The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

How Fleets Can Use Computer Reports for Greater Utilization

April 2002, by Daryl Lubinsky

In looking at a “mobile productivity report,” Safelite Auto Glass Fleet Manager Mark Klein could see that Safelite’s Portland location wasn’t getting the best utilization out of its fleet vehicles. The primary business of Safelite Auto Glass drivers/technicians is to travel in mobile vans and trucks to install and repair windshields. Safelite’s Portland location had six fleet vehicles and each vehicle was only averaging 3.3 “mobile units,” or windshield installations per week. “It’s a strong indicator that we need to look at that location and managing not only our vehicles, but our costs better,” Klein said. Klein and other fleet managers are using computer reports in different ways to spot under-utilized vehicles and to get better productivity from their fleets.

Safelite’s Report Used to Increase Productivity

The mobile productivity report, which comes out once a month, tracks vehicle usage by region, territory, and location for Safelite, which has a total fleet of about 3,000 vehicles. It tracks items such as lease expense, repairs, fuel, and how many mobile units or windshield replacements each vehicle has per vehicle, per week. “We use this as a basis for quite a few things, but primarily, we use it for productivity,” Klein said. When a vehicle is damaged in an accident at one Safelite location, or an engine needs replacing, Klein needs to decide if the vehicle should be replaced. If another location has low productivity with too many vehicles, Klein may de-cide to move vehicles from that location to the location that needs a new vehicle. Safelite services 50 states and has 500 locations. Klein said he recently added technician count to the report. “Because all of our vehicles are pool vehicles, we want to make sure our technician count and our vehicle count match closely,” Klein said. Occasionally, he said, if a couple of people leave the company, that location will have more vehicles than technicians. The main thing Klein looks at is the mobile units per vehicle per week, and the technician count compared to the vehicle count. “Then we re-allocate vehicles as needed to try and increase productivity in all the locations.” A store will occasionally tell Klein that it needs to add vehicles. He can look at the report and see if that is indeed the case. “If it is, they should have very high numbers as it relates to mobile units on a weekly basis,” Klein said. Ninety-five percent of Safelite’s fleet expense is in lease expense, repairs, and fuel. “We’ve put three columns in this report that show those items for every store,” said Klein, whose fleet is 100- percent leased. “So not only can they look at productivity, but if they are concerned about a certain area of vehicle cost, they can look at the chart and it will tell them where the cost came from.”

Chart Shows One Location’s Lack of Fleet Vehicle Productivity

Klein again noted the Portland location’s productivity of 3.3 mobile units per week. “With his six vehicles, he’s not even doing a unit a day,” Klein said. “Year to date isn’t much better. He’s had those vehicles there awhile, and he’s not producing with them. We’ve got an issue here that we need to correct. Conversely, because his productivity is low, his costs are high.” Klein said the same is true when looking at fuel cost per mobile unit, which ranges from a low of $2.20 per unit, except for Portland, that is, with a cost way off the map at $12.97. “At that location, we have too many vehicles, low utilization, and high costs,” Klein said. “If you have 3,000 vehicles in your fleet, you have to find a way that you can start to break it into chunks and find the problem areas. And when the district manager calls and says, ‘I need a vehicle,’ I pull out the report and say, ‘Let’s talk about Portland,’” Klein said. Klein said several factors may contribute to the poor productivity numbers and high costs from the Portland location. A couple of installers may have left their positions and the location is looking to hire new installers. Or the location may have lost a portion of its territory. “This is a good example of something that is not operating the way we’d like and it needs to be addressed,” Klein said. Klein said he uses the report when he talks to each district operations manager about annual vehicle replacements. Klein goes from store to store, vehicle by vehicle, and replaces vehicles on a case-by-case basis. “Not only are we using this as a productivity measure, but we’re using it as a replacement guide on an annual basis,” Klein said. “That, in turn, determines what my entire vehicle budget is going to be for the year.”

Lockheed-Martin Uses Data Reports for Better Utilization

Most of the vehicles for Lockheed-Martin Aeronautics, headquartered in Fort Worth, TX, are on-site vehicles that stay on the Lockheed sites. To keep track of whether the vehicles are being properly utilized, Lockheed Fleet Manager Gerald Cumby uses a vehicle data report that gets information when drivers use Lockheed’s on-site fueling facilities. Drivers must enter a PIN number, vehicle number, and mileage. The reports come out on a weekly basis and an example can be seen in Chart 2. Then that information is trans-fered to a database kept by a company called Maximo. The Maximo database (a partial example can be seen in Chart 3) provides a preventive maintenance report on every vehicle. The vehicle shown in Chart 2 is a Ford F-150 security truck that runs 5 to 15 miles per hour, 24 hours per day, Cumby said. “After about a year and a half, we’ll rotate it to another department that doesn’t use a vehicle as much,” Cumby said. “For a truck like this, the report tells me that if he’s gone to the gas pump that many times in a week and he’s only getting 10 miles per gallon, I need to get better utilization and rotate it with one that is not utilized enough.”

Nationwide Runs Reports on Unassigned Vehicles

Gail Watson, fleet & executive garage manager for Nationwide in Columbus, OH, said she checks her computer inventory database of vehicles once every two months. She does queries by picking out certain fields in the database, such as driver name, car number, and division. If she sees the word “unassigned” under the driver name field, she contacts the department manager. Watson said that occasionally a department will move to a new position not requiring the use of a company car, and that department may keep the vehicle as a pool vehicle until a new employee is hired. Oftentimes, the department neglects to notify the fleet department of the new driver. What reduces that problem is when the driver attempts to use the fuel card assigned to the vehicle, and the new driver’s PIN number won’t work. “That’s a motivator for them to tell the fleet office about the new driver,” Watson said. She added that when she finds vehicles that are under-utilized, she attempts to guide the department into other options, such as renting vehicles or using their personal vehicles.

Siemens Uses Personal Use Form to Improve Utilization

Jim McCarthy, director, vehicle management services for Siemens Shared Services LLC in Iselin, NJ, said the Shared Services organization, which manages vehicles for 20 different Siemens operating companies, combined its in-house personal use reconciliation program with its lessor in fiscal year 2001. One of the most problematic issues surrounding personal use reconciliation involves employees who leave the company. “We’re working with each separate human resources department to ensure that personal use reconciliation becomes an integral part of each and every exit interview process,” McCarthy said. He uses information gained through the annual reconciliation process to determine which vehicles may be under-utilized. “With 20 different operating companies, and six to seven different servers, communications is a real issue,” he said. “We are constantly working to bridge this disconnect. The goal of each account manager is to terminate or re-assign a vehicle within five days of becoming available.”

Rent-A-Car Utilization Concepts Apply to Commercial Fleet

When Randy Burwell worked in the rental car business, the cars in his fleet had to have 90 percent utilization, meaning they had to be rented out 90 percent of the time. For example, if some cars were only being rented out on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only, the car would cost the rental fleet money and therefore should be eliminated from the fleet. “The report would be run daily to check the running average of utilization,” said Burwell, who oversees 1,509 vehicles as fleet manager for Valero Energy Corp. in San Antonio. He is a former district manager for Advantage Rent a Car in San Antonio. He also worked as a city manager for Hertz Rent a Car in Corpus Christi, TX. “If the running average fell below 90 percent for a period of a week or more, we would have to con-sider de-fleeting.” Burwell’s rental car experience applies to his current position as a commercial fleet manager. Burwell said he rotates low-mileage and high-mileage vehicles between departments to get better utilization. “In rent-a-car, some shuttle buses had a mile-and-a-half route, while another route was 10 miles,“ Burwell said. “We switched them out, which resulted in life extension of the vehicles.” Burwell recently discovered that a department was using a late-model car for a minimal-use spare. Burwell had the department dispose of the vehicle and he recommended the department use pool units or rent a unit if company pool units were not available. If Burwell sees a vehicle averaging fewer than 1,200 miles a month, the vehicle is usually eliminated and the company reimburses the driver for mileage. “That car was being used one or two days a month,” Burwell said. “They might as well be renting a car, or we have pool vehicles at the corporate office.” Burwell also said he has a system with his fleet management company in which drivers call an 800 number at the beginning of each month and report their mileage. Burwell later gets a report back that shows mileage on each unit, averages, and totals for the month. “That’s also how we decide when to replace the vehicles,” Burwell said.

Rollins Tracks Unassigned & Under-Utilized Vehicles

Periodically, Charles Bowen runs queries set up in the company’s IBM AS400-based fleet system to produce various reports designed to monitor cer-tain operational aspects of the Rollins/Orkin fleet. One in particular identifies fleet vehicles with mileage considerably lower than the norm when compared to the majority of their fleet vehicles, as well as being unassigned for a length of time that is programmed into the query. Bowen is fleet director for Rollins Inc., headquartered in Atlanta. The Rollins/Orkin fleet totals 6,247 vehicles (5,800 in the United States and 447 in Canada). And while the average mileage per vehicle is watched with a certain degree of interest, it is the lower-mileage and unassigned service vehicles that attract the real attention. “We look for vehicles that stick out for these reasons, and especially those on the low-mileage side," Bowen said. “We send that information to the various regions and ask them if there is still a legitimate reason to continue using the vehicles. It could be an indication that those vehcles are being under-utilized. If that’s the case, we may ask if they have plans to increase its use, or if unassigned, what their plan is to put a full-time tech behind the wheel. We are always looking at ways to better use under-utilized vehicles elsewhere, rather than ordering new vehicles. If the answer we are given isn’t satisfactory, we then contact upper management within that division, advise them of what we’ve found, and make suitable recommendations that may include transfer, turning in an older vehicle while keeping this one, or turning it in altogether. “This report really narrows it down,” Bowen said. “It’s not meant to make things difficult for anyone. Quite to the contrary. It’s used as an aid and allows us to better manage optimum utilization of the fleet. Sometimes we discover that an open route is the culprit, and maybe the branch has had a challenge in hiring someone. But sometimes they just don’t need the vehicle at that location any longer. Ideally, we would have it moved somewhere else where it can produce the level of revenue it takes to keep a service vehicle in service.”

Nextel Gathering Info; Plans Policy on Utiliza-tion

As of now, the fleet at Nextel in Denver does not have a way to measure business use vs. non-business use of its fleet vehicles. But Nextel Fleet Manager Randy Shadley said his department is in the process of measuring drivers’ business use vs. commute use to make sure the vehicles are being utilized properly. The fleet will start with usage logs that all drivers will have to fill out describing how much usage is business and how much is for commuting to and from work. The department is gathering other information such as how much involves towing vs. non-towing. Number of passengers is another consideration. “If six people are going to a meeting, a Focus won’t do,” he said. The fleet department is looking at increasing the number of pool vehicles for those who don’t have a vehicle assigned to them. The first step, Shadley said, is to find out how many miles have to be driven to justify keeping a vehicle avail-able. “But that goes out the window if vehicles are needed for specialized jobs,” Shadley said. “If I have a tech who needs to tow something to a mountaintop, the number of miles doesn’t matter. He needs a special vehicle, no matter how many miles.”

Utility Fleet Adopts Teamwork Attitude on Utilization

Vehicle utilization is a “significant focus” for Dave Olsen. “We try to maximize the capital asset as much as possible,” said Olsen, who is manager of transportation for Salt River Project, a public utility company that provides water and electricity services to the Phoenix metropolitan area. “The secret is working with our different operating groups to get them involved in un-derstanding and meeting this objective, which is to maximize the use of our equipment.” Olsen, who oversees about 1,000 cars and light-duty trucks, 400 heavy-duty trucks, and 600 miscellaneous units, said he distributes quarterly utility reports that show the utilization of each vehicle. He said that vehicles with under 600 miles per month are targeted. The fleet also has an intranet order form that drivers fill out when they need a vehicle. The form automatically goes to a local Enterprise rental location, which delivers the vehicle to the site where it is needed. Two years ago, the fleet declared a moritorium on the purchase of new sedans, with the goal being to put more miles on the less-utilized vehicles. No new sedan purchases are planned for another two years. “We’ve encouraged mileage reimbursement to meet some of the vehicle needs,” Olsen said. “A lot of employees prefer it. “We’re working with our oper-ating groups to change focus and really take a hard look at utilization and sharing equipment between departments to provide the overall best transportation value.”

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