Report: Federal agencies could better manage fleets

While many private companies utilize fleet management software and best practices to better operate their vehicles, limit spending, manage data and ensure processes run smoothly, a new report suggests some government agencies haven't taken those same steps.

Some agencies face data management challenges
According to a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), federal agencies, excluding the U.S. Postal Service, spend roughly $3 billion per year acquiring, operating and maintaining 450,000 vehicles. With concerns about government spending more prevalent than ever and cost-cutting initiatives gaining steam across different departments, it may be only a matter of time until this movement makes it way to the hundreds of thousands of vehicles the government is responsible for.

The GAO's report identified three leading practices for managing fleets that comply with legal mandates and the General Services Administration's (GSA) recommendations for limited spending. One of these key practices included maintaining a well-designed fleet management information system (FMIS). The report found not a single agency studied by the GAO gathers all information encouraged by the GSA within their FMIS. Because plenty of information was not sufficiently gathered or incorrectly stored within these departments, management teams may have a more difficult time tracking data and determining indirect fleet costs.

The second GAO-identified leading practiced involved analyzing life cycle costs to make better investment decisions. The report found that even though most agencies studied rely on life cycle cost analyses to make more budget-conscious decisions, some never look at a full set of costs. Because they are missing critical information, these departments may lack the data necessary to make the best purchasing decisions.

Optimizing fleet size and composition was the final leading practice identified by the GAO. While the agencies reviewed were found to have planned changes that would result in fewer vehicles across departments, the report was not able to determine what supporting documentation was used to reach these target fleet numbers and ensure they are operating as cost effectively as possible in the future.

To ensure the problems identified in the report are resolved, the GAO advised the GSA develop guidance for agencies on estimating indirect fleet expenses and request agencies provide documents that reveal how they determined optimal fleet numbers.

Meeting challenges with new solutions
By better tracking data and maintaining easy-to-update files, government agencies can find they are better able to manage their fleets, determine how they can cut costs and make operations as a whole more efficient. But developing an information management system isn't the only practice they should consider when it comes to these concerns.

Investing in route planning software has become a more common practice among small, medium and large businesses, as the technology can contribute to reaching a firm's fuel savings objectives and generally improve current practices. Employing new programs ensure drivers take the most direct route, saving departments both time and money in the long run. By turning to routing software, while also developing better data management techniques, government agencies can see enhanced cost savings benefits, limited fuel use and streamline processes.