WESTMINSTER, MD - An interim fleet report for Carroll County, Md., Bureau of Fleet Management found the fleet was performing on par or better than neighboring areas, recommending that it keep vehicle maintenance and management in-house.

“I’m glad to see the facts prevailed, that [the study shows] we operate efficiently,” said David Reese Sr., chief, Bureau of Fleet Management, Warehouse Operations, Carroll County Government. “Our operation has an extensive preventive maintenance program, which keeps maintenance cost low, and if a problem arises, our staff knows exactly how to fix the problem in an efficient and timely manner.”

The interim fleet report, according to a presentation given to the County Commissioners, focused on four areas: the efficiency of maintenance and repair operations, alternatives for in-house maintenance and repair services, vehicle usage, and alternatives to purchasing vehicles.

County employees compared the cost of privatization with in-house maintenance services using data from local maintenance shops as well as five nearby government jurisdictions, two of which are privatized. Although “it was clear that Carroll County was operating in a manner commensurate with generally-accepted industry norms in terms of vehicle maintenance, repair and replacement criteria, fueling practices, labor rates for mechanics and approximate average maintenance costs per vehicle per year,” the County also developed letters of interest to explore privatization. According to the presentation to the Commission, the County received five responses to the letter of interest. These five companies were invited to meet with the Fleet Advisory Committee and walk through the maintenance facility; the private companies’ representatives were reported to be impressed with the current operations.

A comparison with a neighboring county’s fleet, which has privatized maintenance for more than 20 years, found that dollars spent per vehicle maintained by Carroll County is 13% lower**, and net costs are decreased due to revenues Carroll County Fleet Management receives from fuel sales and insourced maintenance work. The data also showed that Carroll County had fewer staff managing and maintaining its fleet, but total spending on personnel is the same. Carroll County averages 82 vehicles per technician, 4% higher than the other county.

The report also explored vehicle usage. A previous study had found that 10% of non-pool vehicles were being used two to three days per week or less. The City is currently conducting a more detailed study on vehicle use, expected to be completed by Thanksgiving.

A comparison of owning vs. leasing vehicles found that while there are benefits to leasing vehicles, such as the ability to acquire newer vehicles with better technology, this would be outweighed by one large disadvantage: significantly increased cost.

A comparison of mileage reimbursement vs. use of county vehicles found that it costs the same in both instances for employees to drive County-owned cars on County business and a savings of 2 cents per mile when employees drive County-owned hybrids. It is more cost-effective to reimburse employees to drive their own vehicles rather than having them drive County-owned pickup trucks, vans, and SUVs, but the report points out that these larger vehicles are used for specific purposes, such as when smaller vehicles are not sufficient. The comprehensive vehicle utilization review will reveal whether these larger vehicles are being used in a way that “justifies their higher costs.”

The bureau's staff of 12 mechanics service 479 vehicles and 167 pieces of equipment owned by the County. The bureau also services allied agency vehicles, bringing the total of vehicles and equipment serviced up to more than 1,000, according to Reese.

By Thi Dao

**This article was updated 12/21/12 to reflect a more accurate cost comparison estimate between Carroll county and the nearby county with privatized fleet maintenance. The new estimate of the difference between dollars spent per vehicle is 13%, which does not include FY-13 projected revenue from insourcing.