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GPS trackers see Pima County employees driving fewer — and safe — miles

Pima County has seen returns in safety and savings since it began installing GPS systems in county vehicles in 2011. Now, it's expanding the program to the entire fleet.

The installation cost the county $247,000 to cover 839 vehicles in 2011. The county now has 1,630 vehicles and equipment in its fleet. It plans to have GPS units in all except those too old for the technology.

Ray Ochotorena, director of the county's Fleet Services Department, said the primary goal is to monitor driver habits, idling times, locations and bring general awareness to safe driving. They'll be adding another 724 vehicles over the next year to 18 months. At $209.15 per GPS unit, adding the vehicles will cost $151,424.

In the 2013 fiscal year, soon after the county began installing GPS units, there were 16.4 million miles logged in the county's fleet. The county now averages 14.6 million miles, he said.

"The savings realized with the GPS is reduced fuel costs as well as lower repair and maintenance of the vehicles because they're driving less miles," Ochotorena said.

The county has also seen a drop in the number of driving violations. In 2012, the county reported 28 violations by drivers of county vehicles, with 21 of them for excessive speed. In 2017, there were six violation; three violations in 2018; and eight violations through Oct. 11 this year. Seven of this year's offenses have been for speeding.

 "As employees become aware that they're being monitored, there are pretty significant changes in their driving habits," he said.

The county will be installing the units in the Sheriff's Department's vehicles and court vehicles; it makes exceptions for stealth vehicles used by the Sheriff's Department.

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Ochotorena said the county is not expecting as significant a drop in idling or miles driven as they saw with the rest of the fleet because the bulk of the 724 vehicles — 616 — are Sheriff's Department patrol cars that routinely drive and idle more than other vehicles.

Ochotorena said there are also employee safety advantages the GPS units give the county.

"That goes hand in hand with the location (data)," he said. "We can do a wellness check if someone is not around and we need to see where they're at, maybe if they have a disabled vehicle or something."

Going forward, new vehicles in all departments will have GPS units installed during initial inspections before being assigned.

This report was first published by the Green Valley News.

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