Transportation management software helps cities control budgets

Municipalities across the U.S. that both operate and maintain large fleets are in a prime position for leveraging the full capabilities of various logistics software programs. The benefits of advanced technology aren't limited to private companies and large corporations. Many local government bodies must utilize heavy-duty trucks to perform routine tasks such as trash collection, street sweeping and snow removal. In fact, implementing automated tools into daily operations may even help the most cash-strapped public organizations eliminate unnecessary costs and ultimately recover from crippling budget issues.

Many cities around the U.S. are on the brink of bankruptcy. According to a recent report from CNBC, some of the most debt-laden municipalities have struggled to recover from the effects of the Great Recession. While many of these problems are a result of excessive borrowing, the news organization said some cities also took significant risks by participating in interest rate swaps with private banks. These financial bets were originally intended to help local governments reduce the cost of selling municipal bonds to fund various public initiatives. However, many of these deals have turned out to be underwhelming at best.

"The banks made five times more money on the swaps than [they] did on the underwriting of the bonds - it was a gold mine," Andrew Kalotay, a public finance consultant who advises local governments, told CNBC. "The transaction costs upfront were horrible, but [local officials] didn't understand that."

Sustainable fleets and city budgets
As a result, officials in these municipalities around the nation are faced with the responsibility of finding ways to rein in spending and balance budgets without eliminating essential programs. One of the most popular solutions in recent years has been to focus on reducing transportation costs. For example, the Urban Infrastructure Initiative (UII), a division of the global sustainability association World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has developed a report for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter outlining the many methods for making the city a leader in green technology. Fleet management is a focal point of many of the initiatives outlined in the study. Philadelphia has more than 6,000 vehicles in its municipal fleet, according to a press release from the WBCSD, and proposals to update equipment with more fuel-efficient technology can experience long-term benefits.

Sustainable Jersey, a certification program serving the cities of New Jersey has also recognized the importance of fleet management as a cost-saving tool. In fact, the organization recently announced the winners of its annual sustainability awards. Many of the municipalities that received the awards have taken steps in recent months to switch to hybrid vehiclesHunterdon County Democrat reported.

Increased expectations for eliminating pollution
Additionally, cities have more responsibilities for combating climate change at the local level. One method for reducing pollution is to use alternative fuel. Compressed natural gas (CNG) has also become an especially popular option for trash collection fleets that cover large areas on a regular basis. Data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said CNG trucks have the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 80 percent compared to vehicles powered by diesel fuel.

No matter what the purpose behind recent efforts to control overhead transportation costs for municipalities, local government bodies can benefit from investing in automated tools such as direct route software and equipment maintenance software. Identifying the fastest and most efficient directions for fleet operations has the ability to boost additional efforts to limit fuel usage. As more cities in the U.S. update their fleets with more sustainable vehicles, an automated software program that organizes and schedules various maintenance tasks can further reduce overhead costs. By taking these steps, municipalities will have a much easier time controlling budgets.