Yee speaks on plan to put GPS in SF city vehicles

Within a year, thousands of vehicles comprising the city fleet will be equipped with global positioning monitoring to keep a watchful on employees’ driving habits, under a proposal by Supervisor Norman Yee.

Yee said he will request today that the city attorney draft legislation requiring every city department to equip its vehicles with the GPS devices within a year.

Calling the proposal uncontroversial, Yee said he expects political support for it. He pointed to a recent report he requested from Budget Analyst Harvey Rose showing the myriad benefits of equipping the entire fleet with these devices.

“If we can get everybody to drive their speed limit — which is generally 25 miles per hour — then we could save a lot more lives,” Yee said in an interview Monday with The San Francisco Examiner.

The monitoring of the city fleet is a component of an overall strategy to achieve Vision Zero, no pedestrian deaths, by 2024.

“We have to look at everything to see how this can add to our goal,” Yee said.

The devices could even help with emergency response by providing dispatch with a clearer picture of the location of police, sheriff and fire vehicles, which currently do not have the devices installed.

As far as privacy concerns, Yee doesn’t think there’s much of an argument to be made. “If the issue of privacy comes up, what is it about privacy that we’re concerned about? It’s a city vehicle. You need your privacy if they went shopping at Costco or something. Sorry, maybe that’s what we are trying to prevent.”

Though the GPS devices don’t come cheap, Yee said, “From a budget point of view, I believe we are actually going to save money.”

The devices are expected to reduce gasoline usage, thin out the fleet of unnecessary vehicles, stamp out inappropriate use, lower speeds and decrease legal settlements from accidents.

The District 7 supervisor became interested in GPS, otherwise called black boxes or telematics systems, after attending a pedestrian-safety conference in New York City.

In addition to installing the devices in all 7,841 vehicles comprising the city fleet, city departments would need to submit regular reports on the fleet management improvements utilizing the devices such as mileage and gas usage.

The devices have already been installed on 2,332 vehicles with plans for 776 additional ones for a total of 3,108 vehicles in some city departments, according to the report. To outfit the remainder, it would cost $1.3 million. Ongoing training and service would cost about $1.8 million, though fleet savings could offset those costs.

The report documents cases where other government fleets found success using the devices. The Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County installed GPS in 350 vehicles, for example, and in the first six months drove 165,000 fewer miles and saved $354,000.

Other savings could come from a reduction city workers’ accidents. “Over the past five years the City has paid a total of $76.9 million in settlements and judgments from claims and litigation relating to its vehicles,” the report said.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the legislation in June.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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