This is Part One of a two-part Interview with Kevin Rogers, Fleet Manager for Forsyth County, North Carolina.
Kevin Rogers, Fleet Manager for Forsyth County, NC took over the county fleet in 2008. The county had approximately 600 vehicles and needed better oversight of nearly all aspects of its fleet management. Their vision was to reduce overall fleet costs by sharing vehicles and creating motor pools throughout the county. Kevin was instrumental in defining the project and implementing a highly successful motor pool solution.
Part 1: County Government Fleet and Motor Pool Automation
Q: Share with us what was going on in Forsyth County, NC at the time you came on board.
A: I came on in 2008 and the economy was in a very bad state. Cuts were being made throughout the county. There were lay-offs. Every organization was being asked to cut costs. Our entire fleet budget was cut. When we went to analyze the fleet, the first thing that struck me was that we had very limited metrics to measure the fleet utilization. So making any change was going to require we move forward with less-than-perfect fleet data. We researched ways to reduce fleet costs. We knew that if we could efficiently share vehicles we could eliminate vehicles and reduce costs. So, we set out to estimate the return on investment that could be realized by expanding the use of motor pools.
Q: The county already shared vehicles to some extent. What led you to explore new technology to help increase the effectiveness of your motor pool and car sharing efforts?
A: When I first started we shared 25 vehicles. It took three people to manage them because the process was all manual – reservations were handwritten on spreadsheets. We handed out and collected keys manually. Drivers had to come to our facility during business hours to get keys and we had a staff member dedicated to handling it. As I mentioned before, we didn’t have a lot of data. We didn’t have good reports that showed us things like utilization rates. It was clear that in order to expand vehicle sharing, we had to upgrade our manual processes and use fleet management technology. The old process was not user-friendly and was not really scalable, which was our long term goal.
Q: How did you make the business case for spending money on technology at a time when there were budget cuts and lay-offs?
A: Justifying motor pool technology is one of the easier business cases to make. It’s pretty clear that carrying the cost of a vehicle is on the magnitude of $5,000 per year per vehicle. We estimated we could eliminate at least 30 vehicles right away if we had an efficient process for county employees to share vehicles. This was our best guess because we didn’t have utilization data.
If we reduce our fleet by 30 vehicles, it’s easy to calculate that at $5,000 per year per vehicle, we could save $150,000 immediately. We knew if we didn’t save money by cutting vehicles, we’d have to cut elsewhere, including staff. And, the County Administrator was all for cutting costs while gaining better visibility into how our vehicles were being used.
Q: How do you answer the objections you identified above?
A: With facts and data. Not every vehicle can be shared, but you can analyze the data and find the places where they would fit. You have to show people the usage patterns that lend themselves to pooling / sharing options and show agencies where they will save money.
Q: What are some ways you communicate with your customers that sharing vehicles can actually be better for them than having assigned vehicles?
A: We showed them the money they would save by not having to pay an annual fee for car ownership. For example, we showed one department that their projected motor pool usage for a year would be covered by the savings generated from just one of the six cars turned in. The rest of the money could be reallocated to other department priorities. To show them we were serious and we were invested, we gave them their money back even though we were halfway through the fiscal year. The other selling factor was that the cars in the pool are a tremendous upgrade… newer, better, more functional, more environmentally friendly and more comfortable over what they had and all at a lower cost. That kind of deal sells itself.
Q: So, what was the objective of the initiative?
A: Our goal was to cut costs and increase our fleet utilization. We laid out a plan to create motor pools at our Government Center, Human Services Complex, and at our Fleet Maintenance facility. As I mentioned, we projected we could reduce 30 vehicles immediately, and we projected we could reduce another 10 vehicles shortly after the initial reduction in fleet size. The total cost savings, which we’ve advertised in our public budget, was a decrease of $300K.
Q: When you invited Agile Fleet to demonstrate our technology, we witnessed something remarkable. We set up in your auditorium and presented our FleetCommander fleet management technology in front of a large group of county employees. We delivered the news that our technology would enable them to share vehicles and save the county a significant amount of money. There was some grumbling in the audience because they were not very happy at the idea of losing their individual vehicles and having to share. However when the county executive stood up and asked the audience to come up with a list of 16 people in the room whose jobs could be cut in lieu of sharing vehicles, they changed their tune quickly. Of course the rest is history. You went on to save your fleet $300K immediately. Were there other objections? If so, how were they overcome?
A: There were claims that no one could do their job if vehicles were taken away. We listened to the employees and accommodated the legitimate needs. There were very few. We did not plan to attack 100% of the fleet because we understand that not all vehicles can be shared due to business requirements, but many can.
Part 2 of our Interview with Kevin Rogers of Forsyth County, "Rolling out Motor Pool Automation," is now available here.