BARTOW, FL - Some of the unexpected excess savings realized from Polk County's year-long fuel-saving campaign will be awarded to those employees who contributed to the program's success, according to The Ledger. Bonuses could be as high as $300, said Fleet Manager Bob Stanton.

At the time the fuel-saving campaign was announced, there was no mention of any bonuses for employees.

Stanton aid employees have embraced the 55 mph and engine idling fuel-saving practices, with the 11-percent savings exceeding the originally anticipated 5-7 percent.

County officials launched the fuel-saving campaign in July 2008, when motorists were paying $4 per gallon at the pump and declining revenues were already forcing county officials to look for ways to cut costs. At the time, County Manager Mike Herr estimated the program could save $130,000 per year.

Stanton said the actual savings was $502,000, the difference in fuel usage from the past year. He said the bonuses will be distributed in October.

Those eligible will be any of the 150 employees - about 10 percent of the drivers of county fleet vehicles - who signed up for a training session last October and complied with conditions such as bringing the vehicles in for regular service and not having any preventable accidents. They also have to have achieved at least a 5-percent fuel savings, Stanton said.

Stanton said he came up with the incentive program along with the "eco-driving techniques" educational program, explaining he feels the incentive "guarantees a greater level of success" than simply ordering employees to change their practices.

Meanwhile, that is not the only step Stanton said he's taken to reduce operating costs.

He said the county is buying smaller trucks. It has bought three electric-powered trucks and one propane-powered truck. That has resulted in savings. Stanton said an electric truck costs 2 cents per mile to operate, compared with 18 cents per mile for a conventional truck.

He said the county will buy more energy-saving vehicles when budget funds are sufficient.