FAIRFAX, VA - Fuel prices are skyrocketing, and public sector fleets are finding ways to handle fueling budgets that are lower than actual costs. Fairfax County (Va.), whose fuel costs are expected to run $8 million higher than budgeted for this year, talked to Government Fleet about some solutions the County is working on to handle rising fuel costs and pay the anticipated budget overrun.

The County budgeted $2.37 per gallon, but it's currently paying close to $3.20. The County's budget director said half of the $8 million cost will be covered by reserve account, according to the Washington Examiner.

As for the other half, Jim Gorby, fleet manager for the County, outlined three types of solutions the County has been or is currently implementing.

Long-term solutions over a period of years include:

  • Rightsize vehicles and engines for tasks (e.g., buying crew cabs so a single vehicle can be used to transport to jobsites).
  • Buy hybrids whenever possible.
  • Train employees on fuel-efficient driving habits, such as avoiding jackrabbit starts and hard braking.
  • Track use of vehicles through GPS/GIS.
  • Keep maintenance up to date.
  • Keep tires properly inflated.
  • Use trailers for positioning tools at a jobsite rather than hauling them back and forth every day.
  • Enforce anti-idling policies.

He identified the following short-term solutions that the County has implemented:

  • Request additional funding.
  • Reallocate money from one fund to another, although this means some things will not get done.
  • Reduce face to-face meetings through teleconferencing.
  • Reduce weight carried in vehicles, such as seasonal equipment or accessories.
  • Plan trips to accomplish various tasks to eliminate multiple trips.
  • Park vehicles, although this probably means a service will not be completed.

Gorby also listed other considerations such as encouraging employees to carpool, telework, use mass transit and bikes, and finally, walking.

Gorby said while some of these solutions don't directly relate to the County budget, options such as biking or teleworking can lower employee fuel consumption. "You always look at teleconferencing at those kinds of things, but you're much more assiduous about it when times are tough like this," he added.

Although the difference in budgeted and actual fuel costs is large, Gorby said the County Board of Supervisors and elected officials are understanding, as they've seen the same price increases fueling their own vehicles. "You have to keep the County running; tasks have to be done, and citizens expect services," he said.