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SF hits the brakes on speeding city employees

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A new report shows San Francisco city employees drove more than 80 miles an hour about a thousand times a month last year. (Deborah Svoboda/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Looks like there are some speed demons working for San Francisco’s city government.

City employees drove municipal vehicles more than 80 miles per hour about a thousand times a month for most of last year, according to a report issued Feb. 5 by Tom Fung, the head of Fleet Management.

They also allowed vehicles to idle for more than five minutes at a time more than 15,000 times each month, wasting fuel and adversely impacting the environment.

That’s some of the driver behavior revealed in the report, which presents for the first time data culled from the telematics, or tracking systems, installed in more than 4,000 cars driven by government employees last year.

The data stems from legislation introduced by Supervisor Norman Yee and passed by the Board of Supervisors in 2016 that requires a large portion of the city fleet to be equipped with telematics systems. The report is the first issued since the law went into effect and covers 11 months, from January 2017 until November 2017.

Yee primarily pushed for the tracking devices to be installed to improve road safety for pedestrians and bicycles. But the data could also save taxpayers money and improve the environment by helping to reduce the number of vehicles in the fleet if they are not needed — an issue City Hall has struggled with for years.

Speed is “an important safety metric to consider,” said the report, which echoes the the message sent by pedestrian safety advocates that speed kills.

The system registers a speeding incident every time a vehicle hits more than 80 miles per hour in intervals of more than one minute.

About a thousand cases of city workers driving government cars more than 80 miles per hour were recorded in each month last year. In January 2017, there were more than 1,000 incidents of city workers exceeding speeds of 80 miles per hour, and in May 2017, vehicles hit 80 miles per hour nearly 1,400 times, the highest level of the 11 month period.

The speeding was troubling enough that The City’s Fleet Management department stepped in.

“Since October 2017, Fleet Management has consulted with departments on telematics reporting, including safety measures, which has likely led to the steep downward trend in the number of speeding incidents,” said the report.

Following that intervention the number of incidents of drivers traveling more than 80 miles per hour dropped, from nearly 1,200 incidents in September and 1,000 in October to a mere 400 in November.

Jack Gallagher, a spokesperson for City Administrator Naomi Kelly, who oversees the city’s vehicle fleet, said Friday that the incidents of speeding were “mostly” on freeways. He said he couldn’t immediately rule out whether anyone reached such high speeds on city streets.

Gallagher said freeway trips are common for several departments. San Francisco Public Utilities Commission employees often take freeways to visit properties they own throughout the Bay Area and Department of Building Inspection employees sometimes use the freeway as a way to get from one side of the city to the other. Staff at San Francisco International Airport also make freeway trips, as do Public Works employees to reach their yard on Cesar Chavez Street.

The data also suggests that The City might have more cars in its fleet than needed.

City departments are now being asked to justify their use of all their vehicles based on the data and to turn in vehicles “that do not have adequate justifications.”

“The data shows that a substantial number of vehicles are used sparingly, suggesting opportunities for rightsizing and optimization,” the report said. “For example, there are 135 vehicles used five or fewer days in a given month, less than a quarter of business days.”

Fleet managers have also alerted city departments “to take remedial action” to reduce speeding and idling and are making available the data on a monthly basis to city departments.

“The telematics system has been extremely helpful to us,” Gallagher said.

The telematics systems were installed in 54 percent of the total vehicle fleet, or 4,163 vehicles. The law exempts certain vehicles, such as those used for public safety and investigative work, which means the systems are not installed in the remaining 3,506 vehicles in the city fleet, including the 1,683 used by public safety workers like police officers. The data is for light duty passenger vehicles only.

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