When the fuel crunch hit in early fall, vehicle fleet managers scrambled to find ways to cut back on usage. Private companies re-examined their travel schedules, hoping to find some efficiencies that had been overlooked when fuel was relatively cheap.

But what about government fleets? Police cruisers, fire trucks and sanitation trucks are major users of fuel. The fuel budgets are set in the spring and started July 1. Early estimates were the Norman fuel budget would be $400,000 to $500,000 in the red.

When fuel skyrocketed to nearly $3 per gallon, Norman City Manager Brad Gambill asked his supervisors to come up with ways to somehow reduce travel. They turned to the employees who came forth with a lot of suggestions to cut back. The savings so far have been about five percent, according to a story in Sunday's Transcript by City Hall reporter Carol Cole.

Even though some government functions such as police and fire are hard to run on a schedule, the employees came up with ideas to save fuel. Some of the suggestions could apply to all of us. Don't idle more than five minutes. Keep speeds under 55 miles per hour. Drive your most fuel-efficient vehicle when you have a choice.

Small savings add up over time. Collectively, the cuts may be affecting the price through the basic laws of supply and demand. When government and private customers use less fuel, there's more available and the price drops. We think drivers are actually driving smarter. Making lists. Fewer trips. We've even seen some carpooling.

Although unleaded regular has dipped to below $1.85 per gallon in many areas, the push to save should continue. Mr. Gambill believes that -- barring another catastrophe -- the city's fuel account could actually end the year in good shape. If it does, that would be a sign supervisors and their employees lived up to their manager's challenge.

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