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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Seattle implements fleet management “best practices,” saves $3 million in current budget cycle

11/12/2009  3:00:00 PM
Cyndi Wilder  (206) 684-0909
Julie Moore  (206) 684-0909

Seattle implements fleet management “best practices,”
saves $3 million in current budget cycle

Seattle’s Fleet and Facilities Department (FFD) purchases and maintains about 4,000 city vehicles, from police cars and fire trucks to utility repair trucks. FFD charges city departments for repair and replacement of vehicles, and has taken steps in recent years to lower costs.

Recent questions and document requests from The Seattle Times indicate there may be confusion about how FFD manages the city’s fleet. In particular, there have been questions regarding patrol car and motorcycle lease rates, why vehicle maintenance work is done in house and not contracted out, and how FFD tracks contributions and expenditures related to vehicle replacement. It is important the public understand how FFD works in the best interest of taxpayers.

Most departments, including Police, Fire and Parks, lease most of their vehicles from FFD, which provides regular routine maintenance and repair of the vehicles as part of the lease. Seattle City Light owns all its own vehicles and Seattle Public Utilities owns its heavy-duty fleet, and both departments pay FFD to maintain their vehicles. FFD also manages a centralized motor pool, and provides fuel for the city’s fleet.

It is no surprise that lease rates for public vehicles, such as police cars, can’t be compared to lease rates for private vehicles. After all, it’s not your father’s Crown Victoria. The Ford Crown Victoria FFD purchases is a “police package” patrol car specially designed to handle the rigors of police driving. These vehicles feature a rugged frame, severe-duty shock absorbers, heavy-duty brakes, a heavy-duty transmission and a powerful engine. And once the new vehicle arrives, FFD customizes it even further.

After purchasing the car for about $27,000, FFD “upfits” it by installing complex public safety equipment and police tools, such as gun mounts, lights, siren speakers, power outlets and a special prisoner barrier and seat. These improvements total about $6,600.

Seattle’s patrol car leases cover an incredible package of equipment and services unavailable in the private sector. The yearly lease rate charged to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) includes the cost of fully replacing the vehicle in four or five years, depending on its precinct assignment. The lease also covers all routine repairs and preventive maintenance – both parts and labor – over the life of the vehicle. This system enables SPD to have the newest, up-to-date equipment in tip-top shape. These vehicles are in use 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so they have to perform well. Public safety depends on it.

City fleet maintenance crews are committed to their customers’ success and do the work better. Our mechanics are at the top of their trade, and take the time to make sure that when city vehicles leave the maintenance yard, they’re in great shape. That often means crews fix more than just a broken wiper or a burnt out taillight, which may have been the original reason for bringing in the vehicle. Instead, they take this opportunity to check the entire vehicle for potential problems. It doesn’t make sense to contract this work out to private vendors. When FFD has gone to private shops, the results were unsatisfactory: for example, during the 2008 snow storm, vendors who held contracts for chaining city vehicles failed to do the work, so city crews had to come to the rescue. When it comes to public safety, there can be no excuses.

Our city mechanics, represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 160, Local 289, receive medical and dental coverage and are eligible to participate in the city’s pension plan. In an industry that often provides no such benefits to employees, this is an important way to retain the best talent.

And state law supports public employees. The courts and state Legislature have made it clear that government cannot contract out work traditionally performed by civil servants solely based on price.

Last year, FFD hired an outside consultant to track how we do business. And while there was a lot of positive news in the final report, they determined there were ways we could save even more money. And we have. Reforms in fleet management have saved taxpayers more than $3 million so far.

For the 2010 budget, Mayor Greg Nickels and the City Council directed FFD to hold on to vehicles longer. FFD has re-evaluated the useful life for every kind of vehicle in service. By selectively extending certain life cycles, Seattle has cut its replacement costs with no impact on the cost to maintain these vehicles.

For more information on how FFD is implementing the best practices recommended by the outside consultant to maintain our great service in tough economic times, visit this Web site:


Fleets and Facilities Department

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