CHICAGO - A new report issued by the City of Chicago and Cook County proposes consolidating City and County fleet maintenance, with the City as the service provider and the County as the client.

In March 2011, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel launched a committee to determine ways the City and County could work together to cut costs and streamline services.

According to the proposal, the City would manage fleet maintenance operations for County Highways Departments at a set labor rate plus the invoiced parts cost. It would require intergovernmental agreements between County and City Fleet Management and would begin with a pilot program in the County Highway Department. County employees would take vehicles in need of repair to City shops.

The report said the City spends $116M per year managing 13,000 vehicles at 14 repair facilities.  It cites the fleet maintenance department’s innovative programs as being part of the reason for the proposal to provide maintenance to County vehicles. Programs include “green technology,” parts outsourcing to NAPA, a “robust” vehicle maintenance system called VMART for tracking maintenance information and history and fueling logs, and GPS tracking systems on nearly all City fleet and repair vehicles. The report also cites the City’s 93 percent vehicle available rate as another mark of excellence.

The report states that taxpayers could benefit from a lower cost to service vehicles and better County vehicle reliability and repair transparency for suburban residents. Cost savings estimated in this proposal would be along the lines of $300,000 to $700,000 annually based on results from similar organizations (around 15 percent).

The report cites the decentralized organization of County fleet maintenance services as one reason for proposing the City handle maintenance for County vehicles. In addition, the vehicle composition for City and County fleets is similar, which would allow the City to “easily” maintain County vehicles, according to the report. It states that the County should work toward centralizing fleet management and maintenance and jointly outsource services to the City.

Barriers to implementation include labor considerations, as 29 employees at the County Highway Department are members of unions, and the distance from County regions to City repair facilities. One of the districts, District 1, is 18 miles from the closest City repair facility, for example, though the report said areas too far from City facilities could be excluded from the pilot program.

The report said planning could begin immediately (the Highway Department pilot should be prepared for the 2012 budget cycle), and that this program could be rolled out to other County departments if it’s successful.

You can read the full report here.

By Greg Basich