One-on-One with Fleet Professionals/Fleet Managers Across the Country—Part 4

Police Fleet Professional Magazine
Female police officer with male police officer in background

Police vehicles are integral to law enforcement agencies operating efficiently and effectively. Officers spend many hours in their patrol cars, and they have become a mobile office in many respects. Managing these fleets is a major responsibility, regardless of an agency’s size. Although terrain and weather conditions might impact the wear and tear on police vehicles, there are several other issues that can affect any department’s fleet, whether it is located on the East Coast, West Coast, or in the Midwest. After a successful expo in 2022 in Austin, TX, Police Fleet Professional talked to more fleet managers across the country about how their jobs have changed over the past several years and the topics they are most concerned about.

Mark Crawford

Mark Crawford
Assistant Manager
Fleet Operations Unit
Kansas City, MO Police Department

Question: What is your current title? How long have you been responsible for police vehicles and/or vehicle purchases? 

Answer: 27 years with Fleet Operations; 4 years as Fleet Manager

Q: What are a few of your key, primary responsibilities?  

A: Vehicle purchases, emergency equipment purchases, fleet readiness

Q: If you had to pick one or two fleet-related issues that ‘keep you up on a Sunday night,’ what would they be?

A: We are a 24/7 shop, so I am always concerned about the safety of the personnel working overnights and weekends. Second thing would be ordering vehicles.

Q: Have you ever been to Police Fleet Expo or FPCX? If so, what was your experience like?

A: I have been to a few of them and I believe it is the single most beneficial thing you can attend to help you grow as a Police Fleet Manager. Everyone speaks your language; all conversations are exclusively about police vehicles and running a police fleet. I refer to it as our Comic-Con.

Q: How do you keep up (or keep current) on new vehicles, new vehicle equipment, new products in the market? Include all that apply.

A: Manufacturer Reps, Colleagues (other Fleet Managers) and PFE. I do a lot of research on my own as well.

Q: Who makes the final purchasing decisions within your agency? Include all that apply.

A: We are given a budget and I decide which vehicles and quantities to purchase from that point, but the bulk of the vehicle purchase is approved by the Board of Police Commissioner per guidelines set in place.

Q: Who makes the following purchasing decisions in your agency regarding:
Vehicles
: Me
Radios: Radio and IT departments
Body Cameras: Radio and IT departments
Rugged Laptops or other interior items for the vehicle: IT department
Lightbars and other exterior equipment for the vehicle: Me

A: My responsibility are vehicles; primary and secondary are emergency lighting and fleet purchases in general.

Q: What effect has the global semiconductor shortage had on your fleet? Is this better, the same, or worse than a year ago?

A: The whole slowdown is having a detrimental effect on keeping Fleet Readiness. Our goal is always 98 percent Fleet Readiness, and we have fallen to 93 percent for periods of time.

Q: Is it still difficult to get vehicles or vehicle parts right now, due to the supply chains being disrupted from the pandemic? Is it better, the same, or worse than a year ago? 

A: Vehicles are extremely hard, the ordering windows do not align with anyone’s fiscal calendar, and if you do get an order in, nothing is guaranteed that you will actually receive your vehicles. It’s not really an order as much as it is a ‘wish list.’ New emergency equipment is especially difficult right now.

Q: Hiring qualified personnel continues to be somewhat of a challenge for many departments and agencies across the country. Do you currently have many vacancies or openings in your department… especially for fleet-related jobs?

A: We have been fortunate in finding good people as of late. We do have several openings due to retirements.  

Q: With the exception of higher gas prices, are the general costs of maintaining a police fleet (or fleet of vehicles) coming in much higher than other years, or about the same?  

A: Very much so.

Q: How do you handle all the new technology and upgrades in the police vehicles today? Is  it making your job easier, or more complicated and difficult? 

A: It has made our jobs more difficult by having to correspond with other units for their responsibilities on the vehicles. I feel it’s too much and distracting to officers.

Jennifer Anderson
Fleet Procurement Manager
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

Q:  What is your current title? How long have you been responsible for police vehicles and/or vehicle purchases?

A: Fleet Procurement Manager. I have been in State Government service for almost 17 years and I’ve been taking care of Government Fleet Vehicles for 10 years. I took the Fleet Manager position with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in 2021.

Q: What are a few of your key, primary responsibilities?

A: I am honored to be able to support our mission by making sure that our personnel have safe, operable vehicles and proper emergency equipment needed to serve their missions. I maintain the lifecycles of our units and use discernment regarding what and where our resources and tools are best placed and purposed.

Q: If you had to pick one or two fleet-related issues that ‘keep you up on a Sunday night,’ what would they be?

A: Safety is always my number one priority. I’m always concerned about how well our vehicles are performing in the field. The last thing our personnel need to be concerned about is if their tools are going to fail them. Secondly, as many Fleet Managers of late have been doing, I find myself brainstorming on how to better meet our needs in these complicated economic times.

Q: Have you ever been to Police Fleet Expo or FPCX? If so, what was your experience like? 

A: I was able to represent the TBI at the recent 2022 FPCX in Austin, Texas, for the first time in our agency’s history. It was a great showcase of the various products and technologies available as well as a great opportunity to meet and learn from peers in various agencies.

Q: How do you keep up (or keep current) on new vehicles, new vehicle equipment, new products in the market? Include all that apply. (Trade Shows, Magazines, Websites, Manufacturer Reps, etc.)

A: I have found that visiting various local and state law enforcement agencies and meeting with fleet managers to see where the industry standards are currently has given me a great amount of context from which to decide what is best for our unique fleet. I have also been meeting with various upfitters across our state, speaking with both owners and technicians as well as manufacturer reps to see what technology is coming up and what the applications and obstacles are. Our agents as the end users are also a great resource.

Q: Who makes the final vehicle purchasing decisions within your agency? Include all that apply. (Police Chief, Fleet Manager, etc.)

A: We have an excellent team that collaborates on meeting our fleet needs. As Fleet Manager, I work closely with our State Department of General Services personnel to procure vehicles. I also coordinate with our Assistant Directors and regional personnel, Special Agents In Charge and their assistants, to assess and decide what vehicles to select and how our resources are best deployed.

Q: Who makes the following purchasing decisions in your agency regarding:
Vehicles: Our Fleet Manager
Radios: Our internal Technology & Innovation Department takes the lead on radios.
Body Cameras: Our internal Technology & Innovation Division is over all recording and A/V equipment.
Rugged Laptops or other interior items for the vehicle: Fleet Manager in coordination with the vehicle operators and division heads
Lightbars and other exterior equipment for the vehicle: Fleet Manager in coordination with the vehicle operators and division heads

Q: What effect has the global semiconductor shortage had on your fleet? Is this better, the same, or worse than a year ago?

A: The semiconductor shortage continues to be of concern and impact has remained consistent, but I am optimistic that this will soon improve.

Q: Is it still difficult to get vehicles or vehicle parts right now, due to the supply chains being disrupted from the pandemic? Is it better, the same, or worse than a year ago? 

A: Yes, obtaining vehicles and parts are still a challenge. This year has proven to be more problematic as many manufacturers have shifted priority from fleet vehicles to servicing the retail industry.

Q: Hiring qualified personnel continues to be somewhat of a challenge for many departments and agencies across the country. Do you currently have many vacancies or openings in your department…especially for fleet-related jobs?

A: Our state has made some great investments in support of Law Enforcement and our fleet is expanding as a result. I do see the need for our administrative staff supporting our fleet to expand accordingly as well in the coming years.  

Q: With the exception of higher gas prices…are the general costs of maintaining a police fleet (or fleet of vehicles) coming in much higher than other years…or about the same? 

A: Prices have increased across the board, about 10 percent at least on everything, it seems, and we are adjusting. We constantly assess where we can find savings going forward. We find ourselves thinking more creatively and being much more strategic and specific on the way we outfit and utilize our tools.

Q: How do you handle all the new technology and upgrades in the police vehicles today? Is it making your job easier…or more complicated and difficult? 

A: Advancements in police vehicle technology have overall made my job easier. There are a variety of solutions to obstacles that we frequently face at a variety of price points and application levels. I am constantly impressed by the ingenuity I see in this industry.

Karen Griggs
Fleet Manager
Colorado Department of Public Safety

Q: What is your current title? How long have you been responsible for police vehicles and/or vehicle purchases? 

A: I am the Fleet Manager for the Colorado Department of Public Safety. I have been in the fleet industry for over 30 years, 21 of it in First Responder vehicle procurement and management.

Q: What are a few of your key, primary responsibilities? 

A: I oversee the day-to-day operations of the Public Safety fleet. I am responsible for the writing of the specifications and the procurement of the new vehicles and the emergency equipment that goes along with the vehicles.

Q: If you had to pick one or two fleet-related issues that ‘keep you up on a Sunday night,’ what would they be? 

A: First would be the current vehicle procurement challenges with the manufacturers cancelling vehicles, not building the vehicles on order, or holding the built vehicles until chips become available. The second issue is how to keep our current, very talented employees motivated to remain working in the state system. 

Q: Have you ever been to Police Fleet Expo or FPCX? If so, what was your experience like?

A: I have been attending since 2016. I believe that this is a must-go-to conference for anyone in the Law Enforcement arena. The information I have received at the conference has been invaluable. The connections you make with the manufacturers of the emergency vehicles and emergency equipment is priceless. Not only do you see what is up and coming, but you also can work directly with them to solve existing issues and concerns. It is invaluable to have a go-to person when you need something.

Q: How do you keep up (or keep current) on new vehicles, new vehicle equipment, new products in the market? Include all that apply. (Trade Shows, Magazines, Websites, Manufacturer Reps, etc.) 

A: Police Fleet Expo (FPCX) is the primary place, but also with the connections made with the manufacturers. The CSP Troopers are always sending information on equipment that they see and think is cool for us to present to the equipment committee.

Q: Who makes the final vehicle purchasing decisions within your agency? Include all that apply. (Police Chief, Fleet Manager, etc.) 

A: This is a combined process between the Fleet Manager and the leadership of each individual agency. CSP is the largest agency that I am responsible for and I work closely with Command Staff to determine the appropriate vehicles.

Q: Who makes the following purchasing decisions in your agency regarding:
Vehicles: Fleet Manager and agency leadership
Radios: Agency communications departments
Body Cameras: CSP Command Staff
Rugged Laptops or other interior items for the vehicle: Combination of the Business Intelligence unit for the laptops and the Fleet Manager for interior items in the vehicle.
Lightbars and other exterior equipment for the vehicle: Fleet Manager

Q: What effect has the global semiconductor shortage had on your fleet? Is this better, the same, or worse than a year ago? 

A: So far, the effect has not been major. I have had to change my approach to purchasing equipment. I have to plan further out to accommodate the longer delivery times for added equipment. We have had to change some of the vehicle orders to different vehicles or manufacturers due to manufacturers cancelling or not building vehicles.

Q: Is it still difficult to get vehicles or vehicle parts right now, due to the supply chains being disrupted from the pandemic? Is it better, the same, or worse than a year ago? 

A: The challenge continues; in some areas, there is slight improvement, but in other areas, it has gotten worse. 

Q: Hiring qualified personnel continues to be somewhat of a challenge for many departments and agencies across the country. Do you currently have many vacancies or openings in your department…especially for fleet-related jobs? 

A: I am very fortunate that I have a great team with personnel who have quite a bit of experience and have been with us for a long time. We just added a couple of positions. It was a challenge to find qualified applicants, but I just filled my last open position.  

Q: With the exception of higher gas prices…are the general costs of maintaining a police fleet (or fleet of vehicles) coming in much higher than other years…or about the same? 

A: The labor prices have increased quite a bit. Dealerships have raised their hourly labor rate in some cases as much as 35 percent and the smaller, independent shops are following suit. The material costs have gone up also, especially on oil.

Q: How do you handle all the new technology and upgrades in the police vehicles today? Is it making your job easier…or more complicated and difficult?

A: Improved technology is always good. The technology, depending on what it is, may make the job easier for the driver, but requires more work for the technician building the vehicle. There are always training challenges with new technology.

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