DULUTH, MN – The City of Duluth’s city council passed a measure 8-1 to use a Department of Energy American Reinvestment and Recover Act grant to pay for GPS systems in 300 City vehicles. The GPS system will be used to track the location of City vehicles and improve operations.

The system will cost $332,401 for installation in 300 vehicles. Software system setup will cost $106,899. Ongoing annual expenses will cost $169,408. Despite these costs, the City expects to save a minimum of $59,247 during the first year, and estimates savings of $113,592 per year going forward.

City documents expect savings in the areas of better management of salt spreading operations during winter months, reduced idling, and reduced liability and tort costs. In the case of salt spreading services, the City expects to reduce the amount of salt used per storm by 100 tons, which can reduce costs by up to $6,250 per storm. Based on the results of Dakota using the same system to reduce salt usage, the City expects to save $145,000 per year.

In terms of reducing idling, the City reduced idling by an estimated 15 percent in 2010, which saved 52,000 gallons of fuel and $138,000 per year at a price per gallon of $2.65 for unleaded gasoline and $2.87 for diesel that year. At an expected price of $3.62 for unleaded gasoline and $3.85 for diesel, the City would save $188,000 per year.

To get to the $113,592 saved per year, the City used the more conservative numbers for savings, the $145,000 for reduced salt usage and $138,000 for reduced fuel costs from less idling.

Other benefits the City expects are finding lost or stolen equipment more easily, would allow the City to more effectively dispute citizen claims of City equipment damaging their property, as the City would know whether a vehicle was at the location in question, and reduce personal use of equipment.

By Greg Basich