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Trumbull engineer's office exposes abuse in vehicle use



Published: Wed, March 21, 2012 @ 12:06 a.m.

SEE ALSO: Trumbull to pay Niles for 911 backup

By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

Don Barzak, director of governmental affairs for the Trumbull County Engineer’s office, says he and Engineer Randy Smith “were somewhat shocked at the abuse” they uncovered by tracking use of six of their vehicles for 75 days.

In one case, an employee took a lunch break of one hour and 12 minutes instead of 30 minutes, then took break times of one hour and 43 minutes instead of 30 minutes the same day.

In another, an employee kept his vehicle running while idle for six hours and 26 minutes out of an eight-hour day, despite a departmental policy against the practice.

There was no weather or equipment-related reason for the idling, Barzak said. The temperature was in the high 40s that day, he added, saying he doesn’t know why the employee did it.

The department also discovered that employees were sometimes taking indirect routes to their assignments, which wasted the employee’s time, used extra gasoline and put extra wear and tear on county vehicles, Barzak said.

The department randomly selected the six vehicles and included plow trucks, crew truck, sign truck and parts vehicle, Barzak said. The devices, installed Jan. 1, tracked and recorded the path of travel and other characteristics of vehicle use.

The devices are from the same company that installed GPS on vehicles used by the county sanitary engineer’s office in January 2011 after two employees were found to have used county vehicles for nonwork reasons for large amounts of time in the fall of 2010.

Over a three-week period in September 2010, one county engineer’s worker used a vehicle for nonwork purposes 54 percent of the time. The other used it for non-work purposes 25 percent of the time, including trips to her home in Columbiana. Both were fired.

During the testing done by the county engineer’s office, Smith and Barzak found enough problems to decide to install the devices on all 33 of their vehicles.

Trumbull County commissioners are expected to approve the purchase of the devices ($7,753) and cost of a monthly maintenance contract ($8,712 annually) at today’s 9 a.m. meeting at the Trumbull Career and Technical Center in Champion.

Barzak said he expects the devices to reduce the department’s $300,000 fuel costs by at least 10 percent ($30,000), so the savings will easily cover the cost of the devices.

In addition to fuel savings, the devices will also reduce the wear and tear on vehicles and make employees more productive, Barzak said.

Smith and Barzak decided that employees would not be punished for bad behavior during the test period, but any future problems will be punished, Barzak said.

Barzak said one of the six employees “went exactly where he was supposed to,” but finding that only one in six did was “not so good.”

The test showed that the devices can benefit the department in other ways, such as telling the office how long it will be until a plow will make it to a certain area, Barzak said.

In cases where a caller complains about lack of plowing, the office can call up the GPS information to prove the locations where the plow traveled, he noted.

The devices also can identify the location of a vehicle if a driver becomes incapacitated, he noted.


Comments

1Photoman(1000 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

It appears that it will take 8.5 years to recover the cost of these electronic devices IF the county can save $30,000 per year as stated. I wasn't aware that the county was in such wonderful financial standing as to allow this $255,000 outlay especially on equipment which rapidly becomes obsolete. The test results also indicate that hiring practices, training and motivation are lacking within the department.

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2DwightK(1250 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Photoman, the cost of the devices will be recovered in one year with the projected fuel savings. the cost of the ongoing monitoring will also be covered by the annual fuel savings.

Those figures quoted in the article are total, not for individual units.

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3steelwagon(284 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

The first place to start saving time and money is by fireing those responsible for the theft of taxpayers time and money.

If the employees knew they would be held accountable for their actions on the job the county wouldn't need to spend the extra money for tracking devices and checking on employees.

All unnecessary waste of fuel and time is nothing short of theft of taxpayers money and those responsible should be fired when caught !!

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4VINDYAK(1799 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

When you give employees the luxury of daily independence without supervision, you invite abuse. The abuse could be controlled thru time-consuming paperwork and roving supervision, but that leads to inefficiency. Monitoring with electronic devices appears to be the most sensible alternative to contolling employee abuse of time, money and equipment.

This is a sad chapter in employer/employee relations, but it has been proven time and again that once electronic monitoring is introduced, theft and abuse drops considerably. Now that many retail businesses have remote monitors installed the retailers are discovering internal theft by employees is more rampant than ever thought.

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5TiredTaxpayer(44 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

I aplaud the efforts of the Engineer and Trumbull County at reducing waste and abuse of tax dollars and I thank them for their honest assessment of the results. I am all for the devices, however, I am perplexed that they were "somewhat shocked at the abuse." Taking 2 hour lunches and running personal errands on county time can't be good for productivity. One would think that someone at the top should have an idea of how many jobs should get done by an honest 7 1/2 hours per employee. Heck, they didn't even know how long it took to get to the job site. To me, this signals an employee AND employer problem. Either it's inadequate oversight, insufficient understanding of the operations or they just don't care.

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