The Jindal administration started installing tracking devices in the entire state government’s fleet earlier this week.
All 10,543 vehicles owned by state government agencies are being outfitted with Global Positioning System, or GPS, devices that follow the routes chosen, monitor speeds and chart driving habits, feeding all the particulars into a computerized database.
“You’re more self-aware of your driving habits. We’re not saying that people are purposely abusing the system, but they are more aware,” said Jan Cassidy, assistant commissioner for procurement. “If you know someone is watching you, you’re not going to wander off a path.”
But it’s not that the administration is distrustful of state workers, she said; the real reason for the $10 million project is that the state expects to save $30 million over the next five years by reducing the costs of fuel, maintenance and insurance.
By charting the routes, for instance, more-efficient routes and usage can be planned, she said.
The system also will alert officials when their employees drive erratically.
“You have more responsible driving when you have GPS. When someone is speeding, we are notified. We are contacted immediately,” said Secretary Mike Strain, whose Department of Agriculture and Forestry started using GPS in November 2006 to keep track of firefighting personnel while they were in dangerous situations.
Strain expanded the concept to cars, tractor trailers and other vehicles in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010.
The first year, the amount of fuel dropped 28.7 percent from 567,212 gallons purchased in 2009 to 404,264 gallons bought in 2010, Strain’s numbers show. Agriculture had 627 vehicles that first year and now has 494 vehicles.
Strain said he heard “Big Brother is watching” complaints from employees at first, but those criticisms have dropped off.
“It does change driving patterns and it has lowered insurance costs,” Strain said.
The 30-minute installation procedure is being done in the Galvez Parking Garage in downtown Baton Rouge. About 300 state vehicles had the devices installed as of Wednesday. The state hopes to be completed with the installations by November.
The $10 million, five-year contract with GPS Insight, of Phoenix, Arizona, was structured so the device and its installation are included in a $25.57 monthly fee that also represents the cost of monitoring that vehicle’s activities. That works out to about $269,585 per month.
Each state agency is required to pay the monthly fee from its operating budget, whose appropriations went into effect July 1. But any savings realized — in the form of lower than expected fuel costs, for instance — can be used by the agency for other expenditures, Cassidy said.
Louisiana is the first to install the devices on all the state’s vehicles. In other states, only a few agencies have used GPS, such as the Texas Department of Transportation or the University of California Los Angeles.
Some cabinet secretaries do have vehicles in fleet management that will be getting a GPS. The governor’s vehicles are not under the authority of the fleet management programs and are not under GPS, Cassidy said.