Louisiana Finds Tracking Government Vehicles By GPS Saves Money
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Probably should've known this day was coming. When you're driving, your GPS can track where you're going, if you've gone off course, if you're speeding - well, think about if you're driving someone else's vehicle, like say your boss'. Well, then he or she can have all of that information. Government agencies have used GPS tracking to make operations more efficient in the past, but now Louisiana is tracking vehicles across the entire state government. Amy Jeffries reports from Baton Rouge.
AMY JEFFRIES, BYLINE: It started with Louisiana's Agriculture Department. Commissioner Mike Strain rolls up to the gas pump and recites his odometer reading.
MIKE STRAIN: 135,808.
JEFFRIES: Strain punches that number into a keypad next to the pump to log his miles. When he became commissioner here, the department was already deep in the red. Then the legislature slashed the budget three years in a row.
STRAIN: So when you don't have the money to buy fuel, right? You have to find ways to conserve fuel.
JEFFRIES: The solution - GPS. Five years ago, the Ag Department reduced its fleet, started tracking mileage and curbed extracurricular use of its vehicles. Weights and Measures Inspector Paul Floyd says there's no more speeding either.
PAUL FLOYD: I'd like to say that it hasn't changed our driving habits at all, that we were all great drivers before and never going over the speed limit, but now that you know that someone is watching your driving habits, you kind of police yourself.
JEFFRIES: If you don't, the fleet manager back in the office is going to get an email alert. If you're the commissioner, you're going to get a call from your assistant.
FLOYD: We'll be traveling and Sabrina'll call and says, you know you're going the wrong way?
JEFFRIES: With that policing, the Ag Department cut fuel consumption by more than 15 percent in 2010 and saved $1 million. The Alcohol and Tobacco Commission followed with similar success. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal commissioned an efficiency study that recommended a centralized GPS tracking system across all of state government.
TODD MORRIS: It's a pretty big idea to do it that way, yes.
JEFFRIES: Todd Morris would know. He's the CEO of BrickHouse Security which has been hired by thousands of state and local agencies across the country to set up GPS. Louisiana's big move, he says, might prompt other states to consider consolidating systems.
MORRIS: I'm not sure what the status was in Louisiana, if perhaps they had a large number of departments that had never done it.
JEFFRIES: That's exactly it. The overseer of fleet management, Jan Cassidy, says only a tiny fraction of the 10,500 vehicles in Louisiana's fleet had been tracked before now.
JAN CASSIDY: Because of the research we had done in the findings and what had happened here in Louisiana at those two agencies, it just made sense to just attack it all.
JEFFRIES: Louisiana officials figure the $10 million system they've bought from GPS Insight, BrickHouse's competitor, will save $30 million over the next five years. They're counting on the data funneled into the centralized system to allow sharing of vehicles between agencies, lower insurance premiums and reduce fuel consumption.
STRAIN: So, I'm at 135,808.
JEFFRIES: And to cut down on human error, odometer readings will be recorded automatically, so Commissioner Strain won't have to remember them anymore. For NPR News, I'm Amy Jeffries in Baton Rouge, La. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.