The Department of Watershed Management provides high quality drinking water and wastewater services to residential, businesses and wholesale customers while protecting urban waterways, conserving natural resources, and providing clean, safe water for customers. It is currently midway into the $4 billion Clean Water Atlanta Program, a complete overhaul of the City’s water and sewer infrastructure. The City of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed is also embarking on a fleet automation project with Agile Fleet. The Agency's Fleet Manager Robert Horton shares the challenges facing their fleet and his goals and objectives for the project.
Q: What were the primary challenges your organization was facing that inspired you to consider automating your shared vehicle fleet?
A: The primary challenge was the poor utilization of vehicles by certain city offices. There are over 50 different city offices in the City of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed. Each office has its own pool of vehicles. There was very little sharing between the different offices. This led to some vehicles being rarely used while others were used daily and past their normal life cycle. The underutilized vehicles were also a headache to maintain due to overdue PMs, dead battery issues, and poor overall appearance. We needed a way to get these underutilized vehicles into the hands of individuals who needed them, and the over-utilized vehicles replaced with newer ones. Centralizing maintenance functions was also a goal.
Q: What are your goals for tracking and improving vehicle utilization as a result of automating?
A: My goal is to remove at least 10 vehicles from our inventory the first year as a direct result of automating key management and making more vehicles available to the different offices. We also plan to be able to reduce maintenance costs due to the addition of the newer vehicles. Through normal use of the motor pool system, we’ll get some good benchmarks regarding utilization so that we can make strategic fleet changes in the future.
Q: How challenging is managing keys today and what are your goals for keeping keys in the automated system?
A: It has always been a challenge to manage keys for the vehicles. In the past we have kept them in folders in the fleet offices. This was not ideal because individuals did not have access after work hours and tracking who was loaned the key was also a problem. We had a sign-out sheet, but it was not always used or filled out completely. Numerous times the keys would go missing without anyone knowing who had taken them or needed to bring them back. With the secure key box that is part of the motor pool solution, there is complete accountability. Our goal of eliminating lost keys and having 100% accountability for all key transactions is being realized through automation.
Q: What tips would you have for others with similar challenges who may be interested in embarking on a fleet sharing project?
A: I would say to do your planning well in advance of receiving the software and hardware. Know what your goals are for the system, where it will be located, who will do the installation, and which employees will be managing the system once it is operational. Over time, I’m sure we’ll be modifying our vehicle use policies.
Q: What other changes were you able to make?
A: After reducing vehicles, we turned our attention to motor pool locations. This led to moving vehicles to a building on 72 Marietta Street where approximately 500 people reside, where we added a self-service kiosk and key box. Since these cars spend most of the time on campus we decided to purchase two electric vehicles and put in charging stations. Our utilization data will help us determine to expand or contract this electric vehicle project.
Q: Tell us a little about you, your career and background.
A: I originally joined the City of Atlanta’s Office of Transportation as a business manager. I joined the Department of Watershed as their fleet manager about 5 years ago. I have found fleet management to be very rewarding and interesting. I am especially interested in the emergence of new sustainable fleet technologies. I look forward to the future with the growing demand for electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles, advanced fuels and the use of telematics. I graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a BS in Industrial Management and a Master’s in Business Administration. I’m a big sports fan – GO GT Yellow Jackets!! I also like the Atlanta Falcons and Hawks.