Tracking systems installed by the City of Charlottetown this spring in about 80 of its vehicles have resulted in a savings of about $8,000 on fuel this summer compared to last. 

The automated vehicle location systems reveal what route drivers are taking, whether they're wearing their seatbelts and how often they're leaving vehicles idling — even how much salt plows are spreading on city streets.

"I think some people forget idling costs money — you burn fuel. The City of Charlottetown does have a zero-idling policy, so now this really allows us to enforce it," said Scott Adams, the assistant manager of Public Works.

'Just scratching the surface'

The city has also been able to revise routes employees are taking to job sites, with an eye to reducing fuel consumption.

"We're just scratching the surface right now, trying to really crack down on this," Adams said. "$8,000 over three months is pretty significant."

Scott Adams, Charlottetown public works

'It's definitely going to pay for itself,' says Scott Adams with Charlottetown Public Works. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

The cost over three years to install and operate the system is about $140,000, Adams said. He expects the city will more than recoup that cost. 

"It's definitely going to pay for itself and then some," he said. 

The city plans to next add the trackers to its water and sewer vehicles. 

"Even if we make just a very small five per cent saving, it's somewhere in the ballpark of $40,000 — so big numbers for very small improvements," Adams said. 

There was concern from city employees at first, Adams said, but the city explained it wasn't designed to keep tabs on them.

"We're just monitoring the overall picture," Adams said. Once workers understood what the system can do and the cost savings, he said they are less hesitant. 

There is nothing wrong with the city using the tracking for legitimate business reasons as long as there is no misuse that violates the members rights, said Bill MacKinnon from CUPE, the union that represents city workers. 

Meanwhile, the city is also looking into programs with which city residents would be able to track snow plows in winter. 

With files from Laura Chapin