Utilization. Justification. Everywhere you look, someone from higher up the food chain wants you to do more with less money and less equipment.
Fleet managers are looking more closely than they have in a generation at whether they’re achieving maximum utility and efficiency from not only their vehicles, but their processes as well. That soul searching began in 2004 for Moline, Ill.
Individual departments had already applied reductions themselves, fleet manager JD Schulte said. But nine years ago the city centralized its fleet under one internal service fund division and really started doing things differently.
The new department became responsible for all purchasing, and for an arrangement under which the vehicle units are leased back to users. “Utilization became a benchmarking measurement that helped to determine replacement and also continued use. If Fleet Services did not see adequate utilization, then justification was required to keep the unit in service,” Schulte said. Within 18 months, 13 redundant units had been trimmed from the city’s fleets. The city also altered its maintenance and repair schedule so that its “mission-critical” vehicles, which is now all of them, are worked on mostly in the evening — so that a duplicate vehicle isn’t needed.
Columbus, Ohio’s strategy is called right-sizing. The fleet has a vehicle match application procedure that questions every vehicle purchase request through the lens of the vehicle’s routine, and seeing what vehicle is actually required to perform it. If an application does not require an F-250, it will receive a small Focus instead, Fleet Administrator Kelly Reagan stated. And as Walter Burnett points out in this edition of the magazine, equipment is so specialized now that the precisely-right vehicle exists for nearly every job. Trouble is knowing which one to pick requires some homework.
Completely eliminating the redundancy in a fleet isn’t ideal, Schulte pointed out. The majority of Moline’s fleet operators, for example, are using equipment on a daily basis that has no backup. But because these types of mandates are popping up everywhere, being prepared to carry it out is an urgently-needed skill.
Do your homework on fleet reduction, vehicle selection and more this month at the NTEA Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, Ind., and in April at the NAFA Fleet Management Association Institute and Expo in Atlantic City, N.J. Burnett, who spent almost 40 years in the business, said the kind of networking you can do at events like these has been key to his problem-solving development. And read to see how you can exceed your fleet’s optimization goals.