The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) spans 890 square miles and employs 5,700 people, making the consolidation of their fleet vehicles challenging. To streamline the process for efficiency, INL utilizes an online carsharing system with automated key dispensers as part of a pooled-vehicle reservation system.
INL's campus comprises four main areas, with the "in-town" facility located approximately 65 miles from the three "desert" facilities that have kiosks. While INL has approximately 60 buses that transport staff between the town and the desert, there are occasions that call for a vehicle to reach remote areas where the bus service is unavailable. To accommodate these types of trips, approximately 50 vehicles at INL are designated as pool vehicles that are available for staff to reserve for incidental use.
"Every pool vehicle is rented almost daily. If we could, we would expand. We do have a few vehicles in a controlled pool that we can use if there are no pool vehicles available for requests. Those vehicles are being used on a weekly basis, as well."
The pool vehicles have high utilization; often a single vehicle has multiple reservations for a single day. INL operates an online reservation system using their fleet management information system, AssetWorks. The carsharing program is fully automated, from staff reserving vehicles online to picking up the vehicle and keys at a kiosk to returning the vehicle and keys to the kiosk at the end of their trip. The system significantly saves INL staff time that would have otherwise been spent managing and dispatching reservations.
The fleet team at INL continuously monitors the utilization of the carsharing program. There are a wide variety of light-duty vehicle options available to reserve including sedans, minivans, 15-person shuttles, and pickup trucks. The fleet team consistently reviews usage and reallocates low-use vehicles to high-demand pools to meet increasing needs.
The success of this program primarily stems from the user-friendly vehicle management system:
Creates a profile with their information, which then permits them to reserve pool vehicles.
Picks the day, time, and location that they need the pool vehicle (system automatically lets the employee know what vehicles are available for the time selected).
Selects a vehicle type to reserve.
Assigns and reserves a pool vehicle for the request
Provides the employee with a confirmation code that can be used to access the keys in a kiosk that is located near the parked vehicles.
Enters the code into the key kiosk and grabs the keys.
Returns the vehicle and keys to the kiosk at the end of their reservation time.
The INL fleet team is continuously exploring various avenues for improvement, including:
- Electric Pool Vehicles: While there are no electric vehicles (EVs) currently in the pool fleet, INL is actively considering the integration of EVs into the reservation system. The team is working through the necessary steps to ensure the vehicle will have sufficient charge for repeated daily trips and adequate range to support multiple reservation requests for the same vehicle in a single day.
- Data Integration: INL is collaborating with their fleet management software to retrieve current odometer readings from the telematic system when vehicles are returned. Additionally, they aim to integrate battery state of charge information into the vehicle reservation system, facilitating trip planning and future electrification efforts.
- Heavy Equipment: INL is working to incorporate heavy equipment rentals options, such as dump trucks, forklifts, and lifts, into the vehicle management system. However, the system will only permit authorized users the ability to rent equipment upon completion of training and possession of the necessary operating licenses.
Pool vehicles serve as an effective means of optimizing the fleet's size. By relocating lower-utilized vehicles that were assigned to an individual or group into the pool system, INL can reduce the total number of vehicles required, resulting in cost savings for the fleet program. Moreover, INL's online reservation system minimizes administrative barriers, provides transparent up-to-date information to users, and reduces staff time needed to manage the program.