SLO County proposes new policy for buying vehicles

Hoping to simultaneously save taxpayer dollars and reduce regional air pollution, the county’s Fleet Services manager is proposing a new policy for buying vehicles.

The policy, to be discussed by county supervisors Tuesday, is fueled by the need to improve air quality by buying vehicles that pollute less and last longer, according to Rocky Buoy, fleet manager.

Buoy is trying to bring the county in line with changes in the national economy such as increased fuel costs and lower technology costs.

He said the policy would apply to the county’s 890 non-emergency vehicles. CalFire and Sheriff’s non-administrative vehicles would be exempt, he wrote in an email to The Tribune. There are 950 vehicles and other equipment in the county fleet.

Buoy conceded that the proposal flies in the face of the widely held belief that you have to pay more money to buy fuel-effective vehicles.

“The ‘general perception’ is that it costs more to own and operate a lower emission vehicle than a conventionally fueled vehicle,” Buoy wrote. “This used to be the case, but the rising cost of fuel combined with the lower cost of technology has changed the total vehicle ownership cost to a point that it's often less expensive to own and operate the lower emission producing vehicle.”

He said he is “very cognizant” that the money the county spends on fleet procurement “belongs to the taxpayers,” and consequently he seeks “to manage our fleet at a high level of financial and environmental efficiency.”

While environmentally preferable vehicles might be more expensive at the point of purchase, that changes over the life of the vehicle, he wrote.

“This policy,” Buoy continued, “is intended to document a procurement process that reduces emissions produced by the county fleet by selecting replacement vehicles through the application of a fiscally responsible purchasing methodology (that) encompasses the whole life cycle cost of a vehicle rather than simply the purchase price.”

Buoy has put together a complex fiscal analysis to support the thesis, which he will present to the board Tuesday. His analysis is available online at the county Board of Supervisors website under the agenda for March 12.

He adds that “much more goes into the total vehicle life cycle” calculations.

“Municipal purchasers,” Buoy wrote, “consider manufacturers’ concession money; competitive bid purchasing; re-marketing; operational application requirements; travel range; reliability; technical training; and diagnostic training and tooling; rebates; trade allowances; tax incentives; finance charges; and interest rates.”