Agencies Could Track Feds’ Speeding to Reduce Fuel Costs

Mel Evans/AP

The federal government can significantly reduce costs associated with its federal fleet by more carefully tracking when its employees are speeding and idling, according to a new report.

The General Services Administration purchases about 50,000 vehicles annually, which it then leases to agencies for a fixed monthly rate plus a mileage rate. Agencies leased about 190,000 vehicles from GSA in fiscal 2012, at a cost of $1.1 billion.

The fixed rate aims to account for GSA’s acquisition and administration costs, and for the vehicles' depreciation, while the mileage rate accounts for fuel, maintenance and repair costs. GSA calculates mileage rates based on governmentwide data, but it does not account for factors such as vehicle location, speeding, idling and rapid starting and stopping.

More detailed data, collected through a technology known as telematic devices, could help GSA and its agency customers reduce costs, the Government Accountability Office found. Because GSA does not include idling and speeding in its cost calculations, drivers have no incentive to reduce their performance of those activities, GAO said.

GSA told the auditors that agencies do not need further incentives to reduce fuel costs, as current law already requires them to do so. GAO acknowledged telematics would not necessarily reduce costs in all circumstances, but recommended that GSA collect and share information from the agencies that have decided on their own to deploy telematic devices.

GAO also found that GSA offered no clear guidance on what constituted wear and tear on a vehicle, meaning agencies did not know whether GSA would charge them additional fees upon the completion of a lease. This, in turn, prohibited agencies from determining whether leasing or owning vehicles would be more cost effective. GSA has already begun to put together wear and tear guidance.

The auditors discussed the idea of completely passing fuel costs onto agencies, but said there was no evidence to support that change. GAO praised GSA for providing agencies with discounted rates, identifying unnecessary vehicles and detecting waste, fraud and abuse.

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