DALLAS – Many of Dallas County’s 980 vehicles are large pickups, SUVS, and vans, and make up about 80 percent of the fleet, not including law enforcement vehicles, according to The Dallas Morning News. The county’s police cruisers get about as many miles per gallon as a Hummer.
Despite the growing use of hybrid vehicles in government fleets nationwide, Dallas County has only one — a Toyota Prius — and no plans to buy more. It took a $34 million budget deficit and skyrocketing fuel costs to get county officials to look into buying smaller, more fuel-efficient cars for certain departments.
The county’s fuel costs have soared 160 percent over the past four fiscal years, from $811,819 in 2005 to a projected $2.1 million this year. This year’s fuel budget is already about $830,000 in the red.
Dallas County is trying to set an example for North Texas by using a newly formed clean air task force to get polluting vehicles off the road. But when it comes to the air quality of its own fleet, the county is trailing many other large metro areas.
Texas Legislature did pass a law requiring that 10 percent of new vehicles bought by state agencies have a federal emissions rating equal to that of a Prius. The law was needed, legislators said, because nearly a third of state fleet costs are for fuel — about $41.4 million annually.
Since buying the county’s only hybrid vehicle in 2002, officials have been monitoring its performance. The Prius has performed well and is still running on its original battery. But the county has no plan to buy more.