Tasmania's Department of Health and Human Services Wins Environmental Award for CO2 Reductions

Tasmania DHHSTasmania's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is responsible for managing and delivering integrated services that maintain and improve the health and wellbeing of Tasmanians and the local community as a whole. The Department coordinates healthcare services through a state-wide network of public hospitals, community health facilities, ambulance services, day centres, dental services, mental health, youth, drug and alcohol centres and more.

Understanding the nature of the problem

Some years back, the Tasmanian Government responded to rising concern about greenhouse gases by setting a target of a 60 per cent reduction on 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  It was a decision that has affected every part of the public sector, but perhaps none more so than DHHS.

As the state's largest employer, DHHS is responsible for managing the government's largest vehicle fleet. It is also the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for 41 per cent of total government emissions.  Therefore, when DHHS management considered how the Department could contribute to meeting the targeted reductions, it seemed obvious that the fleet was a good place to start.

In early 2009, DHHS conducted a fleet review which found numerous opportunities for efficiency improvements in fleet administration, management and booking. Unfortunately, it also noted that the Department had no capacity to measure, monitor or manage vehicle use and no ability to detect under or over-utilised vehicles.

To make an immediate start on emission reductions, DHHS decreed that over time, all six cylinder or greater cars were to be replaced with four cylinder vehicles unless a good business case could be made to support an exemption. 

To redress broader concern over fleet capacity, monitoring and usage, DHHS decided to deploy a Pool Vehicle Booking (PVB) system from Smartfleet Management.  The software would bring greater structure and discipline to the process of vehicle bookings.  It would also enable the Department to better understand and manage booking requirements, and identify patterns of vehicle usage. The system also incorporated an electronic Smartfleet key box that would enable 24 hour pickup or drop off of pool vehicle keys – something that offered to substantially reduce the administrative costs of key control and people dependency.

As the Smartfleet solution was rolled out across the organisation, four CO2 reduction strategies were introduced.  First, the work already under way to introduce four cylinder cars would continue but in addition, new vehicles would be chosen based on their green vehicle guide (GVG) ratings.  Second, DHHS would reduce the number of vehicles in the fleet.  Third, the Department would reduce non-essential vehicle usage and finally, it planned to cut back the use of rental vehicles.

According to Sue Ashlin, Asset Management Services, DHHS, “Sites were brought onto the PVB system incrementally with group or site training sessions.  Staff also received “how to” guides. Project and Transport Managers responded to numerous phone calls for advice, and we created a generic Smartfleet email account so that staff could easily forward their queries by email without having to know the direct contact person. To make sure enquiries were attended to promptly, this email account was available to the three Transport Managers and the Project Manager.”

Ashlin admits change management was the project's largest challenge.  “Drivers had been accustomed to booking cars using their own internal systems, such as Microsoft Outlook Calendars or paper based calendars, so they were reluctant to use the new online booking system.

Staff and business units were also possessive of “their” vehicles and were reluctant to allow access to other DHHS staff. Despite the implementation being an Agency-wide initiative, resistance eventually led to management enforcing use of the system. Now, almost four years after implementation Smartfleet is recognised as the only pool car booking system within DHHS and users agree on the ease of use.”

Changing the fleet

Using the new web-based booking system, DHHS has gained far greater control over the assignment of vehicles and has been able to even out the imbalances that used to occur when some cars would travel many kilometres while others were rarely used. The system has been instrumental in providing a true picture of the organisation's vehicle needs, enabling management to identify where excess vehicles may exist.   This has been particularly important because right from the start of the process, Fleet Managers had decided not to replace a vehicle when other vehicles were being under-utilised.

Within the first two years of using the PVB, DHHS has reduced its statewide fleet by 9.49 per cent, dropping from 1127 to 1020 vehicles. The number of six cylinder vehicles has declined from 5.71 per cent of the fleet in 2011 to 3.99 per cent in 2013. The distance travelled by all vehicles has declined 10.41 per cent and fuel usage has dropped 16.01 per cent.

Reduction in CO2 emissions

To discourage non-essential use of vehicles, home garaging arrangements have been tightened.  In addition, 100 GPS units were purchased and these are now are fitted to vehicles on a rotating basis.  This has further contributed to an understanding of vehicle usage patterns.

Access to rental vehicles has also been tightened, with managers having to sign their approval for any request. The results of this were immediate and far-reaching.  Within two years the number of rental vehicle days plummeted from just over 6,000 to 2,100, delivering savings that equate to six full time vehicles.

DHHS' PVB system and its new strategies have been a resounding and fully quantified success, delivering CO2, cost and administrative savings that are providing ongoing benefits to the Department, the Tasmanian state government and the planet. In late 2013, the organisation's efforts were applauded when DHHS received an Environmental Award from the Australasian Fleet Management Association.  

“DHHS is extremely pleased with the implementation of this Agency wide project.  This has been a win-win for the DHHS with no loss of service delivery to our clients across Tasmania, the achievement of significant bottom line cost savings, a reduction in our vehicle emissions profile and through the cost savings an increased opportunity of allocation of the DHHS budget into increasing our service delivery to the Tasmanian community,” says Ashlin.