Cities avoid budget shortfalls by using fleet management software

Municipalities can benefit from long-term cost savings by using logistics software to manage their many fleets. Local government bodies are frequently looking for ways to ease the strain on their limited budgets. Ever since the Great Recession, cities have struggled to manage their finances, with some even flirting with bankruptcy as a result of excessive borrowing. The cumulative effects of cash-strapped public agencies can have significant effects on the quality of life in urban areas. Especially during winter, residents often count on local transportation organizations to salt roads in anticipation of ice storms and plow snow when it prevents motorists from getting from one place to another on time. Without any means to boost efficiency or reduce costs, public fleet managers may inadvertently wreak havoc on existing infrastructure.

Snow continues to drain plowing budgets
Many cities on the East Coast recently braved yet another severe winter storm - something that has become a common occurrence this season in particular. Large accumulations of snowfall have led municipal snow plow fleets to be busier than normal, which has caused some concerns about rapidly draining budgets. In fact, a report fromThe Associated Press indicated that the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) may not have enough money to continue removing snow from highways and streets if storms keep rolling through in the coming weeks. The news agency revealed that ConnDOT has already spent $30 million in 11 different storms this season. Other states are having similar issues. According to The Baltimore Sun, Harford County in Maryland already exceeded its annual snow removal budget by $100,000. The county government usually sets aside $1.46 million for such purposes each year.

Matt Lapinsky, the public works director for Harford County, told the newspaper that the frequency of winter storms has made this season one of the most challenging in recent history.

"They have been back to back to back, and we haven't been able to sit down and take a hard look at [the budget]," Lapinsky explained.

How technology can help municipal fleet managers
Some cities, such as New Haven, Conn., have received extra money from outside sources as a safeguard for future snowfall. However, other organizations may not be as lucky. In such cases, relying on automated technology such as fleet management software is the most reliable way to use existing budgets as efficiently as possible. While it may seem challenging for government-operated snow plows and salt trucks, it is possible for municipalities to do more with less. Fleet managers may not immediately realize it, but even the tiniest details of their operations have a direct influence on how much money it takes to complete their daily responsibilities. Advanced technology makes it possible for organizations to have a better view of the many parts of their transportation procedures. With the ability to electronically plan assignments at short notice, municipal fleets will significantly reduce the time it takes to get their vehicles out and running at the onset of a winter storm.

This boost in efficiency will have a positive and resonating effect on the safety of local roadways. Sarah Goodyear argued in the online publication The Atlantic Cities that if there's anything that the 2013-2014 winter has taught transportation professionals, it's that snow has the unique quality to reveal the true nature of driver behavior in urban areas. The prevalence of large piles of plowed snow on intersections in cities across the country has turned municipal planners onto a phenomenon known as "sneckdowns." A combination of "snow" and "neckdown," an extended pedestrian crosswalk intended to slow traffic and improve overall safety, a "sneckdown" is what occurs when plowed snow narrows the lanes on city streets to create a natural safe passage for individuals crossing the street on foot. Goodyear explained that these improvised structures expose just how much of the road motorists actually use on a daily basis, which may be especially relevant to urban planners.

In the mean time, municipal fleet managers can use logistics software to make better use of their snow removal budgets. Instead of taking a reactionary approach to frequent storms, these organizations can use technology to plan ahead and avoid budget shortfalls.