State departments of transportation (DOTs) utilize a variety of vehicles and equipment to ensure the safe, reliable, and efficient operation of the roads and other facilities for which the agency is responsible. From plowing snow to mowing right-of-way to clearing debris to dealing with the storm damage to patching pavement cracks and potholes, a DOT’s fleet and equipment comprise an important public asset. Understanding and forecasting the costs of owning and operating these vehicles and equipment is essential to effective agency management.
Cost in this context is a potentially complex accounting concept. There is no widely accepted methodology and little guidance for adapting and applying sound cost-based management principles to the specific characteristics of DOTs’ fleet and equipment activities. In addition, variations among states’ budgeting and fiscal management practices require adjustment of generally accepted cost estimating and accounting practices to the specific situation of a particular DOT.
The objective of this research was to develop a guide for DOT fleet managers to calculate the fleet and equipment ownership and operations costs to support decision making, addressing at least the following components:
- Identification and definition of the full range of direct and indirect costs appropriately associated with DOT vehicles and equipment;
- Guidance for how best to allocate and aggregate vehicle and equipment costs appropriately among the DOT’s services and operating units to support cost calculations for various functional and management units in the DOT (for example agency, district, or activity) to answer frequently asked questions;
- Identification of fleet and equipment performance measures that may be used in the context of cost calculation;
- Methodology for calculating fleet and equipment total and unit costs at various management levels within the agency (for example by vehicle type, activity, district, or agency as a whole);
- Guidance for data collection and use to support fleet and equipment cost calculation and performance management;
- Guidance on presentation and use of calculated costs to support management and budgeting decision making and communication with stakeholders.
The guide is intended to be useful for fleet and fleet-services management and for informing senior agency decision makers and other internal and external stakeholders such as budget-agency and elected officials, road users, and the general public. The research is completed. The guide, published as NCHRP Research Report 944 and accompanied by a PowerPoint file designed to assist users to present the guides principles and practices to others, may be viewed and downloaded by clicking here.