Iowa State University Director of Transportation Services, Kathy Wellik, CAFM, has worked in the field of fleet management for more than 10 years. As Iowa State's fleet director, she oversees the university's daily rental fleet. This month, Kathy was named winner of the 2016 NCSFA Fleet Excellence Award. The award recognizes member fleet managers that can demonstrate sustained efforts to improve the efficiency of their fleet in terms of measurable cost reductions, safety enhancements, or improved customer service.
Interview with Kathy Wellik, CAFM, Director of Transportation Services for Iowa State University
Q: Tell us about your fleet and the challenges faced by Iowa State’s Fleet before you automated.
A: Iowa State University (ISU) manages 8,000 daily rentals per year. We are a self-funded unit that is required to generate our own income and examine costs closely. We knew we needed to collect fleet utilization metrics so we could accurately adjust the size and composition of our fleet and reduce vehicle expenses overall. We wanted to significantly reduce personal vehicle use and their associated expenses. We also needed to track PM schedules so that vehicle downtime could be reduced. And, we looked at other efficiencies like automating the reservation process and billing. Billing was a challenge with ISU’s old system. The new system allows for billing to run with a push of a button. The system also allows customers to be able to see their billing, as well as all past, present, and future reservations. This saves a great deal of time and money. Our department has eliminated all paper billings and everything can be seen online.
Q: What was your approach to right sizing once you implemented fleet technology?
A: The fleet metrics collected by automating our system has enabled ISU to right-size our fleet. We now have consistent reporting metrics and detailed dashboards to gather information needed. With the addition of more midsize cars and reductions in pickups, there are more of the right type of vehicles available. Since implementing a new fleet management system, ISU Transportation Services has managed more than 11,000 vehicle reservations from 3,000 drivers, collecting vehicle and driver data during the entire process. The data gives us the information we need to make decisions about vehicles and continue to right size.
Q: How much has ISU been able to save by right sizing and automating?
A: Since 2015 when we automated our operation, the ISU Transportation Services Department has saved the university more than $100,000 in personal vehicle reimbursements. Approximately 500,000 miles are now being added to motor pool vehicles versus personal vehicles, which accounts for the $100,000 in reimbursement savings to the university. With the improved efficiencies via online reservations, automated dispatching information, billing and reporting, the university has saved more than $16,000 in staffing costs related to performing manual tasks such as motor pool scheduling, dispatching, billing, and reporting. In the past, reservation requests came in via email and the ISU dispatcher was required to rekey all of the information. A byproduct of the savings we have achieved is being able to reduce our rates across the board. For example, the minivan rate this fiscal year is being reduced by 14%.
Q: How do your customers feel about the new way of doing things?
A: One of the best aspects of the new system is the customer feedback capability. We ask our customers to tell us how we are doing and how we can improve. The customers rate their service, the vehicles, and the system. The feedback is live and available as soon as they respond. This is such a valuable thing to us. It is great when we hear that we are doing things right, but it is good to know when there is a problem so we can fix it if a customer is not happy with their service. Customers are very good at responding and offer fantastic information.
Q: What advice would you give to an organization interested in starting a car sharing initiative?
A: Get buy in from both staff and customers when a new system comes out. Our fleet did a promotional blitz in our news media on campus to educate customers of the changes and explain all of the benefits they will have with the new system. Also, be willing to educate your customers. We offered ‘lunch and learns’ to provide tips and tricks when using the system. We also take the time to walk people through their first reservation or two if needed. Once you get them through the first one, it is a breeze and there is no turning back.