From The Editor | December 1, 2010

Find Your Fleet Formula

Integrated Solutions, February 2010

I was scanning the news headlines collected from my online RSS (real simple syndication) feeds recently, and one story in particular caught my attention. It was an article from a local newspaper in West Virginia called The Lincoln Journal. The story chronicled how the state of West Virginia is saving its taxpayers millions of dollars a year as a result of several changes it has made to its state vehicle fleet since 2005. Intrigued by the abstract of the article alone, I read on — expecting to learn how carefully selected technology investments contributed to the state’s newfound fleet efficiency. However, to my initial surprise, the article referenced no technology deployments whatsoever. Instead, all of the changes that are contributing to the multimillion dollar savings have thus far been process oriented. For example, since 2005, the state has replaced 547 state-owned passenger vehicles and police cruisers with smaller vehicles. This has resulted in lower operating and maintenance costs. Likewise, the number of vehicles state employees are able to use for commuting to and from work has been reduced by 10%.

The article also illustrated how the state of West Virginia plans to further enhance fleet efficiency through the creation of a state Fleet Management Task Force. This task force, made up of members from representative state agencies, is charged with studying best practices in fleet management and evaluating fleet inventory control measures. West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin expects to use the recommendations of the task force as part of the new fleet management legislation he will propose for 2010. One of the early policies proposed by the task force is a mandate that will require all state vehicle users to maintain a logbook that clearly indicates personal vehicle usage versus business usage.

As I mentioned earlier, I was initially surprised by the fact that the substantial fleet efficiency gains the state of West Virginia has experienced have merely been a result of policy changes. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this case profile is shockingly similar to the successful technology implementations chronicled in Integrated Solutions. In almost all instances, an organization must first squeeze all the efficiency out of its current processes before it can expect to gain added value from a technology deployment.

The state of West Virginia has been focused on streamlining its own fleet processes and has done so quite successfully. However, a time will come when the state will have gained all it can from manual process changes, and it will have to start looking to technology to take its efficiency gains (and taxpayer savings) to the next level. For example, rather than entrusting state employees to keep a logbook that chronicles vehicle use, wouldn’t it be more efficient to embed GPS technology in each state vehicle to monitor exactly how each vehicle is being used? Granted, a deployment of this nature will come with a price, but the payback could be quickly realized if you take into account other cost savings the solution could provide. For example, you wouldn’t have to pay state employees for the time it takes to record their vehicle usage history in a logbook or supervisors to review those logbooks. Furthermore, many GPS systems come with a feature that monitors engine idle time. If excessive engine idle times can be identified and reduced, it can save state taxpayers perhaps millions more in fuel costs. As West Virginia’s Fleet Management Task Force continues to study best practices in fleet management, I encourage it not to ignore technology’s role.