Big Apple, big fleet
New York City is embracing common specs, biodiesel for utility vehicle orders
New York City has one of America’s most diverse municipal fleets. It owns or leases 27,000 vehicles supported by 150 maintenance facilities and 400 in-house fueling locations. The municipality spends a whopping $700 million a year on procurement, repairs and fueling.
About $240 million of that budget is devoted to acquiring new vehicles, and most of those will be assigned to the largest agencies, including the fire department, police department, department of corrections and public works agencies, including sanitation, environmental protection and parks.
It leads to a lot of purchasing experience. If fleet officials say a pickup truck or cherry picker can make it here, maybe it can make it anywhere. But as diverse as the individual uses may be, the agencies soon will be embracing more common specifications.
A new initiative led by Keith Kerman, the city’s first chief fleet officer, is changing the way NYC Fleet orders vehicles of every size, particularly the utility vehicles that support a broad array of applications. Rather than leaving individual agencies to set their own standards, the municipality is looking to identify base vehicles that everyone can share.
“For the most part, the needs are common,” Kerman says, referring to the way many utility trucks are used. “This is true in Class 3 and 4 trucks, rack trucks and medium-duty dump trucks. This is true for bucket equipment that you would use for electricians.”
Of course, there always are going to be some differences. The Department of Parks and Recreation, where Kerman worked prior to his current role, has 10 different versions of bucket trucks ranging from high rangers to cherry pickers and tree trimmers.
But there is an opportunity to set some common specs for the base vehicles. A centralized specifications team with representatives from all of the leading agencies now is developing the standards that will apply to all city purchases.
“When it came to specialized equipment, which is the majority of our program [accounting for about $200 million of the budget], everyone did their own thing,” Kerman says. Typically, each agency had up to four staff members who were writing unique specifications for truck purchases, even though they all turned to common contracts when ordering lighter vehicles like the Toyota Prius or a Ford van.
“We want to simplify the procurement process,” Kerman says. “We want to make sure that we are getting the best equipment specification expertise and the most effective, environmentally friendly, modern equipment specification possible. We want to increase the amount of standardization in our fleet so that parts and maintenance is much simpler and easier and more common.”
This supports a strategy to consolidate fleet maintenance activities so that agencies can help each other with repairs. “Standardization of specifications will greatly assist that,” Kerman says. “If the Parks Department operates rack trucks and the Department of Sanitation operates rack trucks, and they’re all the same GM model of rack truck, then it’s easier for [the Department of] Sanitation to help with maintenance.”
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