WRAL Investigates

State agencies work to cut motor fleet costs

Posted January 22, 2010 6:11 p.m. EST
Updated January 22, 2010 6:36 p.m. EST

— Some state agencies have changed their procedures to reduce how much they're spending on state-owned cars each month.

WRAL Investigates disclosed in November that some agencies paid millions of dollars last year for cars that sat idle much of the time.

Agencies lease vehicles from the state Division of Motor Fleet Management, which is funded solely by fees collected on the vehicles. By law, the division charges for a monthly minimum of 1,050 miles on each vehicle to cover maintenance, insurance and gas for more than 8,500 state-owned vehicles.

If vehicles are driven more than 1,050 miles in a month, the agency must pay extra. If cars travel less than 1,050 miles, agencies must still pay the minimum rate.

The unused miles added up over the past 18 months, when Gov. Beverly Perdue and former Gov. Mike Easley ordered agencies to cut travel spending because of a record budget shortfall.

From July 2008 to last June, for example, records show the state Department of Correction spent $1.7 million on parked cars.

Department officials said Friday that they recently returned three cars to the Division of Motor Fleet Management to save money.

North Carolina State University turned in 10 cars, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill turned in nine to cut their costs as well, officials said.

More than half of the state Department of Health and Human Services vehicles were driven under the minimum mileage, costing the agency more than $1 million during the fiscal year that ended last June, records show.

DHHS officials said employees are sharing vehicles more and managing the miles better. The department cut $200,000 on its vehicle costs between July and December, compared with the same period a year ago, officials said.

Perdue's budget reform committee is expected to suggest more changes to the state motor fleet operations at its next meeting in either late February or early March.