March 2018, Work Truck – Feature
Vertiv operates a number of vehicles, but is currently under contract with Ford for all of its replacement units. (Photo courtesy of Vertiv)
The Columbus, Ohio-headquartered Vertiv fleet was made up almost completely of Dodge Ram trucks with the Hemi V-8 5.7L engine at the time Dave Buhn became fleet operations manager for the company in 2016. Buhn eventually decided to switch much of the Vertiv fleet to Ford F-150 trucks with the 2.7L engine. Lower vehicle acquisition cost was just one benefit of that decision.
“The smaller engine they have in place today, that’s turbocharged and has more horsepower than the Hemi V-8 that we were using,” said Buhn, who oversees a fleet of about 1,800 vehicles.
Vertiv, formerly Emerson Electric/Emerson Network Power, designs and builds infrastructure for data centers that house the storage for computer servers and other systems for such large companies as AT&T, Apple, and Facebook. About 90% of Vertiv’s fleet drivers are engineers who service the data centers and about 10% are sales staff.
The company employs more than 20,000 people and operates more than 25 manufacturing and assembly facilities around the world. The U.S. fleet serves seven different business units with offices in all 50 states.
“I was able to achieve more horsepower with a smaller engine, lighter weight, less fuel, and across-the-board savings on maintenance,” Buhn said. He also noted the new Ford trucks are approximately 700-pounds lighter than the previous trucks because of their aluminum body.
That initiative alone resulted in a 10% annual reduction in maintenance costs. It was one of many cost-cutting and efficiency-related initiatives that Buhn implemented soon after starting with Vertiv.
When he first started with the company, he began working on reorganizing his fleet’s data as it was shown in the computer program of Vertiv’s fleet management company, Element. Then, he worked on a program to reduce the number of different models in the fleet to further improve efficiencies.
That process led to many additional cost-controlling initiatives Buhn would implement in a little more than two years with Vertiv.
Vertiv’s fleet includes GM, Chrysler, and Ford vehicles but is currently under contract with Ford for all of its replacement vehicles. The field engineer fleet is mostly cargo vans and pickup trucks, while the sales vehicles are mostly cars and SUVs. Buhn decided to implement a bailment pool at a local Ford dealership, which includes about 30 of the most common vehicles the fleet uses out in the field. He started the system with Ford models and noted that the initiative has decreased fleet vehicles’ downtime and rental costs.
“We can draw from that pool within just a few weeks, which eliminates about 16 weeks of build time from the manufacturers,” said Buhn, who previously managed the fleets for Scotts Miracle-Gro and American Electric Power. Once a Vertiv fleet vehicle comes out of service for maintenance or for collision repair, the fleet brings a vehicle out of the bailment pool for a faster replacement time. Vertiv does not pay for the bailment pool vehicles until they come into service, or until a cutoff time of about eight months, when the company must start paying Ford for the vehicle’s storage costs.
Buhn’s cost-cutting initiatives did not stop there. Using an Element Fleet Management program, Buhn performed statistical modeling analyses to study when maintenance costs increase related to vehicle depreciation. The analyses help him determine optimal vehicle lifecycles.
“By doing so, can I extend the life of the lease? What is the magic number of replacing vehicles? I’m