Monday, June 4, 2007

Price at the pump

I just returned from a weekend trip to a wedding, and the cost of fuel along the Interstate had me grumbling. Despite the bill, it wasn't quite as bad as I had feared. It's remarkable how quickly we've become accustomed to $3 gas and $50 fill ups (I drive a compact!).

The rising price of gasoline is a big concern for everyone, but it's positively gigantic when you put 2.5 million miles on the odometer every year, like the Lincoln Police Department. The problem is not just the price, it's also the volatility. It's hard to budget accurately when the price swings as widely as it has in recent months.

Back in the fall of 2005, we implemented a fuel reduction plan aimed at reducing our consumption. It called for many steps from training to closer monitoring of special events, but the main effort was to reduce idling at incident scenes, and to reduce overall mileage by such means as pairing some officers up during the late night shifts and encouraging more alternative patrol strategies.

Probably more than anything, though, we just focused everyone's attention on it. We review our fuel usage regularly, and just like overtime expenses, we make sure each unit manager gets timely data so they know how the status of their own Team or unit. Our garage manager, Pat Wenzl, does a great job of tracking all manner of fleet statistics, but his monthly fuel report has been a big help to us in keeping track of how we're doing.

It worked. The department reduced its fiscal year 2005-2006 fuel usage by 5.5% (13,146 gallons). The drop has continued during the current fiscal year, which began on September 1. Pat Wenzl sent us the detailed spreadsheet for the first nine months (September through May) on Friday, June 1. I noticed it took less than a day to get the up-to-date stats. Pat is exceptionally efficient. So far during 2006-2007 fuel usage is down by an additional 9.3% (14,049 gallons) with three months to go.

Interestingly, fuel mileage has moved in the expected direction, too: from a fleet average of 11.6 miles per gallons in fiscal year 2004-2005, to a fleet average this year of 12.7 miles per gallon. That 1.1 MPG may not sound like much, but that's a 9.5% improvement in the course of two years--and represents a huge amount of gas.

The new Northeast Team Station has certainly helped: the Northeast Team's monthly miles driven has dropped by 8,142 miles per month compared to last fiscal year. A whole lot of gas was being burned up by the daily commute from Headquarters to the Northeast Team area by the 42 employees who now report to work in the center of the area where their workload is, and avoid about 12 miles of round trip driving in the process.


Anonymous said...

Great that you are watching your gas.

Jenn said...

It is good to hear that LPD is cutting back. Quite often there are a lot of complainers that LPD and LFD is wasting a lot of $ (along with LPS). It is a good thing that people can see that LPD is doing their share. Thanks LPD!