New vehicles rolling from 'bullpen' to districts
Highway Equipment Analyst Bob Williams has one of those jobs most young drivers would envy. Every year, as the new car models are about to be introduced, he researches the specifications, reviews requests from his colleagues, produces a purchasing list and develops a distribution schedule for new ITD vehicles.
Allocating nearly $8 million for ITD’s new vehicle purchases (including heavy equipment) is a year-round process that begins in August as manufacturers announce fall prices. Based on a long-established replacement schedule, Maintenance Service Manager Steve Spoor prepares a shopping list during the winter and makes a formal capital request to the ITD budget council early in the spring.
The request becomes part of the annual ITD budget that goes to the transportation board governor’s office and legislature for final approval.
Many of the light duty vehicles (sedans and ½- and ¾-ton pickup trucks) purchased this year began arriving in Boise in February or March. The “bullpen,” a fenced parking area at Headquarters, assumes the look of a new car lot as vehicles await registration, licensing. ITD decals and in some cases, reflective material and special equipment is added before the light-duty vehicles are dispersed to the districts.
Well-traveled sedans generally are replaced every eight years or 100,000 miles while the lifespan of pickup trucks is about 125,000 miles. Economics sometimes stretches the service life of vehicles but ITD tries to conform to that schedule. Veteran sedans often are converted to use in motorpools and for local trips.
Before disposing of vehicles through local auction firms, ITD offers them for sale to tax-supported local government agencies; they generally bring about 10 percent of their original sales price when resold to agencies, Spoor said.
Pickup trucks are in relatively high demand, but there is much less interest among local governments to acquire sedans. Only about five percent of the pickups eventually are auctioned to the public while 10-15 percent of the vans go through the auction process.
Vehicles usually remain in the districts where they are first placed into service; auctions usually take place locally. As with most state surplus, ITD employees cannot purchase the vehicles.
ITD maintains a fleet of about 645 light-duty vehicles of which about 12 ½-13 percent are turned over each year. Recent budget constraints, however, have reduced the turnover to about 8-9 percent per year.
Motor vehicle dealer investigators, who log more miles annually than most other ITD employees, receive replacement vehicles about every three years, Spoor explained. Each of the districts has one vehicle assigned to inspectors except for District 3, which has four.
This year ITD purchased 12 new sedans, 16 small ½-ton pickups, 17 full-sized ½-ton pickups, 16 ¾-ton pickups and five vans.
Beginning this year, all of the new ITD vehicles will have front and rear flashing lights to meet safety requirements; installation was done at the Headquarters shop.
The Energy Policy Act (EPAct) requires that 75 percent of all light-duty vehicles be capable of using alternative fuel. As a result, ITD purchases “flex” fuel sedans and full size ½-ton pickups than can operate on E-85 ethanol. The only mid-size sedan meeting that requirement today is the Chevrolet Impala.
ITD also has four hybrids – two Toyota Priuses and two Honda Civics – that use a combination of gasoline and electrical current from rechargeable batteries. Three of the hybrids are at Headquarters and one is at the District 3 office.
To help meet the governor’s fiscal year 2009 mandate for more fuel-efficient vehicles, ITD will receive an additional cost allowance for light-duty vehicles to purchase more hybrid sedans that get improved gas mileage.
Fuel economy has become a major consideration when replacing vehicles in the fleet, Spoor said. Less than 10 percent (43) of ITD’s light-duty fleet are four-wheel drive vehicles, usually operated by roadside maintenance and geological work that require access to more difficult terrain.