Automotive Fleet

FEB 2014

Magazine for the car and truck fleet and leasing industry

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MANAGES A 'ROAMING' FLEET AUTOMOTIVE FLEET I FEBRUARY 2014 36 With a f eet of Ford Transit Connects, C-SPAN has produced more than 400 broadcasts on the road through its Local Content Vehicle program. F or the iconic C-SPAN, its local con- tent vehicles (LCVs) are the wheels driving a media project that is map- ping out the literary and historical riches of cities across the U.S. Since launching in 2010, the six Ford Transit Connect LCVs have traveled to at least 24 cities, and the team has produced approximately 425 programs for the private, nonprof t cable television network. So, how does C-SPAN manage six vans traveling across the country to produce and edit content on the spot? Going Beyond D.C. In 2010, C-SPAN started the LCV project with one Transit Connect, according to Mark Farkas, a C-SPAN producer who leads the project. "When the Gulf oil spill happened, we realized we needed to expand our quick response programming beyond Washing- ton, D.C. — we needed to be able to shoot and edit (content) from the road," he said. As the project grew, that one vehicle quickly grew to three, and the f eet trav- eled together city to city. But, now with six Transit Connects un- der C-SPAN ownership, the f eet is sep- arated into two teams — three vehicles each and one person per vehicle. One team sticks around the West Coast while the oth- er roams on the East. Every vehicle is equipped with video pro- duction and editing equipment for quick turn- around of the footage for each featured city. T e teams are typically in each city for about a week and then f y back to D.C. be- tween gigs, leaving the vans behind. C-SPAN uses its local cable company station part- ners and local city governments not only to broadcast the segments on local chan- nels, but also to help house the Transit Con- nects between f lming. C-SPAN also gets help from local city governments through- out the f lming process. C-SPAN decided against issuing fuel cards to drivers, and instead, each person has an American Express corporate card and f les expense reports as needed. C-SPAN uses AAA for roadside service and maintains the vehicles, which are all still under war- ranty, at Ford dealerships. Meeting The Challenges Head-On T e equipment probably costs just as much as the vans themselves, so most of it is taken out between projects. But, leaving the vehicles sitting can still be risky since they of en hang out for two to three weeks before moving on. At the beginning of the project, Farkas said C-SPAN tried out an ex- pensive alarm system, though it ended up drawing too much power from the battery. And, installing solar panels on the tops of the vehicles didn't seem to help. Now that the LCVs have returned to a standard alarm system, Farkas said they're trying to f nd another use for the panels, aside from just powering the air condition- ing. According to Farkas, one obvious use won't work — powering up video equip- ment on the road. "I'm sure if we got really creative, we could f nd another use for them," he noted, but in the meantime they don't take much main- tenance and are hardly visible. At this point, the equipment and risk man- agement is the least of Farkas' worries. Per motor vehicle laws in Washington, D.C., the vehicles must return every year to the cap- ital for annual inspections. Only once in a vehicle's lifetime does D.C. law allow a ve- hicle to receive an out-of-state inspection. "T at's our biggest challenge right now," Farkas said. Surprisingly, the vehicles don't rack up too much mileage. Farkas said even C-SPAN's f rst-purchased vehicles, 2010-MY vans, only have 40,000 miles so far. "T ey will last us for a while," he said. AF BY JOANNE TUCKER C-SPAN turns Ford Transit Connects into local content vehicles (LCVs), the wheels driving a media project that cap- tures stories of literary and historic sig- nif cance from across the U.S. PHOTO: C-SPAN HOW C-SPAN A F 0 2 1 4 c s p a n . i n d d 3 6 AF0214cspan.indd 36 1 / 2 3 / 1 4 9 : 3 7 A M 1/23/14 9:37 AM

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