Municipal fleets provide a variety of services to city residents. In many cases these services are provided on wheels. The ability to provide services in an effective and efficient manner is partly dependent on a fleet of vehicles and other equipment. Services range from fire and police to water distribution and wastewater collection and treatment to solid waste collection and others. Average citizens are not familiar with the structure of government and how city employees and departments interact with each other. They simply expect the potholes to be patched, to have a police car or fire engine respond when called and to see the garbage disappear when it is placed at the curb. Residents expect these tasks to be accomplished as economically as possible, with taxes and fees remaining low.
It is the job of city government – elected officials and staff – to deliver city services as effectively and efficiently as possible. To fulfill this mission, city staff must have a dependable fleet. It is tempting to keep operating the fleet the “way it’s always been operated” and to delay vehicle and equipment purchases, especially during economic downturns, but freezing equipment purchases is not a sustainable long-term solution. So, how should municipal decision makers manage and fund fleet operations?