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Fleet Management Best Practices


Professional vehicle fleet management includes many diverse tasks and responsibilities. It requires a dedicated staff to manage vehicle acquisition, maintenance, repairs and disposal, while following all pertinent laws, regulations and policies. The DES Fleet Operations has identified the following best practices as the foundation of a professional fleet management program.

Focus on long-range outlook

The fleet management plan should address all long-range strategic and business aspects of owning, operating and disposing of vehicles. It also needs to address the financial aspects of establishing vehicle use rates and replacement funding.

Set up accurate database

Having timely and accurate data is vital to professional fleet management. A management information system designed specifically for your fleet can track, analyze and provide the reports necessary to ensure accurate and timely decision-making, so you can optimize overall fleet performance. The database can help you:

  • Maintain inventory
  • Manage proper maintenance
  • Identify and analyze high-cost vehicles
  • Develop reports for regulatory compliance
  • Monitor vehicle use
  • Establish vehicle-replacement cycles

Use proven financial practices

It is important to understand the costs of owning and operating a fleet, so managers can make informed financial decisions. Financial statements should be developed that capture all costs, including labor, supplies, fuel, depreciation and overhead (agency indirect costs) attributable to the fleet activity. This information should be readily accessible to managers and stakeholders. A charge-back system should be used to allocate these costs to the programs that benefit from the use of fleet vehicles, so that program managers can understand the full cost of their program activities.

Establish appropriate vehicle-replacement cycles

The proper replacement of vehicles minimizes costs and assures safety. Vehicle-replacement cycles are developed through life-cycle analysis that predicts the optimum replacement time. This analysis considers depreciation, maintenance, fuel consumption, vehicle-preparation costs, overhead and resale value. Newer vehicles are more technically advanced, have improved safety systems, produce fewer emissions and are more fuel efficient.

Buy vehicles from statewide master contracts

The state Auditor’s Office performance audit of January 2007 shows that the state vehicle contract beat the market by at least 25 percent for all compact, mid- and full-size sedans. A state contract exists for all commonly used cars, vans and trucks, including the increasingly popular hybrid vehicles. These contracts are available at Vehicle Purchasing.

Finance vehicle purchases

An integral part of managing the vehicle-replacement cycle is having funding available when you need it. You can reduce the life-cycle costs of replacement by adhering to appropriate schedules. Instead of relying wholly on cash appropriations to buy new vehicles, agencies should consider the use of Certificates of Participation (COP) financing through the State Treasurer, especially during lean economic periods. This low-interest financing alternative can be an effective part of fleet management, eliminating the necessity of keeping vehicles past their useful life.

Understand regulations and industry standards

State fleets are required to comply with a multitude of federal, state and local laws and policies. These include:

  • Buying vehicles that use alternative fuels
  • Emissions compliance
  • Fuel consumption
  • Utilization
  • Driver monitoring
  • Licensing
  • Reporting to state and federal regulatory agencies

The requirements change often. Professional fleet management requires staying current on all of these laws and policies. A fleet manager can stay well informed by active participation in local and national, public and private fleet management organizations. Industry periodicals are also a good source for information on changing fleet regulations and policies.

Rent from Fleet Operations

The fully-loaded vehicle rental rates charged by DES Fleet Operations continue to be lower than those of other state motor pools and universities within Washington. The rates are also substantially less than commercial rental rates. The use of the daily Fleet Operations rental fleet can be a useful tool to supplement the permanently assigned vehicles during peak usage requirements. Any Thurston County-based state agency with intermittent vehicle needs should consider Fleet Operations rentals.

For more information, including rates and availability, see Rent or Reserve a Vehicle.