LITTLE ROCK — The state Highway Commission on Wednesday approved a plan to install Global Positioning System devices in each of the state Highway and Transportation Department’s 2,400 vehicles.
The commission also chose apparent low bids on 37 road projects totaling $62 million.
The highway department will be the first state agency to outfit all of its vehicles with GPS devices, a move state Highway Director Scott Bennett said would save money in the long run.
"Number one, it does help diagnose any problems that the vehicle is having, and that’s good for preventative maintenance," Bennett told highway commissioners. adding that if a check engine light comes on the system will notify a supervisor in the department’s auto maintenance department.
"It’s also for accountability," he said. "We’re going to know where people are, how fast they are driving, and as a state agency, we think that is something that is very key."
Commissioner Tom Schueck asked if construction vehicles, like dump trucks, will have them.
"Eventually it will be all of them," Bennett said. "We’re going to start with the sedans and pickup trucks … but eventually we’re going to get to all of our equipment."
Officials said installations would cost about $700,000. The system will pay for itself in about eight months with fuel savings because employees will begin driving slower and driving less, Bennett said.
The constitutionally autonomous highway department voluntarily trimmed about 30 vehicles from its fleet in 2010 after Gov. Mike Beebe issued an executive order limiting the personal use of public vehicles. The order, which reduced the state fleet by hundreds of vehicles, was in response to lawsuits challenging the practice. The lawsuits never came to trial.
Nearly half of the total amount of the bids let for highway construction Wednesday, about $29.1 million, was for widening about four miles of U.S. 167 to four lanes north of Fordyce in Dallas and Cleveland counties.
Highway department spokesman Glenn Bolick said crews have already widened about two miles the stretch north of Fordyce to four lanes.
Ideal Construction Co., Inc. of Crossett, was the apparently low bidder on the project.
APAC-Central, Inc. of Fayetteville submitted the apparent low bid on a $6.6 million project to widen 1.7 miles of Centerton Boulevard in Benton County from two lanes to three lanes.