Fleet managers seek cost-saving innovations
by Mary Scott Nabers,
CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
Common expenses such as education, public works projects and public safety are openly discussed by citizens, the media and elected officials. These expenses often overshadow other important, but not highly visible, divisions within the jurisdictions of cities. One good example is the importance and cost of maintaining public fleets. In fact, most citizens rarely think about how much it costs to purchase, maintain and provide fuel for all the vehicles government employees utilize.
Fleet managers at every level of government are seeking innovative ways to cover their areas of responsibilities. They are continually pushed to use alternative fuels, ensure green technology and reduce ongoing costs.
Here are a few examples of innovations that, if successful, will be replicated throughout the country.
- The city of Houston became the first city to launch a municipal electric vehicle-sharing program. Just last month, Mayor Annise Parker announced that through a competitive bid, Zipcar was awarded a contract that will provide 50 electric and hybrid vehicles equipped with car-sharing technology. This program will be funded by a grant from the State Energy Conservation Office. Program managers are charged with overseeing online reservations, preventative maintenance management, usage analytics and the distribution of the vehicles while maintaining energy efficiency.
- The Illinois General Assembly passed a new law known as the State Vehicle Use Act, which creates a formal use policy for all state vehicles and seeks to increase transparency as a way to drive down costs. The bill also grants the state’s Department of Central Management Services authority to evaluate and procure GPS systems that track the vehicles and make pertinent data available to the public online. State lawmakers hope that increased data on usage and limiting increased purchases of department vehicles will result in decreased costs and the ability to explore future fleet-sharing programs.
- In July 2012, the City of Rochester, New York, announced that it is seeking proposals from contractors interested in designing and implementing an Automated Vehicle Locator and Weather Sensor Intelligent Transportation System. The program will be tested first with vehicles assigned to the city’s Public Works division. The city received federal funding for this initiative and believes that the program can eliminate more than 120,000 miles of travel, increase safety in vehicles during snow storms and bad weather and lower maintenance costs.
As city officials continue to explore new cost-saving initiatives and leverage federal funding available to departments that in the past received little visibility, taxpayers can feel good about innovative efforts originating with public officials.