Arizona lawmaker pushes for Uber instead of state vehicles

Posted at 2:28 PM, Feb 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-12 10:44:07-05

An Arizona lawmaker has proposed legislation requiring the state to cut its vehicle fleet by 20 percent and to launch a program that could use ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft or other companies to provide transportation for state workers.

Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler, said the state government owns too many vehicles. He wants taxpayer dollars used more efficiently for state employee travel.

"The amount of vehicles that governments have is astounding," he said in an interview last Tuesday.

Weninger's House Bill 2440 requires a 20 percent cut in the state car and light truck fleet and the creation of a pilot program using rental cars, fleet-management services, ride-hailing services, vehicle-for-hire companies or private-public partnerships.

The state would be free to choose from those options, which Weninger said would add transportation flexibility and leave room for new or innovative technologies that do not yet exist.

Weninger said his legislation targets about 13,000 vehicles used by state workers and excludes police cruisers, fire trucks and construction vehicles.

Weninger previously served on the Chandler City Council and helped champion an effort that led to a 22 percent drop in the city's vehicle costs.

"We found our fleet was huge and we found that we had people that drove two times a week for a few hours each day, and they had their own car issued to them," Weninger said. "And so we shrunk the fleet, and we saved a lot of money."

Chandler cuts its fleet by 25 percent, from 845 cars, light trucks and SUVs in 2009 to 617 cars now, Chandler Management Services Director Dawn Lang said. The city saved $1.6 million annually, and it now spends about $6 million yearly on its fleet.

Cooperation between city department heads to thoroughly assess vehicle assignments and use was key to the program's success, Lang said.

"It required everyone to be at the table to share how their employees work," Lang said. "It allowed us to really hone in on where we could cut vehicles."

The program was being put into place during the Great Recession, and the cuts were made when the city was already looking at ways to cut costs.

A state Department of Administration report said the state had 12,709 vehicles as of June 30, 2016, including 5,370 "light duty" vehicles -- a category that would include cars and many pickups -- that aren't motorcycles, law enforcement vehicles, fire trucks or all-terrain vehicles. Slightly over half of those are in Maricopa County.

The report said the state and its universities spent $7.5 million for maintenance and $10.3 million for fuel for their light duty vehicles during the 2015-2016 fiscal year.