Green Operations

Improving Federal Fleet Management

September 2010, Green Fleet Magazine - Feature

by Adlore Chaudier

Fleet management within the federal government has changed significantly over the last few years. Some changes are steps already taken by most fleet management organizations outside the federal government, such as implementing a fleet management information system. However, several of the most recent and potentially far-reaching strides have occurred since October 2009 when President Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.

Efforts to improve federal fleet management have been under way for some time, but increasingly stringent reporting requirements have given teeth to laws, regulations, and policies. These strides can be summarized as two overriding strategies:

  1. Improve management of the federal fleet at all levels.
  2. Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and petroleum consumption.

Federal Fleet Characteristics

The federal government separates equipment management from vehicle management, consequently concentrating on:

  • Sedans and station wagons.
  • Passenger vans.
  • Sport/utility vehicles.
  • Light (4x2 and 4x4), medium, and heavy trucks.
  • Ambulances.
  • Buses.

Fleet size: Based upon data gathered by the General Services Administration (GSA) for its Federal Fleet Report (2009), the federal government's worldwide fleet grew by nearly 1 percent in fiscal year 2009 (compared to 2008), reaching 651,703 vehicles. The trend has been an increase in size since 2006.

Lease versus own: The respective agencies, including the military services, lease just under one-third (31 percent) of the federal fleet from GSA under what can be described as a working capital fund for the federal fleet, and purchase more than two-thirds (68 percent), with the remainder being commercially leased. This distribution has not shifted markedly over the reported years.

Vehicle type: At 43 percent, light-duty trucks represent the largest vehicle class by a significant proportion, followed by sedans/station wagons (17 percent), medium-duty trucks (14 percent), and sport/utility vehicles (11 percent).

Reporting Fleet Information

One of the most important tools intended to improve federal fleet management is the requirement for increased vehicle data reporting by agencies. For the last decade, the Federal Automotive Statistical Tool (FAST) regularly expanded the type of fleet data gathered from the vastly dispersed federal fleet operation. For example, for the 2010 data call, federal agencies must now identify all low GHG-emitting new-vehicle acquisitions and provide statistics on low-speed electric vehicles. At the same time, the quality of data on the federal fleet has improved due to experience, training, and oversight.

Gathering federal fleet data across the government is a significant effort because it starts at the grassroots level, with local activities ranging from embassies and military installations around the world (some in high-threat locations) to parks within the National Park Service scattered across the United States and several territories. The data then ascends within the respective organizations through their management levels until it is aggregated at the respective agency's headquarter level. Over time and across changes in administrations, FAST has continued to increase in importance as a reporting and management tool.

At the same time that laws and regulations have called for more data reporting, the federal government has instituted a program to assess agency compliance with fleet-related policies and best practices. In 2007, GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy created a Center for Policy Evaluation (CPE). Through the work of the CPE, the federal government is gathering information from agencies to assess steps taken to implement mandated changes and best practices.

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