oversight

Improvements Needed in Motor Vehicle Management by the Forest Service and the Soil Conservation Service

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-08-13.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

Improvements Needed
In Motor Vehicle Management
By The Forest Service And
The Soil Conservation Service
                                8-114833




Department   of Agriculture




UNITED STATES
GENERAL ACCOUNTING            OFFICE
                                           4
                                         UNITED STATES GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
                                                     WASHINGTON,      D.C.      2Q548


CIVIL           DIVISION




                      B-114833

                      Dear   Mr.   Secretary:

                               This is our report       on the improvements          needed in motor                       3d-
                      vehicle    management       by the Forest     Service      and the Soil Conservation
                                                                                                                         .:; 7
            i         Service.      The report     contains   recommendations          for attaining   the im-
                      provements.
                          d :.--
                               Your attention     is invited   to section 236 of the Legislative           Reor-
                      ganization     Act of 1970 which requires           that you submit written        state-
                      ments of the action taken with respect               to the recommendations.           The
                      statements      are to be sent to the House and Senate Committees                   on Gov-   ‘i . 1 ?: ,J
                      ernment      Operations    not later than 60 days after the date of this report
                      and to the House and Senate Committees                  on Appropriations      in connec-      ’ ;r ;-. ’
                      tion with the first     request     for appropriations        submitted    by your agency
                      more than 60 days after the date of this report.                  We shall appreciate
                      receiving     copies of the statements        sent to these Committees.

                              Copies of this report         are being sent today to the Chairmen,            House
                      and Senate Committees            on Government       Operations;    the Chairmen,
                      House and/Senate        Committees       on Appropriations;      and Congressman           L. H.
    ‘-I/I             Fountain;      pursuant    to his request.     Copies are also being sent to the
    i                 Administrator,        Soil Conservation      Service;    the Chief, Forest      Service;
                      the Inspector       General,    Department     of Agriculture;     the Director,      Office
                      of Management         and Budget;     and the Administrator,        General   Services
                      Administration,

                                                                             Sincerely   yours*




                                                                             Director,   Civil    Division

                      The Honorable
                      The Secretary      of Agriculture




                                                   50 TH ANNIVERSARY            1921- 1971
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I   GE$ERAL ACCOUNTIUG OFFICE                     IfFPI?OVE!?EF!TSNEEDED IN !JOT@R
                                                                                 VEHICLE
I   REPORT TO TIlE                                KANAGEMEFIT6Y TKE FOPEST SEWICE AID THE
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I   SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE                      SOIL CONSERVATION
                                                                  SERVICE.
I                                                 Department     of Agriculture          B-114833
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    DIGEST
    ------                                                                          -_
I
I
I   h'l3Y THE REVIEW WAS !ddDE
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I
I           The General Accounting     Office     (GAO) evaluated    the procedures   and prac-
I           tices followed    by the Forest Service and the Soil Conservation           Service,
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            Department of Agriculture,        in limiting   the number of motor vehicles        to
I           needs.    GAO also obtained     information   concerning    wide-a-rice's    ':n ___/.I.
                                                                                               veh i-
I           cle maintenance    costs among the Forest Service regions.
I
I
I           The Forest Service and the Soil Conservation        Service spend about $20 R il-
I
I           lion a year--including     amortization  of vehicle   acquisiticn costs--in
I           operating  and maintaining    about 25,000 vehicles.
I
I

I
I
    FIUDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
I
I           Improvements needed in
I
I           analysis  of vehicle use
I
I
I           General Services Administration          guidelines  to assist Federal agencies in
I           controlling    their    vehicle   fleet  costs state that reviews of tine-of-use
I
            data--the   number of days vehicles         on hand have been used--are necessary
            for evaluating      vehicle    needs.   (See p. 9.)
i
I
I           Although Forest Service policy    provides         that   analyses     of time-of-use
I           data be made by its field offices
I
I
I                --two of the Forest Service's    nine regional offices    did               not establish
                    written criteria and procedures   for making time-of-use                  analyses and
1
I
I                --only     one of three Forest Service regions   (two that had established
I
                    written    criteria  and procedures and one that had not) where GAO made
I                   its review was using time-of-use     analyses in evaluating  vehicle    needs.
I                   (See p. 9.)
I
I
I           The Soil Conservation   Service did not provide,     as a matter of policy,     that
I
I           its field  offices  make time-of-use   analyses in evaluating    vehicle   needs.
I           GAO's review at selected    Soil Conservation   Service field   offices  in three
I           States showed that it was not their     normal practice   to make such analyses.
I
I           (See p. 11.)
I
I
I           GAO analyses    of time-of-use     data for   general-purpose         vehicles     showed that:
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I
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                 --At selected   field  offices    that normally did not make time-of-use analy-
I                   ses, the equivalent     of 123, or about 26 percent,  of the 473 vehicles
I

1
I   Tear Sheet                                            1                       AUG.       13,19     7 1
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        included  in the    GAO analyses had not been used at all on 70 percent
        or more of the     weekdays covered by the GAO analyses.     The equivalent
        of 39 vehicles     (more than 8 percent)     had not been used at all on any
        of the weekdays     covered.    (See p. 13.)

     ---At the selected   offices     in the Forest Service region which had been
        using time-of-use     analyses in evaluating    vehicle    needs, the equivalent
        of less than 5 percent of the 202 general-purpose            vehicles    included  in
        the GAO analyses had not been used at all on 70 percent               or more of the
        weekdays covered.      Of 2,077 general-purpose     vehicles     in that entire    re-
        gion, the equivalent      of less than 3 percent were not used at all on 70
        percent  or more of the weekdays covered.         (See p. 15.)

The time-of-use     data used in GAO's analyses covered weekdays during                   peak
working seasons, except for one Forest Service region where vehicle                       use was
relatively    constant  throughout the year.

The small percentage      of idle vehicles      in the Forest Service region that did
use time-of-use     data, compared with the large percentage               of idle vehicles     in
the Forest Service and Soil Conservation             Service locations         that did not use
this data, indicates      the positive     benefits      which can result        from the use of
periodic   analyses of such data by field           offices    to provide for better       con-
trol   of vehicle  fleet    sizes.    In this regard GAO believes            that periodic    anal-
yses of time-of-use      data would be helpful          in identifying     situations    where a
vehicle   could be shared by two or more employees.                  (See p. 17.)

fleed for Forest Service       to review
its vehicZe maintenance        practices
                                                                                                       I
GAO believes    that wide variances    in average vehicle     maintenance    costs among
Forest Service regions without      verified   explanations    point up a need for the
Forest Service to review,     compare, and evaluate       the vehicle   maintenance  prac-
tices  in various    regions.

Annual average     maintenance costs varied from a low of $182 a vehicle                   in one
Forest Service     region to a high of $481 a vehicle in another region.                     (See
p. 19.)

GAO's comparative  analysis   of annual maintenance  costs in two west coast re-
gions where average maintenance    costs a vehicle  were $302 and $481, respec-
tively, showed that differences    in the average number of maintenance   labor
hours per vehicle  had been the major cause of the variance.      (See p. 21.)

Although differences    in roads       and other driving      conditions     may contribute       to
the cost variances,  such wide         variances   may also indicate       significant     differ-
ences in maintenance    practices       or operating   efficiency       of the various     field
offices.   (See p. 26.)




                                                2
        ;   RECOMMENDATIONSOR SUGGESTIONS
        I
        I        The Secretary      of Agriculture          should have the Forest Service and the Soi 1
        I        Conservation     Service    require
        I
                      --their    field   offices       to make regular    periodic     reviews    of time-of-use
                        data    and
    I
    I
                      --their      respective    regional  and State offices     to use the results     of such
    I                     reviews,     along with other pertinent     information,      in approving  the reten-
    I                     tion of vehicles       on hand and requests    for additional     vehicles  and to give
    I
    I                     consideration       to greater  sharing of vehicles      wherever possible.      (See
    I                     p. 17.)
    I
    I
    I            The Secretary    should     also      have the Forest    Service    require     its   vehicle   manage-
    I            ment staff    to
    I
                      --make a review of the maintenance   practices    of the Forest Service regions
                         to identify the causes of the variances     in vehicle maintenance  costs and

                      --take   appropriate         action   to improve   the vehicle     maintenance      program.    (See
                          p. 25.)


    I       AGENCY ACTIONS AJID UNRESOLVEDISSUES
    I
    I            The Forest Service generally         agreed with GAO's recommendations.         The Forest
    I
    I            Service was revising     directives      to further define vehicle  utilization      studies
    I            and to establish   uniform periods of time for data collection            and a follow-up
    I            procedure.    These revisions       were expected to be completed by July 1971.          (See
    I
    I            p. 18 and app. I.)
    I
    I
    I            A detailed  study of maintenance  cost variances in at least                     two Forest Service
    I            regions is expected to be completed by June 1972, at which                       time appropriate
    I
    I            action will  be taken.   (See p. 26 and app. I.)
    I
    I            The Soil Conservation   Service believes    that recording               and analyzing time-of-
I                use data for all vehicles    at all locations    would cost              more than any savings
                 that would result.

                 The Service     stated,     however, that it had agreed, after      consultation with De-
                 partment of     Agriculture     officials,     to make time-of-use  analyses at locations
                 where there     were seven or more vehicles         for a 4-month period that was rep-
                 resentative     of vehicle     needs.      (See p. 18 and app. II.)




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                         Contents
                                                             Page
DIGEST                                                         1

CHAPTER

   1       INTRODUCTIONAND SCOPE                              4
   2       PERIODIC REVIEWSOF DAILY VEHICLE USE COULD
           PROVIDE FOR BETTER CONTROLOF FLEET SIZE            6
               Time-of-use   data not considered in
                 determining   and reviewing vehicle needs    9
                    Forest Service                            9
                    Soil Conservation   Service              11
               Vehicles idle a significant      amount of
                 time at field offices     not using time-
                 of-use data                                 13
               Conclusion                                    17
               Recommendation                                17
               Agency comments                               18

  3        NEED FOR FOREST SERVICE TO REVIEW ITS
           VEHICIZ MAINTENANCEPRACTICES                      19
               Comparison of maintenance costs for
                 regions 5 and 6                             21
               Region 5 maintenance costs exceed
                 guideline    limitations                    22
               Concern of Forest Service officials
                 over regional      maintenance cost
                 variances                                   25
               Conclusion-and      recommendation            25
               Agency comments                               26
APPENDIX

       I   Letter dated March 26, 1971, from the Forest
             Service to the General Accounting Office        29

  II       Letter dated April 5, 1971, from the Soil
             Conservation  Service to the General Ac-
             counting Office                                 33
                       ABBREVIATIONS

GAO   General Accounting      Office

GSA   General   Services    Administration

scs   Soil   Conservation    Service
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE                 IMPROVEMENTSNEEDED IN MOTOR VEHICLE
REPORT TO THE                             MANAGEMENTBY THE FOREST SERVICE AND THE
SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE                  SOIL CONSERVATION SERVICE
                                          Department of Agriculture B-114833


DIGEST
_---mm


WHY THE REVIEW WAS &ZDE

     The General Accounting     Office     (GAO) evaluated    the procedures    and prac-
     tices followed    by the Forest Service and the Soil Conservation            Service,
     Department of Agriculture,        in limiting   the number of motor vehicles        to
     needs.    GAO also obtained     information   concerning    wide variances    in vehi-
     cle maintenance    costs among the Forest Service regions.

     The Forest Service and the Soil Conservation        Service spend about $20 mil-
     lion a year--including     amortization  of vehicle   acquisition costs--in
     operating  and maintaining    about 25,000 vehicles.


FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS

     Improvements needed in
     anaZysis of vehicle use

     General Services Administration          guidelines  to assist Federal agencies in
     controlling    their    vehicle   fleet  costs state that reviews of time-of-use
     data--the   number of days vehicles        on hand have been used--are  necessary
     for evaluating      vehicle    needs.   (See p. 9.)

     Although Forest Service policy    provides         that   analyses    of time-of-use
     data be made by its field offices

          --two of the Forest Service's    nine regional offices    did              not establish
             written criteria and procedures   for making time-of-use                 analyses and

          --only     one of three Forest Service regions   (two that had established
             written    criteria  and procedures and one that had not) where GAO made
             its review was using time-of-use     analyses in evaluating  vehicle    needs.
             (See p. 9.)

     The Soil Conservation   Service did not provide,     as a matter of policy,    that
     its field  offices  make time-of-use   analyses in evaluating    vehicle   needs.
     GAO's review at selected    Soil Conservation   Service field   offices  in three
     States showed that it was not their     normal practice   to make such analyses.
     (See p. 11.)

     GAO analyses    of time-of-use    data   for   general-purpose       vehicles     showed that:

          --At selected   field  offices    that normally did not make time-of-use   analy-
             ses, the equivalent     of 123, or about 26 percent,  of the 473 vehicles


                                                    1
       included  in the     GAO analyses had not been used at all on 70 percent
       or more of the      weekdays covered by the GAO analyses.     The equivalent
       of 39 vehicles      (more than 8 percent)     had not been used at all on any
       of the weekdays      covered.    (See p. 13.)

     --At the selected    offices    in the Forest Service region which had been
        using time-of-us  e analyses in evaluating      vehicle    needs, the equivalent
        of less than 5 percent of the 202 general-purpose            vehicles   included in
        the GAO analyses had not been used at all on 70 percent or more of the
        weekdays covered.      Of 2,077 general-purpose     vehicles     in that entire  re-
        gion, the equivalent      of less than 3 percent were not used at all on 70
        percent or more of the weekdays covered.          (See p. 15.)

The time-of-use     data used in GAO's analyses covered weekdays during                  peak
working seasons, except for one Forest Service region where vehicle                      use was
relatively    constant   throughout the year.

The small percentage       of idle vehicles      in the Forest Service region that did
use time-of-use     data, compared with the large percentage                of idle vehicles     in
the Forest Service and Soil Conservation              Service locations         that did not use
this data, indicates       the positive     benefits      which can result        from the use of
periodic   analyses of such data by field            offices    to provide for better       con-
trol of vehicle     fleet    sizes.    In this regard GAO believes            that periodic    anal-
yses of time-of-use       data would be helpful          in identifying     situations    where a
vehicle   could be shared by two or more employees.                   (See p. 17.)

Need for Forest Service        to review
its vehicZe maintenance        practices

GAO believes   that wide variances    in average vehicle maintenance      costs among
Forest Service regions without     verified   explanations    point up a need for the
Forest Service to review,     compare, and evaluate      the vehicle maintenance prac-
tices in various regions.

Annual average     maintenance costs varied from a low of $182 a vehicle                   in one
Forest Service     region to a high of $481 a vehicle in another region.                     (See
p. 19.)

GAO's comparative  analysis   of annual maintenance costs in two west coast re-
gions where average maintenance    costs a vehicle were $302 and $481, respec-
tively, showed that differences    in the average number of maintenance  labor
hours per vehicle  had been the major cause of the variance.     (See p. 21.)

Although differences    in roads and other driving      conditions     may contribute       to
the cost variances,   such wide variances    may also indicate       significant     differ-
ences in maintenance practices    or operating   efficiency       of the various field
offices.   (See p. 26.)




                                                 2
RECOiWYENDATIOil6'OR SUGGESTIONS

     The Secretary      of Agriculture           should   have the Forest     Service         and the Soil
     Conservation      Service require

          --their     field   offices       to mike regular     periodic     reviews     of time-of-use
             data    and

          --their      respective    regional  and State offices     to use the results     of such
              reviews,     along with other pertinent     information,      in approving  the reten-
              tion of vehicles       on hand and requests    for additional     vehicles  and to give
              consideration       to greater  sharing of vehicles      wherever possible.      (See
              p. 17.)

     The Secretary    should      also      have the Forest     Service     require     its     vehicle   manage-
     ment staff    to

          --make a review of the maintenance   practices    of the Forest Service regions
             to identify the causes of the variances     in vehicle maintenance  costs and
          --take    appropriate         action    to improve   the vehicle      maintenance         program.   (See
              p. 25.)


AGENCY ACTIONS AND UNRESOLVEDISSUES

     The Forest Service generally         agreed with GAO's recommendations.            The Forest
     Service was revising     directives      to further   define vehicle   utilization      studies
     and to establish   uniform periods         of time for data collection       and a follow-up
     procedure.    These revisions       were expected to be completed by July 1971.             (See
     p. 18 and app. I.)

     A detailed    study of maintenance  cost variances in at least                       two Forest Service
     regions    is expected to be completed by June 1972, at which                        time appropriate
     action will    be taken.   (See p. 26 and app. I.)

     The Soil Conservation   Service believes    that recording                  and analyzing time-of-
     use data for all vehicles    at all locations    would cost                 more than any savings
     that would result.

     The Service      stated,     however, that it had agreed, after      consultation with De-
     partment of      Agriculture     officials,     to make time-of-use  analyses at locations
     where there      were seven or more vehicles         for a 4-month period that was rep-
     resentative      of vehicle     needs.      (See p. 18 and app. II.)




                                                          3
                             CHAPTER1

                     INTRODUCTIONAND SCOPE

       The Department of Agriculture      operates a fleet of about
30,000 Government-owned vehicles,        of which 25,000 are in the
Forest Service and the Soil Conservation         Service (SCS). Al-
though the fleet includes various types of heavy equipment,
it consists primarily      of general-purpose    sedans and light
trucks having capacities       of a ton and under.     The annual
costs of operating      and maintaining    the Department's   fleet,
including   amortization    of vehicle acquisition     costs, total
about $24 million,      of which about $20 million     is for Forest
Service and SCS vehicles,

        The General Accounting Office made a review to evaluate
the    procedures and practices    followed by the Forest Service
and    SCS in limiting  vehicle fleet sizes to actual needs. We
also    obtained information    concerning wide variances in vehi-
cle    maintenance costs among the Forest Service regions.
       We reviewed applicable   equipment management policies
and directives    of the Department of Agriculture,   the Forest
Service, SCS, and the General Services Administration
GSA) . We reviewed also pertinent      motor vehicle records
and interviewed    vehicle management employees.    Cur work
was done at the Forest Service and SCS headquarters      offices
in Washington, D.C., at three Forest Service regional        of-
fices,  at three SCS State offices,    and at several selected
Forest Service and SCS suboffices     within those regions and
States.

       The Forest Service uses its vehicles        for the management
of about 187 million     acres of land in 154 national        forests
and 19 national   grasslands which are under the jurisdiction
of nine Forest Service regional      offices,      SCS uses its vehi-
cles for soil and water conservation        assistance    programs
carried out by about 3,150 State and local offices            located
throughout   the United States and in Puerto Rico and the
Virgin Islands,    The Forest Service has about 13,000 vehicles
and SCS has about 12,000.
     Both the Forest Service and SCS have equipment manage-
ment staffs  in Washington, D.C., who have responsibilities

                                 4
for overall    direction  of motor vehicle fleet operations.
Day-to-day vehicle management functions        have been assigned
to engineering     or administrative   services employees in the
field offices     of the two agencies.
                               CHAPTER2

             PERIODIC REVIEWSOF DAILY VEHICLE USE
       COULDPROVIDE FOR BETTER CONTROLOF FLEET SIZE

       GSA, in its guidelines   issued to Federal agencies for
controlling   their motor vehicle fleet costs, has stated
that reviews of time-of-use    data--the  number of days vehi-
cles on hand have been used --are necessary for evaluating
vehicle needs.
        Although the Forest Service policy provides for analy-
ses of time-of-use       data by its field offices,      two of the
Forest Service's      nine regional    offices   did not establish
written     criteria  and procedures for making such analyses,
Further our review at three Forest Service regions--two
that had established       written  criteria    and procedures and
one that had not--showed that only one regional            office
actually     was using time-of-use      analyses in evaluating     vehi-
cle needs.

       SCS does not provide,      as a matter of policy,   that SCS
field    offices   make time-of-use   analyses in evaluating    their
needs for vehicles.        Our review at selected SCS field of-
fices in three States showed that it was not their normal
practice      to make such analyses.

      At selected Forest Service field offices       in the two
regions and at selected SCS field offices       in the three
States, which normally did not use time-of-use        data for
evaluating   their vehicle needs, we analyzed daily-use       data
for 473 general-purpose     vehicles which represented     about
2 percent of the 25,000 vehicles     in the Forest Service and
SCS fleets.     Our analyses covered weekdays during peak work-
ing seasons, except for one Forest Service region where ve-
hicle use was relatively     the same throughout   the year.

      The data showed that, of the 473 vehicles,       the equiva-
lent of 123 vehicles,   or about 26 percent--representing       an
acquisition   cost of $237,000--had not been used at all




                                    6
during 70 percent or more of the weekdays covered by our
analyses.1    The equivalent     of 39 vehicles, or over 8 per-
cent-- representing   acquisition    costs of $78,000--were not
used at all during any of the weekdays covered by our analy-
ses.
      At the one Forest Service region which used time-of-
use data in evaluating     its need for vehicles,      there were
considerably   less idle vehicles       than at the other Forest
Service field offices     and SCS field offices.       In 1958 this
region established    procedures for making annual analyses
of the days during the peak working season that vehicles
had been used and not used.         The region used the results      of
these analyses to question requests for additional           vehicles,
On the basis of the region's        study data for fiscal year
1969, we concluded that, regionwide,         less than 3 percent
of 2,077 general-purpose      vehicles    had not been used during
70 percent or more of the weekdays during the 3-month peak
working season.

       As a basis for a comparison with our analyses at other
selected Forest Service and SCS locations,    we analyzed data
included in the regionwide study data for 202 vehicles    at
selected offices.     Cur analyses showed that less than 5 per-
cent of the 202 vehicles had not been used during 70 percent
or more of the weekdays during the peak working season.

       The small percentage of vehicles        idle at least 70 per-
cent of the time in the one Forest Service region that did
use time-of-use   data (3 percent regionwide and 5 percent
at the selected locations),         compared with the large percent-
age of idle vehicles     identified      in our analyses at the se-
lected Forest Service and SCS field offices           that did not
use such data in evaluating        vehicle needs (26 percent),     in-
dicated to us that periodic         reviews of time-of-use    data for
all field offices --as suggested by GSA guidelines          and Forest

1
 Not necessarily     the same vehicles were idle from day to
 day.     The 70 percent cutoff point is not intended a's a
 criterion    for identifying  excess vehicles  but is used in
  this report for showing the extent that vehicles were idle
 and for comparing vehicle usage at different      locations,


                                    7
Service policy-- would provide for     a better management con-
trol to limit vehicle fleet sizes      to actual needs.
     Details   on these matters   follow.
TIME-OF-USE DATA NOT CONSIDEREDIN
DETERMININGAND REVIEWINGVEHICLE NEEDS

      GSA's guidelines       to assist Federal    agencies   in deter-
mining their vehicle       requirements  state    that:

         "A detailed   record of daily use of the vehicles
         currently   on hand is a necessity.     Miles (or
         hours) alone do not constitute      a basis for un-
         equivocal appraisal.

         "*** A vehicle which is idle a significant        per-
         centage of time represents      the best opportunity
         for improvement of utilization.       The need for re-
         tention of such a vehicle must be thoroughly         jus-
         tified."
       Although Forest Service policy provides that time-of-
use data be analyzed by its field offices,      the Forest Ser-
vice has not established     or required its field units to es-
tablish    criteria and procedures for making such analyses.
SCS policy does not call for any analyses of the number of
days that vehicles are used.

       The results   of our examination of the procedures and
practices    followed in the Forest Service and in SCS are
discussed in the following     sections.

Forest     Service

       Forest Service headquarters         officials advised us that
vehicles    initially      were assigned to Forest Service field
units on the basis of the number of employees in certain
positions.       They advised us also that vehicle replacements
and additions        to the fleet were based on work-load require-
ments and that consideration          was given to past utilization
of existing      vehicles.      Concerning reviews of past utiliza-
tion of existing        vehicles,   the Forest Service management
handbook states that annual mileage is not in itself              an
adequate criterion         by which to measure vehicle use and
that:

     "*** the number of 'days not used' which occur
     within a (management) unit or subunit fleet should

                                     9
     be analyzed.   Instances where 'days not used' are
     excessive point directly  to the need for improved
     planning and dispatching  of fleet vehicle use.
     Seldom should an increase in fleet numbers be ap-
     proved under these circumstances."

       The handbook    does not define the point at which "days
not used" should      be considered excessive but states that
individual   Forest    Service regions and stations will define
the system to be      used to measure fleet utilization.

        For eight of the nine Forest Service regions, 1 we in-
quired into whether the regional      offices had established
written    procedures and criteria  for making time-of-use
studies as called for in the Forest Service handbook quoted
above. We were advised that six regions had done so and
that two had not.
       We visited    two regions--regions    5 and 6--which had es-
tablished    written   procedures and criteria     for making time-
of-use studies and one region--region         8--which had not es-
tablished    such written    procedures and criteria,     to ascer-
tain whether time-of-use        studies were being made. These
three regions had 54 percent of the vehicles           in the Forest
Service fleet.

        Although region 5 had established      procedures and cri-
teria for analyzing      time-of-use  data, it did not put them
into practice.      Region 8 had not established      procedures and
criteria     for making time-of-use   analyses.     Some individual
forest units in both regions 5 and 8 were collecting            time-
of-use data, but little       or no use was being made of the
data.
       Forest Service officials     at regions 5 and 8 advised us
that they relied primarily      on annual mileage standards,
rather than on time-of-use      data, in reviewing vehicle
needs.    As previously  discussed,    GSA guidelines and Forest


1We excluded one region,
                         Alaska,      which had only 106 vehi-
 cles on hand at June 30, 1969.
Service policy clearly      state   that   mileage   alone   is not an
adequate criterion.

       A Forest Service official      at region 6 told us that the
procedures and criteria       for analyzing time-of-use  data were
established    by that region in 1958. Under the procedures
annual studies are made of daily vehicle use at each orga-
nizational    unit or subunit during the 3-month peak working
season.     For each organizational     unit the number of days
that each available     vehicle is not driven at least 10 miles
is ascertained     and totaled.     The total nonuse days for all
vehicles are used to compute the number of vehicles         that
might be in excess of needs,
       The data developed was used by region 6 primarily        to
question requests for additional       vehicles,  including   com-
mercial rentals.     The time-of-use    studies, however, did not
include vehicles rented on a long-term basis from commer-
cial firms and from GSA, Region 6 officials          advised us
that future studies would include GSA vehicles         and that
data developed by the studies would be used to question the
retention   of low-use vehicles,     as well as requests for ad-
ditional   vehicles.
Soil   Conservation   Service

        SCS uses a quota system-- a suggested ratio of vehicles
to employees whose duties require local travel--in         deter-
mining the number of vehicles       to be assigned to its field
offices.     SCS advised us that the vehicle-to-employee
quotas were general guides and that the actual number of
vehicles    at a given field unit, whether above or below the
quota,    should be based on real needs.      Further SCS requires
that any vehicles       in excess of the established  quotas be
justified    in writing    to the SCS State office,

        SCS policy,   however, does not provide for periodic     re-
views of time-of-use       data as an aid in evaluating  vehicle
needs, even for justifying       vehicles above the quotas.     Of-
ficials   of the SCS Washington headquarters      office told us
that the primary tools used for identifying        field units
which possibly      had too many vehicles were periodic    inspec-
tions and periodic      computer reports  showing the annual
mileage for each vehicle.


                                    11
      We visited   SCS State offices   and selected area offices
in California,    Georgia, and Oregon to see whether they were
using time-of-use    data in reviewing vehicle needs. Al-
though some offices made special vehicle-use       studies,  it
was not their normal practice      to make regular periodic
studies nor did they all make the special studies on the
basis of data showing the number of days that vehicles         had
been used and not used.      The studies that had been made
were not always useful.
      For example, in June 1969, the SCS California     State
office asked its seven area offices    to make vehicle-use
studies for the 2 peak months of fiscal     year 1969 but did
not say how to make them. An official     of the State office
told us that three area offices   had not responded, that two
had reported overall-use  percentages,   and that another sim-
ply had submitted its opinion that utilization     was good.
Only one office reported the number of vehicles     not used
each day by location.




                                12
VEJ3ICLES IDLE A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTOF TIME
AT FIELD OFFICES NOT USING TIME&OF-USE DATA

      Our analyses of time-of-use    data at selected offices
in two Forest Service regions and at SCS field offices        in
three States, which did not periodically     analyze such data
in evaluating   their vehicle needs, showed that they had a
considerable   number of idle vehicles,   as summarized below.

                                                         Equivalent vehicles not used
                                                       at all on 70, 80, 90, and 100
                                                      percent of the weekdays covered
                                     Number of              bv GAO analyses (note a)
                                    vehicles in          70         80        90
                                   GAO analyses      percent    percent   percent    100
          Location                   (note b)        or more or more or more percent

Forest Service:
    Region 5 (California)                 265           67            60          46            29
        II    8 (Southern)                126           36            30          21             4
Soil Conservation Service:
    California                             27               6             6           2             1
    Georgia                                19               3             1           1             -
    Oregon                                36           11            11           7             r
        Total

        Percent      of total                          26.0          22.8         16.3          8.3
aNot necessarily      the same vehicles    were idle   from day to day.
bAt each Forest   Service and SCS location,   our analyses included general-
 purpose vehicles, (sedans, sedan deliveries,    and light trucks) which were
 usable by different    types of employees and which were in operable condition.
 We did not include vehicles assigned to fire-fighting     employees; heavy
 equipment; or vehicles with special equipment, such as slip-on pumps for
 fire fighting,   fuel and lube rigs, and radio shop equipment.

       The above table           is a s~rmary of separate                      analyses         of
time-of-use   data for           general-purpose vehicles                      at

       --four   national   forest supervisors'  offices  and eight
          ranger districts     in each of the two Forest Service
          regions,

      --the        regional     office     in Forest            Service       region       5,

      --one SCS area office                and four         SCS work units                in Cali-
         fornia, and


                                                13
     --one SCS area office  and two SCS work units       each in
        Georgia and Oregon.
      The numbers of equivalent    vehicles not used were de-
termined separately    for each field 1ocation.l     Our analyses
covered the weekdays during the three most recent peak-use
months for which data was available,2      except for the se-
lected offices  in region 8 of the Forest Service.       In re-
gion 8 of the Forest Service, where vehicle use was nearly
the same throughout    the year, our analyses covered the week-
days for all of fiscal    year 1969.
       The number of SCS vehicles included in our analyses
was somewhat limited because of the amount of time required
to obtain time-of-use    data and because of similar analyses
of SCS vehicle use that we had made previously.          In a report
to the Congress on opportunities         for reducing the number of
vehicles maintained in fleet (B-114833, May 24, 19661, we
stated that, of 453 vehicles       included in our analyses at se-
lected SCS offices    in California,      Kansas, and Texas, 84 ve-
hicles (about 19 percent) did not appear to be needed.
        As a result of our 1966 review, SCS made a nationwide
survey of its vehicle needs and reduced its fleet by 71 ve-
hicles,    of which 26 were in two of the three States included
in our 1966 review.      The SCS survey did not consider actual
time-of-use     data or possible sharing of vehicles among SCS
offices    close to one another but was based on a strict   ap-
plication     of the SCS quota system.
      The Department of Agriculture's  Office of the Inspector
General, in a summary report on its review of SCS motor ve-
hicle operations   during May 1967 to January 1968, pointed

1
  In two towns where SCS had both an area office and a work
  unit, we pooled the vehicles of both units for the purpose
  of our analyses.
2
  In region 5 of the Forest Service, the three most recent
  peak-use months for which data was available  were August
  and September 1968 and July 1969. In all SCS offices   our
  analyses covered the 3 summer months of 1969.


                                 14
out that the SCS quota system frequently       had resulted    in
low vehicle utilization.

      As discussed on pages 7 and 11, region 6 of the Forest
Service has been using yearly analyses of daily-use      data
since 1958 to exercise control   over its vehicle fleet.      Un-
der the region 6 procedures,   daily-use  data is analyzed for
each field unit or subunit in the following    manner.

     --The number of days that each general-purpose     vehicle
        on hand is not driven at least 10 miles a day is as-
        certained  and totaled for all vehicles  at a location,
        the result being the total number of idle-vehicle
        days at that location  during the 3-month period.

     --The total idle-vehicle     days is reduced     by one half
        the workdays in the 3-month period to        allow for idle
        days that normally would be tolerable,        the remainder
        being the total idle-vehicle     days that    might be ex-
        cessive.

     --The possibly   excessive idle-vehicle   days then are di-
        vided by the total number of workdays during the
        3-month period to indicate    the number of vehicles
        that might not be needed.

        As previously    stated the regional    office has been using
the results     of the analyses to question requests from its
field units for additional       vehicles,   including     commercial
rentals.      The analyses excluded vehicles       rented on a long-
term basis.from       commercial firms and from GSA. Regional of-
ficials    advised us that future analyses would include GSA
vehicles    and would be used to question retention          of vehi-
cles, as well as requests for additional           vehicles.

     On the basis of the overall   region 6 analyses for fis-
cal year 1969, as adjusted by us to include vehicles    rented
from commercial firms and from GSA, we concluded that less
than 3 percent of 2,077 general-purpose   vehicles  had not
been used during 70 percent or more of the weekdays during
the 3-month peak working season.

       To provide a basis    for comparing the region 6 study
results   with the results    of our analyses at other selected

                                  15
Forest Service and SCS locations,    we analyzed the time-of-
use data for 202 general-purpose    vehicles   in use at selected
forest supervisors*  offices   and ranger districts   within re-
gion 6. Our analyses showed that the equivalent       of less
than 5 percent of the 202 vehicles had not been used during
70 percent or more of the weekdays during the 3-month peak
working season.
       The region 6 criteria       and procedures differed    in sev-
eral respects from the criteria         and procedures that we used
in our analyses at other Forest Service and SCS locations.
Cur comparison of the two methods, however, showed that the
end results would be nearly the same, i.e.,           the number of
vehicles   identified      under the region 6 criteria     as possibly
not needed would be nearly the same as the number of vehi-
cles identified       under our method as not used on 70 percent
or more of the weekdays covered by the analyses.




                                  16
CONCLUSION

       The small percentage of idle vehicles      in the Forest
Service region that did use time-of-use       data, compared with
the large percentages in the Forest Service and SCS locations
that did not use such data, is indicative       of the positive
benefits which can result from the use of-periodic        analyses
of time-of-use     data by field offices   to control vehicle
fleet sizes.      The need to limit vehicle fleet sizes to ac-
tual needs in both the Forest Service and SCS becomes read-
ily apparent when the fleet sizes and annual fleet costs are
considered--about      25,000 vehicles and $20 million   a year,
respectively.

       In view of the number of vehicles     idle for a signifi-
cant percentage of time at locations      not using time-of-use
data, we believe that there may be many situations       where a
vehicle can be shared by two or more employees, although the
vehicles may be assigned to a specific       employee for control
and servicing    purposes.   In commenting on this conclusion,
the Forest Service advised us that, where groups of vehicles
were located at field offices,      such as forest supervisors'
or district   rangers' offices,   the vehicles were available
for use by more than one employee.

       As stated on page 13, the vehicles          that we identified
as idle for a significant        percentage of time were located at
forest supervisors'      and district     rangers'    offices.   We be-
lieve that periodic      analyses of time-of-use         data would be
helpful   in identifying     situations    where joint utilization
could be increased.
RECOMMENDATION
        To provide for improved control over their vehicle
fleets,    we recommend that the Secretary of Agriculture        have
the Forest Service and SCS require        (1) their field offices
to make regular periodic      reviews of time-of-use     data and
(2) their respective     regional   and State offices    to use the
results    of such reviews, along with other pertinent       informa-
tion, in approving the retention       of vehicles    on hand and re-
quests for additional     vehicles   and to give consideration     to
the sharing of vehicles wherever possible.


                                  17
AGENCYCOMMENTS
       The Forest Service advised us by letter   dated March 26,
1971 (see app. I), that it generally     agreed with our recom-
mendation and that it was in the process of revising direc-
tives to further define vehicle utilization     studies and to
establish   uniform periods of time for data collection   and a
follow-up   procedure.   The Forest Service expected to com-
plete this job by July 1971.
        SCS, in a letter   dated April 5, 1971 (see app. II>,
stated its view that recording and analyzing time-of-use
data for all vehicles at all locations         would cost more than
could be saved. SCS stated also, however, that           it had
agreed after consultation       with Department of Agriculture
officials,     to make time-of-use    analyses at locations   where
there were seven or more vehicles for a 4-month period that
was representative      of SCS vehicle needs.




                                18
                          CHAPTER3

             NEED FOR FOREST SERVICE TO REVIEW

             ITS VEHICLE MAINTENANCEPRACTICES

       Wide variances in average maintenance costs of vehicles
among Forest Service regions, without verified    explanations,
indicate   a need for the Service to review, compare, and eval-
uate the motor vehicle maintenance practices   of its various
regions.

      The following table shows the wide variances in vehicle
maintenance costs reported for fiscal  year 1969 by the nine
Forest Service regions.

                                              Maintenance cost
                             Vehicles              (note a>     .'..
                             onhand                       Average
                             June 30,                     per ve-
Region        Area             1969            Total       hicle

   5     California                3,205    $1,541,455       $481
  10     Alaska                       106        49,692       469
   4     Intermountain             1,319        588,859       446
   1     Northern                  1,706        559,270       328
   3     Southwestern                 875       276,718       316
   6     Pacific North-
            west                2,564          774,623        302
   2     Rocky Mountain         1,175          330,699        281
   9     Eastern                1,554          383,502        247
   8     Southern             2,185            397,502        182

Total                         14,689        $4,902,320       $334

aIncludes cost of mechanics' labor; cost of replacement
 parts; and related costs incurred in keeping vehicles    in
 proper working condition,  excluding operating costs for
 such items as gasoline and tires.

      As shown in the preceding table, fiscal year 1969 main-
tenance costs in region 5 of the Forest Service exceeded the
maintenance costs in region 6 by an average $179 a vehicle,


                              19
or about 59 percent.     Data obtained for aboutonethird      of
the vehicles in these two regions indicated      that the wide
variance was not attributable     to differences   in vehicle mile-
ages.

      Cur detailed      comparison of the costs in regions 5
and 6, which are on the west coast and which have fleets                of
comparable size, showed that the major part of the variance
was attributable      to differences      in the average number of
maintenance labor hours per vehicle.            This situation    indi-
cates possible     significant     differences   in either the vehicle
maintenance practices        or the operating    efficiency    of the
two regions.

       Forest Service guidelines      provide that cumulative main-
tenance costs on a vehicle generally         not exceed its acquisi-
tion cost.     The  cumulative   maintenance   costs on a number of
vehicles    in region 5 exceeded their acquisition       costs.  Fur-
ther, in the region 5 offices        covered by our review, there
were several instances in which major repairs had been made
on vehicles    on which cumulative maintenance costs already
had exceeded acquisition       costs, without assurance that such
repairs were justified       economically   in accordance with re-
gion 5 vehicle management procedures.

       The Forest Service's    internal    reporting  system for some
time has disclosed    wide variances     in vehicle maintenance
costs.    Forest Service officials      have recognized    that such
variances   point up a need for the Forest Service to review
its vehicle maintenance program.         At the time of our review,
however, the Forest Service had not made the reviews neces-
sary to adequately    identify    the causes of the maintenance
cost variances.
        We did not review vehicle maintenance cost variances
among SCS field offices    because SCS records showed that both
the average costs per vehicle and the variances         among field
offices    were far lower than those in the Forest Service.
The Department's    Office of the Inspector General audited the
SCS vehicle costs data for fiscal         year 1967 and concluded
that the data was generally      reliable.




                                   20
COMPARISONOF MAINTENANCECOSTS
FOR REGIONS5 AND 6

       We compared cost data for 2,658 (1) vehicles    in region                6
with cost data for the same number and comparable type of
vehicles   in region 5. The comparative costs of maintaining
2,658 vehicles    in each of the two regions in fiscal    year
1969 were:

                                                                Total
                                                                cost

            Region %-California                            $1,223,000
            Region 6--Pacific   Northwest                      827,000

                Difference        (48 percent)             $    396,000

      The $396,000 difference    between region 5 and region 6
costs for maintaining    2,658 vehicles     is accounted for as
follows:
                                                    Region 5 costs
                                 Fleet            over or under(-)
                          maintenance costs         region 6 costs
                         RePion 5      Region 6 Amount      Percent
Shop costs (note a):
    Labor and other
       shop expenses         $     747,000   $421,000 $326,000             78
    Parts                          268,000    183,000   85,000             47
    Travel                          29,000     16,000   13,000             82
                                 1,044,000    620,000  424,000             69
Nonshop costs
  (note b)                         179,000       207,000       -28,000    -13
    Total                    $1,223,000      $827,000     $396,000
                                                           ~___        48
aCost of work done in Forest Service                maintenance shops.
b
  Relates primarily to maintenance work done by commercial
  shops.

1
 This includes     the 2,564 region 6 vehicles shown on page 19
 plus vehicles     maintained for the Job Corps by region 6.
        Of the $326,000 difference    in costs of labor and other
shop expenses shown in the above table, about $211,000 was
attributable     to region 5's charging more labor hours than
those charged by region 6 to vehicle maintenance.          The re-
mainder of the $326,000 (about $115,000) was attributable          to
differences    in mechanics' salaries    and miscellaneous   shop
expenses.

       On the basis of average labor rates, we estimated that
region 5 charged 98,000 shop labor hours to maintain 2,658
vehicles,    compared with an estimated 65,000 labor hours
charged by region 6 for the same number of vehicles.

       The difference      in the number of labor hours charged to
maintain the same number of vehicles          may be indicative  of
significant     differences     in the vehicle maintenance practices
or in the operating efficiency         of the two regions.

      Information obtained from regions 5 and 6 indicated
that differences  in the number of miles that vehicles      had
been driven had not caused the wide variance in average
maintenance costs for those two regions.      For example, about
one third of the vehicles    in the two regions are l/2-ton     and
l-ton pickup trucks.    In fiscal  year 1969 l/2-ton  and l-ton
pickup trucks in region 6 were driven an average 1,500 miles
per truck more than those in region 5. The region 5 mainte-
nance costs for those trucks, however, averaged $125 per
truck more than the costs in region 6.

REGION 5 MAINTENANCECOSTS
EXCEEDGUIDELINE LIMITATIONS
      To assist in controlling   maintenance costs and in dis-
posing of defective    equipment before maintenance costs be-
come excessive,   Forest Service vehicle management directives
provide that, as a general rule, the total maintenance cost
during the life of any vehicle not exceed its acquisition
cost e

      Of a total of 2,352 region 5 vehicles   (l-ton   or less)
on hand as of June 30, 1969, about 22 percent,      or 526 vehi-
cles, had accumulated maintenance costs in excess of their
acquisition   costs.  The accumulated maintenance costs on
those 526 vehicles   exceeded the acquisition   costs by
$310,000, or an average $589 a vehicle.
                                 22
       In contrast, of 2,190 region 6 vehicles     of the same
type on hand as of June 30, 1969, only 83 vehicles,        or about
4 percent, had accumulated maintenance costs in excess of
their acquisition   costs.   The maintenance costs    on the 83
vehicles   exceeded the acquisition   costs by about $28,000, or
an average $337 a vehicle.

      Region 5 vehicle management procedures provide that re-
pairs not be made to a vehicle without the approval of the
regional   office if the cost of the proposed repairs,   plus
accumulated repair costs,    exceeds the vehicle's acquisition
cost.

       The region 5 equipment management chief told us that he
depended on the region's     three area superintendents     to ap-
prove or disapprove repairs in excess. of acquisition         costs.
One of the area superintendents     told us that he approved
such repairs by telephone conversations       with maintenance
shop foremen.     Another area superintendent     said that such
decisions were made at the national      forest level.     The de-
cisions are not documented.

      Examples of questionable    major repairs to vehicles
which already had accumulated     maintenance costs in excess of
their acquisition  costs were

     --a $700 commercial repair job, including   a new engine,
        on a 5-year-old truck which had been driven 67,000
        miles;

     --an $800 annual service and repair       job on a 5-year-old
        truck having 83,000 miles; and

     --a $700 annual service and repair job on a 6-year-old
        truck having 65,000 miles, which had been earmarked
        for replacement.

     Repair jobs such as those could have contributed          to the
comparatively  high maintenance costs in region 5.

     In its letter   commenting on the draft     of this   report,
the Forest Service   stated,  in part, that:




                                 23
     "The Report refers to instances in Region 5 in
     which the cost of vehicle repairs exceeded the
     administrative   limitations       established    by the
     Forest Service.     We feel that such instances
     would require an analysis         of the specific    fac-
     tors involved in the local management decision
     to make the repairs before concluding           that they
     were not economically      justified.       As one example,
     there can be instances in which equipment that is
     approaching the point of replacement must be held
     over and repaired to meet special or unexpected
     needs."

        We agree that there may be instances where the immedi-
ate need for a vehicle may warrant repair work that ordinar-
ily would not be justified     economically.  As described pre-
viously,    however, region 5 exceeded the administrative  lim-
itation    on maintenance costs on 22 percent of its 2,352 ve-
hicles in the l-ton and under class, whereas region 6 ex-
ceeded the limitation     on only 4 percent of its 2,190 vehi-
cles in the same class.

       Because the decisions   by region 5 employees to make re-
pairs that resulted    in cumulative maintenance costs exceed-
ing the administrative     cost limit had not been documented,
there was no way to evaluate the justification      for so many
vehicles   in region 5 having accumulated maintenance costs in
excess of the limitation.




                                 24
CONCERNOF FORESTSERVICE OFFICIALS
OVERREGIONALMAINTENANCECOST VARIANCES

      The Acting Director   of the Forest Service's   Division  of
Engineering   in Washington, D.C,, made the following     comments
in a letter   dated June 11, 1968, to the Forest Service re-
gional offices.

      "We have reviewed the Forest Service Annual Motor
      Vehicle Reports for Fiscal Years 1966 and 1967,
      and find questionable    cost variations  or question-
      able report accuracy.      Steps should be taken to
      improve either situation."
           *           *           *              *           *


      "The most alarming part of these figures       is the
      extreme variance in maintenance costs,       The total
      cost of the Materials    and Labor and Contractual
      Services (operation   plus maintenance) cost appears
      to be in direct relationship    with the number and
      size of force account maintenance shops in the
      individual   Regions.  This in itself   indicates
      that a review of our present usage and manning of
      Forest Service shops is needed.?'

        At the time of our fieldwork,      the     Forest Service had
not made the review that was suggested             in the letter    quoted
above.     Region 5 officials   advised us       that they would make
a more detailed      analysis in an effort       to identify     more spe-
cifically     the reasons for the variance         in maintenance costs
of regions 5 and 6.

CONCLUSIONAND RECOMMENDATION

       The wide variances  in average vehicle maintenance costs
among the various Forest Service regions and the results            of
our comparative analysis of costs in regions 5 and 6 indi-
cate possible significant      differences     in the maintenance
practices   or operating  efficiency      of the regions.    There-
fore we recommend that the Secretary of Agriculture           have the
Forest Service require its vehicle management staff to
      --make a review of the vehicle maintenance practices  of
         the Forest Service regions to identify the causes of
         the variances in maintenance costs and
      --take appropriate    action    to improve the vehicle   main-
         tenance program.

AGENCYCOMMENTS

      In its March 26, 1971, letter   to us commenting on a
draft of this report,  the Forest Service stated that it
agreed with our recommendation and that it expected to com-
plete a detailed  study of maintenance cost variances   in at
least two regions by June 30, 1972, and to take appropriate
action at that time.

      Although it agreed with our recommendation, the Forest
Service stated that our comparison of regional maintenance
costs on a Service-wide    basis (see table on pa 19) and our
more detailed   comparison of maintenance costs in regions
5 and 6 could be misleading because they did not allow for
regional variances   caused by organizational,    geographic, or
other factors.    Specific situations   or factors cited by the
Forest Service as possible causes for part of the cost vari-
ances were as follows:

      --In some regions the entire job of determining    what
         repairs are needed and then making such repairs is
         done in Forest Service shops, whereas, in other re-
         gions, a mobile equipment inspector  determines
         what repairs are needed but the actual work is done
         by commercial shops.

      --Types of roads and other driving       conditions   can in-
         fluence maintenance costs.

The Forest Service stated that, to be meaningful,    cost com-
parisons must involve similar maintenance conditions     and
practices.
       Although we agree that comparisons should involve lo-
cations having similar   driving   conditions,   significant  dif-
ferences in maintenance practices     among field offices    could
point up a need for certain field offices      to adopt more eco-
nomical and efficient   practices.
                                 26
                              ,-:
                               1 ..

             :“”                :
                   ,’




APPENDIXES              -,’




  27
                                                                                      APPENDIX I

                      UNITED   STATES   DEPARTMENT         OF   AGRICULTURE
                                        FOREST   SERVICE

                               Washington,        D. C. 20250



                                                                              March 26, 1971


    Mr. Bernard Sacks
    Assistant   Director  of Civil    Division
    U.S. General Accounting     Office
    Washington,    D. C. 20548
L




    Dear Mr.     Sacks:

    Thank you for the opportunity      to comment on your proposed report
    to the Secretary    of Agriculture   on potential improvements in
    motor vehicle    management by the Forest Service (and Soil Conserva-
    tion Service).

    We agree, in general,         with the two recommendations              in this draft
    report   concerning      the operation       and management of the Forest
    Service fleet     of motor vehicles.           It is important        to remember,
    however, that statistics          indicating      relative     values of such,things
    as equipment utilization          and maintenance         costs are not, in them-
    selves,    solely   indicative      of the optimum operation            of the fleet,
    The purpose (and the only purpose)               of the Forest       Service fleet
    is to provide     the best equipment available              that will     result      in
    the most efficient         and most economical         means of accomplishing            the
    total   Forest Service job.          Operating      the least expensive          fleet     is
    not our primary       goal, since a variety           of diversified      and demanding
    programs must be served.

    Our specific      comments on the two recommendations                      are:

    Recommendation        1

    To provide     for improved control          over their   vehicle     fleets,    we
    recommend that the Chief of the Forest               Service and the Adminis-
    trator    of SCS require     all field       offices   to (1) establish
    procedures    and practices       for making regular       periodic      reviews
    of time-of-use      data, and (2) use the results            of such reviews
    along with other pertinent           information     in justifying       the reten-
    tion of vehicles       on hand and approving         requests     for additional
    vehicles,    giving    consideration       to the sharing of vehicles
    wherever possible.


                                                 29
APPENDIX I

   This recommendation      is timely    and we recognize             that there is a
   need to further    strengthen     the existing   Forest            Service time-of-use
   utilization   study procedures       and their  use.

   We are currently      working  on revisions       of Forest Service directives
   which will    further   define vehicle     utilization     studies,   establish
   uniform   periods of time for data collection,            and a followup     pro-
   cedure.    We expect to complete this job by July 1971.

   These directives          will,   of course,        be for observance by all field
   offices     operating      motor vehicles         which are included        in the fleet.
   However, in establishing              utilization       standards      and guidelines
   for their      use, we will       need to give the field             fleet  managers some
   flexibility       in applying       the standards         to meet local conditions
   and exceptional         situations.          Actually,      this is already      expressed
   in existing       directives      in Section 411 of Forest Service Handbook
   7109.15,     the Fleet Equipment Management Handbook, in which we
   recognize      that because of varying working                  conditions,    intensity
   of use, seasons, and other factors,                    each fleet      manager will      need
   to establish        reasonable      standards       applicable     to local conditions.

   Plans are being made for ultimate   automation of the collection
   procedure  for the data needed for utilization   studies.     Region 6
   has agreed to write   an ADP pilot program for this.      As a first
   step, Form 7100-2, which is the Equipment Log Book, was revised
   in 1970 to contain  manual entries  that can be used as the source
   data for the automation   process.

   The narrative       and recommendation        on page 19 of the draft            imply
   that vehicles       are assigned to specific           individuals        and are not
   shared among employees.            It is true that in some instances                vehi-
   cles are assigned to a specific             individual       for maintenance
   responsibility.          There are also some instances             in which special
   purpose vehicles         are required,     such as for fire emergency or
   those which carry special            communications       equipment.         However,
   where groups of vehicles           are located     at a field        office,    such as
   a Forest      Supervisor's     or District     Ranger's headquarters,            the
   vehicles     are available      for use by more than one employee.

   Another pertinent        factor     in looking  at vehicle     utilization         is the
   geographical      dispersion      of National   Forests   within      Regions, Kanger
   Districts    within    Forests,      and of Experiment     Station      project      loca-
   tions.     Thus, although       for some purposes the fleet           is managed on
   a Region/Station-wide          basis,    the geographical    factors       require
   individual    vehicle     pools at such locations.




                                             30
                                                                   APPENDIX I


Recommendation     2

The Chief of the Forest Service require   his vehicle     management
staff   to make a review of the vehicle maintenance    practices  of
the various Forest Service regions to identify     the causes of the
variances   in maintenance costs, and take appropriate     action to
improve its vehicle maintenance program.

We feel that many of the statistics         upon which this recommendation
is based could be misleading.          The table on page 20 of your draft
report     compares maintenance costs on a Service-wide      basis.     The
dollars     and hours required    to perform maintenance are not specific
indicators     themselves.     We feel that even a limited   review of
maintenance practices       and costs must bring out what is involved
and included in these factors,         and allowances made for known
variances     as between Regions because of organizational,        geographic
or other factors.

Inspection  and related   costs could,   for example, vary as between
Regions because of the different     methods used.      In some of the
western Regions which operate large, centralized          shops, the en-
tire job of determining    what repairs    are needed and then making
the repairs   would be performed in the shop.        In other Regions,
such as the Southern,   the Forest's    mobile equipment inspector
might determine the extent of repairs       required   but the actual
work would be procured commercially.

Conditions    of use influence   maintenance costs.      We know, for ex-
ample, that grade, curvature,       and the type of road surface over
which the vehicle    is used create valid variances       and influence
costs.     There is as much difference     in maintenance   costs between
Forests in a Region as there is between Regions.           Maintenance
costs for vehicles     operated over dusty roads may be five times
those for similar    vehicles   operated on paved roads.

In summary, we feel that comparisons must involve   similar                mainte-
nance conditions  and practices to make them meaningful.

The Report refers       to instances      in Region 5 in which the cost of
vehicle   repairs    exceeded the administrative          limitations      established
by the Forest Service.           We feel that such instances          would require
an analysis     of the specific       factors    involved   in the local manage-
ment decision     to make the repairs         before concluding       that they were
not economically      justified.        As one example, there can be instances
in which equipment that is approaching               the point of replacement
must be held over and repaired             to meet special or unexpected needs.




                                       31
APPENDIX I


  The second portion   of this recommendation    relates    to making a
  review of the vehicle maintenance practices       of our various Regions.
  We agree with this portion    of the recommendation     and expect to
  conclude a detailed    study of these variances,     in at least two
  Regions, by the end of fiscal     year 1972 and to take appropriate
  action at that time.

   Sincerely,




   A.W. CREELEY             Y
   ASSOCIATE CHIEF
   FOREST
        SE8vIcE




                                    32
                                                                        APPENDIX       II




    UNITED       STATES       DEPARTMENT   OF AGRICULTURE
    SOIL   CONSERVATION        SERVKE
    Washington, 0. C. 28250



                                                                    APR 5 1971


    Mr, Bernard Sacks
    Assistant   Director
    Civil Division,      General Accounting        Office
    Room 6641, South Building
L                                              1
    Dear Mr. Sacks:

    We have your memorandum of January 27, 1971, transmitting     copies of
    the draft  of your proposed report   to the Secretary of Agriculture  on
    potential  improvements  in motor vehicle management by the Soil Conser-
    vation Service and the Forest Service.

    We have reviewed the draft      and the recommendation      that concerns our
    Service.    It is our belief    that recording    and analyzing    time-of-use
    data for all vehicles    at all locations      would result    in a far greater
    cost than any possible     savings that will     accrue.    After  consultation
    with the Office   of Plant and Operations       of the Department,     however,
    we would agree to make such analysis        at those locations     where we have
    seven or more vehicles     for a four-month     period during the year that
    is representative    of our vehicle    needs.-

     Sincerely       yours,

                     7dl%U
                     Administrator




       U.S GAO, Wash.. D.C.                   33
                                                                .-,,,.__.
                                                                       ;.




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