Kentucky Department of Agriculture Branch Manager Steve Minter manages the agency’s fleet of 158 vehicles across 120 counties in Kentucky.
Q: Tell us a little about your fleet.
A: Our municipal fleet serves 120 counties in the State of Kentucky that manage everything from animal health and agricultural marketing to beekeeping, horticulture, consumer and environmental protection, pest control and livestock management. Our fleet vehicles travel 3.5 million miles per year.
Q: What kinds of challenges were you facing before you automated your fleet management?
A: At that time, we had nearly 200 vehicles, which we estimated was about 35 too many. We had no formal fleet management program and all our [fleet] data was maintained manually in spreadsheets. We shared vehicles using spreadsheets and were forced to assign a vehicle to someone for a full day even if they only needed it for an hour or two. We were spending more than $200,000 annually in personal vehicle reimbursement, and we had no way to track vehicle trips. We did have fuel data and driver feedback that indicated our 2WD vehicles were undesirable and ¼ and ½ -ton trucks weren’t getting the job done.
Q: What was your approach to right-sizing the fleet?
A: The way our vehicles were distributed throughout Kentucky did not lend itself to large fleet reductions, however we were able to set a goal to reduce the assigned vehicles at our central location, initiate vehicle sharing, and cut way back on personal mileage reimbursements since we had a shared vehicle option in lieu of use of personal vehicles. So, the low hanging fruit was easy to identify at our central location.
At our remote locations where only a few vehicles existed in each county, we didn’t have much data to base our decision at the time, but we did have some odometer data from our fuel systems and personal mileage reimbursement data. We looked across 120 counties to find out how many gallons of fuel was purchased for each vehicle and how many miles were driven. It was obvious which vehicles were being driven and which ones were not. We also listened to what our drivers were telling us about the classes of vehicles we needed versus what we had. That made it obvious that we had the wrong class of vehicles in many counties. We then made the switch to all-wheel-drive vehicles and 4x4 crew cab trucks. By changing the class of vehicles to match the needs of our employees, we increased [vehicle] utilization and decreased personal mileage reimbursement.
Q: How did you incorporate technology into your initiative and what were the results?
A: Using Agile’s fleet management system, we were able to centralize all vehicle data and begin collecting more data. It also allowed us to launch an automated vehicle sharing program, offering motor pool reservations via the online system. Drivers are able to reserve vehicles conveniently online and check them out via our self-service motor pool. That enabled us to reduce 37 unneeded vehicles and nearly eliminate the $200,000 annually in personal vehicle usage reimbursement. We now collect usage data and understand our vehicle needs using metrics and are able to adjust the classes of vehicles based on what the numbers are telling us. We are also using the [fleet management] system to manage our preventive maintenance program, and to track inventory, fuel purchases and odometer readings.
Q: What advice do you have for others who are embarking on a right-sizing initiative?
A: My advice is do not let lack of technology or metrics be the reason you don’t start a right-sizing effort. Start with the data you have and grow from there. In our case, we had fuel data. It was good enough to get started.