An angry woman recently told University police that a Yale courier truck had struck her car, causing serious damage to the automobile. The investigating officer noticed paint on the victim’s vehicle that matched the color of the suspected University truck.

It appeared to be an open and shut case — a seemingly careless Yale driver was at fault. The employee could have faced interrogation, but an unlikely hero came to the rescue.

A newly installed Global Positioning System on Yale courier and garbage trucks records just about every statistic imaginable, including the bonus of saving records of where each vehicle has ever traveled and when. That data proved to be very useful to University law enforcement.

When police examined the GPS records of courier trucks following the woman’s complaint about car damage, they quickly determined no University vehicle was in the vicinity of the victim’s car at the time of the crime, director of support services Donald Relihan said.

In addition to vindicating employees, the near-$6,000 system enables managers to know precisely where any of the trucks are on the Yale campus at a given moment, how fast they are moving and how long they have been stopped at a particular location, Relihan said.

GPS, which is currently installed in four garbage trucks and all 13 courier trucks, has benefits that prompted Yale to invest in the system in the first place.

“Knowing where the vehicles are helps us in directing them or deciding which vehicles to send [to respond to a call],” deputy facilities director Roberto Meinrath said.

Relihan said his department traditionally used beepers and other messaging devices to keep track of delivery orders. But with GPS, that equipment is no longer necessary.

The University will also save money by choosing locations where it is more efficient to install a trash compactor instead of having a garbage truck spend extra time emptying multiple dumpsters, Meinrath said.

Yale’s GPS arrangement is Web-based, and managers like Relihan simply log onto the Internet site with a password to start tracking courier and garbage-collection vehicles. The software, in addition to providing critical data, also allows managers to zoom in or out on trucks.

Drivers have expressed some concern that the new system allows management to track the movements or whereabouts of employees at all times, invading privacy.

Relihan said only two employees voiced their feelings to him –one about the intrusiveness of the system and the other about its cost. He said he did not expect any future problems.

The drivers affected by GPS are members of Local 35. No complaints have been filed, and Federation of Hospital and University Employees communications director Antony Dugdale said last week Local 35 was not alarmed about the slight change in the work environment.

Administrators maintain Yale implemented GPS simply to increase efficiency.

“We’re not asking people to work harder,” Meinrath said. “We’re just changing the routes and the way we pick up things.”

The U.S. Department of Defense developed GPS technology beginning in the mid-1970s. GPS did not reach full operational capacity until 1995. The total cost of development was estimated to be $12 billion. The Defense Department still maintains control of the satellites on which GPS depends.