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Cornell University's Fleet Automation

Tammy Lopez is the Customer Service & Program Manager for Cornell Fleet Services at Cornell University Fleet Services. Fleet Services provides all university departments with safe and reliable vehicles to perform university business. Ms. Lopez provides leadership regarding customer relations, quality control, budget, metrics analyses, procurement and disposition of vehicles, and manages the fleet business plan to support future growth.

Q: Tell us a little about your fleet.

A:  Cornell University has over 23,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 15 colleges and schools. We are a fully functioning research University with locations all over the world. Our motor pool operates out of our main campus in Ithaca, NY. We have 1,200 total vehicles and equipment and 70 shared vehicles in our motor pool. Our vehicle types range from sedans, to GEM electric vehicles, to 45-foot MCI ® J coaches, to everything in between.

Q:  Tell us about how your fleet was managed before introducing FleetCommander technology?

A:  We started in 2011 with more than 230 vehicles in one location in our motor pool. Although we shared vehicles, we did it manually. Before initiating fleet management technology, our customers had to call, email or fax us their reservation requests. Each vehicle had a 1-inch notebook where we had to manually enter records of reservations, dispatching, and maintenance. Because of this we could only send a vehicle out once per day, and only Monday through Friday. We had to manually enter data for every vehicle reservation, trip start, trip end, driver information. Billing data had to be manually re-entered as well. In those days, we had very little utilization metrics. I know it’s hard to believe an Ivy-league University was still doing everything by hand only 8 years ago.

Q:  Tell us how things changed after you automated your motor pool processes.

A:  In 2010 a new Director was appointed. He was from the IT world and could not believe that we were doing everything manually. We started by replacing our aging computer systems with modern technology. Little did we know that it would be the first step in right sizing our fleet. We introduced Agile’s fleet management information system in 2011 along with a fleet-focused champion. The new system enabled us to offer online reservations to our drivers and eliminate the calls, email trails, faxes, etc. It also helped us because we were able to automatically assign and approve reservations, and to automate billing, reporting, and metrics collection. Now that we had usage metrics, we were able to begin right sizing.

Q:  How did having fleet metrics effect your right sizing initiative?

A:  When we first started looking at our utilization metrics, we discovered our vehicles were less than 30% utilized. Over the first two years, small changes were made, and the fleet was reduced by 27 vehicles. In the summer of 2012, our IT director started analyzing the data including utilization by site and class of vehicle. We reduced vehicles by class, and consolidated classes of vehicles. We also looked closely at the number of requests turned down to determine what types and quantities of vehicles were needed and what demands could be met by outside rentals. We also realized that we had 23 vans that were only being used twice per year – reunion weekend and commencement weekend. Most of these vans were sold and we partnered with Enterprise to supply vans during these busy weekends. We reduced from five different van types to two. We now only have 7- and 12-passenger vans.

By the end of 2015 we reduced our fleet to 109 vehicles, despite the fact the number of drivers using it was growing. We were able to dispose of 117 vehicles for an annual savings of $360,000 in maintenance, depreciation, insurance, parking, and other costs associated with the vehicles.

Q:  What other changes were you able to make?

A:  After reducing vehicles, we turned our attention to motor pool locations. This led to moving vehicles to a building on campus where approximately 500 people reside, where we added a self-service kiosk and key box. Since these cars spend most of the time on campus we decided to purchase two electric vehicles and put in charging stations.

Q:  What feedback have you received from customers?

A:  I am thrilled to say that our customers are very happy with the system. We use the system’s customer satisfaction survey and our results are consistently over 90% very satisfied. During the entire process we were able to meet our customers’ needs, and the changes we made clearly improved their experience using university vehicles.

Q:  What factors would you say most contributed to your success?

A:  We had a fleet-focused project champion that helped us concentrate on the right things. We also had metrics to back up our right- sizing decision making. We had the technology partner that had “been there done that” within our environment. All these things helped us achieve an efficiently run motor pool and serve our customers needs at the same time.