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Smart Ideas for Fleet Management

Police Fleet Manager

magazine conducted a survey to find out what agencies are doing to improve fleet operations in general and to combat rising fuel prices in particular.

We contacted a selection of agencies (big, small, urban, rural) across the United States. The “smart idea” we were seeking was anything from a small tip for maintenance techs to a major project. These were best practices, proven solutions, new concepts, cost reductions, improved uptime/downtime.

The topics considered included Hybrid Vehicles; Vehicle Use Policy; Fuel Use and Tracking; Take Home Vehicles; Maintenance; Upfitting; Purchasing; Staffing; Replacement Cycles; Vehicle Rotation; Budgeting Technology; Anti-Idling Initiatives; Lifecycle Costing; and Shop Operations. Here is what your peers are doing.

Take Home Programs

In regards to rising fuel prices, Pueblo County (Colo.) has cut back on take home vehicles. The Bakersfield (Calif.) Police Department has a vehicle take home program that allows vehicles to stay in service longer (six-plus years compared to three years), which also reduces maintenance cost. They have begun purchasing smaller (unmarked) 4-cylinder compact vehicles for investigations for fuel efficiency.

Officer Brad Cook said the Louisiana State Police implemented a no off-duty use policy and encouraged a reduced number of miles patrolled per shift. The Baytown (Texas) Police Department requires that some detectives and admin personnel who live outside of town leave their vehicles at the station when off-duty.

Green Initiatives (E85, Hybrid)

The San Francisco Police Department Fleet Operations has been anticipating the question regarding “what are you doing to save fuel?” for years. Since 1999 they purchased some Ford Crown Victorias dedicated compressed natural gas vehicles. Currently five are still in service. They also purchased Honda Civic CNG administrative vehicles, which are still in service. The year 2000 Toyota had a big push to promote the Camry CNG. “We purchased some for administrative and undercover purposes,” Officer Rich Lee said. This was continued through 2002 with the Toyota Prius.

In 2007 and 2008, San Francisco PD started purchasing hybrid vehicles, specifically Ford Escapes and Ford Fusions. They also purchased a GM Tahoe Hybrid for the Mayor’s security team. A GM Volt was purchased and outfitted with lights and siren for the interim Mayor Ed Lee.

The San Francisco PD is committed to reduce fuel consumption by slowly replacing the administrative vehicles with alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles. With the upcoming new Ford Police Interceptor, they will reduce their V8 engines to the new V6 technology.

Pueblo County (Colo.) is also buying smaller more fuel efficient vehicles that are program cars for an overall cost savings. Admin vehicles are also being purchased as program or used vehicles at a savings of $8,000 to 10,000 per vehicle depending on what type of vehicle is required. If they purchase any new vehicles they are all E-85 vehicles.

More fuel efficient vehicles have been purchased for the town of Fishers (Ind.), saving more than $20,000 in fuel in one department alone. New, more fuel efficient vehicles will be purchased for the police department in 2012.

Westerville (Ohio) PD purchased a Ford Fusion Hybrid as an unmarked car. To date, they are averaging 10 mpg better economy versus the Chevy Lumina that it replaced. The Everett (Wash.) Police “purchase green whenever it is economically possible,” Lt. John DeRousse stated.

The Beverly Hills (Calif.) PD is procuring some Ford Fusion Hybrids for deployment as non-enforcement administrative vehicles. “Although the Chevy Volt was also considered, it was significantly more expensive to purchase,” Officer Ron Derderian noted.

Anti-Idling Policies

In regards to rising fuel prices, Pueblo County (Colo.) has cut back on vehicle idle time. The town of Fishers (Ind.) is currently experimenting with an idle control system. According to Keith Condra, Director of Fleet Management, if this proves to be effective, more units will be installed. The town also has a no-idle policy in place.

Westerville (Ohio) PD is evaluating the use of an Idleright system in one of its patrol cars. “There would be significant savings in a service fleet, even over a police fleet,” Officer Matthew Ware commented.

Police Fleet Manager Michael Carkido from Boardman Township (Ohio) recommends reducing idle time as a smart fleet management idea. In addition, Everett (Wash.) PD is monitoring idle time as well as fuel consumption, and notifying departments when idle time exceeds one hour per day. This is a starting point and is adjusted annually as they decrease their idle times.

Shop Operations

One fleet idea that has worked great for Pierce County (Wash.) is staggering the mechanics’ start times. They went from a 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. shop to a 5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. shop, being open 12 hours a day at no extra cost. The mechanics are happy because some want to work late and others want to work early and get off early. Graveyard deputies can drop off their vehicles before going home. “This is a win-win scenario for all,” Equipment Supervisor Alex Nelson said. When it comes to Shop Operations, “know your capabilities and limitations,” Lt. John DeRousse of Everett (Wash.) added.

Purchasing (Replacement Parts/Admin Vehicles/Patrol Vehicles)

All vehicle purchasing is now centralized for the town of Fishers (Ind.). They have already been able to move vehicles to different departments “right sizing” the fleet. Parts are purchased from bid contracts whenever possible for Everett (Wash.) PD.

The Baytown (Texas) PD re-bids parts purchases and procedures. Tires, filters and bulk oil are purchased under city contract, OEM parts are purchased from a dealer with the best bid and service, and remaining parts are purchased under state contract with O’Reilly.

Technology (Fleet Software)

A Fleet Management software program has been designed and is being built for the town of Fishers (Ind.). This will allow better management of their vehicles, repairs, fuel expense and replacement schedules, to name a few benefits.


The Town of Fishers (Ind.) created a Fleet Management Division in 2010. The new shop opened Nov 2010 and merged all fleet operations. The police department had been contracting all of its service and repair work and many other departments had a considerable amount of contract work completed at local dealers. As of July 2011 almost all work is being done in-house, saving tens of thousands of dollars annually—paying for the cost of the capital expenditure in four years.

Fishers contracted with NAPA IBS to manage their parts room. This immediately freed up several hours per day from technicians ordering and tracking their own repair parts and inventory, allowing them more time to perform services. Also, the town does not have the expense of maintaining inventory, sometimes obsolete, as this is the responsibility of the IBS.

In-sourcing work for neighboring agencies is being pursued. This will help offset the cost to the town and help other agencies with their rising costs. Further, it helps ensure their technicians’ positions and possibly even increase the numbers despite the trend to reduction of personnel. “It will make us more self-sustaining,” Keith Condra, director of fleet management, stated.

Michael Carkido has been Boardman Township’s (Ohio) Fleet Manager/Technician for 10 years. Boardman’s PD has 48 sworn officers and 17 civilian employees, with 23 marked units and 22 unmarked units. “All work is done in-house by me. The only things outsourced are major body and paint work, radio programming and warranty work.” They rotate marked front line units out at approximately 130,000 to140,000 miles.

The Ravenna (Ohio) PD does as much maintenance in house as possible. Brake jobs dropped from nearly $500 to about $150 (parts included), according to Chief Timothy L. Adkins. The Everett (Wash.) Police’s maintenance costs are tracked by equipment class and compared to maintenance costs from previous years.


The Darien (Ill.) PD looks for companies that offer turnkey programs. It saves time in having to order all the equipment and then hire a company to install it. “Some companies will work with your department to list all your needs. You may have to order the new vehicles,” Deputy Chief John Cooper explained. The vehicles are shipped to the installer. The company does everything at their location. They deliver the vehicle to the police department, ready to hit the road.

The Ravenna (Ohio) PD negotiates prices with dealers/ service providers. “This has cut our oil change price nearly in half,” Chief Timothy L. Adkins noted.

According to Lt. CA. McDonald, Baytown (Texas) PD, “We have found it still more cost effective to purchase vehicles and upfitting equipment separately and build cars in-house.”

Fuel Use and Tracking

E-mail is sent to department managers at Everett (Wash.) PD when vehicles within the same class have fuel usage higher than like vehicles in that class, requesting a possible explanation. “Fleet improvements are an everyday goal and we work at making sure that what we do is in the best interest for the customers we serve,” Lt. John DeRousse said.

The Baytown (Texas) PD actively monitors weekly fuel reports seeking to increase fleet mpg from 11 to 13 mpg. Lt. C.A. McDonald recommended consulting with those officers getting less than 10 mpg. Fuel purchasing is centralized for the town of Fishers (Ind.). Fuel was locked for the entire year at $2.58, which was sometimes more than $1.50 less than the street price. Alternative fuels are currently being researched for cost and logistics.

Staffing Allocation for the Shop

At Everett (Wash.) PD, maintenance technician staffing is based on number of vehicles in each class, technicians’ ability to bill out 1,650 hours a year, and the amount of repair time required per 1,000 miles driven. For example, 100 Crown Victoria marked patrol cars that travel on average 16,000 miles each and require 2.05 maintenance hours for every 1,000 miles driven, would require 1.99 (rounded to 2) technicians.

“You need to do this for each of your equipment classes to come up with the number of technicians needed to support your fleet,” Lt. John DeRousse suggested. Each vehicle class has a different maintenance repair hour requirement, for example, a sweeper may require more than 100 hours of repair time for every 1,000 miles driven.

According to Lt. C.A. McDonald, Baytown (Texas) PD, they have cut part time positions, including part time mechanics, in the 2011-2012 budget to achieve a net zero budget. They currently have one mechanic supervisor and two mechanics. Baytown PD also developed relationships with area dealers who will send a porter for warranty work so their mechanics can stay on site, and that saves fuel by eliminating the need for two vehicles to shuttle one.

Lifecycle Costing

“The age of your equipment does not on its own also mean that your costs per mile for maintenance will increase,” Lt. John DeRousse, Everett (Wash.) PD, said. Older equipment will have a lower miles-per-gallon, but their maintenance costs remain relatively the same.

Replacement Cycles

Darien (Ill.) PD started keeping their fleet longer in 2003 by enlarging it. Before 2003 they would assign three officers to each squad. This would mean the squad was on the road for 24 hours unless an officer was on his day off. The squads would be worn out in two years. They added squads so only two officers would be assigned to each squad. This allowed the squads to get an eight-hour break every 24 hours. “This saved on wear and tear and allowed us to run the cars for three years,” Deputy Chief John Cooper said.

It saves money in cutting costs of changeovers from two to three years. It saved an extra year of the cost to remove equipment, install in the new vehicle, plus decal costs. The mileage was lower at the end of the service life which brought more money at re-sale.

At Everett (Wash.) PD, marked police cars are replaced at 100,000 miles, all other vehicles at 125,000 miles. Hourly equipment is 10,000 hours. The Everett (Wash.) PD are moving their vehicles from low usage positions to high usage to reach their turn-in goal of 100,000 miles.

Budgeting for New Vehicles

Darien (Ill.) PD started to replace the entire fleet at a three-year interval. This helped fix the cost of the project, which was financed during three years. A third of the cost of the fleet project was budgeted for the first year. The other two-thirds of the project was financed. This gave the city a fixed cost for fleet during three years.

Darien PD borrowed money from a local bank at a very reasonable rate. The bank holds the vehicle titles until the third payment is made. “We can drill holes in the vehicles and do not have to turn them in or buy them out at the end of three years,” Deputy Police Chief John Cooper stated.

In addition, Darien PD used to buy new vehicles for non-police related use, such as for the CSO, chiefs and detectives. They normally turn down up to six vehicles when doing a fleet replacement. Three- to five-year-old squads are turned down to be used as administration vehicles.

“Even though they had a rough service life during their early years as a primary patrol squad, they last longer when not driven hard in an administrative capacity,” Cooper said. This is a significant savings during purchasing six new vehicles for administration. They also turn in some of the old squads to other city departments such as Public Works.

Everett (Wash.) PD budgets $150,000 a year to replace equipment that has exceeded a repair limit, as determined by the motor vehicle department, and must be replaced outside of its budget process. In addition, they budget $100,000 a year to purchase green vehicles whenever possible.

Disposal of Out-of-Service Vehicles

The Darien (Ill.) Police started selling their old squads on eBay, which brought them a bigger return than having a local auction. Many more buyers bid on the vehicles. Buyers came from the southern states and New York to buy their old squads—Crown Vics. Some were even put back into police service in other parts of the country. Taxi companies bought 3-year-old vehicles with 70,000 to 80,000 miles.

Vehicles in the Everett (Wash.) PD fleet are approved for disposal based on mileage, not age. Most equipment replacement is set at 125,000 miles or 15 years.

Vehicle Use Policy

For the Everett (Wash.) PD, vehicles with less than 2,000 miles of usage a year must be justified in writing to be retained. Illinois allows departments to seize vehicles from drivers caught driving on a suspended license for DUI. The Darien Police are able to use some of these vehicles that are newer for city service. They have seized vehicles that are now being used as detective vehicles and one is being used as a D.A.R.E. vehicle.

Officer Safety

Richard Ruano, fleet manager, Lake County (Ill.) Sheriff’s Office, said although the high cost of fuel is a major issue within his office, officer safety is a smart idea for fleet management. “Outfitting your patrol officers with the safest, most comfortable and all around practical vehicles you can provide them with far outweighs the cost of fuel,” Ruano stated.

The issue of officer safety is of utmost priority to Ruano. “Don’t put your cops in small, economical fuel saving cars when the majority of the public is still driving large SUVs and larger midsize vehicles. We’ll keep the CVPI another year,” Ruano commented.

In terms of comfort, Ruano said, “In a Focus, wearing a fully loaded duty belt for eight hours a day, I can see the workman’s comp cases piling up now from guys with lower back pain and pulled muscles as they had to pry themselves in and out of these new ‘fuel-saving’ mini squads.” He stated bigger hybrid Tahoe is not in the department’s budget.

It appears that most of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office fuel usage is with their highway patrol vehicles. These are vehicles that require a great deal of cabin room not only for the person driving but for the equipment they install; equipment that needs to be fitted in the safest location with ease of accessibility. They also don’t forget about those passengers they sometimes give a lift to. A vehicle you cannot use is a useless vehicle. “I’m all for ‘going green’ and saving ‘taxpayer dollars,’ but when it comes to public safety and those who provide it, where do you draw a price line?” Ruano asked.

Jennifer Gavigan has been writing on cutting-edge police fleet topics for more than eight years. She can be reached at

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jul/Aug 2011

Rating : 9.0

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Posted on : Sep 2 at 11:45 AM By Michael K DalPezzo

Very well organized article, provided important information in an easy-to-understand manner.

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