LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Lafayette city-parish government's new satellite vehicle tracking system has begun identifying employees in public vehicles who speed, fail to use their seat belts and drop by their homes during work hours.

Kevin Samples, the city-parish chief information officer, tells The Advocate  the new system has also tagged six city-parish employees in recent months who were not where they were supposed to be, resulting in one resignation and five suspensions.

The tracking system "has curtailed the misuse of vehicles," Samples told City-Parish Council members Tuesday in an update on the tracking program.

City-parish government began mounting the tracking devices in April.

As of Tuesday, the devices had been put on 524 city-parish vehicles and other equipment, including trailers, tractors and lawnmowers, Samples said.

The tracking program is set to expand by the end of the year to a goal of 587 vehicles, allowing supervisors in all departments to track the movement of vehicles as well as whether drivers are speeding, idling for long periods or using seatbelts.

The devices also allow city-parish government to track fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance issues.

The program is expected to be fully implemented by early next year, Samples said.

The annual cost of the program is about $275,000, and Samples estimated that reduced expenses for overtime, maintenance and fuel consumption are expected to cover the $275,000 annual expense and bring another $300,000 in annual savings.

He said the savings estimate is based on averages pulled from other industries using satellite tracking.

The tracking devices have already had some effect, according to figures provided by Samples.

From August to October, tracking reports of vehicles traveling in excess of 70 mph, of non-use of a seatbelts and of home visits during work hours have all declined, according to the figures.

"It's actually changing driver behavior," Samples said.

The satellite system has also helped clear an employee who was wrongly accused of being involved in a collision – the tracking device confirmed the vehicle was not there – and confirmed that an employee who struck a pedestrian was not at fault.

Council members said they were more interested in seeing verifiable savings.

"I'm trying to find out if it's worth nearly $300,000 a year to see if some employees are at home during the day," said Councilman Brandon Shelvin.

Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux said he would like to see real savings that can be tied to the satellite tracking system.

"I will be really happy about this in next year's budget if I see a reduction in our fuel costs," Boudreaux said. "When I can equate that to my budget, I'm convinced. I know the jury is still out on this, and we have to get it fully implemented."

Samples said that city-parish government should have figures by the end of next year to verify whether the satellite tracking system has produced quantifiable savings.