I don’t know that it’s wise to count chickens before they hatch, but hopefully 2014 will reveal a light at the end of the tunnel of financial strangulation under which most of us are operating.
Late last year I was encouraged by the fact that Steve Latin-Kasper, ntea director of market data and research, predicted likely increases in residential investment in 2013–16 will grow local taxes by 5 percent — leading to expenditure increases for equipment of 0.1 percent in 2014 and 0.8 percent in 2015. Given that most municipalities opted to repair vehicles and equipment during the recession instead of buying new, Latin-Kasper said there could be a lot of activity in municipal fleet markets this year.
That outlook seems less likely in northern states, though. Thanks to a snowier and colder winter than even 1978, most of us were already busy trying to figure out how to make up for those extra winter expenditures on salt and plow overtime; now those same roads look like Baby Swiss cheese. I hate to visualize another year of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but Mother Nature certainly hasn’t been cooperative. Maintenance garages will once again be asked to perform miracles on already-tired workhorses.
Maybe this year will instead be a good time to do some homework on what those eventual new vehicles will look like. The U.S. is in the middle of a paradigm shift concerning our municipal fleets: going from strong, heavy and gasoline or diesel to light and electric, CNG or propane. Knowing which horse to bet on is difficult, but it’s really all about knowing what your region can manage: what infrastructure it can provide and whether you can find capable technicians to right those occasional malfunctions. nafa and ntea can help with both, and their conferences are right around the corner. We’ll probably see you there.