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12/2/2008 12:00:00 AM
Compiled by FacilitiesNet Staff
Fleet management is an evolving field. A closer look at the challenges
and issues related to maximizing a fleet management program can help
grounds care managers devise a cost-effective and flexible strategy to
meet the organization’s demands.
The biggest challenge managers often face with a fleet management
program is securing funding for replacement and proper maintenance of
vehicles, says Paul Lauria, president of Mercury Associates, a
fleet-management consulting firm in Gaithersburg, Md.
“Because the support departments and the role their vehicles play in
the day-to-day operations of an organization are not well understood by
financial managers, they think that cutting fleet budgets is an easy
way to reduce expenses,” Lauria says. He adds that avoiding investments
in the fleet infrastructure might save money immediately but usually
results in higher costs later.
Managers also face a challenge in finding properly trained and
experienced equipment mechanics, says Mark Teegen, fleet manager of
Acres Enterprises in Wauconda, Ill. Louis handles repair issues by
closely tracking equipment warranty periods. Several off-the-shelf
software packages can flag repairs an existing warranty might cover,
which is an excellent way for managers to help departments recover some
maintenance expenses. If a vehicle has problems and is under warranty,
it goes back to the dealer for repairs.
“I work with several different dealers,” Louis says. “If I am not
confident that the closest dealer can handle the problem, I can take it
to another. Their staffs have varying expertise, too.”
Technological advancements related to a fleet management program also
are surfacing on shop floors and in managers’ offices. Louis says his
department’s mechanics use scanning tools and software to check the
operating systems of computerized cars and trucks. Technicians also
have digital test meters and thermometers. Analog pressure gauges are
connected to the system being checked, and they register the pressure
produced by the system or component.
“Having service and parts manuals on compact discs makes research
faster and the office is less cluttered,” Louis says. “The information
on the discs seems to be more complete.” Managers also are tapping into
technology to produce performance reports.
Computer technology has changed the way many managers operate, and a
growing number use off-the-shelf software to aid in preparing effective
reports. Managers also can use presentation software for training
sessions, and a database can record all vehicle information.
Some specialized fleet-management software also incorporates global
positioning technology that helps managers track the usage time and
location of vehicles. Other modules help managers schedule routes,
coordinate repairs, monitor parts inventories, track fuel and tires,
and enable detailed analysis of productivity.
Some software also will assist with scheduling and tracking grounds
care functions. With the use of the Internet and e-commerce, managers
can efficiently research vehicles, buy parts and dispose of used
equipment. With the amount of information available on the Internet, it
is easy to compare vehicle features, dealer prices, parts availability
and delivery schedules. All of this information can lead to increased
efficiency and cost-effective purchasing.
Finally, organizations sometimes consider outsourcing their fleet
management services as a way to combat rising costs, labor shortfalls
and technological sophistication of vehicle management. Often,
outsourcing activities in a fleet management program shakes up a fleet
manager’s responsibilities. They now become fleet contact