In 2008 the Manatee County Fleet Services Division evaluated the utilization and expected lifecycle of each unit in its 1,400-vehicle fleet at the behest of county management and eliminated 53 underutilized vehicles (including three quarters of the authorized take-home vehicles). The effort extended the average life of the fleet one year, culminating in an annual budget reduction of $431,000 and saving $3.8 million in capital for replacement equipment.
"Our fleet reduction followed the reorganization of several departments," says Michael Brennan, CEM, fleet-services-division manager. "Direction from the administration was to increase efficiency, identify cost savings, and eliminate unnecessary or excess tasks and equipment. We consolidated some services and some vehicles and equipment were now no longer required."
The 53 underutilized vehicles eliminated were split pretty evenly between on-road vehicles and off-road equipment of all sizes and types. Some were reassigned or saved as pool vehicles, but most were obsolete or unnecessary, so the county disposed of them on the used-equipment markets.
"The take-home-vehicle authorizations took place over a long period, and we let all the drivers know what was going on with plenty of time before any action was taken," says Brennan. "For the most part all those who were affected understood the impending economic downturn created the need to reduce costs, and that made the transition fairly smooth."
The utilization study required extensive coordination with the staffs of Manatee County's equipment-using departments — Fleet Services' customers — to determine which machines were essential to operations.
"Acquisition costs, replacement costs, operating and capital expenses, and residual values are all required to accurately determine average lifecycles," says Brennan. "We've had most of the equipment data in our maintenance-management system for years, but obtaining accurate residual value required an extensive research project. It was the first comprehensive study of its kind here in Manatee County."
Fleet data review specialist Wendy Pintozzi identified the current market value of vehicles and equipment by class, manufacturer, model and year, by averaging Black-Book values and data from online publications and Internet auction results. Florida-specific resale data formed the core of the assessments, and those results were verified compared to regional and national values.
"Lifecycles really should be reviewed at least biannually," says Brennan. "Technological and economic changes directly affect lifecycles creating a need for routine updating. We took a look at the individual lifecycles first, created an average or 'economic replacement point' for each vehicle or equipment class, then reviewed the data over several replacement cycles."
Comparing the results of different life expectations over the long term helped reveal how timely machine replacement minimizes the county's expenses and maintains production. Detailed, unit-by-unit lifecycle analysis held some benefits for equipment that remained in the fleet.
"In some cases we were able to extend our contract term agreements on heavy equipment," says Brennan. "Purchasing a higher-quality dump truck, for instance, added three years to the lifecycle and, by rotating them to lower-use assignments as we bring new units on, we'll maintain reliability in all areas. This is true also with some of the construction equipment. Expected lives of skid steers, loaders, and some classes of track machines were extended in the same ways.
"Once we identified an average-age target for the various classes of machines, we needed to factor in specific site equipment — I call them 'yard dogs' — that may not experience high mileage or hourly use, but are required daily or run many short trips," he adds.
Ultimately, when unnecessary equipment was identified, the best machines were rotated to another county service area if needed, and the oldest or most-used units were sold. The change opened opportunity for the three-shop Manatee County Fleet Services operation to take on more work.
In April 2009, Manatee County Fleet Services assumed maintenance responsibility for nearly 300 machines and a service facility assigned to turf maintenance for the county parks department. County Fleet Services will handle the additional equipment with no additional staff or investment other than computers to network into their CCG Faster equipment-operations-management network and some parts-room organization.