A week ago, commissioners in Frederick County, Md. unanimously approved a policy that governs the rental of the county's fleet by non-county government agencies.

Austin S. Abraham, director of the county's Management Services, says the policy is merely a method of formalizing and streamlining a practice that has already been in existence for a number of years.

"From time to time, very rarely, some of these government organizations, who aren't a part of county government itself, want to borrow a van or sedan," he says. "We are just formalizing what we have done for years in a written policy that lays out the guidelines for everybody so we're not scrambling to figure out what needs to be done every time vehicles need to be rented out."

Eligible renters include Frederick Community College, the Board of Education, municipalities and state agencies located in Frederick such as the Health Department and the Department of Social Services. Vehicles in the 16 vehicle fleet of sedans, pickup trucks, passenger and cargo vans, may be rented on a short-term, case-by-case basis.

The policy calls for a set of requirements to be fulfilled prior to a rental. An agency must fill out a designated rental agreement form, have its own insurance that meets the standard set by the county, agree to cooperate with the county's risk management staff if an accident occurs, and present its driver's driving record for review.

If all requirements are met, the office's administrative staff will then schedule the rental time and use FASTER, a fleet management software system created by CCG Systems Inc. and used by privately-owned rental companies across the nation, to manage the charges.

Rental costs are kept at a minimum and can run anywhere from 44 cents per mile for a compact car to 60 cents per mile for a 15-passenger van to cover gas and the operating costs of the vehicle. Rather than a means for profit, Frederick County sees its car rental service as a method of community service and the full utilization of its resources.

"It's kind of like a brotherhood amongst government agencies," Abraham says. "We look for a way to provide that little bit of assistance with resources that we have. There's also no need for the cities and towns in our county to each own a 15 passenger van or even rent commercially if the county has them and they're not always being used.

Now, a week after the policy was approved, Abraham says the county has seen no drastic increase in requests for vehicle rentals and says he doesn't expect there to be any significant increase at all. The county will likely continue to see only three or four requests a year and has no plans to offer the same services to non-government agencies or the public in the future.

"There are plenty of rental companies that people can turn to," he says. "It's not our intent to compete with those businesses. There isn't a broader public good by us going into that."