Brad Underwood, Public Works Operations Manager from Bakersfield, CA, asks the following question: "We have implemented a pilot program for GPS units on city vehicles to aid in increasing efficiencies of vehicle use. We have now formed a committee to take this to the next level and have some issues maybe you could help with. We are interested in knowing if anyone who has implemented GPS has created a policy or guideline as to which vehicles get the units."

Good question, Brad. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) are becoming more prevalent for many types of vehicles. Where we originally thought of them as "Big Brother" watching the guys plowing snow to see if they were really where they said they were, we now know they provide good, usable information which can help to save time and money in planning routes, duplication of efforts, and many other items. If you have adopted a policy or guideline, please let Brad know. You can reach him at

"I have been hearing talk about QBS (Quality Based Selection) for engineers being targeted in some areas of the country. Is this still the best way for local agencies to select engineering firms for their projects? Couldn't we get it cheaper if we just asked for bids?"

My grandmother always said "You get what you pay for." If you're looking to design your project for the least amount of money, you might assume asking for "bids" for engineering services would ensure you don't go over your budget. However, APWA strongly supports the Quality Based Selection of engineers, architects, and consultants to design and build public projects. Realizing that every professional has different skills and expertise, selecting by qualifications is much more likely to ensure your project will be built to your specifications rather than to fit only your budget. I'd suggest you get a copy of the APWA publication Selection and Use of Engineers, Architects, and Consultants from our online bookstore at I think you'll find you'll "get what you paid for"!

"With the price of diesel continuing to climb at an alarming rate, is there anything we can do to maximize our efficiency? We sure can't afford to change all our vehicles to gas and who knows how much more that will escalate as well."

As is usually true in most cases, using the equipment you have in the most efficient and appropriate manner is the best solution. While these tips may seem overly simple, maybe one of them will jog your thought process or at least cause you to do a thorough check of your vehicles. So, consider this: Is the engine too large or too small for the truck's actual needs? Why add unnecessary weight, upfront cost, and burn more fuel if the engine is underworked? If it's too small for the job it will be overworked, operating at inefficiently high speeds and causing premature wear. Be sure to select the right engine rating if you want to have an impact on fuel economy. A driver will use all the power available to him whether he needs it or not which will consume more fuel. Of course, if it doesn't have enough power, it won't save fuel. Driver performance has also been determined to be a major contributing factor to saving fuel. Jackrabbit starts, late braking, and extended idling can deteriorate the fuel efficiency of a truck. New truck designs are more aerodynamic and help improve fuel efficiency. And, of course, check that the tires are properly inflated. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Maybe so simple you have overlooked it. Give it a try.

"I recently saw an article reminding local agencies that if they want to get federal money for 'domestic incidents' they were required to implement 'NIMS.' Guess I've missed that. Can you explain?"

NIMS stands for "National Incident Management System" and the program will definitely affect local governments. The NIMS was issued by the Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2004. Several important steps that state, territorial, tribal, and local entities must take between October 1, 2005 and September 30, 2006 are necessary to become fully compliant with NIMS if they wish to receive federal preparedness funding assistance in FY 2007. Check the FEMA website for more details at Don't overlook this vital program.

Ask Ann...

Questions are welcome.

Please address all inquiries to:

Ann Daniels
Director of Technical Services
APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd., Suite 500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2625
Fax questions to: (816) 472-1610