Can Tulsa Increase Safety and Reduce Costs

By Aaron Sheppard    
Tuesday, 03 October 2006
Finding a person who truly has the interest of the community at heart to run for office is a challenge every government has faced, from city to county to state and federal level.  After one meeting with city councilor John Eagleton, Tulsa may just have found such a man.  A self-described fiscal and social conservative, Eagleton has decided to serve his constituency by looking for at least one good cost-saving measure a month while in office.  September brings the counselor’s latest idea to the table.

According to Eagleton, City of Tulsa employees are injured most often in on-the-job vehicular accidents.  He says these types of incidents outnumber every other type of accident that happens during the course of business for the City.  Concern about how many incidents were caused by unsafe vehicles led the councilor to ask why crash safety ratings are not taken into account when vehicles are purchased for the City.  He also hypothesizes that more crash-resistant vehicles could equal fewer workers compensation claims against the City.

Tulsa Today:  Do on-the -job car wrecks outnumber carpal tunnel injuries?

Eagleton:  Car wrecks do outnumber carpal tunnel.  Car wrecks outweigh every other form of injury for the City of Tulsa, is what I was told.  Then I wondered: what if the city of Tulsa analyzed cars not only by fuel, sticker and resale, but by crash-worthiness?  If you doubled the worthiness, would you have fewer claims, fewer days missed, and lower replacement costs for qualified, experienced personnel?

Tulsa Today:  What was the answer?

Eagleton:  The answer is still being looked at by the city finance department, and as I understand it, the mayor’s office has taken it under advisement, and I have asked other councilors to assist me with this.

Tulsa Today:  Did the people you have talked this over with like the idea?

Eagleton:  You have to look at the numbers.  Whether the idea is viable or not, you have to look at the math, a cold calculation of the money saved due to less injury to employees. You have to look at the resale value of a less crash-worthy vehicle; it has a lower value than that of a more crash-worthy vehicle. A Toyota Camry with 120,000 miles has a considerably greater value than a three-star car with a less crash-worthy value at the same mileage.

Tulsa Today:  Isn’t a Lexus with a large number of miles still just a car with a large number of miles on it?

Eagleton:  A mid-range or entry-level car with many miles sells for scrap value, rather than a more crash-worthy car.  I can imagine someone being able to buy the better car for a teenager’s first car.

Tulsa Today:  Do you have any outside expert looking into how much difference there would be in the used cars?

Eagleton:  I have City Finance looking into it, and I am sure they have someone who can school me (very tongue-in-cheek) in the value of used cars.  I am receptive to all people.  If someone has a good idea, I’d be glad to chat with them.

Tulsa Today:  Will the more crash-worthy cars truly cut-back on sick days, since there are a specific number of sick-days given?

Eagleton:  It may not reduce the use of the sick days, but it will certainly reduce the number of claims made due to vehicular accident.  I believe the workers of the City of Tulsa want to work and do a good job every day.  Recently I observed some Public Works employees in my neighborhood working long after quitting time, and that would seem to be the rule, not the exception.

Tulsa Today:  What are we spending now in workers comp?

Eagleton:  I do not have the answer right now.  The idea is in the earliest stage and I will be looking into that, but I am sure that someone at the City knows that number.

Tulsa Today:  How much do you anticipate us saving with this idea?

Eagleton:  The analysis has not been done for that yet; we are at the genus of the idea at this point, so it would be foolish to put an exact number on it without further review.

Tulsa Today:  OK, without putting an exact number on it, in a approximately $250 million budget, the savings would have to be significant to get on the radar.  Could you say if this would be a $100,000-per-year savings, or is it closer to $1 million per year?

Eagleton:  Without putting an exact number on it, this should be at least $100,000 per year in savings and I would not be surprised if it stretched to over $1 million in savings.  The minutes in workers compensation and the simple number of claims is not the whole equation.  We also have to look at the value of the trained employee on the job who is familiar with the job and has years of experience, and I don’t see how we can put an exact number on that.

Tulsa Today:  How long would this take to be implemented, if it just sailed through the process without any resistance?

Eagleton:  It could be implemented the next budget cycle.  It could be implemented in weeks, not months, once the idea was approved.  The City is in a constant cycle of buying new cars, and this mechanism could be implemented quickly.  Can we save money by having a more crash-worthy car and having less workers compensation claims, is the central question for September.

Tulsa Today:  Have you talked to any employees about this? Do they like the idea?

Eagleton:  Yes, I have.  I have yet to talk to a City employee or politician that didn’t think this idea merited at least further consideration.

Tulsa Today:  What about fuel economy versus more crash-worthiness?

Eagleton: The five-star rated Toyota Camry and a Volvo are the two front runners to replace what is being used.

Tulsa Today:  You’ve mentioned two foreign cars as your primary examples.  What about the American car versus the foreign car?

Eagleton:  It’s not American versus foreign.  How many Chevys are built exclusively in America?  How many Chevys are built in Mexico?  How many Toyota Camrys are built exclusively in America?  How many Toyota Camrys are built exclusively in Japan?  To suggest that it is more patriotic to buy a Chevy over another car belies the world economy.  We live in a universe where nationalistic corporate identities are losing their meaning.  Many Chevy parts are derived from foreign sources, and many of the parts of the Toyota are made from foreign sources.  My objective is not to prop up a corporation because it headquarters here in America.  My objective is to save the City of Tulsa as much money as I can.  If an American company builds the best product, I’ll buy American.

Tulsa Today:  Until that day comes, what will you choose?

Eagleton:  I’ll buy the product that saves the City of Tulsa the most money.  I want the best product for the dollar, without regard to who the manufacturer is, regardless of location.  The City of Tulsa needs to save as much money as it can.

Tulsa Today:  Who decides if this is a laudable idea?

Eagleton:  Ultimately, the city council will be in the position to reach a conclusion as to if it is laudable or not, but the mayor’s office would give the final thumbs-up or thumbs-down when it comes to turning it into policy.  I believe the mayor’s office would have to do the enacting.

Tulsa Today:  Who needs to know about this?

Eagleton:  I have made the Mayor’s office aware of it.  I am sure there will be somebody who reads your story and will be motivated to help.

The councilman pointed out that he is a fourth-generation Tulsan.  His great-grandfather left “Tulsee Town” for Pawnee, because he thought Tulsa “wouldn’t amount to much.”  Now the ideas he has raised could be a good start on yet another money-saving avenue for the City of Tulsa’s coming fiscal year.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 03 October 2006 )