SAFE Team continues transition to electric golf carts

The golf carts used by SAFE Team will be replaced over time to create a fully electric fleet by 2026, according to SAFE team Director Jesika Amoriello. ORACLE PHOTO

The SAFE team will receive its second and third electric golf carts this month in line with a replacement program, which looks to spread the use of green energy at USF.

With its operations back in full swing, new SAFE Team employees are being trained as the transition continues to a 100% fleet of electric golf carts.

The service already employs a golf cart replacement program, with a turnover rate of about one to two golf carts annually. SAFE Team’s 13 golf carts should be fully electric by 2026 if two gas-powered carts are traded for electric each year, according to Jesika Amoriello, director for SAFE Team.

The team welcomed its first fully electric golf cart in 2019 after former SAFE team director Evan Collins was motivated to support green energy usage and began the initiative. Along with two coming later this month, the team will have three electric golf carts by the end of the month.

“Something that was really important to us when we first got the electric [golf carts] was to make sure that the employees were pleased with them and that they could handle driving around for eight hours at a time, because it’s not something that golf carts are necessarily meant to do, but we do it,” said Amoriello.

The golf carts, besides supporting green energy at USF, are also much quieter than their gas-powered counterparts, according to Amoriello.

“The quietness is a great change. Obviously, the environmental factor is also a huge positive in keeping the USF community green,” said Amoriello.

In-person rides resumed in August with COVID-19 mitigations in place such as mask-wearing, passenger limit of two people on the golf carts and cleaning the carts after each passenger.

“That really was great because it allowed us to continue operating throughout the pandemic for those students that were on campus. Even though on-campus life looked different, we were still there for them,” said Amoriello.

Since 1976, when the service was founded, it has evolved into the version known today, consisting of 13 golf carts and students hired to be team members. Entirely student-led, there are currently 29 team members, according to Amoriello. This is lower than the usual 30-40 members, and the team is working on increasing its numbers by hiring and training applicants.

The team briefly functioned remotely at the end of the spring 2020 semester as normal operations closed on campus. In June and July 2020, the team began to ease its way back into in-person work with its SAFE Ride program, which is a partnership with Uber to give students access to $30 vouchers for rides.

The voucher can be used to pay for any combination of rides, but once the price exceeds $30, the student will be required to cover the rest on their own. Students may request a voucher once on a monthly basis, and may only request one during the SAFE team’s hours, from 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. on nights the team is active.

“It’s basically an expansion of our services so that we’re not just enhancing the safety on campus, but when students leave campus as well,” said Amoriello.

This semester, SAFE Team began the hiring process to replenish its numbers after the graduation of some members and the pause in activity during the pandemic. The team is in the process of training new employees, according to Amoriello.

As a Student Government (SG) agency, the requirements to be hired are based on those to be part of SG. SAFE Team is also part of a partnership with University Police, so applicants must undergo a background check and drug screening.

To drive the golf carts, new team members must pass a driving test, as well as a course on golf cart safety and environmental health and safety.

“The first few shifts for a new hire, they’re not driving the cart yet, but they’re learning the ropes,” said Amoriello.

Due to the decreased capacity caused by low numbers on the team and the hiring process, there have been some nights where SAFE Team has been forced to shut down prematurely, according to Amoriello.

“If we don’t have a full team of two people, that’s not safe for one person to go out and do the escorts on their own, so we really refrain from having to do that,” said Amoriello.

With the new changes that have recently taken place, Amoriello said the experience of returning to normal procedures has been a relief for the team.

“We are back to our completely normal operation, and excited to be here,” said Amoriello.