Somebody Call Security!
Three security industry veterans share their strategies for procuring, maintaining, and keeping track of the vehicles that help keep homes and businesses safe.
No two fleets are alike, but those that serve the same industry tend to share more than a few common characteristics. For security system installers, the big, white van with shelves in the back and ladder racks on the roof has long been the standard bearer. Over the past several years, however, a challenging economic climate and soaring fuel costs have forced fleet managers in that industry to consider new options.
Just ask Tim Creenan, founder and CEO of Amherst Alarm Inc., in Amherst, N.Y., a suburb of Buffalo, who has added two Chevrolet HHR panel vans and a Ford Transit Connect to a 15-vehicle fleet that had been comprised entirely of full- and mid-size GMC and Chevrolet vans.
"My father sells GMC trucks, and he used to sell Chevrolets," Creenan said. "I guess you could say I have a bias there."
The HHRs' smaller size limits their use to personal vehicles for Amherst Alarm's installation and product managers, but Creenan considers the Transit Connect an early success.
"No bad feedback at all," he reported. "They could probably replace the Astro vans."
The Transit Connect's high profile also offers additional space for vinyl-wrap graphics, which now decorate every new addition to the fleet.
Procurement and Remarketing
Like Creenan, Mike Jagger, president and founder of Provident Security in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, has built his 36-vehicle fleet by procuring his installers' GMC Safari and Chevrolet Astro vans from a dealer. He prefers to lease, but on an extended term.
"Our usual lease term is 30 months, which is based on estimated wear and tear," Jagger said. "That could be 10,000 kilometers per month for a guard vehicle. Our pattern has been heavy initial use, then a 'retirement' phase."
Cycling higher-mileage vehicles into more limited use helps the vehicles meet the 30-month lease term, but maximum efficiency remains Jagger's primary goal.
"At end-of-cycle, some are still worth something when they're returned," he said. "We just look at the vehicles as something we need to get the job done."
“One best practice I’m proud of is our decision to use the vehicles as rolling billboards,” said Tim Creenan, owner of Amherst (N.Y.) Alarm Inc. “The vinyl wrap makes an impression, especially on the Ford Transit Connect.”
Dale Bonifas, vice president and second-generation owner of Alarm Detection Systems Inc., in Aurora, Ill., would agree. He manages his 120-vehicle fleet with little regard for resale value, preferring instead to send retired vehicles to the crusher.
"We have considered remarketing the vehicles," Bonifas said. "Our CFO has studied the advantages and disadvantages. There are good programs out there. But one of our concerns is that we don't want anybody driving around in an old vehicle with our graphics and phone number on it."
Amherst Alarm's Creenan moves his retired units the old-fashioned way, through the local want ads. "They are high-mileage and a bit worn," he said. "But with the shelving and ladder racks, they're just right for somebody like a contractor."