NEW YORK—Maintaining and repairing the thousands of vehicles used by different city agencies is a massive effort. Hundreds of repair requests pour into different facilities every hour on top of scheduled maintenance orders. There are garbage trucks, police cars, pickups that haul park equipment, and everything in between.
To complicate things, different city agencies maintain their own vehicles in their own garages. Each agency has its own parts vendors, its own mechanics, and its own way of tracking orders. With little communication and resource sharing, garage space goes unused and parts idle in massive inventories.
That was the case with New York City’s fleet in 2011: 47 locations, 10 agencies, hundreds of vendors, thousands of vehicles, and no central effort to rein in spending and inefficiencies.
That year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg spotted the problem and moved forward to solve it by appointing a chief fleet officer, Keith Kerman, to centralize the fleet, cut spending, and reduce inefficiencies.
After hundreds of meetings, the city’s fleet now operates using a single vehicle tracking software, a single parts vendor, and has closed one-fifth of its facilities without any loss of service. The effort has saved taxpayers $240 million so far—a managerial accomplishment comparable only to Bloomberg’s grand reorganization of the city’s customer service lines to create the 311 call center a decade ago.
“I don’t think that anybody who knows government would ever think that we could have this announcement today,” Bloomberg said from a podium set up in a repair shop in Northern Manhattan Monday. “This defies conventional wisdom and it shows you what you can do if everybody works together.”
Technology was at the forefront of the fleet consolidation. The city contracted AssetWorks to create FleetFocus, a single vehicle management system for all of the city’s vehicles.
Through a partnership with the car-sharing service, Zipcar, the city reduced its use of city-owned vehicles. Today, municipal workers can access thousands of Zipcar vehicles by registering a time slot online and picking up a car at a nearby location. And the city is getting the service at a deep discount too—$5 per hour per car—much lower compared to what Zipcar charges individual members.
Also, the Fleet Management Office bought the Zipcar technology, called FastFleet, to make it’s own pilot car-sharing system. City employees can reserve city-owned vehicles online. The sharing enables the vehicles to be put to use more often and give agency supervisors the ability to track whether cars are being driven for personal use.
Before the consolidation, Service Shop 9 on West 158th Street served Department of Transportation vehicles and its garage was underutilized. The Fleet Management Office opened up the facility to the New York Police Department, which was in need of a garage at the time.
“Because of the proximity of this shop to northern Manhattan and the Bronx, we’re able to get resources repaired more quickly and back out on the street,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Citywide, the number of service and repair facilities was reduced from 47 to 37.
As an unforeseen benefit, some of the mechanics found ways to work more efficiently together than individually. Both the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Parks and Recreation use heavy-duty vehicles. When their repair and maintenance operations were combined, mechanics found that many parts work for the vehicles from both agencies. Since the vehicles are similar, some of the mechanics taught tricks of the trade to others, bringing up the overall quality of the work.
“They blended right in with our operation,” said Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty.
The consolidation will save the city an estimated $45 million per year going forward. Officials estimate that the savings will reach $415 million by 2016.
“The next administration coming is going to have the value of savings from this, that will help them and their budget problems,” Bloomberg said. “But also they can use this as a model for other changes. There’s no limit to the number of places you can go and say you can do it better.”