With a national product reach, more than 60,000 employees in 300 separate businesses, and revenues of nearly $15 billion, Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises continues to pave the way in the communications, media, and automotive services industries.

Originally founded in 1898 by former schoolteacher and news reporter James Cox, the company began its more than 110-year journey by delivery of the daily news on a borrowed $26,000 from James' friends and family and the purchase of the Dayton Evening News (now the Dayton Daily News).

More than a century later, the organization has grown to include four major operating subsidiaries - Cox Communications, Inc.; Manheim, Inc.; Cox Media Group, Inc.; and AutoTrader.com. The company's diverse portfolio finds ongoing success by focusing on Cox's employees, surrounding communities, and continually searching for better ways to do business.

Cox's corporate mission includes encouraging employee creativity, inclusion, and calculated risk-taking. Dedicated to customer and audience needs, the media giant seizes new business opportunities whenever possible.

"We do what's right for our communities, through sponsorships, donations, and volunteer activities," said Mark Leuenberger, Cox Enterprises' assistant vice president of Supply Chain Services and Fleet Management. "These are the values that guide us in every decision we make."

A 12-year veteran fleet manager for Cox, Leuenberger manages the companywide fleet, consisting of more than 13,000 vehicles. He also serves as chief negotiator for all fleet-related vendor contracts and services and oversees Cox's supply chain services and procurement functions, including the company's supplier diversity program. Prior to joining Cox's supply chain services team in mid-2010, Leuenberger was fleet director at Cox Enterprises, as well as director of field service technology for Cox Communications.

Diverse Portfolio Leads to Diverse Fleet

While just about every vehicle manufacturer is represented in the Cox fleet, most are Ford and GM models leased primarily from Wheels and ARI.

Vehicle functions are broad and include Cox Communications, Inc. cable technicians - both field operations (in home cable technicians) and network operations (plant technicians); executive drivers; lot vehicles at Manheim for shuttling customers around auction lots; sales vehicles across all divisions; and pool vehicles at all locations.

"From newspaper delivery trucks to warehouse trucks, tow trucks to broadcast vehicles for TV stations, we operate an extremely diverse fleet," Leuenberger said.

With more than 13,000 fleet vehicles, selecting the right vehicles, streamlining departmental operational processes, minimizing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and remaining cost-conscious are critical missions for the Cox Fleet Department. Key departmental goals for the 35-member fleet staff include knowing what the operational needs are, assessing green vehicles, ensuring the right vehicles are in place, and monitoring operating costs. Top fleet best practices include safety; Cox Conserves, the company's green initiative; and standardization.


"Standardization is huge for us right now because of our diversity," Leuenberger said. "It allows us to leverage our buying power even further."

Additionally, key policies and procedures for the company's fleet run the gamut, but partnering with the Cox Risk Management group remains critical for the fleet team to better ensure driver safety. Not only do drivers go through a training program, executives and sales personnel must be trained on all vehicle policies as well.

Within Cox's four main operating divisions, fleet team partnerships include market-level communications, which represents the largest portion of the company's fleet.

"We have a new initiative with Manheim and its repair facilities," Leuenberger said. "They do more auto repairs and body work than any other company in the country, so they are taking over a good deal of our vehicle maintenance and providing us a huge cost savings: $3-4 million a year in savings."

Because Manheim understands the ins and outs of the auto market, Leuenberger leverages that knowledge to gain key insights into what type of vehicles to lease, when to buy, and when to sell.

Shared Services Group Brings Cox Expertise and Savings

With such a diverse portfolio, Cox relies on its large vehicle fleet to service customers in the most efficient and cost-effective way. Because the fleet department is a cost center, the team's primary mission is not only providing a safe working environment for employees, but also driving down costs through standardizing volume purchasing and maintenance operating efficiencies.

To enhance cost efficiencies, Leuenberger recently merged vehicle procurement and vehicle maintenance into the Shared Services group. "Because we are a large fleet and a big portion of the fleet is purchasing, we sometimes purchase up to thousands of vehicles per year," Leuenberger explained. "I merged our buyers into our sourcing group to leverage that group's expertise, including purchasing upfitting components and utilizing national maintenance contracts."

While this results in acquisition and maintenance moving to the supply chain side of the business, the operational aspects of Cox's fleet remain with the Operations team, allowing them to remain focused on their specific expertise. "Anywhere we can find cohesiveness to manage one organization instead of two, we've done that," Leuenberger said.

Other benefits of separating out core procurement functions from operations and moving them into the sourcing group include substantial savings in purchasing costs and the leveraging of talent, which allows for a more focused perspective.

"Having fleet operations outside of the supply chain group and having Shared Services handle everything else - including safety, components, maintenance, and acquisition - makes the most sense and is a better alignment of resources," Leuenberger pointed out. "This way, operations doesn't have to worry about maintenance and low total cost of ownership for vehicles."

While this new initiative is in its infancy, having been implemented over the past few months, it's continually transforming and growing. But so far, not only does Shared Services run the fleet group more efficiently, they do more with less. "Leveraging our purchasing power as an enterprise with 13,000 vehicles provides us countless benefits during negotiations. Being in Automotive Fleet's 'Top 20 Commercial Fleets' gives us advantages when we negotiate and select vehicles," Leuenberger said. "For instance, now we have a national parts agreement nationwide, which resulted in a big savings."


Producing Measurable Results Important Step Along the Way

Because Cox's fleet fits into the company's finance chain, Leuenberger reports directly to the senior VP of Finance who, in turn, reports to the CFO. Obtaining and maintaining executive buy-in keeps the fleet team operating smoothly and efficiently. And communicating progress both up and down the business chain remains essential.

"We maintain great relationships and listen to the needs of all of our VPs, controllers, and whoever our primary customer might be," Leuenberger said. "In addition, it's critical to ensure our executives understand what we're doing, so we give weekly reports on our initiatives."

Providing detailed fleet data to executives also ensures a cohesive collaboration, and FleetWave, the fleet's primary data system, allows for a complete drilldown on numbers and statistics.

"FleetWave gives us info that we've never had before at all levels," Leuenberger said.

This enables Leuenberger to show any and all cost savings and statistical updates on leasing data, fuel card data, and all maintenance and repair orders.

"Whether linked to a different system or hand-entered, it gets us to a current cost of ownership for our vehicles," he said. "We revisit most measures on a six-month cycle using a cost-per-mile metric."

This allows the team to compare market to market, system to system, and company to company as to what cost per mile is on each vehicle.

Because Cox operates such a large and broad fleet, it has multiple maintenance, fleet management companies, and vendors. By having a single management system, it is now able to consolidate data for examination.

"This is so important. Data allows us to isolate financials. The more detail we can assess, the better we are at managing our fleet," Leuenberger added. He also emphasized the importance of communicating and celebrating wins. "When we can document savings, we tout that."

Cox Conserves Reduces GHG Emissions and Conserves Fuel

By embracing eco-friendly and hybrid vehicles, the fleet is a key component of Cox Conserves, the company's national sustainability program. While managed by Cox Enterprises, Cox Conserves branches out across all divisions.

"The program covers the types of vehicles we can drive, how we can save CO2 emissions, and how to conserve fuel savings," Leuenberger explained. "This influences our decisions in fleet substantially."

One of Cox Conserves' goals includes further reducing the company's annual companywide carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2017. This effort is expected to save 172,000 tons of GHG emissions annually, equivalent to the pollution produced by powering 26,000 homes. Additionally, Cox Conserves aims to:

■ Inspire eco-friendly actions in its communities.

■ Harness renewable energy.

■ Conserve natural resources.

The Cox fleet currently includes 1,400 biodiesel capable vehicles; 285 hybrids (Toyota Prius, Toyota Highlander, and Ford Escape models); 200 E-85 gas vehicles; 14 electric security vehicles; three natural gas vehicles; and one pilot CNG vehicle.

Among the hybrid vehicles are nine hybrid bucket trucks from Navistar, which provide fuel savings of nearly 60 percent with the gasoline engine off and the electric motor powering the vehicle. Diesel emissions are completely eliminated when the hybrid truck operates equipment, such as overhead utility booms, solely on the truck's battery power.

The Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF), of which Cox is a member, estimates 1,000-1,500 gallons of fuel can be saved annually per utility-type truck. That equates to savings of $3,000-$6,000 per truck annually. It also results in yearly GHG reductions of 11 to 16.5 tons.

Other environmentally friendly vehicle programs at Cox include:

■ Executive vehicle program: Company leaders are required to select cars that achieve 27 mpg or better.

■ Fuel-efficient parking: Instead of preferred parking for executives, Cox reserves more than 70 prime parking spots in its corporate parking garage for fuel-efficient cars.

■ Borrow-a-Hybrid program: Employees who participate in the alternative transportation program can check out hybrid vehicles from the company fleet.


Leuenberger hopes to transition to more fuel-efficient vehicles (possibly Sprinters and Transit Connects) as others come up for replacement. "We'll do what's best for our company and our environment," he said. "Sustainability and fuel efficiency are major parts of every decision we make, but we also have to keep costs in mind."

Leuenberger pointed out that he does not want to get too far in front of developing technology. "I'll feel more comfortable buying more CNG vehicles when I know the infrastructure is there."

Technology Initiatives Maximize Savings & Reduce Emissions

Over the past few years, Cox Communications, the company's cable and broadband communications subsidiary, has applied GPS technology to transform the operational, customer, and environmental economics of its business. This shift of perspective has yielded significant results. "With more than 13,000 vehicles, it's vital to stay on top of the program," Leuenberger said. "There are always new products and technologies hitting the market. It's important for us to know which ones will benefit our business and customers."

One such product is Trimble's GPS system, which has been installed in more than 5,000 Cox vehicles. The company targets savings of more than $1.5 million in fuel costs each year from the program. The fleet management solutions also enable the company to reduce its carbon footprint by cutting more than 25 million lbs. of CO2.

The system helps achieve the company's overall sustainability goal by making sure idling is down and keeping routes tight. In the first year of system implementation, the combined Vehicle Diagnostics and GeoManager solutions allowed Cox to reduce vehicle idle time from more than 90 minutes to less than 15 minutes per day, an 84-percent decrease in several markets where it was deployed.

The system can also locate injured technicians and provide accident notifications. GPS-enabled vehicles also add significant benefits beyond the hard, quantifiable fuel cost savings and carbon emission reduction. Knowing where, when, and how vehicles are used enables field service teams to better serve their customers. And combining real-time location information with post-event data provides Cox the opportunity to better understand its business. The initial program launch resulted in:

■ Daily mileage dropped from 100-plus miles per vehicle to less than 70 miles per vehicle.

■ Overall miles per gallon increased 5 percent, while vehicle repair costs declined five percent.

■ Vehicle idle time dropped by as much as 90 minutes per field service tech per day.

■ Carbon emissions dropped by as much as 30 lbs. per vehicle per day.

The fleet department also benefits from the company's implementation of the Mobile Workforce Management Solution from TOA Technologies, allowing for a reduction in miles traveled per driver.

Fleet Continues to Play a Role in Cox Conserves Program

Moving forward, Leuenberger hopes to get an even better hand on maintenance. "Maintenance can get out of hand easier than anything else, and that really has a high cost associated to it," he said. "By taking more ownership of our maintenance, we're going to reduce $3-$4 million out of our costs."

The fleet team also aims to continue evaluating additional opportunities to go green. "We continue to research new technology, and when there are sustainable options -- both for the environment and business -- we explore investing," Leuenberger concluded.

About the author
Cheryl Knight

Cheryl Knight


Cheryl Knight has more than 20 years of editing and writing experience on topics ranging from advanced technology, to automotive fleet management, to business management.

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