On average government-owned equipment sits idle 70% of the time.  Many fleet managers have to constantly fight an all-too common enemy: underutilization of heavy equipment.  But, what does this mean exactly?


When a machine is used less than 2000 hours per year, it is considered underutilized.  In my opening statement, the average utilization of heavy equipment was quoted at 30% (70% underutilization).  Conservative as this estimate may be, accurate data is surprisingly hard to come by.  In 2012, a utilization study by the State of Ohio Auditor’s Office revealed:

Of the 390 pieces of capital equipment for which data was requested and collected, only about 45% (177) were able to be properly evaluated based on the data provided.

What about the other 213 pieces of equipment?  Was that data ever collected? Or simply not believable?  According to the study, the majority of the agencies had trouble responding to requests for monthly usage, maintenance costs and other key metrics of these pieces of equipment.  With less than half of equipment data, the utilization rates are still mind-blowing:

With underutilization being such a critical problem across fleets in the U.S., here are 4 ways to improve equipment utilization data collection:

1) Track your equipment’s every move

Investing in GPS/Telematics technology is probably the most effective way to collect data.  It is done automatically, with no human input, so accuracy is very high.  There are a couple of things to watch out for.  First, it could prove to be an expensive investment if your organization’s fleet management is not set up to handle the data stream.  Secondly, there might be some additional work needed to integrate with your current system to enable data to flow seamlessly. Overall, GPS/telematics is a great solution as long as your organization can afford it.

2) Record engine hourmeter at fueling station


One common method to record utilization in large fleets is to require operators to punch in engine hours or vehicle mileage into the fuel delivery keypad.  Most fuel delivery systems have this capability.  This opens up the possibility for human error when typing in engine hours or miles.  Integration with a fleet management system is critical and should be priority number one if your fuel delivery system can record utilization in a database.  Automating this process would yield great results.  One caveat with this method, however, is that sometimes fuel is acquired at an “external” fuel station outside of your organization.  When this happens, you rely on an operator to manually record engine hours or vehicle miles.

3) Manual entry with rewards

Writing down engine hours or miles with pen and paper.  This low cost solution is still the most common way to keep track of usage.  It is fairly prone to human error and lack of consistent usage records.  If that is the way your organization does it, you can enhance it by offering rewards.  The idea is to give away a $50 Amazon Gift Card every month to the crew supervisor or driver with the most complete log.  Work with Human Resources first, and present the cost of a $50 Amazon Gift Card as a cost saving initiative to have accurate equipment usage and improve preventative maintenance scheduling.

Equipment Utilization Tracking - pen and paper

4) Estimate based on fueling amount

Keeping track of gallons of fuel is yet another method to estimate usage.  Notice I used the word estimate because it is not a direct measurement.  The fuel delivery system can be used to collect the fuel consumed data per vehicle.  The idea behind it is to estimate miles driven based on each vehicle's rated fuel consumption (miles per gallon).  For heavy duty equipment, you'll need to input each engine's rated fuel consumption in gallons/hour at a certain rated power.  Once you know the amount of fuel consumed you can estimate how long en engine was on or how many miles a vehicle was driven. 

About Alan and MuniRent

Alan has always been passionate about the sharing economy. From Superhost on Airbnb to co-founding MuniRent, he's always been excited to foster more collaboration between people and now governments.

Schedule a MuniRent demo and see why 25 public agencies are already on board. MuniRent is the only web-based reservation tool for heavy equipment that is specifically designed for crews. Increase fleet utilization inside your organization with a proven and simple solution.

Follow Alan on LinkedIn and Twitter: @mondalan

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