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Local Government Fleets: Looking Ahead


Demographic shifts, regional economic development and rapid technological change are all putting pressure on local governments around New Zealand. As budgets are squeezed, local governments are examining their costs. Fleet costs are usually the third biggest expense behind staff and buildings, and its unlikely that this cost structure will shift significantly in the next 10 years. So the onus is on local authorities to focus on efficiency of the fleet as a way of driving costs down.

Streamlining vehicle usage

Local governments must look at the efficiency of the individual vehicles in the fleet, and therefore the whole. Tools like GPS fleet management solutions already play a big part in helping fleet managers to optimise the efficiency of their fleets. Managed car bookings improve utilisation for individual vehicles, while integration with other back office systems streamlines internal processes.

Questioning the fleet

Local governments must also consider how many vehicles are actually needed. Video conferencing is here, and there are now so many communication channels. Local authorities need to get smart about the amount of travelling their staff really need to do, and consider whether they really need all the vehicles they currently run. 

An autonomous future

Autonomous vehicles are going to be a big challenge for local authorities. The private sector is already embracing the technology, but it’s crucial that the public sector shows leadership in this area. After all, local authorities are answerable to ratepayers and the increasing use of autonomous vehicles will potentially bring both cost and safety benefits. 

Consolidation across authorities

The big change coming up in how local authorities go about their fleet management is consolidation or pooling of vehicles across different authorities. It’s a change that will be driven by environmental considerations. Local authorities will have to show that they have the environment at heart, and that their fleet managers are considering the environmental impact of their fleet.

As an example, pooling or consolidation of fleets has already been tried by central government in Christchurch, and has been discussed by some local authorities, regional authorities and DHBs in other parts of New Zealand. As a concept it makes sense that organisations that operate in the same geographical area could share a fleet. With GPS fleet management technology coupled with pool vehicle booking technology, it would be very easy to manage a fleet across different sites, and to share both rides and costs between different organisations. 

Authorities maintain fleet control

There’s no question that management of local government fleets must remain in-house. The bottom line is that a private company managing an outsourced fleet doesn’t have the best interests of the local government at heart. Companies that provide outsourced fleets make their money by a fee per vehicle, so they have little incentive to consider reducing the size of a fleet. 

In-house fleet managers have an intimate knowledge of the fleet and the needs of the local authority, and that knowledge will become even more important in 10 years’ time as cost, safety and environmental considerations drive local authority decision-making.

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