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Indiana University's Fleet Success

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Amanda Wilson, CAFM, is the fleet manager for Indiana University. Mrs. Wilson has worked in the Fleet Services and Motor Pool department since 2006, where she managed accounting. In 2012, she took over as the university’s fleet manager, overseeing a 45-vehicle motor pool and approximately 800 departmental vehicles, including off-road vehicles and construction equipment. She worked in local rental car operations for several years prior to joining the university.

Q:  Tell us a little about your fleet.

A:  We have one motor pool site at our main campus in Bloomington. We have 45 shared vehicles in a rental pool that are available to faculty, staff and students for official university business travel. In addition, we service student organizations, our alumni association, and our university foundation to provide vehicles. We also service our Geological Field Station that offers two 6-week classes in Montana each summer.

Our fleet office manages 800+ departmental vehicles, including off-road vehicles and construction equipment from cradle to grave. Our fleet has 16 large SUVs with off-road capabilities, particularly for use at our Geological Field Station and with our Outdoor Adventures Learning department. We cross utilize these vehicles for people moving responsibilities.

Q:  What is the composition of your fleet staff?

A:  One staff member monitors all reservations, answers questions about our facility, and reviews drivers. Our system is integrated with a database managed by our Office of Insurance that maintains our driver eligibility records. We check our staff driver statuses once every three years and student statuses are reviewed every year. That’s important to us because when someone makes a reservation in our system we want driver privileges to be up-to-date with driver records. The staff member also arranges for overflow vehicles as needed from an outside vendor. So, if our staff requests a vehicle and we don’t have vehicles available, we arrange for a vehicle to be available at our location.

Q:  Your motor pool was voted to be outsourced at one time, then it was brought back in-house. Can you share with us a little about how that happened and why?

A:  Yes, our university trustees voted to outsource what was a successful motor pool in 2007 because they thought we could save money and offer newer vehicles to our staff. After three years, however, we realized that the quality of vehicles we offered were actually too luxurious for our needs, especially for our field station in Montana. Field station vehicles were sustaining a significant amount of damage that was very costly due to the rugged terrain there. One year, we spent $25K in tire replacement and another year, we spent more than $20K in vehicle body damage because the vehicle types were not the right type for our usage. After that, the decision was made to bring the motor pool management back in-house. In doing so, we had to integrate with our travel management system for billing and to enforce travel authorizations. We made the decision to bill fuel usage to individual reservations. That helped us to compare apples to apples with the outside agency rate and make an educated decision to bring the motor pool in-house.

Q:  How important is the customer feedback tool to your motor pool management?

A:  We strive to maintain a high level of customer service to the people we serve. We use our user feedback tool to drive the types of vehicles and the services that we provide. User feedback surveys help drive our vehicle choices and customer care. It’s important to get feedback on how the vehicles are and are not working for customers. We’ve recently had a lot of feedback on our compact cars and have made the determination that the particular make and model is just not a good fit for our fleet scenario. So we are transitioning those vehicles to a different make and model to increase the confidence in our motor pool.

Customer feedback was another factor in bringing the motor pool management back in-house when it was outsourced. The customer feedback we had collected regarding the high customer satisfaction we had with our system helped us to tell our story to the management team and anyone else asking about motor pool services. We were able to provide quotes from high level university administrators and vice presidents about the good service they received. One vice president sent a message though the feedback system stating how he appreciated the service and employees at the motor pool, saying he had never received any better service from a support organization anywhere on the campus. That all contributed to bringing it back in-house.

Q:  What were some of the challenges you faced when bringing the motor pool back?

A:  We needed to automate our reservation process, billing, reporting, key management and user management, and we needed to control costs and fleet size. Using the FleetCommander system, we streamlined the sharing process and automated maintenance processes significantly. We were able to reduce the number of vehicles we had in our fleet prior to outsourcing from 65 to 45. All of the decisions are data-driven because we had tracked our usage prior and we could show the types of vehicles that were needed to make the decisions. For instance, we decided to push a little harder on the SUV usage to help offset costs. We were able to reduce toll management and personal vehicle use processing and reimbursement costs. We are able to enforce policies on usage of the vehicles consistently, because the system does it automatically. This helps us keep departments from having their own vehicles just sitting around waiting for people to use them.

Q:  What are other ways you stay efficient?

A:  We reduce fleet numbers by making the right types of vehicles available in our shared environment, and find vehicle types that can serve multiple uses. We intentionally cross-use vehicles. For example, we limit the number of passenger vans we have so we can reduce the costs and spread the usage of our large SUVs and use them in scenarios where we would use a passenger van. That increases the utilization of the large SUVs and lowers the cost for everyone. We strive to be competitive with the local market. We also set preventative maintenance schedules in FleetCommander and automate and enforce them as much as possible. Another thing we do is work closely with other groups in the university to find ways to integrate services. We’ve done that with our insurance office, travel management office and accounting office as well.