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Federal Fleets: Overall Increase in Number of Vehicles Masks That Some Agencies Decreased Their Fleets

GAO-12-780 Published: Aug 02, 2012. Publicly Released: Aug 02, 2012.
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What GAO Found

Since fiscal year 2005, the number of federal non-postal civilian and non-tactical military vehicles has increased about 7 percent, from about 420,000 to 449,000 vehicles. However, from fiscal year 2005 to 2011, some agencies decreased their fleets, and the change in fleet size from agency to agency varied considerably. For example, one-third of the agencies (8 of 24) with the largest number of vehicles decreased their fleets by at least 2 percent during this period. Of the 4 agencies GAO selected for review, the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Veterans Affairs (VA) increased their fleets 5 and 49 percent, respectively since fiscal year 2005; the U.S. Air Force and Department of the Interior (Interior) decreased their fleets 7 and 9 percent, respectively. Overall, federal agencies increased the portion of their fleets made up of alternative fuel vehicles (e.g., vehicles that operate using ethanol or batteries) from about 14 percent to 33 percent from fiscal years 2005 to 2011. In addition, GAO found that 8 agencies accounted for almost 80 percent of total federal vehicles in fiscal year 2011, while 35 other agencies held the remaining vehicles.

Fleet managers at the four selected agencies stated that various factors can influence changes in fleet size. USDA and VA reportedly acquired more vehicles from fiscal years 2005 to 2011 to accommodate expanded programs and services, among other factors. For example, VA acquired 5,367 additional vehicles in part to provide transportation to and from VA health care facilities for veterans who require health care services but are not able to drive themselves. In contrast, the Air Force and Interior reportedly decreased the number of vehicles in part through efforts targeted at reducing their fleets and costs. For example, through efforts to identify under-utilized vehicles, Interior eliminated 451 vehicles.

Why GAO Did This Study

The federal fleets consist of about 449,000 civilian and non-tactical military (i.e., non-combat) cars, trucks, and other vehicles, excluding postal vehicles. Various legislation and policies have been aimed at reducing the size and changing the composition of federal fleets as a means of improving U.S. energy efficiency. Most recently, in May 2011, the President issued a memorandum calling for federal agencies to reduce oil imports by determining the optimal size of their fleets and eliminating non-essential vehicles.

GAO was asked to provide information about any change in the size and composition of federal fleets and the reasons agencies’ fleets increased or decreased over time. GAO analyzed agency fleet data compiled by the General Services Administration (GSA) to identify changes in fleet size and vehicle type from fiscal years 2005 to 2011. GAO selected four agencies—USDA, Interior, VA, and the U.S. Air Force—to discuss with officials the reasons for changes in fleet size. GAO based its selection on factors such as agency mission, fleet size, and changes in the number of vehicles. GAO did not include U.S. Postal Service in its analysis because of GAO’s recent report on Postal Service’s delivery fleet.

GAO is not making recommendations in this report. Although Air Force, USDA, and Interior did not comment on a draft of this report, GSA and VA generally agreed with GAO’s findings and provided technical comments that were incorporated as appropriate.

For more information, contact Susan Fleming at (202) 512-2834 or

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Federal agenciesAlternative fuelsVeteransPostal serviceTrucksVeterans affairsDisabled veteransExecutive ordersMaintenanceMotor vehicle standards