GPS systems inside of Albuquerque, N.M., garbage trucks allowed city officials to catch drivers behaving inappropriately.

The theory behind the GPS installations was to improve route efficiency, but data sent back to the city also showed that some drivers were taking extended lunch breaks, running personal errands, leaving the city and running side businesses from the trucks, said the city’s Chief Operations Officer John Soladay.

Soladay said he was disappointed with the “grossly inappropriate behavior,” but he emphasized that the majority of the city’s 250 drivers are exceptional.

Soladay said there were about 20 “actionable” incidents uncovered thanks to the GPS data, but he made sure to point out that officials didn’t blindly look at a screen and make rash decisions. The GPS findings let them know that further investigation was needed, he said.

For example, Soladay said a driver leaving town is a clear indicator that something is wrong.

The GPS signal sends an alert to managers every three minutes that briefs them on information such as speed and what direction the driver is heading.

Soladay said disciplinary actions for some ranged from suspensions to terminations, but most received warnings to correct the activity. He said the majority of the cases were resolved earlier this year.

“You don’t fire drivers based on blips on a screen,” he said. “You fire them based on their behavior.”

The city spent around $250,000 on 254 GPS units for its frontline and backup fleets. In early 2009, 50 units were initially installed and the rest of the vehicles were outfitted about 18 months ago.

The investment has paid off so far with the city attributing an estimated $750,000 in savings to the units because of route modifications and improvements to driver training.

In some instances, Soladay said data found that drivers didn’t take the fastest route to the city landfill, which is about 20 miles west of town.

GPS systems made a similar impact in Clearwater, Fla., since their installation three years ago, said Rick Carnley assistant director of solid waste and general services.

Carnley said the data unveiled a series of issues such as drivers idling too long or speeding. It also showed that some workers who should’ve been in a specific area for a task were actually somewhere completely different.

“It’s a very good management tool,” Carnley said. “In some cases, it’s more [effective] than we anticipated. I was surprised with the accuracy.”

Soladay said Albuquerque officials also can verify complaints about “risk issues” such as speeding more effectively because of GPS.

Albuquerque spends about $105,000 annually for monitoring of the units by FleetBoss GPS, the company that made the systems.

“The vast majority of complaints we get about drivers, we’re able to prove or disapprove quickly and resolve the problem,” he said.

Contact Waste & Recycling News reporter Vince Bond Jr. at or 313-446-1653.