Fleet software helps cities increase productivity of ongoing projects

America's biggest municipalities often own large numbers of vehicles, and fleet management software can help public employees rein in overhead spending while pursuing major infrastructure improvement projects.

From small vans to heavy-duty garbage trucks, cities must manage and maintain a wide variety of vehicles. Many of these automobiles are responsible for performing routine procedures on local roadways. The larger the urban area, the more ground fleets will be required to cover. As a result, the cost of managing a municipal fleet system is highly variable. For example, diesel fuel, which powers many large trucks, is often prone to sudden price fluctuations due to international market behaviors. A recent article published in the industry publication Fleet Owner cited data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) that found the retail price for diesel increased nearly 4 percent to a total of $3.88 per gallon nationwide during the first week of December. In California and New England, prices reached more than $4 per gallon. The West Coast region as a whole experienced the largest jump of 5.7 percents to reach $3.29 per gallon. On the other hand, prices for regular gasoline fell 2.1 cents to $3.72. Because fleet managers in large cities must travel relatively long distances or run for extended periods, the volatility of the fuel market can have a profound impact on overhead costs. Especially when prices are unpredictable, the question of fuel use can be a significant obstacle to productivity. However, route optimization software makes it easier for municipal employees to plan ahead and find ways to reduce fuel use.

Logistics software helps municipalities plan for comprehensive work
City governments also frequently take on short-term projects that require comprehensive work on complex public infrastructure. According to a recent article from The Atlantic Cities, officials in San Francisco are about to embark on a multi​-billion dollar upgrade to the city's expansive sewage system. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will be responsible for installing replacements for San Francisco's current sewage pipes, which are nearly 100 years old. The PUC said on its website that the project is necessary to avoid any future threats to public health. A fact sheet from the commission said the city has more than 1,000 miles of pipes connecting three different wastewater treatment plants throughout the area.

"San Francisco is one of two cities in California that has a combined sewer system," the fact sheet stated. "The system collects and treats both sewage and stormwater before it is discharged to the Bay and the Pacific Ocean, protecting public health and the environment."

This city is especially sensitive to potential damages to sewage infrastructure. San Francisco is located in a seismic zone that may experience an earthquake of large magnitude in the near future.

"Our sewer system was not built to withstand a major earthquake or impacts of climate change, such as intense rainstorms that overwhelm our sewer system, as we treat both sewage and stormwater runoff," the PUC website explained.

Reducing the impact of infrastructure work
Such extensive, city-wide improvement projects often depend heavily on a comprehensive fleet of vehicles to not only transport public workers, but to perform complex procedures. Depending on the time of day the work occurs, municipalities may face challenges planning activity in a way that has a limited impact on traffic. Logistics software can be a valuable tool for these agencies, as it can automate many of the most time-consuming and difficult aspects of any fleet management process. For example, cities can leverage advanced technology to create dispatch schedules and plan routes. The accumulative effects of these conveniences may ultimately result in long-term overhead cost savings, as managers will be able to maximize the amount of work they are able to complete while using fewer resources.

Cities around the country are constantly looking for ways to limit spending. In the face of ongoing budget issues, a reliable fleet management software program can make it easier for public works departments in various municipalities to secure the funding they need for essential programs. More efficient vehicles may also lower the impact of maintenance activity, thereby having an overall positive impact on public opinion in the long run.