Using fuel tanks as an example, Baulsir explains that while you may begin talking about minimum sizes, you end up discussing what’s needed for the buses to run for 18 hours.
“The process probably should start at absolute performance, but it doesn’t, it’s more of a negotiated process where you end up with, OK here’s what we need, how can you do it?
“Where we’re not necessarily technically designing what they’re doing, but in the end it just meets the performance figures we are looking for whether it’s distance or climate control or something like that,” says Baulsir.
Baulsir says that while the agency usually starts with the old “we design it” piece, it comes down to sitting down with the vendor and finding out what the agency is trying to do and finding out that the vendor knows how to do it.
“Sometimes what you find with a particular application, let’s say it’s an engine and we’re asking for a specific piece on that engine, that this has already been tried with that type of engine and it doesn’t work. And you get a chance to talk about it and they say, hey we did this for somebody who pretty much had to have it and it didn’t work and we had to pull them all off.
“And you have to sit there and listen to them and say well, this is good information, maybe we need to reconsider, maybe we don’t need this this way. And let’s listen to the folks that are building these vehicles.”
Conversation is the backbone of a good procurement according to Baulsir, “It seems to me that the key to the whole thing is the RFP process where you actually have open dialogue.
“Where you might start out saying, hey this is what we need, and on the other side of the table they are saying, now wait a minute, you know here’s why you don’t want that.”
In the end, what are the benefits of this open negotiating process for the agency? Baulsir says it saves them money by not having to increase staff.
“I think the benefit, especially for an agency like Nashville, we’re not big enough that we could ever imagine that we could design a complicated piece of equipment. We don’t keep engineers on staff and all of those sorts of things.
“You know, we’re looking toward the vendors to give us that expertise that we wouldn’t have. If we were one of the larger systems in the country we might be in a position where we would attempt to engineer our own product, but we just don’t have those types of resources internally to do that.”