Gas prices hit another record high Thursday. You’re now paying an average of 53 cents more a gallon than this time last year. That'll cost the Florida Highway Patrol a bundle.
State troopers put more than 37 million miles on their cruisers last year, averaging only about 12 miles per gallon of gas.
MAJ Ernesto Duarte says the Florida Highway Patrol could see it was going to take a major hit in its fuel budget if prices kept climbing, so they asked lawmakers to pump up their allocation.
“Fortunately this year, because of the increase in gas prices, the Legislature did give us an additional $1.5 million, which is gonna help us tremendously and the service we provide to the public won’t be affected whatsoever,” says MAJ Duarte.
The boost brings the FHP fuel budget to $5 million. Lawmakers may have felt a little more generous this year because of a lesson learned back in 2000. FHP was threatening to cut patrol time because of a 50-cent spike in gas prices.
Duarte adds, “They were obviously pressed to come up with innovative ways to actually reduce the consumption of gas and some of the things we told the troopers were, if you’re idling on the side of the road, instead of having your car on, go to a safer location and turn your car off.”
The issue became a political football when democrats aired radio ads blasting the Bush Administration for pinching pennies on public safety. Although FHP believes this year’s bigger fuel budget will cover its costs, the agency is telling troopers to fuel up at lower-cost city, county and state facilities with their state discount cards as much as possible.
When troopers do use commercially-owned gas stations, they are being told to shop around for the lowest prices and use the regular grades, not the premium stuff.
The goal is to stretch those gas dollars. With a busy summer driving season ahead, FHP wants to make sure motorists see plenty of the familiar black and yellow patrol cars on the highways.
The average price of a gallon of gas in Florida hit just over $1.99 Thursday. Nationally, the average is $2.01 a gallon.