This is Part One of a two-part Interview with Jason Barber, Program Area Director for Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Jason Barber, Program Area Director for Oregon Department of Agriculture oversees the agency's diverse fleet of 262 vehicles and was instrumental in transitioning the fleet to an enterprise model in 2012. This included implementing an automated motor pool solution that coincided with the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s strategy to standardize and streamline processes, share vehicles, and reduce costs.
Government Agency Fleet and Motor Pool Automation
"The Oregon Department of Agriculture is considered a medium to small state agency in Oregon. We've got roughly 380 full-time employees, which increases to over 500 in the Spring and Summer months because we hire a lot of seasonal staff. We have 6 divisions. We are a very diverse program. We have 36 individual programs. Our divisions are Natural Resources, Food Safety and Animal Health, a Plant program, Market Access and Certification, and Internal Services and Consumer Protection.
"Currently, we track approximately 262 vehicles, but about 20 of those are specialty vehicles and roughly 242 of those are standard trucks, SUVs, sedans and vans. We have a lot of staff out in field, so 141 of those vehicles are permanently assigned to a home office, 23 of those are in about a half dozen field offices. We have 24 vehicles here at our headquarters and another 54 at our Hawthorne lot, which is about 5 miles away in Salem, and of those 54, about 12 to 15 of those are getting ready to be put into surplus, so we have about 40 vehicles out there that are shareable."
Specialty Vehicles and How to Track Them
"The 20 specialty vehicles we track in FleetCommander include tractors, food safety, and shellfish boats. Our Plant program has a soil steamer used to kill microbes in the soil. We also have a Weights and Measure program for the state of Oregon, so we have a lot of specialty heavy capacity weight trucks, scale trucks, bolt, fuel, a lot of testing equipment, railroad test unit, and vehicles of that nature. But, of the 242 regular type vehicles, of those 145 are trucks, 61 SUVs, 28 vans, and only 8 are sedans, so you can see a lot of our staff spends time off road so there is a need for the trucks and SUVs. To track all our vehicles, we use the FleetCommander motor pool and key control modules along with maintenance and fuel. We track three subset types of vehicles: permanently assigned to staff that drive every day; a motor pool here at our headquarters; and about 30-40 seasonal vehicles at Hawhorne. The Hawthorne vehicles are used heavily from about April through the middle of November."
What is Unique About the Way You Manage Your Fleet?
"We are one of the few state agencies that is allowed to manage our own fleet. We did use the state motor pool, but after the 2007-2008 economic crash, our Department of Administrative Services (DAS) motor pool was severely reduced and they could no longer meet our needs, so we ended up buying a bunch of vehicles from them and started managing our own fleet at that time. We went to an enterprise model of management for our fleet in 2012, and had about 80 vehicles that should have been put into surplus because they were over the age or mileage limit that the state had set."
Is Your Motor Pool Fully Automated Now?
"We use a self-service kiosk here at our headquarters that allows the entire staff access to our motor pool. We have about 12 vehicles parked about a block away, and the system is totally automated. You can go online, make a reservation, we let staff pick what kind of vehicle they need, either a truck, SUV, sedan, hybrid, etc. Once they get approved, they are assigned a vehicle. Then, they come down to the location, login using their same password and user ID they used to login earlier. They're able to get a key on the spot, and when they are done with their trip, they return their key, and note the vehicle's mileage in the system. The fact that it's fully automated has it's been a huge asset for us. The Hawthorne yard kiosk is about a 62 or 64-key kiosk and we use that for the motor pool out there at Hawthorne as well as those 40 or so seasonal vehicles."
Some of the challenges we faced before implementing FleetCommander were:
- We had each of our divisions and several of our larger programs, and if i were to guess, probably 12 to 15 smaller fleets all being managed within the Department of Agriculture, so as you can imagine, reservations were done differently everywhere. Everything was manual. I remember once having to call around to several different programs to find a vehicle that I could use to make a trip to Portland and back for a meeting.
- Manual entering of mileage and maintenance was not really timely or consistent. Scheduled and preventive maintenance was not happening on a timely or consistent basis.
- Inventory control (which program or division had what vehicles and whether or not they were they being utilized), were not tracked. It was kind of a "cut and paste" approach -- and then we had problems with agencies having budget shortfalls, keeping vehicles way longer than they should, etc. Whenever you do that, you run into possible safety concerns.
- We had a lot of problems with true costs of fleet not being allocated appropriately across programs. We had programs flushed with money that were paying more than they should be, and programs having budget issues and skating by, so that caused a lot of issues and problems within the agency.
- Anytime we had to run a report, we had to go to probably 4 or 5 databases or spreadsheets to run various reports because we tracked all this stuff on many different systems. That's a huge bonus with FleetCommander, it is truly a one-stop shop and we track everything in the system.
Personally Owned Vehicle (POV) Expenses
"POV expenses were another problem we were having. The 2013-2015, we spent almost $280,000 on private car mileage because -- again -- things just weren't being tracked. Nobody knew if there were cars available to use, so a lot of folks just opted to use their own cars and get reimbursed that federal rate, 52 cents a mile (or whatever it is now), so the agency was spending a lot of money on private mileage reimbursement. We got all that under control using the automated system."
Be sure to stay tuned for Part 2 of our Interview with Jason Barber of Oregon Department of Agriculture: "Rolling out Motor Pool Automation," coming next month.