Origin of state automobile practices .
The practice of state-owned vehicles for use of employees on business dates back over forty years .
At least one state vehicle was in existence in 1917 .
The state presently owns 389 passenger vehicles in comparison to approximately 200 in 1940 .
The automobile maintenance unit , or motor pool , came into existence in 1942 and has been responsible for centralized maintenance and management of state-owned transportation since that time .
The motor pool has made exceptional progress in automotive management including establishment of cost billing systems , records keeping , analyses of vehicle use , and effecting economies in vehicle operation .
Cars were operated in 1959 for an average $.027 per mile .
Purchase of state vehicles is handled similarly to all state purchases .
Unit prices to the state are considerably lower than to the general public because of quantity purchases and no payment of state sales or federal excise taxes .
Vehicle purchase , assignment and use policies .
The legislature's role in policy determination concerning state-owned vehicles has been confined almost exclusively to appropriating funds for vehicles .
The meaningful policies governing the purchase , assignment , use and management of state vehicles have been shaped by the state's administrative officers .
Meaningful policies include : ( A ) kinds of cars the state should own , ( B ) when cars should be traded , ( C ) the need and assignment of vehicles , ( D ) use of cars in lieu of mileage allowances , ( E ) employees taking cars home , and ( F ) need for liability insurance on state automobiles .
A review of these policies indicates : ( 1 )
The state purchases and assigns grades of cars according to need and position status of driver and use of vehicle .
( 2 )
The purchase of compact ( economy ) cars is being made currently on a test basis .
( 3 )
Cars are traded mostly on a three-year basis in the interest of economy .
( 4 )
The factors governing need and assignment of cars are flexible according to circumstances .
( 5 )
Unsuccessful efforts have been made to replace high mileage allowances with state automobiles .
( 6 )
It is reasonably economical for the state to have drivers garage state cars at their homes .
( 7 )
The state has recently undertaken liability insurance for drivers of state cars .
Automobile practices in other states .
A survey of practices and/or policies in other states concerning assignment and use of state automobiles reveals several points for comparison with Rhode Island's practices .
Forty-seven states assign or provide vehicles for employees on state business .
Two other states provide vehicles , but only with legislative approval .
States which provide automobiles for employees assign them variously to the agency , the individual , or to a central pool .
Twenty-six states operate a central motor pool for acquisition , allocation and/or maintenance of state-owned vehicles .
Nineteen states report laws , policies or regulations for assigning state vehicles in lieu of paying mileage allowances .
Of these states the average `` change-over '' point ( at which a car is substituted for allowances ) is 13,200 miles per year .
Mileage allowances .
Mileage allowances for state employees are of two types : ( A ) actual mileage and ( B ) fixed monthly allowances .
Actual mileage allowances are itemized reimbursements allowed employees for the use of personally-owned vehicles on state business at the rate of $.07 per mile .
Fixed monthly allowances are reimbursements for the same purpose except on a non-itemized basis .
Both allowances are governed by conditions and restrictions set forth in detail in the state's Travel Regulations .
Rhode Island's reimburseable rate of $.07 per mile for use of personally-owned cars compares favorably with other states' rates .
The average of states' rates is $.076 per mile .
Rhode Island's rate of $.07 per mile is considerably lower than reimburseable rates in the federal government and in industry nationally which approximate a $.09 per mile average .
Actual mileage allowances are well-administered and not unduly expensive for the state .
The travel regulations , requirements and procedures governing reimbursement are controlled properly and not overly restrictive .
Fixed monthly allowances are a controversial subject .
They have a great advantage in ease of audit time and payment .
However , they lend themselves to abuse and inadequate control measures .
Flat payments over $50 per month are more expensive to the state than the assignment of state-owned vehicles .
Travel allowances .
Travel allowances , including subsistence , have been revised by administrative officials recently and compare favorably with other states' allowances .
With few exceptions travelers on state business are allowed actual travel expenses and $15 per day subsistence .
Travel allowances are well-regulated and pose little problem in administration and/or audit control .
Origin of state automobile practices
general background .
It is difficult to pinpoint the time of origin of the state purchasing automobiles for use of employees in Rhode Island .
Few records are available concerning the subject prior to 1940 .
Those that are available shed little light .
The Registry of Motor Vehicles indicates that at least one state automobile was registered as far back as 1917 .
It should be enough to say that the practice of the state buying automobiles is at least forty years old .
The best reason that can be advanced for the state adopting the practice was the advent of expanded highway construction during the 1920s and '30s .
At that time highway engineers traveled rough and dirty roads to accomplish their duties .
Using privately-owned vehicles was a personal hardship for such employees , and the matter of providing state transportation was felt perfectly justifiable .
Once the principle was established , the increase in state-owned vehicles came rapidly .
And reasons other than employee need contributed to the growth .
Table 1 immediately below shows the rate of growth of vehicles and employees .
This rate of increase does not signify anything in itself .
It does not indicate loose management , ineffective controls or poor policy .
But it does show that automobiles have increased steadily over the years and in almost the same proportion to the increase of state employees .
In the past twenty years the ratio of state-owned automobiles per state employees has varied from 1 to 22 then to 1 to 23 now .
Whether there were too few automobiles in 1940 or too many now is problematical .
The fact is simply that state-owned vehicles have remained in practically the same proportion as employees to use them .
History and operation of the motor pool .
While the origin of state-owned automobiles may be obscured , subsequent developments concerning the assignment , use , and management of state automobiles can be related more clearly .
Prior to 1942 , automobiles were the individual responsibility of the agency to which assigned .
This responsibility included all phases of management .
It embraced determining when to purchase and when to trade vehicles , who was to drive , when and where repairs were to be made , where gasoline and automobile services were to be obtained and other allied matters .
In 1942 , however , the nation was at war .
Gasoline and automobile tires were rationed commodities .
The state was confronted with transportation problems similar to those of the individual .
It met these problems by the creation of the state automobile maintenance unit ( more popularly called the motor pool ) , a centralized operation for the maintenance and control of all state transportation .
The motor pool then , as now , had headquarter facilities in Providence and other garages located throughout the state .
It was organizationally the responsibility of the Department of Public Works and was financed on a rotary fund basis with each agency of government contributing to the pool's operation .
In 1951 the pool's operation was transferred to the newly-created Department of Administration , an agency established as the central staff and auxiliary department of the state government .
The management of state-owned vehicles since that time has been described in a recent report in the following manner : ``
Under this new management considerable progress appears to have been made .
The agencies of government are now billed for the actual cost of services provided to each passenger car rather than the prior uniform charge for all cars .
Whereas the maintenance rotary fund had in the past sustained losses considerably beyond expectations , the introduction of the cost-billing system plus other control refinements has resulted in keeping the fund on a proper working basis .
One indication of the merits of the new management is found in the fact that during the period 1951-1956 , while total annual mileage put on the vehicles increased 35% , the total maintenance cost increased only 11% .
In order to further refine the management of passenger vehicles , on July 1 , 1958 , the actual title to every vehicle was transferred , by Executive Order , to the Division of Methods , Research and Office Services .
The objective behind this action was to place in one agency the responsibility for the management , assignment , and replacement of all vehicles .
( Note : So far as State Police cars are concerned , only their replacement is under this division ) .
This tied in closely with the current attempt to upgrade state-owned cars to the extent that vehicles are not retained beyond the point where maintenance costs ( in light of depreciation ) become excessive .
Moreover , it allows the present management to reassign vehicles so that mileage will be more uniformly distributed throughout the fleet ; ;
for example , if one driver puts on 22,000 miles per year and another driver 8,000 miles per year , their cars will be switched so that both cars will have 30,000 miles after two years , rather than 44,000 miles ( and related higher maintenance costs ) and 16,000 miles respectively '' .
The motor pool is a completely centralized and mechanized operation .
It handles all types of vehicle maintenance , but concentrates more on `` service station activities '' than on extensive vehicle repairs .
It contracts with outside repair garages for much of the latter work .
Where the pool excels is in its compilation of maintenance and cost-data studies and analyses .
Pool records reveal in detail the cost per mile and miles per gallon of each vehicle , the miles traveled in one year or three years , the periods when vehicle costs become excessive , and when cars should be traded for sound economies .
From this , motor pool personnel develop other meaningful and related data .
In 1959-60 , vehicles averaged an operating cost of $.027 per mile .
Based on this figure and considering depreciation costs of vehicles , pool personnel have determined that travel in excess of 10,000 miles annually is more economical by state car than by payment of allowances for use of personally-owned vehicles .
They estimate further that with sufficient experience and when cost-data of compact cars is compiled , the break-even point may be reduced to 7,500 miles of travel per year .
Table 2 shows operating cost data of state vehicles selected at random .
One matter of concern to the complete effectiveness of pool operations is the lack of adequate central garage facilities .
Present pool quarters at two locations in Providence are crowded , antiquated and , in general , make for inefficient operation in terms of dispersement of personnel and duplication of such operational needs as stock and repair equipment .
Good facilities would be a decided help to pool operations and probably reduce vehicle costs even more .
Purchasing practices .
The purchase of state-owned vehicles is handled in the same manner as all other purchases of the state .
Requests are made by the motor pool along with any necessary cooperation from the agencies to which assignments of cars will be made .
Bids are evaluated by the Division of Purchases with the assistance of pool staff , and awards for the purchase of the automobiles are made to the lowest responsible bidders .
Unit prices for state vehicles are invariably lower than to the general public .
The reasons are obvious : ( 1 ) the state is buying in quantity , and ( 2 ) it has no federal excise or state sales tax to pay .
Until 1958 the state was also entitled to a special type of manufacturers' discount through the dealers .
In that ownership of all vehicles rests with the state motor pool , cars are paid for with funds appropriated to the agencies but transferred to the rotary fund mentioned earlier .
This is a normal governmental procedure which reflects more accurately cost-accounting principles .
The assignment and use of vehicles after purchase is another matter to be covered in detail later .
Vehicle purchase , assignment , and use policies
Probably the most important of all matters for review are the broad administrative policies governing the purchase , assignment , use , and management of state vehicles .
The legislature's role in policy determination in this area for years has been confined almost solely to the amount of funds appropriated annually for the purchase and operation of vehicles .
The more meaningful policies have been left to the judgment of the chief administrative officer of the state -- the Director of Administration .