Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

Cox Enterprises’ Fleet Creates Efficiencies by Utilizing Supply Chain Management

With more than 13,000 vehicles nationwide, the fleet team has saved millions of dollars and lowered greenhouse gas emissions by selecting the right vehicles, streamlining operational processes, and implementing GPS.

January 2011, by Cheryl Knight - Also by this author

Mark Leuenberger (center), a 12-year veteran fleet manager for Cox, oversees a 13,000-plus vehicle fleet and serves as chief negotiator for all vendor-related contracts and services.

Leuenberger hopes to transition to more fuel-efficient vehicles (possibly Sprinters and Transit Connects) as others come up for replacement. "We'll do what's best for our company and our environment," he said. "Sustainability and fuel efficiency are major parts of every decision we make, but we also have to keep costs in mind."

Leuenberger pointed out that he does not want to get too far in front of developing technology. "I'll feel more comfortable buying more CNG vehicles when I know the infrastructure is there."

Technology Initiatives Maximize Savings & Reduce Emissions

Over the past few years, Cox Communications, the company's cable and broadband communications subsidiary, has applied GPS technology to transform the operational, customer, and environmental economics of its business. This shift of perspective has yielded significant results. "With more than 13,000 vehicles, it's vital to stay on top of the program," Leuenberger said. "There are always new products and technologies hitting the market. It's important for us to know which ones will benefit our business and customers."

One such product is Trimble's GPS system, which has been installed in more than 5,000 Cox vehicles. The company targets savings of more than $1.5 million in fuel costs each year from the program. The fleet management solutions also enable the company to reduce its carbon footprint by cutting more than 25 million lbs. of CO2.

The system helps achieve the company's overall sustainability goal by making sure idling is down and keeping routes tight. In the first year of system implementation, the combined Vehicle Diagnostics and GeoManager solutions allowed Cox to reduce vehicle idle time from more than 90 minutes to less than 15 minutes per day, an 84-percent decrease in several markets where it was deployed.

The system can also locate injured technicians and provide accident notifications. GPS-enabled vehicles also add significant benefits beyond the hard, quantifiable fuel cost savings and carbon emission reduction. Knowing where, when, and how vehicles are used enables field service teams to better serve their customers. And combining real-time location information with post-event data provides Cox the opportunity to better understand its business. The initial program launch resulted in:

■ Daily mileage dropped from 100-plus miles per vehicle to less than 70 miles per vehicle.

■ Overall miles per gallon increased 5 percent, while vehicle repair costs declined five percent.

■ Vehicle idle time dropped by as much as 90 minutes per field service tech per day.

■ Carbon emissions dropped by as much as 30 lbs. per vehicle per day.

The fleet department also benefits from the company's implementation of the Mobile Workforce Management Solution from TOA Technologies, allowing for a reduction in miles traveled per driver.

Fleet Continues to Play a Role in Cox Conserves Program

Moving forward, Leuenberger hopes to get an even better hand on maintenance. "Maintenance can get out of hand easier than anything else, and that really has a high cost associated to it," he said. "By taking more ownership of our maintenance, we're going to reduce $3-$4 million out of our costs."

The fleet team also aims to continue evaluating additional opportunities to go green. "We continue to research new technology, and when there are sustainable options -- both for the environment and business -- we explore investing," Leuenberger concluded.

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