New Jersey DOT using GPS to track state vehicles

Some scream up and down the highway at more than 100 mph. Others have done private jobs while on the government dime.

Then there are those who steal time by parking their state Department of Transportation trucks in mall lots, on side streets, even near bowling alleys, and take leisurely breaks when they’re supposed to be filling potholes, fixing signs or picking up dead deer on the highway.

“Like pigeons that go and hide, we have employees that like to go cooping,” said state Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson. They say, ‘Let’s go get a truck and hide out in the park.’ ”

But such practices have gotten harder since the DOT wrapped up a $22 million contract with Motorola to install radios with tracking systems in 3,000 vehicles that allows supervisors to monitor workers’ speeds, locations and the length of time spent in any one place.

“I can tell for a month every single block you’ve been on and whether you’re speeding or not,” Simpson said. “The computer can tell us if the speed limit is 25 and you’re doing 40.”

It’s part of what officials say is the most aggressive attempt the DOT has ever made to manage productivity among its workforce in the field, and it comes at a time when two New Jersey lawmakers, Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, and Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, have proposed extending it to thousands of state-owned vehicles. Under their program, the state would get a report on vehicle use by state workers, abuses and the feasibility of making the tracking permanent.

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