WRAL Investigates

N.C. pays millions for state vehicles to sit parked

Posted November 9, 2009
Updated November 10, 2009

— North Carolina's state motor fleet is more than 8,500 vehicles strong and travels more than 100 million miles each year.

A WRAL News investigation found that some state agencies paid millions for miles they did not drive and others had questionable record-keeping practices.

N.C. pays millions for state vehicles to sit parked N.C. pays millions for state vehicles to sit parked

The state motor fleet is receipt-driven and gets no money from the state's general fund. Agencies pay a monthly fee for the cars based how much they drive, but the mileage scale only slides one way. There is no provision to save money by driving less.

  • Find out how many vehicles each N.C. agency has.
  • Find out how much the motor fleet charges for the vehicles.
  • Read the motor fleet regulations

The Department of Correction is one of the motor fleet's biggest customers. It gets more than 2,400 vehicles a year, and most are permanently assigned to correction employees who use the cars for everything from training to transferring prisoners.

From July 2008 through June 2009, the DOC paid approximately $1.7 million for vehicles that were not driven.

One car, a Ford Taurus in Greenville, wasn't driven for five months during the last fiscal year, yet the DOC paid more than $2,000 for it during that time, records showed. DOC leaders said a cut-back in staff training and an employee's injury kept the car in the lot.

"It certainly sounds like something we could take a look at for ways to improve that," said DOC spokesman Keith Acree. "I think a large part of the reason for the reduction in driving in the last six months or year has been due to budget restrictions."

However, agencies still pay for unused miles.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill spent $600,000 on unused mileage last fiscal year, records showed, and North Carolina State University spent $293,000.

The motor fleet charges agencies for 1,050 miles per car per month. The mileage rate depends on the type of car. If the car is driven more than 1,050 miles, the agency pays for each mile over the limit. If the car is driven less than 1,050, the agency still gets charged the flat fee.

"It's up to each individual agency to monitor usage of their vehicles," said Speros Fleggas, deputy secretary of the Department of Administration, which oversees the motor fleet.

Records showed that his agency spent $92,000 on parked vehicles.

"It may be time to look at another study," Fleggas said.

Another issue the WRAL Investigates team found was questionable record-keeping practices. During one month, the Ports Authority reported that all of its vehicles traveled exactly 1,050 miles.

"Kind of a flag would go up there," Fleggas said. "That is highly unusual."

"It is our understanding that as per Motor Fleet Management policy, in August 2008, the Ports Authority was invoiced for the minimum mileage of 1,050 miles because the Authority missed Motor Fleet’s deadline for filing monthly reports before the invoicing cycle," said Ports Authority spokeswoman Karen Fox. "Motor Fleet invoiced the Authority for the difference in the following month for miles driven beyond the minimum."

The Murdoch Center, part of N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, got 21 cars from the motor fleet. None of the cars was driven during the first four months of the fiscal year, records showed. In the fifth month, two were driven but neither went above the motor fleet's 1,050 threshold.

DHHS, which has felt a budget pinch, paid more than $1 million for unused mileage.

"It's certainly not the case that we didn't drive the vehicles," said Aleck Myers, director of the Murdoch Center.

The mental health facility showed WRAL News its logs, which document that the minivans and cars were regularly driven to transport severely impaired residents. Leaders said they blamed a DHHS computer glitch for the mix-up. Myers said he was never questioned.

"If it's being reported as zero miles, I think someone should be asking why you're not driving your vehicles," Myers said.

By law, the state's motor fleet management is limited in its oversight. Once an agency rents a vehicle, the motor fleet can't take it away as long as the bills are being paid. It's up to the agency. The motor fleet statute that covers mileage was adopted in 1981 and has never been changed.

Coming Tuesday: State leaders call for change in the motor fleet system.

Read more "WRAL Investigates" stories or send us a tip.


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  • RonnieR Nov 10, 2009

    NCSHP owns its vehicles and sells them to replenish their pot to buy new cars.

  • james27613 Nov 10, 2009

    Now the article was for state motor pool,
    some of the drivers of Wake County cars have a lead foot !

    One Wake County Inspector car, white dodge, the guy floors it
    as soon as the light turned green on Hammond Rd. !

    I bet he don't drive his personal car that way because he has
    to pay for the gas himself.

  • james27613 Nov 10, 2009

    Looks like the Gov needs to sign an executive order to allow
    daily, weekly and monthly accounting for the vehicles
    instead of the flat rate that is being used today.

    The State has been selling off the used Crown Vic
    Trooper cars at the site near the fairgrounds, not too many left right now.

  • james27613 Nov 10, 2009

    btw, Hertz, Avis, etc all do warranty and recall work on the cars they rent, that generates a lot of revenue for their in house auto shops.
    they do sub out any body work to local auto body shops.
    The cars get more then just oil and a tire when needed.

    Re: Cost of rental

    Triangle Rent-a-car only keeps the vehicles in service up to 50k miles and then sells the vehicle, either in house or at an auction. At most they put out a set of tires and perhaps 10 oil changes.

  • Triumph Nov 10, 2009

    State agencies that have assigned cars cannot go outside the system purchasing and lease cars, privately, at a better rate. This is dumb rule #2. Also, it cost state agencies the same monthly $ fee whether or not the state car had zero miles or 1,050 miles in a single month. This is dumb rule #2. You cannot drive less and save money, but if you drive over 1,050 miles in a month, then the state charges its own state agencies even more. Dumb rule #3 is the fact that you also are not allowed to average the monthly car mileage over several consecutive months. If you could, then it would be simple to balance a state car usege, such as using it 500 miles in one month, and 1,500 miles the next. Does anyone with a personal car lease have such restrictions? Of course not.

    Then add in the Governor's restriction to reduce state travel due to the state budget deficit. The individual state agencies still have to pay the state for the monthly car use, but the cars sit and are not driven.

  • Weaker Pelosi Nov 10, 2009

    kmanc4s: Agencies do keep the cars until they are worn out. State surpluus rarely, if ever get a car with less than 100,000 plus miles on them. The cars are bid to the general public, and the monies go back into the general fund.

  • kmanc4s Nov 10, 2009

    It's one state agency taking advantage of other state agencies using what they think is monopoly money..uh..our tax dollars. Each agency in government that needs vehicles should justify, purchase and maintain their vehicles until they are worn out.

  • donnied1952 Nov 10, 2009

    This is the dumbest way of keeping records on these cars that I have ever heard of. No wonder this state is in such a horrible mess. Simplify the system and it won't be as easy to fudge the records. Dumb and Dumber came up with this accounting system.

  • BluHevn Nov 10, 2009

    Sounds like the scam the people were doing with the bus parts in Wake County. Why are state agencies leasing or renting cars from the fleet management in the first place? Why don't they just buy the vehicles outright and designate money in their budgets to buy the cars instead of going through the fleet management? The current system doesn't make any sense.

  • dewnit4fun Nov 10, 2009