Expediting Fleet Procurement
Collaborative, efficient approach to fleet procurement can help agencies in shifting landscape
By David Diaz and Steven Mudge, Fleet and Facilities Group | HNTB
As transit agencies benefit from historic investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, many are overhauling existing fleets and procuring new fleets to provide safer, more efficient travel for passengers.
An expedited procurement process could serve as an effective option for agencies hoping to maximize budgets, shorten the time frame for delivery and provide a safe, reliable fleet for passengers. In an expedited process, the design review is simplified, and agencies are encouraged to collaborate with car manufacturers from the outset. Rather than procure or overhaul to a custom specification, the agency adapts its plans to align their requirements and specifications with the manufacturers’ platform and best practices. An expedited approach may not be possible in all scenarios due to systems with unique elements that require vehicle customization.
An expedited approach to procurement takes the following steps:
- Step 1: After determining a need for a new fleet, the agency and relevant stakeholders meet with car builders to determine what product offerings are available.
- Step 2: The agency advertises a request for qualifications from car builders to present the vehicle platform that they propose to meet the agency’s needs. The agency then analyzes which offerings best meet their needs and develops a shortlist of qualified car builders to enter the next phase of the process.
- Step 3: The agency presents a technical and commercial requirements package to the qualified car builders to serve as the basis for presenting final proposals for evaluation by the agency.
- Step 4: The agency selects the car manufacturer they would like to work with, which may involve a best and final offer or contract refinement sessions to create alignment before the contract is awarded.
Adhering to these steps can help the agency maximize the number of relevant bidders, minimize uncertainty, reduce risks to both the car builder and agency while still meeting its needs.
Partners Throughout the Process
An expedited approach to procurement has the potential to build strong, long-lasting relationships between the agency and car builder.
From the start, agencies lean heavily on teamwork and the mutual development of the fleet. Car builders are brought into the conversation early, asked for input and given the opportunity to provide feedback on the agency’s plans. These conversations allow the agency and car builder to develop a rapport that will be critical throughout construction and delivery of the fleet.
Once a contract is signed, the consultant and car builder engage in a partnership to guide the project in a mutually beneficial manner. In many instances, a progressive design-build approach is best, whereby the car builder works together with the agency through every step of the process, while also managing cost as the project progresses.
Advantages of an Expedited Approach
By working with manufacturers from the beginning of the procurement process, agencies can reduce the risks associated with rework and change orders. This process can also make costs more predictable. In effect, the agency can achieve more in its design while still abiding by a pre-established not to exceed price.
An expedited approach can mitigate project risk. When an agency selects from an available suite of product offerings, the car builder can lean upon its existing subcontractor and supplier relationships and subsequently circumvent supply chain issues to ensure that key timelines are met.
Selecting from a preexisting set of car offerings can also accelerate the design process. By working within the car builder’s parameters, the agency can limit design iterations, change orders, delays and other challenges.
An Evolving Industry
For agencies that would like to consider a new approach, it is important to remember that making the shift to an expedited procurement process cannot happen overnight. As a critical first step, obtaining buy in from leadership and a recognition of the benefits of an expedited procurement process are important. Collaboration can help agencies get the most from their budget and deliver the product quickly and safely to market.
Times are changing, and innovative methods for procuring fleets may be necessary for transit agencies. Emphasizing partnership and collaboration throughout an expedited procurement process can help agencies deliver a safe, effective product for ridership.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Fleet and Facilities Practice Lead, Transit and Rail Practice
David Diaz is HNTB’s fleet and facilities practice lead and senior vice president, supporting the firm’s transit and rail practice. Diaz has more than 30 years of experience in the transit and rail industry, including rail vehicle capital programs, rail systems engineering and railroad operations and maintenance.
Throughout his career, Diaz has played a leading role in the development and execution of major programs for Amtrak, MBTA, NJ Transit, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, Caltrain, Sound Transit and New Mexico Rail Runner among others. Projects have included the acquisition and deployment of passenger rail fleets, maintenance facilities design and industrial engineering and signaling and communications infrastructure, including positive train control and communications-based train control.
Contact David at DDiaz@hntb.com.
Fleet and Facilities Technical Director, Transit and Rail Practice
Steven Mudge is HNTB’s fleet and facilities technical director and vice president, serving the firm’s transit and rail practice. A nationally recognized expert in transit vehicles, facilities and operations, Mudge serves as a key technical resource supporting clients as they modernize and grow their fleets of buses, trains and other vehicle rolling stock and support facilities.
Mudge has more than three decades of experience in the transit and rail industry. In addition to serving as a consultant for national clients, Mudge has held leadership positions with the MBTA, managing an annual budget of more than $350 million and overseeing administration of detailed operating agreements for rail and ferry services.
Contact Steven at SMudge@hntb.com.