Big Van on Campus

How to manage a fleet of low-mileage university vehicles.


A university CAFM is often faced with the additional responsibility of maintaining the campus motor pool—a fleet of vehicles much like a rental service, although for official university business. This private rental pool is like a fleet within a fleet, and consists of vehicles that, unlike most of the university fleet, log mileage outside of the closed campus setting. Flansburg has begun utilizing a new policy on the way turnover in his motor pool is handled where he has been able to take advantage of his low mileage vehicles.

"I bought four compacts last year and I'm getting ready to sell and buy four more, and after one year's time, it's going to cost me $1,000 to have to run those vehicles, and I have absolutely zero maintenance on them. I'll have an oil change, and that's about it," he says. "Everything is under warranty and, in a year in the motor pool, we might go 10,000 miles. Because we get such a discounted rate on a vehicle—because we buy it off state contract—if we can turn a vehicle every year, it costs us almost nothing to run the vehicle."


It is clearly a big part of the job of a university fleet CAFM to dream up creative solutions to issues which are unique to a closed, off-highway environment. If cycling out a vehicle is not an option, there are ways to maximize what you have currently.

Explains Carr, "We take passenger vans and, after they've been used for four or five years, we convert them to cargo vans—take the seats out and put a partition in there—and then we can get the useful life of those extended out to ten or twelve years, or more."

With the campus rental pool vehicles, it's a matter as basic as changing the duty cycle to allow for a more expanded use of the vehicles' components. "They're a rental fleet, so they get trashed, and they get miles put on them," Carr says. "Then we take them out of the rental service and put them in a campus fleet, where they get a different kind of wear. What it does is it extends the life cycle considerably.

"Then we buy all these new vehicles and put them in the rental fleet and they only have to be there for a very short period of time. Then we rotate them out. So we always have new ones there, and extend the life cycle by putting them in a really low mileage application," he says.


Unfortunately, some creative solutions have not taken to this campus environment quite as well. Carr sees one of the biggest concerns as trying to maintain an emission-friendly, fuel-efficient fleet of vehicles, which often leads to a lot of trial and error on the way to finding the most appropriate solution.

"The biggest challenge, I think, is being greener, cleaner, reducing emissions and sustainability," Carr says. "We've all done the recycling thing; we've all done pollution prevention. Now we're looking at things like greenhouse gas reductions."

Explains Carr, "We're a state fleet, so we're an EPAct fleet—and here in the Northwest there's not much corn, so we can't get ethanol. We tried electric vehicles before, but we're on a really hilly campus, so they don't perform very well. Also when it gets cold and rains, and you've got the wipers going and the heater going, and you're driving up and down the hills, your range is minimal."

EPAct (US Department of Energy's Energy Policy Act) places mandates on government fleets to encourage alternative fuel use—such as regulating the purchase of flex-fuel vehicles, or other gasoline-saving vehicles such as electric or hybrid-electric.


It seems like a public university fleet would be in a good position to obtain certain perks such as discounted vehicle rates. Still, there is another side to being under the thumb of state or federal government:

"We're really constricted in how we can do business," University of Washington's Carr explains. "I could go on for a long time talking about E8-21, which are the accounting rules for universities, for federal dollars. It basically restricts how we can find replacement funds, so we can't do it like a regular city does. We struggle with that; that's a challenge."

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