Mini-trucks arrive to cut fuel spending

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 25, 2008

Two of the used trucks ordered from Japan in response to higher gas prices were inspected by Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens and North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield Wednesday and deemed wise purchases.

The other two trucks in the $28,849 order were expected today. They will be assigned to landscaping, cemetery and community services crews.

“If these are everything they’re promised to be we’re going to be buying a lot more of them this year,” said Leyens as he surveyed one of the mini-trucks, adding, “Why is the steering wheel on the wrong side?”

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The order was placed by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in July, who expect the 40- to 60-mile-per-gallon vehicles to trim growth in fuel costs for city’s fleet of 240 cars and trucks. The city spent a little more than $1 million on gasoline this fiscal year — which ends Tuesday — about $250,000 more than it had budgeted, said Vicksburg Purchasing Director Tim Smith.

The trucks were purchased through Holly Springs-based ATV Truck Imports. Two are 1996 two-door vehicles, while the four-door mini-trucks are 2002 and 2003 models. Each of the Daihatsu Hi Jetdeck mini-trucks features a 660-cubic centimeter engine, 12-inch tires, four-wheel drive, air conditioning and air bags. One of the four-door vehicles has an automatic transmission, while the rest are stick shifts, meaning some city employees will have to get used to shifting with their left hands. The vehicles have from 34,700 to 54,000 miles on the odometers.

“This is the right thing to be doing, not only from a financial point of view but also from a symbolic standpoint. We all need to be more fuel conscious,” said Leyens. “We can buy five of these for the price of one regular truck.”

Smith said one of the trucks set to be delivered today may not be purchased due to mechanical problems and body wear not originally disclosed to the city. If returned, Smith said the city would not have to pay for the vehicle and could reorder.

Don’t expect to see the trucks in service for two weeks, said Barry Warnock, vehicle maintenance director. First, they must be taken by trailer to Jackson to be inspected by the Mississippi Highway Patrol, license plates must be obtained and city emblems will be applied. 

Mini-trucks are not legal for highway use, and are currently not manufactured in the United States. Smith said they are also not available for purchase as new. While the vehicles were hailed Wednesday for their fuel-saving potential, they were a tight fit for most all who ventured to take them for a spin.  

“I’m challenging all city employees to lose 40 pounds, because that’s the only way they’re gong to get into these things,” Mayfield said after squeezing in.

In other gas-saving efforts by the city, Leyens has initiated a “no idling” policy. Also, Leyens said he is encouraging Vicksburg police to spend the $400,000 budgeted for new cruisers on more fuel-efficient models.