When Dave Burnside joined the Yavapai County Fleet Management team in 1973, a substantial paper trail made its way through his office.
The mechanics jotted down every oil change, every engine repair, every part order – all in an effort to keep the department accountable for its expenditures.
"I’ve been here 31 years, so we didn’t even have computers when I started," Burnside said. "This is a pet (project)."
With that, the fleet management director swivels in his office chair, hammers out a few keystrokes, and produces a computerized report about a current county vehicle.
The only paperwork that comes through the department now is a variety of such reports on the approximately 775 vehicles and pieces of equipment that fall under Burnside’s supervision.
It’s those reports – full of such pertinent information as the cost per mile to operate each vehicle – that allow Burnside to meet his objective of providing county employees with their transportation and heavy equipment needs at the lowest possible cost to area taxpayers.
"It’s real, genuine science," said Burnside about the detailed data. "There’s no guessing. It’s all done on benchmarks."
Those benchmarks enable Burnside to strike a delicate balance when it comes to managing the fleet, specifically in the area of new vehicle purchases compared to used vehicles sold at auction.
An example was evident at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, where Burnside asked for and received authorization to award bids for 28 new light-duty vehicles to replenish the fleet. The total cost for the purchases comes in at approximately $480,000.
However, it’s also important to note that last September, the 19 light-duty vehicles Burnside selected for auction fetched close to $60,000. That’s 17 percent of the fleet’s original purchase price for those vehicles – a solid return considering those cars and trucks showed an average of 147,000 miles on their odometers.
"It’s pleasing to me, a lot," said Burnside of the high rate of return, noting that two trucks came in at 28 percent or higher. "If I get 25 percent of initial value, and it’s a low cost-per-mile, we won. The taxpayers won.
"That’s what I’d like somebody to say, is Yavapai County is managing their fleet very successfully. And we think the numbers bear that out."
The next wrinkle for Burnside and his crew is the implementation of an updated software program that not only provides the same detailed reports as the current system, but also factors in depreciation values for vehicles. The added information should make the decision about which cars are ready for the auction block even easier.
"It’s a priority, but we have to let everything that’s business take a front seat," Burnside said. "We’d like to be playing with it in a couple of months."