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SPECIAL REPORT


What’s the Real Cost?


Experts emphasize the value of technology, data and newer equipment to rein in total cost of vehicle ownership.


Written by Eric Woolson I


n the daily hustle and grind of keeping a fleet of vehicles on the road, and tracking where they’re sup- posed to be when they’re supposed to be there, it can be easy to put thoughts about total cost of ownership,


or TCO, on the back burner. A fleet management con- sultant said the rewards of keeping it front and center are well worth the effort and more important than ever. “Being an effective transportation director doesn’t mean just understanding routing, scheduling, dispatch- ing, driver management, and a modicum of vehicle maintenance or repair management,” said Paul Lauria, president and co-founder of Mercury Associates, Inc., a fleet management consultant in Rockville, Maryland. “You need to understand the financial and economic dimensions of owning and operating a fleet of vehicles.” Lauria, whose firm works with fleet owners across a


broad spectrum of industries, including student transpor- tation, warned of a perfect storm that faces fleet owners. Advances in information and vehicle technologies as well


18 School Transportation News • OCTOBER 2019


as changes in workforce skills and employment practices threaten to make the already complicated transportation industry even more daunting over the next decade. “Mastering these challenges will require changing


many of the principles and business practices school districts have relied on for decades. In particular, they will require increasing the use of objective, quantitative data to inform forecasting, planning and day-to-day decision making,” explained Lauria, who spoke on this topic during the STN EXPO Transportation Directors Summit held in July at Lake Tahoe. “The time to prepare for these changes is now, while the economy is in rela- tively good shape.” One such challenge is the accelerating transition


from first-hand, experienced-based fleet management to data-driven fleet management. There is what he termed a tremendous loss of institutional knowledge and practical experience underway that represents a sea change for many organizations.


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