RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – State Owned Vehicles – You pay for them with your tax dollars and CBS 17 wants to make sure we get our money’s worth.
After more than a year of digging, consumer researcher Steve Sbraccia found that North Carolina has no idea how many state vehicles are parked and not in use because of the pandemic.
This also raises the question: why does our state keep buying new cars?
As CBS 17 began monitoring some idle state cars for over a year, we discovered in the course of this investigation that the state was failing to keep track of underutilization across its fleet during the pandemic.
CBS 17 targeted a half-dozen state cars, which we noticed stood idle for months outside two office buildings housing state agencies.
On Monday afternoon, January 18, 2021, we began our tracking efforts to keep an eye on them.
To do this, we stuck tape with the date of January 18 on it between one of the vehicle’s wheels and the asphalt of the cars we observed.
If the cars moved, the tape would come loose.
CBS 17 watched them through the winter months of 2021 through spring as the trees began to bud and waited to be moved.
We watched into the summer of 2021 when Crepe Myrtle bloomed. The whole time the cars stayed in the parking lot where we first saw them.
After eight months of tracking, we saw that a few of the cars moved occasionally, but they were rarely driven.
During the pandemic, the governor’s executive order restricted travel for state employees, and many agencies implemented a work-from-home policy, so Sbraccia began asking questions.
State Examiner Beth Wood confirms that government vehicle use has declined, telling CBS 17 in an email: “Many agencies are instituting some policies for remote working and therefore the need for so many cars for state agencies may not be so tall.”
Her office is one of those agencies that has seen this rare usage, and she’s trying to figure out how many state cars are still needed, telling CBS 17, “We at OSA (Office of the State Auditor) are doing an analysis now, since we are adopting a hybrid working policy to determine how many cars we think we will need to move forward.”
Wood said she doesn’t know if other agencies do the same type of analysis.
The state’s 7,300 vehicles are overseen by the Motor Fleet Management Division, which is part of the Department of Administration.
In an email, it told CBS 17, “We are aware that government vehicles may be underutilized at this time due to various workplace changes prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.”
This answer made us wonder why these cars were not declared surplus and sold?
We know there is a huge demand for used cars right now because dealers can’t get the stock.
“The average price of a used car listing is $28,000,” said Emilie Voss of CarFax.
CBS 17 wanted to know how much the underutilized cars we were chasing might be worth.
We found a way to do that.
Carfax has an online tool to help you find out.
Sbraccia entered the license plates of the half-dozen state cars we found idling during his investigation.
Here’s what he found.
The average trade-in value for most of these cars was more than $14,000, provided they are in good condition. One had a trade-in value of more than $12,000 and two others were worth just over $8,000.
However, even the $8,000 vehicles would be snapped up in the current used car market.
“There was a lot of demand for sub-$10,000 vehicles,” Voss said.
If these state vehicles are not being used, why is the state still buying new cars?
Sbraccia posed that question to the Department of Administration and Finance, which said in an email, “The state bought 500 new cars in fiscal 2021” and that “those purchases were part of its routine replacement cycle.”
CBS 17 also learned that the state doesn’t even track its roughly 7,300 fleet vehicles it currently owns to find out which cars aren’t being used.
Administration and Finance said in an email: “Once the executive order(s) are lifted, the relevant state agencies must return the state vehicle reports with a justification for underutilization for each listed vehicle.”
We did some checks.
Although the order pandemic state of emergency remains in effect, the governor’s office said the travel ban is no longer in effect.
It also said some state employees are continuing to work from home under various agency policies.
CBS 17 will continue to contact Motor Fleet Management until we receive a vehicle usage response.
We’ve also asked state lawmakers to comment, and we’ll let you know when they respond.
https://www.cbs17.com/news/investigators/why-is-nc-buying-new-cars-when-so-many-sit-unused/ Why does NC buy new cars when there are so many sitting around unused?