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GPS keeps tabs on city workers

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A little gray box the size of a credit card, tucked into the corner of a vehicle dashboard, has been helping trim government waste for two years.

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Russell Thies, the assistant director of the Utilities, Construction and Maintenance Division, demonstrates the GPS tracking program.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Russell Thies, the assistant director of the Utilities, Construction and Maintenance Division, demonstrates the GPS tracking program.

Since 2009, Augusta has used GPS tracking on its vehicles to monitor how well its employees stay on task behind the wheel. The devices are installed in 400 of the city's utility, public service, code enforcement and government pool vehicles.

Within a year, the tracking system paid for itself, said the city fleet manager, Ron Crowden. The Web-based service that receives the GPS signals costs $29.95 a month per vehicle to use.

"We saw lower fuel costs right away," Crowden said. "The system identifies driver behavior and promotes corrective action."

From his computer, Augusta Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier can click on one of his department's 169 vehicles to access its history. A map appears, dotted with little balloons that show where the vehicle stopped and for how long. Blue arrows show vehicle movements, with information about time and speed.

Utilities fuel usage dropped 20 percent with the system in place, Wiedmeier said.

"We used it to make sure vehicles weren't being run needlessly," he said. "It's also a good way to make sure vehicles are where they're supposed to be. Our maintenance division can compare a vehicle's movement history to the work order to make sure a driver went the speed limit and took a reasonable amount of time."

It can show whether a lunch break stretched to 1 1/2 hours, or whether a 20-minute drive to a broken sewer line took 40 minutes on the return trip, he said.

Crowden said there have been other benefits to knowing a driver's whereabouts. When a water or sewer line maintenance problem is called in, the Utilities Department can pull up GPS locations to find which vehicle is closest for dispatch. Twice, the system has been used to get help when vehicles broke down out of town.

Wiedmeier said most employees respond constructively to GPS tracking feedback.

There have been four documented instances in which vehicles was used for something other than work, he said. In one case, a worker moved furniture for a friend.

"Those employees no longer work for the city," Crowden said.

Comments (13) Add comment
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sjgraci
2
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sjgraci 01/29/11 - 03:28 am
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Big Brother Micro Management

Big Brother Micro Management at its worst.

omnomnom
3964
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omnomnom 01/29/11 - 06:42 am
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sjgraci gotta make sure

sjgraci gotta make sure they're hitting all the neighborhoods when peddling coke on the side

charliemanson
1
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charliemanson 01/29/11 - 07:09 am
0
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On the surface, GPS tracking

On the surface, GPS tracking looks like it is saving money. But what you end up doing is running off your most, qualified workers. Qualified workers will make sure the job is done right on the very first visit. This is how you really save money on vehicle maintenance, wear-and-tear and gas.

charliemanson
1
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charliemanson 01/29/11 - 07:10 am
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That is a good one, omno

That is a good one, omno

floridasun
279
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floridasun 01/29/11 - 07:10 am
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Sounds like a good program to

Sounds like a good program to me. If you are doing your job, you should have no problem having a GPS unit installed on the vehicle you are driving. Good work city of Augusta!

John Locke
293
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John Locke 01/29/11 - 10:28 am
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Finally a program designed to

Finally a program designed to effectively manage resources. This is great and it sounds like the employees are now minding their business. If only the rest of the county would learn of programs like this for their areas. Fantastic!

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
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No_Longer_Amazed 01/29/11 - 10:50 am
0
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How about an article about

How about an article about how the GPS system for the ARC school bus fleet is working?

John Locke
293
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John Locke 01/29/11 - 11:51 am
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Maybe the water department

Maybe the water department needs something like this to keep track of employees who clock each other in and out. Seems like the work ethic of county employees needs to be watched, they try to get away with everything but work. People only do what the boss checks. About time the bosses start checking.

follower
59
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follower 01/29/11 - 11:55 am
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srgraci, since you believe in

srgraci, since you believe in your fellow man as trustworthy, and you have claimed to be in business, do you check on your employees? Do you check your bank statement? Do you check your credit card receipts? If so, why the negative thoughts about ensuring the city worker be where they are supposed to be and doing what they are supposed to be doing?

Not to mention the safeguard the GPS system offers to citizens anxious to call Ken Nugent, claiming a county/city truck was going to fast or ran a redlight, and now wants to be set up for life.

Oh that's right, your business doesn't have employees, so you've never had to deal with the issue of trusting what they may or may not do.

Gaangel
0
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Gaangel 01/29/11 - 10:40 pm
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$29.99 a month times 400

$29.99 a month times 400 vehicles...unbelievable???

usapatriot
0
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usapatriot 01/30/11 - 01:23 am
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$11996/mo. how about takethe

$11996/mo. how about takethe GPS out and don't let the employees know? how about having the public report lazy workers? how about supervisors getting out to work sites instead of monitoring computers?

usapatriot
0
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usapatriot 01/30/11 - 01:29 am
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charlie, I guees you don't

charlie, I guees you don't know how little these workers are paid. Your "most qualified" workers aren't working for ARC. They are in private businesses. The work force you are left with needs to be monitored. I believe the article gave examples of that.

I drive a truck now. I have worked for a couple of family owned businesses with less than 10 trucks, I worked with them to drive the most efficient routes, to maximize fuel mileage, to be economical to keep their business afloat.

More of that kind of effort by all of us, municipal or private enterprise employee, will make the need for GPS irrelevant.

Sadly, it ain't gonna happen.

On the other hand, a few entreprenuers and their employees are doing well meeting the demand for GPS systems. There's a success story!

dsmith46
35
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dsmith46 01/31/11 - 09:39 am
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Seems to me that $30 times

Seems to me that $30 times 400 vehicles adds up to $12,000 per month or $144,000 per year. Seems a little expensive to save a few bucks on gas. They don't mention that the City is paying an independent contractor $300 per month per vehicle (this includes all vehicles, not just the 400 mentioned) to be available if needed. All work done is billed to each department (oil change, brake repair etc) at a higher price than I pay at Jiffy Lube or other supplier.

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