Big cities don't have to rely on funding to boost efficiency

Local government bodies at some of the nation's most heavily populated urban areas can experience major benefits from introducing trucking dispatch software and other logistics tools into routine operations.

Municipalities in the U.S. depend on fleets of heavy-duty vehicles to perform basic civic services, such as trash pickup and street sweeping. During the winter months, public agencies are also often responsible for ensuring road conditions are as safe as possible, no matter what the weather. However, salting and snow plowing is a particularly complicated task - especially for large cities. Meteorologists are only able to anticipate snow storms and other weather systems a few days in advance. As a result, public fleet managers often have little time to prepare for tasks that usually require collaboration from a large number of people. Taking advantage of logistics software and other forms of automated technology can make it much easier for municipalities to complete essential responsibilities with a higher level of organization and efficiency.

Why is it so hard for big cities to get state funding?
Big cities in the U.S. place a high priority on securing the proper amount of money to fund snow plowing and street maintenance initiatives. However, many government bodies have experienced financial difficulties ever since the Great Recession rattled the U.S. economy in 2008. Densely populated urban areas are even more likely to have a hard time finding public support to increase budgets for essential services - especially when these cities are geographically removed from state legislatures. The Atlantic Cities cited new research published in the American Political Science Review that sheds light on a peculiar issue facing large cities in states whose capitals are located in smaller, rural areas. Professors from both the University of Rochester in New York and the University of California, San Diego observed a more than century-long trend showing a substantial gap between the number of legislative bills passed favoring cities such as New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles compared to the those passed for smaller municipalities in those respective states. After examining 1,700 so-called "district bills" that support a particular county or city, the researchers found small and medium-sized towns are twice as likely as major urban areas to get legislative support from the state.

"Larger delegations are more likely to be divided along partisan lines and to split over roll-call votes on their own district bills," the authors of the report wrote. "It appears that legislators from the rest of the state follow the cues of the big-city delegation and split when its members divide, often dooming bills."

Anticipating larger budgets in the near future
The financial outlook for municipalities across the U.S. may improve in the near future. The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) recently adjusted its initial measurement of gross domestic product growth during the third quarter of 2013 from a 3.6 percent annual rate to 4.1 percent. Improvements in private business activity often bode well for cities and states, as these trends usually lead to an increase in employment. Still, fleet managers in large urban areas may want to consider investing in advanced logistics software to ensure they are able to complete their jobs with as little overhead cost as possible.

Some cities have already taken major strides in boosting the efficiency of their heavy-duty vehicles. For example, NBC10 Philadelphia recently reported on the local government's efforts to gradually update its fleet of more than 5,800 vans and trucks with greener technology that uses cheaper and less dangerous fuel. The city council recently held a public hearing on the matter.

"A lot of the vehicles we have are older and are essentially gas guzzlers," David Oh, a council member, told the station. "Part of what this hearing will do, is to hear from some of the experts in this field on some of the updated technology and systems are, and on what some of the cost benefits are of converting to natural gas."

While it may still be relatively difficult for large municipalities to obtain enough funding from state legislatures, city managers don't have to rely exclusively on such factors. Instead, fleet management software will allow local governments to have instant access to greater operational efficiency. Automated technology can account for scheduling, dispatching and route optimization, as well as any other factor that could otherwise lead to larger costs.