The City of San Angelo Fleet Services Division is getting a new Data Monitoring Hardware and Service program after much debate and disagreement. This upgrade will cost the city $66,730 in initial hardware costs and an annual subscription cost of $131,602 thereafter thanks to a 4 to 3 vote at the City Council meeting Tuesday morning.
In August of this year, council members originally heard from Fleet Services superintendent Ryan Kramer who rallied to improve fleet services by purchasing a Data Monitoring Hardware and Service program from AssetWorks LLC through the GSA contract to help identify issues on equipment on 600 city vehicles before they happen.
Because of the price tag and a missing city council member, the vote hit a stalemate.
“You brought this to us probably five meetings ago,” Mayor Dwain Morrison told Kramer. “We got hung up on a 3-3 vote, and this is the first time its been brought back. We’ve now got seven members.”
Thus, with all council members present, Kramer had an opportunity to restate the benefits of the system and what it would do for the city of San Angelo so the council could make the final determination on whether to award or not award the funds for this improvement.
“The main goal is truly for our fleet services division, so that we can best manage the fleet that we’re responsible for,” Kramer told the council. "Our fleet is valued somewhere in the cost of just under $30 million dollars. We do strive to do the best we can; we know it depreciates quickly on just the nature of what’s involved in fleet, so we’re truly doing the best that we can to minimalize the depreciation as well as to maximize the longevity of these vehicles.”
Fleet service vehicles include light and heavy duty vehicles from police cars, ambulances, dump trucks, trailers and other transportation.
By purchasing this hardware device, the city will have the ability to integrate the information produced by the NetworkFleet devices into Fleet Services management software, which will help streamline accurate and detailed reporting through evaluations of individual vehicles and equipment. For instance, if a vehicle’s check engine light goes on, the system will automatically generate a work order, send it to Fleet Services and the driver simply has to pull into the shop. There will be people on hand with the tools ready to fix the problem.
Kramer said the software will help with fuel consumption decrease as his staff determines the health services. They will see reduced labor times and liability and accident avoidance. Overall, the areas that will be monitored are health of the vehicle, idle time and behaviors of the driver.
Councilman Rodney Fleming, SMD1, who voted against this originally, said the amount of money for this program could go to two or three more employees in the Fleet Services Division.
“That may be more valuable than this program,” he said.
Kramer, however disagreed.
“This is going to tell me the health, the detail, the exact location, all of those things in each of the fleet units we equip at any moment that we wish to know it,” he told Fleming. He added that no amount of employees can provide the data this program can. Overall, he mentioned this program will save a lot of time, and possibly, money.
“I think the potential is there,” Kramer stated. “Based on what I’ve learned from other cities, they’re seeing drastic changes and savings in multiple areas.”
Councilman Johnny Silvas, SMD3, asked what would happen if the city didn’t proceed further with this program.
“Nothing. We would keep doing as we’ve been doing,” Kramer responded.
He said, however, his department functions “reactively,” which means staff waits for something to happen to the vehicles and then they fix it. This program will help identify problems with vehicles before they happen, and it will help his department be more proactive.
Councilwoman Charlottte Farmer, SMD6, said this system keeps people from engaging in bad habits and "to keep care and longer wear." It will also bring San Angelo into the current century in handling the city's vehicles.
“It decreases the likelihood of stopping here and there on company time in that vehicle,” she said. “Any way we can reduce these expenses, we do have to pay for that.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Grindstaff, SMD5, said she appreciates the diagnostic side of the program, but she wanted to know how managers would use this information in the end, because to her, this is where efficiency comes in.
Kramer stated many of the managers are excited about this program, and they will be trained on what areas to look at in order to cut costs in their departments.
Grindstaff also asked about the annual obligation to the maintenance, and asked for specific numbers rather than instinct.
However, Kramer could not give specific numbers. Instead, he discussed aspects in a study done in the month of October that indicated savings rather than clarified it.
Kramer did clarify, however, there will be minimal replacement expenses since the units will only be replaced if there’s a hardware failure.
On the opposing side, Mayor Dwain Morrison said, “I’m completely against this. I think it’s a waste of money.”
He added that the vehicles today tell drivers when they need an oil change; a check engine light goes on to indicate there’s a problem; also, if there’s a low tire, an indicator comes on, and the same thing happens when there’s a low tire or an open door.
“I don’t need a $198,000 program to tell me the check engine light is on because you have an employee in that car who knows that check engine light is on,” Morrison continued.
He said employees can be proactive when they encounter an issue, and all aspects the program would monitor can be handled by people rather than a program.
He stated, “To me this is an absolute waste of money. If we have an extra $200,000, let’s put it into road repairs. Let’s put it in our water infrastructure. We’ve got all kinds of things we can put this money into. If we got this kind of money to throw away, let’s throw into something we need.”
Councilman Marty Self, SMD2, who voted against this the first time, because he thought the cost too high, changed his mind and said he has found in his own business vehicle fleet that the program has paid for itself. He feels it will be the same for the city.
With that change, and an added vote, $198,332 will go to the data program, and thereafter, the city will pay the annual cost of over $130,000 to maintain it. Kramer did say the subscription can cancel at any time. He also noted that since it’s possible it will take longer to install the components into all 600 vehicles, the first year’s annual fee will be lower since it does’t go into effect until everything is complete.