Universities utilize a large number of vehicles every day for various operations. Whether a vehicle transports students to and from campus or carries vital maintenance equipment, each one is extremely valuable both in purpose and replacement cost.
However, meeting maintenance schedules and keeping the fleet running aren't the only challenges. Depending on how many vehicles are in your fleet, you could be dealing with hundreds or even thousands of keys. Having a system in place to assist with key management is critical to keeping vehicles secure and preventing misuse.
Let's go over some of the specific challenges you'll face when managing your fleet's keys, and how you can overcome them.
Dealing With Misplaced and Unreturned Keys
Any time you give keys to an employee, there's a possibility that those keys will get misplaced or stolen. Whether an employee forgets a key on a bench or a stranger swipes it from an unsuspecting staff member, the end results is a vehicle — or even an entire fleet — left exposed. Your department is then faced with buying an expensive replacement key or having the vehicle rekeyed completely (more on that later).
The potential for losing a key could be compounded by student workers who have access to fleet vehicles, such as campus buses. Studies have set the average attention span of Generation Z, which makes up the bulk of your student workforce, at around eight seconds. From smartphones and social media to class schedules and projects, your student workers already face a number of daily distractions that could lead to a misplaced key. It's important to keep them on the right track and ensure the keys they use end up where they belong at the end of their shifts.
Replacing Locks and Keys
Like we mentioned earlier, when keys are lost or stolen, you may have to pay to get one or even all of your vehicles rekeyed.
Though it wasn't a university fleet, the Anchorage Police Department found out the hard way that the price for rekeying vehicles can get extremely high. The department paid $140,000 to change the locks on all of its patrol cars after it suspected that keys were taken during a robbery at a local tire shop. The department discovered that certain keys could start any patrol car of the same make and model, prompting the massive key change.
While vehicles in your fleet might not share keys across multiple cars, you could still incur substantial rekeying and key replacement costs if even one key were to go missing. Replacing modern key fobs can be expensive, with costs ranging anywhere between $50 and $400, depending on the vehicle brand. But that's for the fobs alone since programming will be an additional price of $50 to $100. How many locks and keys can you replace before making a serious dent in your budget?
Keeping Your Campus Safe
Unnecessary expenses aren't the only thing your department faces when keys are lost. Even if you think you have the best policies for managing your fleet, poorly secure keys leave your entire university and students at risk.
Stolen vehicles can be used in criminal activities or lead to traffic collisions, affecting students' lives and your university's safety reputation. That's in addition to the potential that your university could be held liable for damages resulting from the misuse of a stolen fleet vehicle if your key control practices are ruled inadequate.
Finding a Solution
Controlling your fleet keys doesn't have to be a nightmare. Consider using an electronic key control system that secures and automatically tracks access to keys to mitigate security risks and remove uncertainty about who's using your vehicles and why.
Limit the risk of full-time or student employees misplacing or losing keys by holding them accountable for what happens to keys they're responsible for. An electronic key control system should be able to alert a manager if a key isn't returned within a set amount of time, giving you the ability to react quickly and know exactly who should have the key. This encourages employees to practice good stewardship of keys.
Key management might be the last thing you worry about when it comes to your university fleet of vehicles. But when a key gets lost or stolen, you'll wish key security had always been at the top of your mind. Get ahead of the risk and use an electronic key control system to manage your fleet's keys.