Government Fleet Top News

Bangor Names Fuel Czar to Control City Vehicle Fuel Consumption

October 11, 2005

BANGOR, MAINE – Bracing for an upward trend in gasoline and diesel prices, Bangor officials this spring more than doubled their budget for vehicle fuel, according to the Bangor Daily News. Then in late August, less than two months into this fiscal year, Hurricane Katrina struck, temporarily sending fuel prices over the $3 a gallon mark. Though prices since have edged down a bit, they remain considerably higher than projected.Concern about the impact that the spike in fuel prices could have on the city's operating budget prompted City Manager Edward Barrett to put Robert Dawes, the city's fleet maintenance supervisor in charge of seeking ways to cut the city's vehicle fuel consumption.“I think he can bring a lot of common sense ideas to the table,” Barrett said, shortly after tapping Dawes for the citywide effort.Though some of Dawes' city colleagues refer to him as the city's “fuel czar,” Dawes said he prefers to be called “team leader, because this is going to take a team effort – all the departments working together – to make this work.”During budget preparations this spring, Dawes said, the city bumped up funding for gasoline and diesel from $230,000 to $500,000.“And that might not be enough,” Dawes said. “I think that'll probably be too low.”In the past three years alone, the city's cost for diesel has gone from 83.9 cents a gallon two years ago to $1.57 a gallon last year to the current $2.32 cents a gallon, according to the Bangor Daily News.Citywide, the vehicle fleet totals more than 200, ranging from buses, cars, and passenger vans to pickup trucks, police cruisers, and snowplows. Those vehicles gas up at the motor pool facility.Other city vehicles include firetrucks and other equipment used by the city's fire department, which gas up at the central fire station, and city vehicles assigned to Bangor International Air-port, which are fueled at the airport.According to Dawes, the city uses between 230,000 and 240,000 gallons for gasoline and diesel a year at the motor pool facility.About two-thirds of the vehicles Dawes oversees run on diesel, and most of the rest run on gasoline, he said. BAT Community Connector buses and maintenance vehicles, however, recently were switched to biodiesel, a blend of soy-based vegetable oil and petroleum.Despite the fuel cost hike, the city can't very well park its vehicles, Dawes pointed out. Buses still need to run, police cruisers still need to patrol and respond to emergencies, and come winter, the streets will need to be plowed.But there are some steps the city can take. For starters, Dawes will continue to monitor fuel consumption and vehicle mileage closely.A recent bookkeeping change allows the city to charge the costs associated with each vehicle to the city department using it, he said.Dawes also will be holding monthly meetings with city department heads and other staff. The first such meeting took place last month, he said. The focus of the meetings will be on finding ways to cut fuel consumption, according to the Bangor Daily News.One initiative already under way involves the city's police department. Deputy Police Chief Peter Arno said the department has gone back to its two-officer-per-cruiser system for its 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. coverage.The department had gone to a one-officer-per-cruiser system using nine cars about half a year ago as a way to provide more effective nighttime coverage and to increase visibility, Arno said, adding that going back to the old system should help cut fuel use, at least until prices drop.Dawes said the city also considered earlier having police department parking enforcement division workers use Segways, or electric scooters, but concluded those would not work well in winter conditions, according to the Bangor Daily News.

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