This is Part One of a two-part Interview with Rick Hilmer, County Fleet Manager for Prince George's County, MD Office of Central Services.
County fleet expert and Certified Automotive Fleet Manager (CAFM) Rick Hilmer has worked in county fleet management since 1994. The Prince George's County Fleet Management Division currently oversees 3,500 light vehicles, which include both public safety and public service vehicles.
Part 1: County Government Fleet and Motor Pool Automation
Q: Give us a brief history of your career in fleet.
A: When I got out of the Marines in 1985, I was hired by Virginia Concrete to run their truck and equipment maintenance shop. In 1994, I came over to Maryland to be the Fleet Manager for the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation. Although we were Parks and Recreation, we had everything from police cruisers to a light bus fleet to heavy construction and maintenance equipment. In 2005, I became the Chief of Equipment Maintenance for the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation. Finally, I joined the Office of Central Services as the County Fleet Manager in 2007 and have been serving in this capacity to date.
Q: Tell us about the Prince George's County fleet and motor pool operations.
A: The Fleet Management Division is responsible for approximately 3,500 light vehicles owned by the County. About 2,900 of those are public safety vehicles; Police, Fire, Sheriff and Corrections. The other 600 are public service vehicles, most of which are assigned. This is the portion of the fleet where we are looking for pooling opportunities. Some of the agencies operate internal pools but Fleet has two pools consisting of 56 vehicles serving over 120 users. Fleet pool vehicles are both on long term as well as daily rentals. Fleet Commander allows us to manage the pooled vehicles and ensure accurate tracking, maintenance and billing.
Q: What are the top 5 objections you have heard from people to sharing vehicles?
A: Top 5 objections to vehicle sharing are:
- I need my car every day
- I can’t afford to have to try to find a car when I need it
- My car is my office
- We don’t have enough cars as it is
- No one else will take care of the cars
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 departmental 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 over what they had and turned in… newer, better, more functional, more environmentally friendly and more comfortable… all at a lower cost. That kind of deal sells itself.
Q: What is the number one thing that wins customers over when adjusting to pooling vehicles?
A: We had to deliver what we promised; better cars at a lower price with a positive customer experience through the reservation / kiosk system. If our performance couldn’t match or beat their expectations, it wasn’t going to work.
Part 2 of our Interview with Rick Hilmer: "Rolling out Multiple Motor Pools," is now available here.
If you are interested in hearing more about county government fleet automation, listen in on our upcoming live Podcast: County Government Fleet Success Story on May 11, 2016 at 2 p.m. Sign up now – limited slots available.