Special Report 03 - Garda Transport

Published on 09 August 1995

Summary of Findings

This study examines the management and performance of the Garda vehicle fleet.

Garda transport services are administered by a Transport Division based in Garda Headquarters, Dublin. Transport Division provides and maintains a fleet of vehicles for:

  • policing operations
  • Ministerial transport (Ministerial transport includes services to certain serving and retired state officers as set out in Appendix A) and
  • other transport services including assistance to the prison service.

Ministerial transport provided by the Transport Division is currently the subject of a separate review by a Government appointed committee. Consequently, this examination did not extend to the economy and efficiency of that service.

Garda transport services cost £14.3m in 1994, including £3.9m which was spent on vehicle procurement. (Table 1.2)

The fleet comprised 1,515 operational vehicles at 1 January 1995 and had a value of £5m. (Table 1.1 and Paragraph 1.10)

Fleet Profile

65 per cent of the fleet consisted of motor cars. Almost half of the fleet is under three years old. (Table 1.1 and Paragraph 3.4)

The mix of vehicles for policing operations is determined by a process of consultation. No specific targets have been set for each vehicle type. (Paragraphs 3.5 and 3.6)

Motor cycles make up a sizeable portion of the Garda fleet (17 per cent). By comparison, recommended UK targets are 10 per cent for the motor cycle content of a police fleet. Motor cycles are an expensive resource, costing up to three times more to maintain than other vehicles. Consequently, there is a need to review the appropriate motor cycle content of the fleet, taking into account their contribution to the operational effectiveness of Garda response and beat operations. (Paragraphs 3.24 to 3.28)

Deployment of Vehicles

The allocation of vehicles to divisions is made on the basis of consultation, after considering factors such as population, crime levels and the number of Garda personnel attached to an area. There is merit in combining these and other relevant criteria in a formula to inform allocation decisions. (Para graphs 3.7 and 3.9)

No comprehensive fleet review has been carried out by the Garda Síochána. Such a review, carried out periodically, would provide assurance that allocations to units are adequate and consistent. (Paragraphs 3.10 and 3.11)


Procurement of vehicles was found to be a lengthy process and for 1994 it took about one year in all. There may be scope to speed up the process by having procurement carried out as an integral part of fleet management. (Table 2.3)

Vehicles tend to be delivered in bulk. This results in deployment delays since the Garda garage cannot cope with the fining out of vehicles in large quantities. At least 13,640 vehicle days were lost up to 31 March 1995, due to delays in deploying 1994 vehicles. This is equivalent to 37 vehicles annually. Consideration should be given to the drawing down of vehicles from suppliers on a phased basis. (Table 2.4 and Paragraphs 2.9 to 2.12)

There appears to be scope to take advantage of the Department's purchasing power by negotiating centrally for the supply of fuel to divisions and districts. Substantial savings could be made under such an arrangement. (Paragraphs 2.24 and 2.25)

Fleet Repair and Maintenance

Repair and service of Garda vehicles is carried out:

  • for some Dublin units at the Garda garage in Phoenix Park, Dublin and
  • for other divisions by commercial garages.

Vehicle maintenance by the Garda garage is costed on the basis of:

  • the procurement cost of parts
  • a labour chargeout rate of £29 per hour (Paragraph 2.29)

This costing method is inadequate because:

  • No allowance has been made for the labour costs of the stores function. A percentage add-on of 21 per cent to the procurement cost of parts would be required to absorb such costs. (Paragraph 2.31)
  • The labour chargeout rate is insufficient to absorb the labour costs and overheads of the garage. An estimated rate of £74 per hour would be required to absorb all costs from the hours booked to jobs. (Paragraph 2.35)

Alternatively, excluding overtime, if all labour and overheads, including those of the stores function (but excluding parts), were to be recovered in a single chargeout rate, vehicle maintenance would need to be costed on the basis of the procurement cost of parts plus a labour chargeout rate of £85 per hour. (Paragraph 2.37)

Maintenance is much more expensive at the Garda garage than at commercial garages.

  • A labour chargeout rate of £20 to £25 per hour is the norm for commercial garages. (Paragraph 2.36)
  • Even at the standard costing rate the average cost of a sample of Garda garage jobs exceeded the average cost of corresponding jobs at commercial garages by 73 per cent. (Paragraph 2.41)
  • The cost of maintenance of vehicles at the Garda garage, per completed mile, was over three times that of vehicles maintained at commercial garages. (Paragraph 2.43)
  • The time used for a sample of jobs at the garage was found to be almost twice that recommended by manufacturers for those jobs. (Paragraph 2.48)

The productivity level of the Garda garage is low in terms of the number of available man hours booked against jobs. There is, therefore, apparent over-capacity at current staffing levels. In spite of this, in 1994, in excess of £100,000 was incurred on overtime and work to the value of £300,000 was contracted out, much of which would form part of the normal workload of the garage. (Table 2.6 and Paragraph 2.51)

The Garda garage completed half the jobs on the same day. However, the time off the road for the average job was four days, with motor cycle work taking six days, on average. (Paragraph 2.49 and Table 2.9)

Garda garage mechanics are attested gardaí. As a result, they are paid on average over £21,000 per annum compared with £12,300 for mechanics in industry. (Paragraphs 2.53 and 2.54)

Disposal of Vehicles

There is a general policy to dispose of motor vehicles with mileage in excess of 100,000. However, 11 per cent of motor vehicles exceeded that limit. The limit for motor cycles has been set at 45,000 miles. (Paragraph 2.58)

A new disposal mechanism was put in place in 1994. This should impact favourably on returns as it reduces the amount of pre-sale work done by the gardaí and includes Garda vehicles with other vehicles being sold. (Paragraphs 2.60 and 2.61)

Vehicle Utilisation

Vehicle utilisation levels appeared relatively low:

  • some vehicles were not used for over half the days for which they were available and
  • the intensity of use of vehicles was low except in the case of cars. (Paragraphs 3.19 to 3.22)

No utilisation targets have been set for fleet vehicles. There is merit in setting such standards, in order to inform deployment decisions. (Paragraph 3.17)

Transport Services

The routine details unit of Transport Division provides transport services to the prison service, witnesses, juries and the gardaí. In addition it carries out courier duties.

These services were found to be expensive, costing an estimated £1.6m in 1994 and using 48 vehicles. It was noted in particular that:

  • all drivers are attested gardaí and
  • vehicle utilisation levels were low (at 14 per cent of available hours). (Paragraphs 3.39 to 3.41)

Management Issues and Information

Due to a high turnover of senior officers particularly at Chief Superintendent and Transport Officer level, there has been a lack of management continuity in the Transport Division. (Paragraph 2.2)

Although a professional fleet manager has been engaged he exercised no executive responsibilities and acted solely in an advisory capacity. An independent fleet management function accountable to Garda management would help to establish an arms-length measurable service. (Paragraphs 23 and 24)

Records are manual with the exception of one computer spreadsheet recording the fleet profile. There were deficiencies in the information maintained in respect of the fleet. The principal ones were:

  • delays in the compilation of information and
  • inaccuracies and omissions in its recording.

These deficiencies reduce the division's capacity to manage, monitor and evaluate the performance of the fleet.

A project team has, however, recently been formed to develop a computerised fleet management information system. (Paragraphs 3.12 to 3.15)

Value for Money Opportunities

The provision of an efficient transport service to the Garda Síochána involves balancing operational effectiveness against the need to control input costs. It is clear that a number of opportunities exist to achieve greater efficiency.

Among the opportunities identified were:


The substitution of garda personnel with less expensive civilian staff could yield annual savings of £200,000 to £250,000 in respect of the garage. (Table 2.10 and Paragraph 2.56)


Increasing productivity (productive time) should allow for the elimination or substantial reduction of overtime and contracting out:

  • The elimination of overtime in the Garda garage would yield £100,000.
  • Reduction of contracting out of work in the Dublin area could contribute substantial further savings estimated at £200,000. (Paragraphs 2.51 and 2.52)

Contracting of Garda Garage Work

Alternatively, Contracting out the entire Garda garage operation could yield savings of the order of £400,000 to £600,000, given that the maintenance cost per mile in the case of vehicles maintained at commercial garages is 27 per cent of the corresponding Garda garage cost. However, in such circumstances it would probably be necessary to retain a small core of staff for duties with a security element. (Paragraph 2.44)

Fuel Procurement

Centralised negotiation of fuel procurement could yield substantial savings depending on the rebate agreed. Every rebate of one penny per litre would yield approximately £40,000. (Paragraphs 2.22 to 2.25)

Routine Details

A substantial element of the work completed by the routine details section apparently does not involve any security dimension. The possibility of civilianisation or of having such services delivered by contract should be pursued. (Paragraphs 3.42 and 3.45)

Other Measures to Consider

Consideration should also be given to other measures which could impact favourably on costs such as:

  • phased deliveries of vehicles purchased
  • speedier deployment of vehicles for use
  • optimising vehicle mix
  • reducing stock holding of parts
  • reducing downtime at the Garda garage and
  • carrying out periodic fleet reviews.