicious locations, such as casinos. I see the news reports of TV reporters following drivers who they think are wasting taxpayer time and money. I’ve read the complaints on our own website (which is the wrong place to post complaints about specific fleet cars) from angry citizens. It makes me wonder if the fleet department has or should have some way to express this concern to pool drivers.

What kind of experience do your customers have with fleet staff and the process of checking out a vehicle? And how well do they know your policies about where the vehicle can and can’t go?

About the author
Thi Dao

Thi Dao

Former Executive Editor

Thi is the former executive editor of Government Fleet magazine.

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