When Scott County, MN, launched a fleet automation project nearly four years ago, cutting personal vehicle use (POV) expenses was a major objective. According to County Transit and Fleet Manager Troy Beam, the county had been spending $250,000 annually in mileage reimbursements from personal vehicle usage. Other goals the County set included automating and streamlining the vehicle reservation process, sharing vehicles, managing keys, improving vehicle utilization, and reducing costs. In this interview, Beam discusses the progress Scott County has made.
Interview with Troy Beam, Scott County MN Transit and Fleet Manager
Q: What were some of the challenges your fleet was facing prior to automating?
A: POV mileage reimbursement was a huge expense to us. We saw a significant ROI by automating the reservation process and being able to automatically enforce our policies regarding personal vehicle use. We knew we could buy FleetCommander and a whole fleet of vehicles for what we were spending on POV reimbursement. Since we implemented FleetCommander, we have reduced those costs by more than 65%. Our pay out now ranges between $60K-$80K, and it continues to reduce as we learn to better utilize our fleet.
Q: How does FleetCommander help Scott County reduce POV reimbursement costs?
A: FleetCommander’s online vehicle reservation capability helps us to automatically enforce our policy requiring use of motor pool vehicles before a personal vehicle is allowed. Going to an all-online vehicle reservation process requires drivers to check for the availability of a fleet vehicle first. Only if there is not a vehicle available, will drivers be allowed to use their own vehicle. This has enabled the county to achieve major savings on POV mileage reimbursement.
In addition, we have noticed a significant decrease in overall mileage. This indicates that the number of miles that were being reimbursed were inflated by about 9%. Therefore, we captured that savings almost immediately. Another significant improvement was a reduction in the number of reimbursement requests, thereby reducing the staff time that it took to manage those reimbursements. In 2011, we averaged between 150-200 employee expense reports. It was almost 300 at one point. Now, it averages fewer than 100.
Q: What successes in vehicle sharing have you been able to achieve?
A: We have streamlined the vehicle reservation process with all online reservations, which saves labor and is much more convenient for people. Managing keys without the need to hire additional staff has been another significant labor savings for us. Key management has been a challenge in the past. It was difficult to keep track of keys without hiring additional personnel. The FleetCommander system does that for us, and we don't need to bring in more people. We utilize the FleetCommander automated key control system in three locations. Keys are locked in place in a secure metal cabinet that communicates with the FleetCommander reservation system. After vehicle requests are made online, drivers log in to the FleetCommander kiosk near the key box and check out their key. All other keys remain secure and locked in place. When the key is removed, the dispatch-out time is automatically recorded in FleetCommander. We're happy we automated this process and do not have to dedicate more staff to manage keys. It's much more efficient and convenient for everyone.
In addition to sharing motor pool vehicles, we also use the software to allow departments to share vehicles. We were able to move 9 vehicles that were once used by individual departments only into a single motor pool so everyone can share them. Prior to implementing FleetCommander, people had department-assigned vehicles that did not share with other departments. They had trouble locating keys and ensuring that staff had appropriate resources when needed. Today, they can see each other’s vehicles and can get full utilization of the fleet. We have actually reduced the number of department vehicles in some areas and reallocated them to other departments that needed vehicles.
Another key achievement is the improvement in the overall morale of the staff. We struggled in the beginning because it was a huge change for them. They were very apprehensive about utilizing the software and the vehicles. Now, they love it. If we don’t have enough vehicles, they complain. Of course there are some exceptions but for the most part, they don’t even like taking their own cars anymore.
Q: What are some of your future goals?
A: We are in the process of working with the FleetCommander team to finalize the last module needed to complete the mileage reimbursement project. This module will allow us to automate the reimbursement process based on the availability of the vehicles. If there are no vehicles available, it will allow you to turn in mileage for reimbursement and it will be integrated with payroll to put the funds directly back into your paycheck.