“Extras,” “spares,” “subs,” these are all names for reserve vehicles kept in a motor pool only to be deployed in emergency situations. When it comes to the number of vehicle reserves your operation maintains in its fleet, it would be ideal if there were a basic and reliable formula. While there is no such formula, we’ve provided a few guidelines below to help you determine fleet reserves.
While the following may carry different weight for your particular operation, but both are worth considering.
- Coverage Area
How are your front-line units deployed? Is geography or jurisdiction a factor? If a government fleet handles an entire county or metropolitan region, reserve units can be a reliable means of optimizing coverage. In this case, a central pool of reserve units may not be capable of operating within acceptable time or distance.
How is your front-line fleet utilized? The more often your front-line fleet is used, the more likely it is that breakdowns and accidents will necessitate a greater reserve fleet. For example, fire stations use “runs” as a metric instead of miles traversed. By a similar token, many urban police cruisers tend to have low mileage but high idle times that can worsen a vehicle’s condition over time. This is why Ford has hour gauges in patrol cars so vehicle usage can be better gauged.
First responders, especially law enforcement, often prefer assigned vehicles. This can greatly affect daily usage from vehicle to vehicle. In fact, some police agencies prefer to lock in vehicle assignments, especially for personnel at sergeant-level and higher. Other times, one vehicle may be used for three shifts, meaning round-the-clock operation. Front-line vehicle usage must be managed to ensure that all vehicles get equal usage and there is no great imbalance in the amount of wear incurred.
When your front-line fleet is constantly being used to the point of reduced functionality, your reserve fleet is going to be needed more often, especially if there is an accident. Police, fire and rescue services all use a dependable plan for governing fleet reserves. Government fleets tend to require many reserve units as front-line back-ups so there is no delay in how quickly a reserve vehicle can be put to use.
Reserve Age and Condition
A reserve fleet in poor condition calls for extra units. Fleet managers will prioritize the healthiest units once they leave the front line. Determining how many reserves to deploy depends on how the units were handled on the front-line.
This is an important factor in assessing the size of a reserve fleet. Constantly resorting to reserves means that your front-line is not being replaced, possibly because budgeting is focused on acquiring new units. Reserve units also go beyond the role of back-up, such as special events, gatherings or are dedicated for use in only overtime operations.
Your industry is also a factor to consider. For example, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) suggests that every fire department have one reserve engine for every eight engines. That being said, this is only a recommendation, the fleet manager and the chief are the final arbiters on resource size and allocation. Despite this recommendation, it is a useful standard when dealing with politicians and the public.
The 10% Rule
While it may not work for all fleet types, it may be best to set one reserve unit aside for every 10 front-line units. As to whether your particular fleet needs more or less is up to the fleet manager. While a service chief may decide how many reserves and extras the department needs, the fleet manager should discuss these policy decisions.
In conclusion, there is no single unifying approach to managing vehicle reserves in fleet management. Apply the above considerations in your assessment and you may reach a reasonable calculation for reserve units that are within your budget.