Out of Control Policy Blog

Vehicle Fleet Purge Continues in California

Update: The Sacramento Bee reports that the 3,800 figure mentioned below:

Counted 'mobile assets,' such as electric carts, trailers, dump trucks and other rolling equipment. Only about half the 3,800 vehicles Brown announced purging are passenger cars, officials said. The Governor's office attributed the error to a miscommunication by the Department of General Services.

Yesterday California Governor Jerry Brown announced the state’s Department of General Services has reduced California’s vehicle fleet by 3,800 surplus cars, trucks, vans buses and heavy equipment, which is expected to save $11.4 million and generate an additional $5 million from auction revenue (see the update above for clarity on these numbers.)

The largest reductions came from the following eight departments, which operate the largest fleets:

  1. California Department of Transportation: 926
  2. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: 795
  3. California State Parks: 388
  4. California Highway Patrol: 322
  5. California Department of Fish & Game: 251
  6. CAL FIRE (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection): 234
  7. California Department of Water Resources: 204
  8. California Department of Food & Agriculture: 111

These reductions are being made in compliance with Executive Order B-2-11 that Gov. Brown signed in January 2011. As of yesterday, the Department of General Services has met 70% of EO B-2-11’s goal to reduce a total of 5,500 vehicles. (For more on EO B-2-11 see my previous post here.)

Brown describes the move saying:

Significant progress has been made, but we are not done yet… State departments can make deeper cuts. Every department must eliminate the unnecessary vehicles that waste taxpayer money. There is no excuse for an excessive state fleet.

California faces a prolonged fiscal crisis and every move that reduces government spending should be recognized, however California could take a more innovative approach to vehicle fleet maintenance and realize significantly greater savings by partnering with the private sector. Vehicle fleet maintenance privatization allows the private sector to focus on the fleet itself and empowers government agencies to focus on the actual services that fleet provides.

Privatization of vehicle fleet maintenance is common across the U.S. and has led to average cost savings of 10-25% for state departments and agencies. Privatization fosters a new approach to vehicle fleet maintenance focused on sustainable efficiency and cost/benefit analysis. Conversely, relying on top-down mandates can be seen a one-time exercise in “trimming the fat” that retains many procedures that led to inefficiency in the first place.

For example, Virginia’s Department of General Services has leveraged privatization through managed competition to reduce spending on vehicle fleet maintenance by 25% over the last decade. The agency also expanded the program to include a new information management system that has reduced preventative maintenance costs by 16% and partnered with Enterprise Rent-A-Car for short-term rentals for state employees.

For more on vehicle fleet maintenance in California, see Reason Foundation Policy Brief 84: Savings for San Diego: Vehicle Fleet Maintenance/Management Outsourcing Opportunities.

Harris Kenny is Policy Analyst


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