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Survey Says!

Written by PFM Staff

Police Fleet Manager sent out an online survey to 4,500 fleet managers across the country. The response rate was an astonishing 25%, far above the typical 2% to 5% response for most surveys. We wanted to get a better understanding of, and more specifics on, the nation’s police fleet operations. And here is what you said…

Type of Agency

Of the respondents, 71% were from city (municipal) police departments, while 14% were from county police or sheriff’s departments. We heard from 41 states and 13 federal agencies, totaling another 11%. These percentages pretty well represent the cross-section of city, county, state and federal agencies.

Sworn Versus Civilian

In these departments, 69% of the fleet managers are sworn law enforcement officers, while 31% are civilian employees. The fleet manager was defined as the person having direct oversight of all activities related to purchase, maintenance, repairs and disposal of police vehicles. While the trend appears to be to civilian fleet managers, right now, it is 2:1 in favor of sworn.

In a different way to ask a similar question, 71% of the police fleet managers were a part of the police or sheriff’s department, while 29% were a part of the city, county or state government with other governmental duties. Some police fleet managers buy and maintain police cars, while other police fleet managers buy and maintain front-end loaders, semi-trucks and buses.

Yet another way to see how focused the police fleet manager is on police duties came in response to the question, Does the police fleet manager also manage other emergency vehicles like fire and EMS? Of the police fleet managers, 83% dealt only with police vehicles, while 17% did handle fire and EMS vehicles.

Rookie or Veteran?

Of the responses, 13% have been on the job less than two years, while 34% have been fleet managers between two and five years. The survey found 22% have been in this position between six and 10 years, while 31% have more than 10 years’ experience. All together, that is a huge diversity of experience. Half the fleet managers may remember the 1996 LT-1 Caprice, and a third may remember the Dodge Diplomats!

Continuing Education

The vast majority of police fleet managers (71%) receive less than four hours per year of in-service, continuing education specific to fleet management. Responsible for the largest line item of the police budget (after labor), this is a shame. We did not ask how many actually get zero hours of training, and strongly suspect the answer is the same.

Of the respondents, 9% get four to eight hours and 7% get eight to 16 hours. Last year’s Police Fleet Expo provided 19 hours of training, within the 16 to 40 hours that 8% percent of the fleet managers get. Surprisingly, 5% of fleet managers receive more than 40 hours per year of continuing education.

Professional Conferences

Since continuing education and professional conferences are so closely related, it was no surprise to find that half (49%) of the fleet managers attend no conferences or conventions the entire year. Around 22% attend one such conference, and a lucky 16% are able to attend two conferences a year. Surprisingly, 13% attend three or more conferences!

CAFM Certification

Of the all the sworn and civilian fleet managers, just 8% have earned the certification for Certified Automotive Fleet Manager. If more chiefs and sheriffs knew the benefit of the education that went into the CAFM cert, more fleet managers would be encouraged to achieve this level of training, or something similar. This is not the cure-all to fleet problems, but 92% of all police fleet managers could probably improve their operations, one way or the other, as a result of the CAFM cert.

Fleet Mix

In 51% of the police fleets, including both patrol and administrative vehicles, more than 90% of the vehicles are four-door sedans. In 34% of the fleets, four-door sedans make up 75 to 90% of the fleet. In just 9% of the fleets, the mix of four-door sedans was 50 to 75%. In just 5% of the fleets, four-door sedans made up less than 50% of the fleet.

The virtual reverse of the fleet mix question is: What percentage of the police fleet is made up of Sport Utility Vehicles? In 54% of the fleets, SUVs made up 5% of the fleet, while in 25% of the fleets, the SUV accounted for 5 to 10% of the fleet. In 16% of the fleets, SUVs made up 10 to 25% of the fleet, and 6% of the fleets had more than 25% SUVs.

FWD Versus RWD

Of the combined patrol and administrative fleet, 55% of the fleets are more than 95% rear wheel drive (RWD). In 16% of the fleets, 90 to 95% are RWD, while in 12% of the fleets, 75 to 90% are RWD. In 16% of the fleets, less than 75% are RWD, i.e., more than 25% front wheel drive (FWD). The next time we ask this question, we will separate patrol vehicles from admin vehicles, suspecting that the higher percentage of admin vehicles with FWD are skewing the combined totals.

Of the totals, 52% say they will buy about the same number of FWD sedans in the future, while 16% say they will buy more FWD sedans and 33% say they will buy fewer FWD sedans.

Miles Per Year

About half of the fleets (49%) put between 25,000 and 50,000 miles per year on their vehicles. About a third (37%) put on between 10,000 and 25,000 miles per year. Just 9% of the fleets accumulate between 50,000 and 75,000 miles per year. And the remaining extremes, fewer than 10,000 miles and over 75,000 miles are equally split at about 2% of the fleets each.

Replacement Cycle

The vast majority of fleets (74%) use a combination of both mileage and years to determine the replacement cycle for their patrol vehicles. About 14% of the fleets replace their cars based strictly on mileage, while 8% replace their vehicles based on years of service.

A cagey 5% of police fleet managers rotate their fleet based on the cost of ownership with a maximum limit. Hmmm. About that same percentage have a CAFM, about that same number get more than 40 hours a year in continuing education, and about that same number attend four or more conferences per year.

For departments with a mileage cap for patrol sedans, 43% have a cap somewhere in excess of 100,000 miles. About 28% have the limits set between 90,000 and 100,000 miles, while 15% have the cap between 80,000 and 90,000 miles. Just 14% of the fleets have mileage limits fewer than 80,000 miles. (These would be the ones getting the high residuals.)

For departments with a years-of-service cap for patrol sedans, 42% allow the cars to be operated more than four years. About 19% had a cap somewhere between 3.5 and four years, 17% between three and 3.5 years, 15% between 2.5 and three years and 8% less than 2.5 years.

Residual Value

The residual value depends on a number of factors primarily including the method of disposal, and the age, mileage, condition and original options on the vehicle. About 40% of the fleet managers cited a residual value of patrol sedans (not SUVs and not admin sedans) of between 12 and 19%. More than 33% indicated a residual under 12%, while 25% indicted they got residuals of 19 to 38%. Less than 2% clamed residuals higher than 38%.

As for disposal methods, the vast majority (75%) sold their vehicles at auction. About 18% traded the vehicles into a local dealer or sold the vehicles outright to a car dealer or wholesaler. Interestingly, 6% sold the vehicles at a fixed price to the general public.

Leases

Of the police fleet managers, 87% purchased their patrol class vehicles outright, while 13% leased at least some patrol cars. When expanded to the rest of the police fleet, 79% do not lease any other vehicles, while 21% lease some other kinds of vehicle.

Of those who lease, 51% of the leases were closed-end leases with no maintenance agreement, while 28% were closed-end leases with full maintenance. Almost 22% were open-end leases.

Of those who do not lease, 63% had no plans to look into leasing, while 16% did plan to at least research the topic, and 21% were not sure. The wise fleet manager is always open to ways to improve the operation by lowering costs or reducing downtime.

Upfitting

The majority (53%) of fleet managers had the vehicle upfitting done by an outside company specializing in this type of business. The next largest category (31%) had the vehicle upfitted internally by the fleet maintenance department, while 5% had this work done internally by another government entity. About 9% had the patrol and admin cars upfitted by the local car dealer, while 2% had the vehicles upfitted at the factory. These numbers may change in the future as the factories present a wider range of equipment options and upfitting packages.

Preventative Maintenance

The good news is that 92% of the responding fleet managers indicated they performed some kind of preventative maintenance (PM). Incredibly, 8% indicated they did not perform any kind of PM on their police fleets. Lots of follow-up questions come to mind for that later group, eh?

The next time around, we will ask: What is the compliance rate on the PM? This means, if you intend the oil to be changed at 3,000 miles, what percentage of the time is the oil actually changed at 3,000 miles, plus or minus 500 miles. Unless you have a PM compliance rate over 50%, you really don’t have a PM program, and are not much different than the 8% of fleet managers who at least admit it.

Vehicle Performance

Around 45% of the police fleet managers indicated they were “somewhat satisfied” with the acceleration performance of their patrol sedans, while 35% cited they were “very satisfied.” About 11% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. Just 8% were either “somewhat” or “very” dissatisfied. For those fleet managers who fondly remember the LT-1 Caprice from the mid-1990s, today’s Ford CVPI accelerates just as quickly. Really.

Similar overall results were found with the question of top speed. Exactly 50% were “very satisfied,” while 37% were “somewhat satisfied” and 9% did not have a strong preference. Just 4% were either “somewhat” or “very” dissatisfied with the top speeds, which are between 124 and 129 mph for the four-door sedans.

Electrical Loads

The one huge surprise of the survey involved the electrical load carrying capacity of the patrol sedan. The number one inquiry we receive at Police Fleet Manager deals with battery or alternator problems. Yet almost half (44%) the fleet managers were “somewhat” satisfied, while another 23% were “very” satisfied, and 10% did not have a strong opinion.

The minority of “somewhat” dissatisfied (18%) and “very” dissatisfied (5%) are a vocal bunch! This survey was taken sometime after the release of the 200-amp alternator on the Ford CVPI, so we expect the dissatisfied numbers to continue to drop.

Durability

These durability numbers are a clear tribute to the platform engineers and government account managers at Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler. Almost half (48%) were “very” satisfied with the durability of the engine in their primary patrol sedan. Another 39% were “somewhat” satisfied, while 8% did not have a strong opinion. That means just 4% express dissatisfaction.

These numbers made a big switch when it came to patrol sedan transmissions. Almost half (44%) were “somewhat” satisfied, 24% were “very” satisfied, and 16% did not have a strong opinion. More than 16% were either “somewhat” or “very” dissatisfied. The dissatisfied drivetrain group should consider either a higher compliance PM program or the use of trucks instead of sedans.

Brakes and their components always seem to be a problematic, high-profile area of both vehicle performance and fleet maintenance. About 42% of the fleet managers were “somewhat” satisfied, while 15% were “very” satisfied, and 19% did not have a strong opinion. About 19% were “somewhat” dissatisfied, and more than 5% were “very” dissatisfied.

Brake components was the one area of the durability and performance survey with the highest number of “very” dissatisfied respondents. Brakes drew more extreme complaints than electrical systems or transmissions or gas mileage. Here, too, relief may be in sight. Starting in 2004, the brake pads on the Ford CVPI are covered under warranty for 12 months or 18,000 miles, an industry first.

Gas Mileage

Gas mileage is a trade-off with overall performance, and the attitude of the fleet managers acknowledged this. More than 40% were “somewhat” satisfied, 11% were very satisfied, and 35% did not have a strong opinion. Just 14% were either “somewhat” or “very” dissatisfied. Of course, you know these numbers going into the purchase. Even still, a solid PM program will maximize gas mileage.

Trunk Size

Just when you think the trunk cannot be big enough for all the gear we carry, it is interesting to read the results from a cross-section of fleet managers. More than one third (35%) were “very” satisfied, almost half (47%) were “somewhat” satisfied, and another 13% did not have a strong opinion. Just 6% were dissatisfied to any degree. Those are the ones buying SUVs the next time around.

Overall Comfort

The police sedan is the office for the patrol officers for hours on end. The comfort has productivity, morale, officer safety and officer well-being implications. Again, the results are a tribute to the car companies who listen to the fleet managers, and to the fleet managers who listen to the patrol officers. Almost half (49%) were “somewhat” satisfied, almost a third (30%) were “very” satisfied, and 16% did not express a strong opinion. Just 5% expressed some level of dissatisfaction.

It should be encouraging that nearly every aspect of the retail-based patrol vehicle meets the very unique demands of law enforcement. And the few areas of concern have already, for the most part, been addressed. Now about those 8% without preventative maintenance programs and all the rest with lax PM programs…


Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jul/Aug 2006

Rating : 6.0


Comments

Comment on This Article

Purchasing Agent

By Larry Hood

Do you know of any recent survey data on the number of vehicles in Police fleets, compared to the number of Officers? Thank you.

Submitted Sep 10 at 1:21 PM

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