Standardizing vehicles via cooperative contracts boosts efficiencies
Joseph W. Clark, Fleet Management Director in Durham, N.C., says his group’s success hinges on a good working relationship with the city’s procurement team. “On the fleet side we rely on procurement heavily to put things out to bid and to put contracts in place. In addition we have to rely on procurement to help get everything through the approval process. Our success in fleet management is tied closely to procurement personnel–it’s very much a joint partnership.” The fleet management team helps as much as it can, often by sourcing the best place to buy a vehicle or a piece of equipment, such as through a cooperative agreement, Clark adds.
The Fleet Management Department is responsible for all services related to Durham’s 1,700+ vehicles and equipment, including trailers. Fleet Management consists of 2 divisions: Fire Maintenance and Fleet Maintenance.
Clark began his career 35 years ago in Durham city government. His first job in the city was in the finance department in the purchasing division. “I started as a buyer, and I was putting contracts into place for our fleet operations. I was buying the vehicles, car parts, fuel, etc., so I had an intimate knowledge of the business of fleet management. I have a business degree and an automotive and diesel technology degree, as well as actual work experience that uniquely qualified me to jump over to this side of the house.”
When speaking at fleet administrator conferences, Clark tells attendees that they need to have a good relationship with procurement. “If we can help procurement do their job, or if the staffers in procurement have a better understanding of what we are up against, they can help us be successful. The fleet team needs to have an understanding of the challenges that procurement staffers face and the laws that are in place so we can help them be successful.”
In the Tar Heel state, cities can buy vehicles such as police cruisers in a variety of ways, such as off-state contract, via the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association contract which is a cooperative agreement, as well as via various national cooperative agreements. Cities also can acquire police cruisers and other vehicles by going through a formal bidding process.
Clark says the offerings available through cooperative agreements can enable cities to get the right mix of fleet vehicles. He says if a fleet management team wants to be operationally efficient, sometimes it’s good to standardize on a particular car, or truck. “Through that standardization, maintenance crews have fewer parts and inventory to manage. You’ve got more familiarity with the service and repair aspects.”
Clark tells Co-op Solutions that cooperative agreements provide fleet managers and procurement teams with options to pick and choose if they are focusing on specific brands or vehicle characteristics. “After going for that initial bid, you can determine what particular cooperative agreements might fit your standardization needs for specific brands, nameplates or models.”
Cooperative agreements, through which the item and vendor have already been vetted and the item price has been OK’d, can save time for procurement departments and help them keep up with their workloads, Clark says. “In the case where you have a dedicated staff, cooperative deals are a good supplement. But there are a lot of cities, towns and even counties that don’t have a purchasing staff, so if say a finance administrator has been tasked to buy something and it’s already been bid via a co-op, it makes life a lot easier for these smaller entities that don’t have the staff to do this type of work. One option for these governments is to jump on a cooperative contract.” Durham city administrators use cooperative contracts in their procurement operations.
Clark predicts governments will acquire more alternative-fuel vehicles for their fleets. “There’s going to be a huge movement towards battery-powered vehicles, even though a lot of those are just in their infancy,” Clark says. He explains that in today’s municipal fleets, the most miles driven are for public safety applications and garbage pickup. “In a lot of instances, alternative-powered vehicles to do these jobs don’t exist yet. But with all the green energy proposals and sustainability initiatives, there’s going to be a huge push for alternative fuels, particularly electric-battery-powered-type vehicles.”
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County and the GPN web site. Contact: [email protected]