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Police vehicles are integral to law enforcement agencies operating efficiently and effectively. Officers spend a lot of time in their patrol cars, and they have become a mobile office in many respects. Managing these fleets is a major responsibility, regardless if an agency is small or large. Although terrain and weather conditions might impact the wear and tear on police vehicles, there are several other issues that can affect any department’s fleet, whether it is located on the East Coast, West Coast, or in the Midwest. Police Fleet Manager talked to several fleet managers about how their jobs have changed over the past few years and the topics they are most concerned about.

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Lieutenant
Randy R. Rogers
Mooresville
Police Department
Mooresville, Indiana

 

Question: How long have you been a Fleet Manager?
Answer: 21 years

Q: What are a few of your key, primary responsibilities?
A: Shift Lieutenant, upfitting the department’s vehicles, and ordering equipment for the vehicles.

Q: If you had to pick one or two fleet-related issues that “keep you up on a Sunday night” what would they be?
A: Figuring out how I’m going to run the wiring, and where I’m going to make my connections in new model-year police vehicles.

Q: Have you ever been to Police Fleet Expo? If so, what was your experience like?
A: I have been attending them since the show in Louisville, Kentucky after the first show in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I enjoy the shows; it’s a chance to meet other fleet managers and engineers from Ford, Chey, and Dodge.

Q: How do you keep up on new vehicles, new vehicle equipment, and new products in the market?
A: Manufacturer reps who call or visit the department; trade shows (like Police Fleet Expo); e-mail solicitation/notices about a new product; colleagues (other Fleet Managers).

Q: Who actually makes the vehicle purchasing decisions within your agency?
A: The Chief

Q: Who makes the following purchasing decisions in your agency regarding these items?
A: Vehicles – Myself and the Chief
Radios – The Chief and the head communications director
Body Cameras – Me, the Captain, and the Chief
Rugged Laptops or other items for the vehicle – Me, the Chief, and the head communications director
Lightbars and other exterior equipment for the vehicle – Me and the Chief

Q: Is it difficult to get vehicles or vehicle parts right now, due to the supply chains being disrupted during the pandemic?
A: Yes, it has definitely been a challenge. For example, we have been waiting on cages for our canine units for two months.

Q: Is hiring good, qualified personnel to work within the fleet departments a problem? Do you have several vacancies?
A: It can be difficult finding people who want to work, since certain aspects of the upfitting job can be tedious and complicated. I have been working with the same guy for the past several years and we work well together; he has done this type of work his whole life and was previously a radio installer.

Q: Are the costs of maintaining a fleet of vehicles coming in higher than other years or about the same?
A: Yes, absolutely, the cost of fuel, brakes, tires, and maintenance in general is up from years past. This is partly due to the supply and demand. We typically spend approximately $6,000 for equipment on one vehicle.

Q: How are you handling all the new technology in the vehicles today? Is it making your job easier or more complicated?
A: I believe the newer technology has made things easier and is more user-friendly. For instance, scanning driver’s licenses in the field is easier and saves officers a lot of time. In addition, the capability to program lightbar patterns and automate it for an entire fleet is great. As with anything, there can be a learning curve, but in the end, it allows us to do our jobs more efficiently.

 

Chuck Schoenfeld
Fleet Division Manager
Travis County, Texas

 

Q: How long have you been a Fleet Manager?
A: I have been the Fleet Division Manager for Travis County for three years. Prior to that, I was the Maintenance Manager with the Texas Department of Public Safety, and I am retired from the City of Austin (after 25 years) as a Maintenance Manager.

Q: What are a few of your key, primary responsibilities?
A: I am responsible for all aspects of our fleet. I write the vehicle replacement budget, work with the Fleet Coordinator, put together the yearly fleet replacement list, work with the end user, and research vehicles to make sure they meet their needs. I also work with the end user to write the replacement specifications while working closely with the vendors to assure their quotes meet our required specifications.
I also handle the yearly vehicle replacement purchase, and work with the Fleet Coordinator to retire vehicles and send the replaced units to be sold. I work closely with the Maintenance Manager to make sure the fleet is being maintained and repaired, as needed. I work with him and approve any major repairs so that the fleet is safe for all drivers. In addition, I work closely with our fuel administrator to assure that our four fuel locations are getting their needs taken care of in a timely manner.

Q: If you had to pick one or two fleet-related issues that “keep you up on a Sunday night” what would they be?
A: I have been in this business for over 25 years. There is not much that keeps me up at night. I think I have seen it all. I would say, if it is anything, it would be to make sure our fleet is in a safe, serviceable condition. If something happens, I want to be assured we have done our due diligence by purchasing and maintaining modern, safe, eco-friendly, reliable units.

Q: Have you ever been to Police Fleet Expo? If so, what was your experience like?
A: Yes, many times, and it is a great conference! I would say, for me, the most important thing is peer networking, and asking questions about related issues to find out how other departments across the country are handling them. Also, I have learned so much from being able to try, look at, and ask questions about all the new equipment and products. The vehicles and equipment are evolving, so quickly, that one almost needs to go every year to keep up with the latest versions.

Q: How do you keep up on new vehicles, new vehicle equipment, and new products in the market?

A: I use all of the below items and with the fast pace that the vehicles and equipment are changing, it is a necessity to be familiar with and use every tool you can to stay up to date:
Manufacturer reps who call or visit the department
Trade shows (like Police Fleet Expo)
Trade magazines (like Police Fleet Manager)
Email solicitation/notices about a new product
Mail (postcards, flyers)
Colleagues (other Fleet Managers)

Q: Who actually makes the vehicle purchasing decisions within your agency?
A: Myself, with the input of the end user.

Q: Who makes the following purchasing decisions in your agency regarding:
A: Vehicles – I am the person who makes the decisions for the vehicle-related purchases, again, working with the end user.
Radios, body cameras, and laptops – These are all handled by our communications group.
Lightbars and other exterior equipment for the vehicle – I approve all the upfit items, with the input of the end user.

Q: Is it difficult to get vehicles or vehicle parts right now, due to the supply chains being disrupted during the pandemic?
A: Yes, we are having a hard time getting some parts, especially OE parts. We try to use OE when we can. I have new units on order (not all of them are law enforcement), and have been told by some of the dealers that there will be a delay due to the shortage of parts to build them.

Q: Is hiring good, qualified personnel to work within the fleet departments a problem? Do you have several vacancies?
A: I do have several vacancies for Heavy Technicians; they are very hard to get. We get very few applications for these positions. The Light Duty Technicians are easier to get. We normally will get enough applications to choose good, qualified candidates for the interview process.

Q: Are the costs of maintaining a fleet of vehicles coming in higher than other years or about the same?
A: The auto shops are saying they have seen an increase in parts. The costs across the board will be a little higher simply because of inflation. The cost will trend up a couple percent every year. Due to COVID, it will be hard this year to get a true comparison compared to last year. I would say that approximately 50–60 percent of our non-law enforcement fleet has sat idle due to COVID and teleworking.

Q: How are you handling all the new technology in the vehicles today? Is it making your job easier or more complicated?
A: I would say it has become more complicated. We have asked for and paid more for training for our Technicians than we ever have. Technology is changing yearly. If we don’t keep up with it, we will not be able to make cost-effective repairs on our units. We are purchasing more costly diagnostic equipment and paying the yearly subscription to keep them updated and working. With the CAN systems, it seems to require the Techs to spend more time behind the diagnostic computer to get the info needed to make the repairs. This holds true for the large truck and heavy equipment as well.

 

Catherine Brown
Director,
Fleet & Facilities Division
Missouri State
Highway Patrol

 

Q: How long have you been a Fleet Manager?
A: I have been the Director of the Fleet & Facilities Division for about two and a half years and prior to this, I was responsible for another agency’s fleet of vehicles for approximately eight and a half years.

Q: What are a few of your key, primary responsibilities?
A: The routine forecasting of vehicular needs; oversight of the procurement of all pursuit (approximately 1,300 vehicles) and non-pursuit vehicles (approximately 120 vehicles), to include vessels (approximately 160 vessels); the upfitting of all emergency equipment on pursuit vehicles and vessels; the assignment of vehicles to officers statewide and the final disposition/ sale of all vehicles once they have reached the predesignated mileage cap amount.

Q: If you had to pick one or two fleet-related issues that “keep you up on a Sunday night” what would they be?
A: Lately, it is the unknown, and whether or not the new vehicles we have ordered months ago will be delivered in a timely manner. We are routinely forecasting vehicular needs based on estimations of when pursuit vehicles will “mile out.” With the microchip supply issues across the entire auto industry, the impact of us not receiving vehicles that are ordered creates a ripple effect whereby we then are required to drive our existing vehicles longer, adding more miles to the vehicles and then negatively affecting our return on investment when we sell them.

Q: Have you ever been to Police Fleet Expo? If so, what was your experience like?
A: Yes, and I found it to be incredibly helpful to have a hands-on experience with the new pursuit vehicles as well as emergency equipment options that are available and key to the pursuit vehicle industry.

Q: How do you keep up on new vehicles, new vehicle equipment, new products in the market?
A: Manufacturer reps, Police Fleet Expo, and colleagues in the industry.

Q: Who actually makes the vehicle purchasing decisions within your agency?
A: Our senior division staff will collaborate on vehicle purchases, to include what percentage of sedans, SUVs, and pursuit trucks we will need in order to maintain a diversified fleet. If we were to make a major change in the type of SUV, for example, I would consult with Patrol’s senior staff to ensure the proposed vehicle would meet and/or exceed their programmatic needs, to include pursuit and safety expectations.

Q: Who makes the following purchasing decisions in your agency regarding:
A: Vehicles – Senior division staff
Radios – Our Communications Division along with their senior staff
Body Cameras – Not applicable
Rugged Laptops or other items for the vehicle – Our Communications Division (rugged laptops), our Criminal Justice Information Services Division (rugged laptops), along with the Field Operations Bureau (rugged laptops and other items for vehicles)
Lightbars and other exterior equipment for the vehicle – Our Fleet & Facilities Division, along with the Field Operations Bureau and senior staff when significant changes are made to existing emergency equipment.

Q: Is it difficult to get vehicles or vehicle parts right now, due to the supply chains being disrupted during the pandemic?
A: Yes, we have had numerous delays and full cancellations of vehicle orders due to varying reasons that appear to be attributable to the pandemic. Vehicle parts and supply deliveries have not been as volatile, luckily.

Q: Is hiring good, qualified personnel to work within the fleet departments, a problem? Do you have several vacancies?
A: We do not currently have vacancies, but when we have had them in the past, we have been fortunate to hire really qualified and dedicated employees.

Q: Are the costs of maintaining a police fleet (or fleet of vehicles) coming in higher than other years or about the same?
A: The cost to maintain our fleet has remained fairly constant. Given we are able to trade our used sedans at 54,500 miles, our SUVs at 64,500, and our trucks at 74,500, we are able to keep ongoing maintenance costs low and then still sell those vehicles with their original powertrain warranty. These pursuit vehicles are generally 2–5 years old when we sell them.

Q: How are you handling all the new technology in the vehicles today? Is it making your job easier or more complicated?
A: We work hard to stay abreast of the various technology changes. Because we are able to rotate our fleet so frequently, we are constantly working with manufacturer reps to learn what will be changing year to year. Our Training division will frequently produce short, educational videos about vehicle technology changes that we require all officers to watch when they pick up their new vehicle.