Township vehicles to be equipped with tracking system

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published May 4, 2016

Shutterstock/Alexandru Nika

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WEST BLOOMFIELD —  At the April 4 township Board of Trustees meeting, the board voted 4-3 to enter into a fleet management service plan with Verizon Wireless. 

As a result, Verizon Networkfleet, which manages operations and maintenance on vehicles, will be installed on 26 township vehicles, not including those for the Police and Fire departments, once the township receives the devices. 

Clerk Cathy Shaughnessy, who made the motion to approve the plan, said that Verizon Networkfleet, in addition to tracking maintenance, would allow the township to monitor the cost of using the vehicles. 

“There is potential for us to save money in using this kind of tracking system,” Shaughnessy said, explaining that despite the approximately $5,000 annual subscription cost, the township could potentially save the same amount by using the program.

Efficiencies that can be achieved with the program include reducing idle time, reporting fuel economy and usage, and learning how to reduce fuel expenses, and alerting personnel to engine problems before the vehicle would notify the driver. For example, Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste said, an hour of idling time is equal to the engine wear of driving 33 miles. With the program reporting that time, the hope would be that the employees would then limit vehicle idling.

Shaughnessy said that the township recently received new vehicles, and it’s “important to maintain them properly.” 

“We need to protect our investment,” she added. 

Information Technology Director Harry Palmer explained that by entering into a service plan with Verizon, the devices that would be installed on the township vehicles could potentially track not only vehicle maintenance, but also the driving habits of an employee, and they could provide the geographic location of a vehicle. 

The service plan runs month to month, and Palmer said the township can terminate it at any time if the plan is no longer financially beneficial to the township.

Marion Arnett, advanced solutions architect with Verizon Wireless, said that since the program is web-based, updates to the software are automatically included at no additional cost, and there is a lifetime warranty on the hardware unless it’s physically damaged. 

Economou Ureste, Treasurer Teri Weingarden and Trustee Steven Kaplan voted against the plan. 

Economou Ureste, who said she is in favor of some aspects of the plan, asked if Verizon keeps a permanent record of employees’ driving, and Arnett explained that records are available for 12 months through the Verizon website. After 12 months, he said, they can be requested from Verizon’s archives.

Weingarden said she is against the plan because she trusts her employees, and before approving the measure, she said the board should have a better understanding of what legally can and cannot be tracked.

“I feel that our union representatives should have input into this decision before we make it,” Weingarden said. Economou Ureste agreed with Weingarden. 

However, Trustee Lawrence Brown said the vehicles are property of the township, and employees should be expected to handle them differently than their personal vehicles. 

“Speeder or hard braker — maybe on their own car that’s terrific, but on our vehicles, we like to make sure they’re doing OK,” Brown said. 

Trustee Howard Rosenberg said that department heads should want to know who is driving what car and know “where every car is every second of the day.” 

“I don’t think we should invade someone’s privacy, but I want to know if someone is speeding with our vehicles. If someone is in an accident, I want information so we can defend that person or know if that information is culpable,” he said. 

Kaplan was firmly against installing the devices because he said he too trusts the employees, and he doesn’t like the idea of monitoring speed or if someone stops at a drug store during the work day. 

By monitoring the employees’ driving, Kaplan said, “George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ will appear here in West Bloomfield 32 years later. I think it’s totalitarian and I’m opposed to it.” 

After the vote, a budget amendment was passed for $9,000 for the purchase and installation of the devices and for the monitoring of vehicles.

Palmer said in a phone interview April 26 that he did not believe that what the township will monitor in terms of employee driving had been decided yet.

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