4 Motor Pool Best Practices19. February 2018
Running a motor pool may not be your full-time job, but running a fleet is. Nonetheless, you probably spend a great deal of time trying to make sure drivers can access the vehicle. There are literally lots of moving parts to manage as a fleet manager, and there might not be time to step back and think about how you can improve your day-to-day operations, especially with your motor pool.
After helping customers launch their motor pool for the past 20 years, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. As a result, we feel qualified to offer these four best practices for you to consider with your motor pool. Whether you have been running one for years or just starting out, these best practices can both serve as a guideline or as a reminder on how to get the most out of your motor pool operations.
#1: Build a Strong Foundation
The fleet world is currently experiencing disruptions to the traditional ways of fleet management. As a result, there are numerous opportunities to embrace, prepare, or execute these changes. It’s easy to get distracted by the latest advances, which is understandable because change of some degree is imminent. However, it is important to make sure you have the basics in place.
Before you start building up your motor pool, make sure the critical aspects of your fleet are running smoothly. The last thing you want is to have to deal with an RFQ for new tires while you are trying to in-fleet vehicles to your motor pool.
Similarly, you also want to make sure you have a strong foundation for your motor pool. If you have 15 year old gas guzzlers in your fleet, do you want to add them to your motor pool, or would it make sense to use this opportunity to purchase hybrid or electric vehicles? It would be a hassle to add the old vehicles with plans to replace them in the coming year.
As well, it is equally important to have a team in place that will support your motor pool efforts. Your team needs to understand the benefits of a motor pool, what it will achieve, and of course, how it works. The end users of the motor pool, who could be staff, department employees, field workers, etc. may be opposed to this new way of accessing a vehicle. Your team would therefore be essential in managing any resistance and helping you shape the future of your motor pool operations.
#2: Think Big but Act Small
One of the first steps to starting a motor pool is determining where the vehicles are coming from. Will they be taken from departments or individuals? Will you be purchasing new vehicles or using ones already in the fleet? To answer this, you need to think about what kind of vehicles motor pool users will need, or even want.
At the same time, think about any other ways you can leverage a motor pool. For example, you can use the motor pool to decrease maintenance expenses while also getting people to carpool when possible. There are many applications on how motor pools can be used, and thinking big can help you identify opportunities. However, it is critical to act small.
Acting small involves implementing your motor pool plan in steps. Do not try to achieve all your goals at once. Instead, make it easier for people to adopt this new initiative by making incremental changes to how you currently operate the fleet. It is also beneficial to involve your users in creating these steps, especially if you are normally removed from the hands-on part of your fleet. Involving them will also help reduce resistance of the motor pool while also creating ambassadors for the new program.
#3: Set Measurable Goals
The reason why organizations start a motor pool can vary, but regardless of the reason, setting goals will help focus your decision-making and management efforts. It is also important to note that goals are not to-do lists. Saying the goal of the motor pool is “to reduce the number of fleet vehicles” is less meaningful than saying “optimize vehicle utilization by 20%”.
Similarly, there should be short and long term goals to guide your operations, while also being measurable. How you decide to measure your goals depend on what tools you have available, and what your fleet’s performance may be judged on. Think about what the key performance indicators are for your fleet, and what you want to achieve.
To supplement these metrics, anecdotal evidence can provide great value. The qualitative notes you take from observing user experience, vehicle use, etc. can provide insight to your motor pool operations that you wouldn’t get from numbers. However, you have to be unbiased in your observations to maintain reasonably accurate performance measurements.
#4: Continuously Communicate
The goals you set should also be communicated to the end users, which will offer transparency as to what the purpose of the motor pool is. This piece of knowledge will help answer any questions or negativity people may have, especially if you are taking away individually-assigned vehicles.
We asked Gary Horwald, Fleet Manager at City of Santa Barbara, for his advice. He said:
“People can be resistant to change and when you take their assigned vehicle away and replace it with a pooled shared vehicle, they may not like it at first until they understand why that choice is being made. Showing them cost data and potential savings is paramount.”
This brings up a great point in getting employees on board with the motor pool program – you need to convince them, and even management, of the benefits. Numbers are a great way to gather evidence that would help support your initiative.
Communication comes in many forms, and as long as it is directed to the needs of the reader, many options can work. For example, sharing implementation updates, tips and tricks, user guides, etc. can come in the form of weekly newsletters, forums for open discussion – whatever your employees are used to can work.
Regardless of the method chosen, it is important to remember to communicate clearly. If decisions are made by yourself or management without any explanation, there will likely be resistance to change. By being proactive and engaging the motor pool users, you will be able to set expectations, reduce any potential misunderstandings, and also give more details on the meaning behind a motor pool.
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With these best practices, we hope to give you the confidence needed to start and even grow your motor pool. We understand every organization is different with different needs; nonetheless, you can use these best practices as a guideline for your implementation or just food for thought as you begin thinking about a motor pool.
If you have any questions about motor pools or fleet management needs, please let us know and we would be happy to share our expertise.