Technology helps government fleet managers cope with tight budgets
Governments are major fleet operators. They own more than 4.2 million vehicles, with state, county and municipal agencies accounting for 3.7 million of those cars, trucks and buses, according to the latest Federal Highway Administration “Highway Statistics” report.
One player in government fleet operations is Sparks, Md.-based PHH Arval, a fleet management services provider in the United States and Canada. The company offers services to local, state and federal government fleets to help them reduce costs while increasing the productivity of fleet drivers.
The services include:
- Fuel management
- Maintenance management
- Risk and safety services
- Accident management
- Violations/E*Toll management
- PHH InterActive (access to all information via secure website)
- PHH Connect (mobile application for fleet drivers)
- PHH Onboard (telematics service)
Govpro.com checked in with PHH Arval’s Phil Fitzgerald to find out about government fleet budget and technology trends. Fitzgerald recently joined the company as national director of governmental sales. He has 24 years of fleet management experience and a background in servicing the government fleet industry.
Govpro.com: How are state and local government fleet managers becoming more efficient in 2010-2011?
Phil Fitzgerald: Due to reductions in tax revenue (sales, income and real estate), many government entities are coping with significant reductions in staff and budgets. This has resulted in fewer people who can efficiently administer a fleet, as well as the ability to purchase new vehicles and other key fleet activities. As a result, many are considering some form of outsourcing.
Take, for example, changes in the area of maintenance management. Many government agencies are challenged with keeping internal garages up to date with technician training and required diagnostic equipment. Because of budget cuts, they are now keeping their in-house garages open but farming out major repairs to an outside provider. This helps them reduce costs, not just for maintenance on their fleet vehicles, but also in the area of processing purchase orders and checks. Because of the head count reductions, they don’t have the administrative personnel to issue, track and pay the purchase orders. One state manager told me that it costs over $100 to process a PO/check. This is a large administrative burden on a declining work force — so government fleets are looking for fleet management providers that have the ability to capture and combine the internal/external maintenance information into one web-based database and deliver administrative services, such as consolidated billing.
Govpro.com: How are they coping with tight budgets?
PF: Many government entities are now forced to look at alternative means of managing their fleets. Some are outsourcing part or all of their fuel, maintenance and accident management needs. This has the benefit of cutting their administrative costs, consolidating all their information in one place, and reducing their expenses through comprehensive management of these services.
Other government fleets are purchasing internal software in an attempt to gather the data necessary to manage their fleets. However, this may be the more expensive solution to their challenges. Outsourcing to a fleet management provider that already has the ability to consolidate their in-house garage maintenance information with external purchases (both maintenance and fuel) in a web-based system can enhance cost savings while expanding their ability to track and manage their fleet transactions.
The key to meeting a specific fleet’s needs is the ability to be flexible in terms of the best combination of technology, services and consultative recommendations. Fleet managers should ask for a comprehensive review focused on their particular fleet to find the most effective solutions to help manage tight budgets and expanded productivity expectations.
Govpro.com: Are there any new technologies or programs that fleet managers are using?
PF: In addition to the cost capture capability for fuel and maintenance transactions, we have found that more government fleets are looking at telematics as a means to reduce costs and improve productivity. For instance, telematics can help you identify the vehicles that are underutilized and redeploy them into other areas. And, they can use telematics data to improve routing and territory alignment to reduce the number of vehicles necessary to get the job done. Telematics can also reduce fuel costs by eliminating speeding over certain limits and reducing idle time.
Finally, information management technology is also key to managing fuel costs. For fleets whose vehicles fuel up at various types of locations — retail, on-site facilities, or in Canada, cardlock facilities — technology is making it possible to integrate all the fuel purchase information into a single, centralized repository for easy access and comprehensive reporting. This gives fleet managers the total picture on their fuel costs. This technology solution is very useful for fleets that operate both cars and trucks, and is also available for similar situations in the maintenance arena.