The District of Columbia's 4,500 vehicles are generally outdated, mismanaged and poorly maintained, according to a report obtained by The Washington Post.
The report, produced by a city task force after a six-month study, calls for consolidating the management of city vehicles. Currently, six agencies operate their own fleets, with their own garages, gas pumps and maintenance standards. Departments with their own fleets are transportation, environmental services, general services, police, fire and corrections.
The report cites a number of problems, including:
"Aged and outdated motor fleets which are costly and difficult to maintain."
"Inadequate maintenance facilities and equipment."
"Maintenance programs of poor quality . . . which result in much unnecessary major repair of vehicles."
"Fleet levels and composition not related to transportation needs."
"Low quality in driver maintenance and operation of vehicles."
The study was ordered by Carroll Harvey, former assistant city administrator and now director of the D.C. Department of General Services. The 11-member task force was headed by Ernest R. Croxford, engineer in the Department of General Services.The task force suggested a five-year plan for consolidating vehicle operations. The average age of city vehicles was 8.9 years, according to an earlier report.
"We believe we can centralize and consolidate the motor fleet and save money," said Harvey. He estimated a saving of $2 million a year.
The police and fire departments, which raised initial objections to the report and its recommendations, are no longer included in consolidation efforts. "We decided that they just did not fit into the plan," said Harvey.
But the police and fire departments are not the only ones complaining, said Harvey, who added other city agencies are reluctant to give up control of their vehicles.
The report is now being evaluated by City Administrator Elijah Rogers.
"We will do anything we can to save money and not cut services," said Rogers. He said he has sent the report to the city's budget office for evaluation.
"We know that department heads are worried that their needs will be given less priority," said Rogers. "We are just going to have to look at their concerns and see if they make sense."
The city's fleet, valued at $80 million, costs approximately $12 million a year to operate. Since 1977, the fleet has increased by 17 percent while the number of city mechanics has decreased by 2 percent, the report said. With fewer city mechanics, the report said, fewer vehicles are available.
What often happens, said Harvey, is that city services are not performed because vehicles are being repaired. Although he could not cite specific examples of services not performed, he said figures on the number of hours vehicles are out for repairs indicates a significant problem.
According to city figures, the number of hours vehicles were out of service increased 28 percent -- from 313,880 hours to 404,871 -- between 1978 and 1979. i
"A number of city agencies work around this problem by keeping a spare car in the garage. When one vehicle is in the shop, they use the one in the garage. This is a costly practice," added Harvey.
He suggested that the city either create one central garage where all vehicles could be maintained or combine several of the city's fleets into one maintenance operation.
In Baltimore, which has 3,500 vehicles, a central garage was created in the late 1960s and includes the fire department and school system.
"We have made some real savings," said a spokesman for Baltimore's Department of General Services.