Jeff Brandes wants centralized state car fleet

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

The chair of the Senate’s Transportation Committee has filed legislation to create a central fleet management system for the state’s nearly 25,000 vehicles.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, filed the bill (SB 326), which includes an option to privatize management of the state’s fleet if it can be shown it would save taxpayer money.

Florida’s fleet, one of the largest among the states, costs $214 million per year to operate, according to a December 2013 report by Mercury Associates, a Maryland-based fleet management consulting firm.

Moreover, the Mercury report lambasted the state’s current fleet management, calling it “the least capable system we have encountered in any of the 34 states we have worked with.”

The report urged Florida to move toward “a newer, smaller fleet” and to consolidate maintenance facilities across the state.

The bill calls for the Department of Management Services to come up with a plan “regarding the creation, administration, and maintenance of a centralized fleet of state-owned motor vehicles” by next November.

One item the plan must address is “determining when it would be cost-efficient to use alternative fuels, or to lease or purchase alternative-energy motor vehicles for fleet use.”

Last week, Brandes was at an event in the Capitol Courtyard to demonstrate electric cars, including a Tesla. Brandes even went on a test drive around the Capitol.

The display was coordinated by Drive Electric Florida, a group of environmental, energy and automotive interests.

“It’s exciting to have this conversation and for members to experience this, because I think the future of vehicles in Florida absolutely includes electric vehicles,” Brandes told reporters.

Other provisions in the bill include “determining when it would be cost-efficient to lease a motor vehicle from a third-party vendor instead of using a state-owned motor vehicle,” and “equipping fleet motor vehicles with real-time locational monitoring systems,” such as GPS.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.