Innovative Strategies for the road ahead.

Developing ability to scale up

Fleet management cannot be improvised when the organisation is actually responding to the emergency. Organisations must see it as a cornerstone of emergency preparedness efforts. They should aim within a week to know what resources they need. Within 3 weeks, they should aim to be fully operational.

Now that you have conducted a transport needs assessment, it is wise to carry out actions to ensure that you are ready when the emergency response starts, you can scale up the resources of the organisation swiftly and cost-efficiently. Some of the actions described in the next section can be conducted as stand-alone preparatory activities, whereas other will require you to work together with other organisations. More and more humanitarian organisations are beginning to examine joint transport services, particularly in emergency contexts, when resources are scarce and programme delivery means saving lives. Preparation based on a collaborative approach will leverage the advantages of sharing of assets.

Acquisition of Vehicles

“In some areas, organisations do not own vehicles because there is always a risk of vehicles getting looted or commandeered. All our vehicles are therefore rented. In some cases, the ‘owners’ of the rented cars are not the real owners as most of them were just looted during the crisis”

- Anonymous Logs Manager -

Acquiring vehicles appropriately, and being able to secure those that are not at hand, depends on first identifying their availability and location, as well as the sources for obtaining them.

The vehicles required to respond to the emergency come from different sources, whether disaster relief organizations acquire them directly or lease them. Normally, all these acquisition methods will come into play in an emergency, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Which option is best?

Whichever option you choose for, it is important to ensure adequate fuel, maintenance facilities and administrative controls. Using your current fleet to respond to the Coronavirus crisis is the fastest and cost efficient option. However, before you do so, consider the consequences. There is a trade-off; re-allocating your fleet will lead to a disruption in the ongoing programme activities. If you are able to use your existing fleet to conduct ongoing programme activities AND respond to the emergency, this might mean your fleet was too large from the start.

In short-term emergencies, renting is common practice. In the case of a natural disaster or a sudden man-made disaster, it might take time for imported vehicles to arrive and be made ready for use. It is for this reason that organisations resort to renting vehicles from local providers, especially at the start of an emergency. Given the high number of organisations present, this often drives up the rental costs.

When examining the options, consider the following:

1. Expected length of the operation:
The length of the operation is short, (3 - 6 months), or the situation is volatile, it may be better to rent, loan or re-deploy rather than purchase vehicles, because of high initial costs

2. Urgency
Purchasing new vehicles from abroad can be very time consuming, because of long delivery times. In an emergency, the need to respond is high.

3. Comparison of costs
Compare the cost of renting vehicles with the cost of purchasing them. You should also consider purchasing second-hand vehicles if they are in good enough condition. In Section ‘Budgeting Fleet Costs’, you will be introduced to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) method to compare the costs of purchasing a vehicle and renting.

4. Safety and Security
In the case of renting vehicles or outsourcing transport, you should consider whether the safety and security of staff members and other road users can be guaranteed.

5. Additional Benefits Provided
Take into account that renting vehicles will include servicing and other benefits (such as drivers, insurance, fuel) which would need to be separately arranged if the vehicles are re-deployed, purchased, or loaned.

Preparing for the emergency allows you to consider options that you might not be able to set up during the emergency, such as:• Negotiate a flexible procurement contract with national vehicle distributors. Negotiating in

advance allows you to secure a better rate than you might if you discuss during the emergency.

  • Discuss the hypothetical option to transfer assets from another country with your HQ.
  • Set up a long-term agreement (LTA) or right of use agreement with local NGOs.
  • Agree on vehicle sharing arrangement with other organisations.

Forming a Competent Driver Pool

Aside from vehicles, organisations need to hire drivers to operate these vehicles. Using the results of the transport needs assessment, you are advised to implement a policy of "one vehicle, one driver” to make sure that one person is responsible for the control of each vehicle. When several people use the same vehicle, it tends to deteriorate faster, and it is harder to determine who is accountable for its misuse or lack of vehicle checks

Before the emergency, you will not know exactly how many drivers you will require, but you can build capacity to scale up your drivers by:

  • Build an “Coronavirus” driver database. This is a list

    of drivers you have vetted prior to the emergency (perhaps when interviewing for a driver position) and can contact if an emergency occurs. If you are a small NGO, contact other NGOs and build a joint database.

  • Negotiate a flexible service contract with a workforce or staffing company to supply drivers.
  • Contact a professional driving schools and agree that they will recommend drivers if an emergency occurs.

Build a “Coronavirus” driver database. This is a list of drivers you have vetted prior to the emergency (perhaps when interviewing for a driver position) and can contact if an emergency occurs.

Building Fuel and Maintenance Capacity

Build a “Coronavirus” driver database. This is a list of drivers you have vetted prior to the emergency (perhaps when interviewing for a driver position) and can contact if an emergency occurs.

The usage / mileage of vehicles can be quite high in emergencies, thus creating the need for vehicle maintenance that is both of good quality and cost efficient. Your organisation can have sufficient vehicles and drivers to respond, yet if there are no good maintenance or fuel facilities, these vehicles will suffer multiple break-downs and impede programme delivery.

Your organisation can have sufficient vehicles and drivers to respond, yet if there are no good maintenance or fuel facilities, these vehicles will suffer multiple break-downs and impede effective programme delivery.

For example, Fleet Forum conducted a survey in 2014 based on the South Sudan crisis; it was concluded that according to 54% of participating organisations, vehicle breakdowns occurred once every 0-3 months on average. 70% indicated the average mileage per vehicle per month was above 1,000 kilometres. Participants also mentioned that the quality of maintenance in commercial vehicle workshops was not only poor but also expensive especially outside of Juba. This notion was furthered reinforced by the fact the large organizations, who were more likely to have the resources and the pressure to invest in long term solutions, only used in-house workshops.

Fuel is essential for the emergency response, yet frequently it is a scarce resource in emergencies. Given the fluctuation in fuel prices, it is near impossible to set up a LTA with fixed prices, however there are other alternatives that can diminish the negative impact of a potential fuel shortage in an emergency.

As a fleet manager, there are various actions you can take to prepare for an emergency:



In-House Workshop

In the absence of local facilities, your organisation may choose to undertake its own maintenance. In that case you should ensure that:

  • an experienced mechanic is hired;
  • a secure workshop area is identified or set up;
  • the necessary tools and equipment are available;
  • there is a system to monitor and measure the quality of the maintenance, fleet

    performance and costs.


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    Next: Budgeting fleet costs

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