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Public sector drives change on the road to fleet-based digital transformation

Dylan Thomas Profile picture for user Dylan Thomas November 6, 2023
Measuring accountability - Samsara's Dylan Thomas shares some examples of how public sector fleet companies are providing taxpayers with value for money while making big digital changes.

Strategic Changes - brightly colored chess board with gears and cogs and lightbulbs driving change concept © chaofann -
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The world of physical operations — the flow of goods and services that powers the global economy — is dominated by logistics and supply chains. After all, where would we be without the fleets of vehicles that shuttle between warehouses, factories and shops that are essential to keeping the wheels of the economy turning?

But trade is not the be-all and end-all of physical operations. Behind every clean street, bus route and emergency response team is a public sector organization operating fleets of vehicles that makes it possible.

They may not answer to shareholders, but they are accountable to taxpayers. And just like their private sector counterparts, these fleets are looking to become safer, more efficient, and more sustainable. And that includes the decarbonization of fleets. 

It’s an approach that the City of Sacramento has been spearheading for years. It has a fleet of some 2,600 vehicles to keep the California state capital’s fire, police, public works and recreation departments running smoothly. Fleet Manager Mark Stevens said: 

We put a big focus on being cost-effective and sustainable in order to reach city-wide goals. We need to know our operating costs so that we can show that we’re an efficient operation.

And just like every other fleet, the City of Sacramento is looking to decarbonize its operations while providing value for money for taxpayers. 

That’s why Sacramento’s transition to sustainable transport has gone hand-in-hand with the adoption of a cloud-based fleet management platform that provides granular data to benchmark fleet performance. 

Without such a platform, it would have been almost impossible to collect the necessary data to inform decisions around fleet electrification, engine idling interventions, and other cost-saving measures. 

“We needed data to start analyzing what we didn’t know yet,” said Stevens. “Having customizable data to make conclusions about our fleet is key.”

Data fuels modern fleets 

Of course, access to real-time location data, insight into sustainability metrics such as fuel efficiency, and a single consolidated platform that provides visibility into Sacramento’s entire fleet are important for day-to-day operations. 

Viewed another way, though, and it’s an example of industry-specific digital transformation within local government to help improve services, make operations more efficient, and drive down costs. 

It’s an issue examined by the Center for Digital Government (CDG) in the US earlier this year which found that there was a ‘new urgency for digital transformation among government leaders’.

The findings suggested that both state and local government leaders view technology as key to addressing improvements in efficiency, rising constituent expectations, and pressing climate priorities. 

This was underlined by the fact that only 13% of those surveyed believe they have made substantial investments in modernizing operations, but more than half (56%) will upgrade their technology solutions by 2025. 

A recent report by industry analyst firm Forrester — The Public Sector Industry Cloud Landscape, Q3 2023 — discusses how the public sector is looking to industry cloud vendors to enhance customer experiences, improve digital service delivery, create shared government platforms, and enhance data security and privacy. 

Public sector digital transformation is gathering pace 

In effect, what’s happening to public sector fleet services is an extension of public sector digital operations platforms used to run office-based functions such as accounting or HR. The report states: 

Few organizations serve as wide a range of customers as the public sector; its services extend beyond constituents and citizens to stakeholders as diverse as tourists, overseas investors, and non-resident business owners.

It goes on to say: 

As the world’s largest and most successful brands infuse their CX (customer experience) with digital, shifting the expectations of what’s possible for consumers and business buyers, public sector organizations must reengineer their experiences to keep up.

Of course, what can be achieved by investing in up-to-date digital platforms depends on the size of the operation. 

The Road Commission of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, for example, saved $60,000 when it adopted a single, unified platform for its fleet. It’s also been able to exonerate six drivers from not-at-fault incidents — saving thousands in taxpayer dollars due to avoided claims — and eliminated a two-day lag in back-office processing of driver compliance data. 

The City of Allentown in Pennsylvania, on the other hand, saved an estimated $1 million when it replaced its limited telematics systems with a cloud-based system —  augmented with AI Dash Cams — that helped streamline incident investigation, improve service reliability and save taxpayer dollars. 

While in Massachusetts, the Boston region’s transit authority uses connected technology to improve bus services, streamline the customer support experience, and improve maintenance efficiency.

Approved supplier status key to digitizing fleets

Although public sector digital transformation projects tend to lag behind those in the private sector, progress is being made. For example, in the UK a new government framework is paving the way for companies to be considered for public sector telematics and associated services contracts across the UK - on which Samsara is listed as an approved supplier. 

For public sector organizations — such as local councils, central government departments, and the NHS — it means they can look to adopt solutions without the need for a full tender exercise or lengthy supplier evaluation, thereby streamlining the time and cost associated with a lengthy procurement process.

And that’s important. Organizations that operate in physical operations, whether it's part of the logistics sector that underpins the global economy — or mass transport or vital public services — are focused on becoming safer, more efficient and more sustainable.

But they can only achieve real progress by embracing connected digital technology that provides the oversight — and data-based insights — to modernize their fleets and provide more transparent and efficient government services. And it’s something that the public sector is eyeing with increasing interest.

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