News Feature | June 4, 2014

Green Initiatives: Should U.S. Government Lead By Example?

By Cheryl Knight, contributing writer

US Government Green Initiatives

With budget woes striking everyone from enterprises to the state and federal government, cost-cutting measures are a hot topic for discussion. The sheer amount of government vehicles presents the opportunity for the federal government to save with solutions that track and monitor fuel use.

GSA Takes Heat Due To Wasteful Practices

The General Services Administration (GSA) recently won The Washington Time’s Golden Hammer award. This “anti-award” is bestowed upon those who are prime examples of fiscal abuse within government agencies, stemming from the propensity of such organizations to pay much more for simple items, such as hammers, than they are worth.

According to investigators with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the purchase and use of the government’s fleet of vehicles cost an estimated $3 billion in 2012 alone. The main concern lies in how gas usage is tracked. Investigators feel that the methods used lead to misleading numbers and that fuel costs run much higher than the $430 million reported in 2012.

Telematics Proven To Lower Costs And Maximize Resources

Telematics represents one way for agencies to determine vehicle use and help them develop cost-saving measures. Telematics combines a variety of applications, including telecommunications, vehicle technologies such as GPS, and the Internet, to provide a way to track vehicle use, including miles driven, route taken, and how much employees use the vehicle.

GSA officials  were quoted in a recent Washington Times article as saying, “Better data on vehicle use, called telematics, could facilitate cost savings by providing fleet managers with information needed to reduce fleet size, fuel use, misuse of vehicles, and unnecessary maintenance.”

One example of a government agency actively trying to determine the use of its vehicles and how much they can save as a result is the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory, which published a study on its findings. According to the Washington Business Journal, the Idaho lab found that it could operate efficiently without the use of 65 vehicles, saving around $390,000 a year. This might seem small when compared to the overall budget for many federal and state agencies, but, when added together across multiple agencies, these cuts can dramatically reduce wasted resources and taxpayer dollars on an annual basis.

The Washington Business Journal also reports the GSA is working to secure new contracts for telematics devices for federal employees — targeting the end of 2014 to make them available. Watch for future opportunities to provide these solutions to government agencies.