GPS Trackers Catch U of M Workers Not Working

Updated: 11/27/2012 12:24 PM By: Mark Albert

Global Positioning System trackers on University of Minnesota vehicles revealed three elevator mechanics spent more than 4,000 minutes in just eight weeks idling in their cars or at gas stations or convenience stores, with no work orders "anywhere nearby" where the employees were found to have been, according to the university.

"These employees were investigated, were given due process, and were adequately punished," said Brad Hoff, chief administrative officer at the University's Facilities Management division, where the employees worked.

The three mechanics, each with a minimum of 10 years of university service, were part of a group that had been previously warned about working a full shift, Hoff said.

In addition, all employees of the "elevator shop," as it's known, were aware that GPS devices had been placed on their work vehicles, Hoff said, part of a university initiative to reduce idling time, save fuel, and increase the efficiency of their routes.

A supervisor became concerned in December of last year after some employees kept arriving back to the shop early before their shift was over.

An eight-week examination of GPS data for January and February showed the vehicles assigned to Mike Riley and Mark Lewin each spent 16.22 hours - or 973.31 minutes - idling at locations "that do not have WO's (work orders) anywhere nearby," according to data logs provided by the university. Both employees often shared the same vehicle.

The vehicle assigned to mechanic Craig Freeman was logged idling for 39.9 hours - or 2,395.7 minutes - at locations not near legitimate work locations, the logs showed; the time would be the equivalent to five full days worth of shifts in just eight weeks.

"We want to make sure that folks are doing what they're paid to do," Hoff explained in an interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Monday. "They were not in the areas they were supposed to be in."

Each of the employees served a one-week, unpaid suspension in May. The discipline has not been previously reported.

In letters of discipline given to each employee, the university cited the workers for taking "numerous unauthorized" breaks, being "out of your work area," and "falsification of a University record or report."

"The employees did not meet our expectations and I think that their disciplined showed that," Hoff said.

The three workers could not be reached for comment. Their union, Teamsters Local 320, did not return multiple messages left by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

One of the three mechanics has since quit. The other two will soon be out of a job because, coincidentally, the university had already begun to privatize the elevator mechanic positions; all positions will be eliminated when vendor contracts are finalized early next year.

The move is expected to save the university nearly $240,000 each year through increased efficiencies.