FORT WAYNE, IN – Allen County government will soon start using global positioning devices to monitor some county-owned cars and trucks — a test program that could later lead to the tracking of all county vehicles. Six county vehicles will have GPS tracking devices installed this week, and the drivers know the vehicles are being monitored. County leaders said the devices will help the county keep better track of vehicle use and fuel consumption while preventing misuse.

Allen County is also surveying the mileage workers put on their take-home county cars and has put the county seal on most vehicles to make them easier to identify. The GPS test and other monitoring efforts stem from changes county commissioners made to the vehicle policy in May.

The two-month GPS trial will allow county officials to see how devices perform or whether they want to try a different vendor, said Bruce Little, the county’s purchasing director.

County commissioners had hoped to randomly monitor take-home county vehicles. However, Commissioner Nelson Peters said the GPS systems may be inexpensive enough to put in the entire fleet of county vehicles, including highway trucks. GPS trackers on those trucks could prevent two vehicles from plowing the same street during a snowstorm, Peters said.

The sheriff’s department would be excluded from the GPS monitoring, but the 100 or so vehicles in that department could use a similar but more complex tracking system for law enforcement. The health department used GPS devices last year to track its vehicles. They found some workers taking long lunch breaks, running personal errands, and driving the vehicles excessively for personal reasons. An investigation into that misuse forced resignations, terminations, or early retirement for six staff members, while two others were suspended.

In December, a county highway department employee was fired for misusing his county vehicle.