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Police Fleet Expo: Agency Dialogues

 

Small Agency, Up to 50 Vehicles
By Scott Coy

Of the 90 attendees in the small agency session, more than half were at the PFE for the first time. Changing formats from past years, the moderators opened the floor for general discussion concerning the three automakers. Representatives were in the room from both GM and Chrysler to answer questions, or at the very least, to direct the group to the person who could better answer certain questions. This open format allowed not only the automakers to answer questions, but it allowed those attendees with experience to lend their advice as well.

Concerns over upfitting GM vehicles were raised. Several people in the room were not aware of the wiring diagrams being available both on the Web as well as on the CD everyone had been provided with at the opening vehicle sessions. The questions then started to focus on the “Big Three” in general, with several attendees trying to get concrete answers as to what the future holds. Gena Edwards from Chrysler assured the group the Chrysler was dedicated to the law enforcement program. GM representatives assured them of the same thing.

The tire pressure monitoring and the interesting recipe needed to reset it was discussed, wondering if it could be simplified. How to keep the spare tire on Tahoes from rust / locking in place was also discussed. A solution was to have the cable and the related parts checked during routine services to be certain of function. Another topic was the concern over high-dollar equipment not being compatible between model years. Equipment such as cages and consoles puts a strain on a smaller department’s budget.

As the discussion went general, several concerns were raised. The point the received the most attention was battery life in vehicles. As it was discussed around the room, a solution regarding the replacing of antiquated emergency lighting with LEDs was in the forefront of solutions. Adding a battery, a solution GM offers as an option in its Tahoes, was discussed at length. Concerns about where to mount the battery and how to maintain it were brought to light. Two agencies represented in the room use solar panels to trickle charge their vehicle batteries, an idea many in the room were quite interested in pursuing further.

The dialogue moved naturally into a discussion about how to keep in touch through the year. The PFM Web site (www.pfmmag.com) was mentioned as being a source of information and the Police Fleet Institute concept was received quite well. Those in the room liked the idea of having a single source to share ideas and gain knowledge about how to manage their fleets.

A forum such as the PFI will allow the smaller agencies to feel as much a part of the discussion as those larger agencies. As the session closed, a reminder to those in the room was made to meet the various venders at the Expo and create a relationship with them. It was emphasized how important it is to get the concerns they have elevated to the manufacturers as soon as possible and not to wait for another PFE.

Large Departments (More than 50 Vehicles) and Sheriff’s Departments

At the agency dialogue for departments with more than 50 vehicles, many service issues were discussed for all of the police vehicles. Fleet managers aired complaints, found solutions and discovered that many of the issues they were facing were the exact same issues the other agency fleet managers were experiencing.

One fleet manager noted that the instrument panel was going out in his 2005 Impalas. Another fleet manager agreed, saying the dealer was taking care of his problem. There was also premature tire wear on some Impalas. One fleet manager said GM has discovered the problem and will replace the tires. Another attendee voiced a complaint that the Dodge keys are too expensive. Each car is limited to eight keys per car, but for fleets that have dozens of pool cars, eight keys are not enough. A few fleet managers were having trouble with their CVPI’s paint, which was chipping at about 40,000 miles. These were among many other issues, large and small that were discussed at the dialogue session.

The majority of people in the room said they had take-home cars, but about the same number of them said they were rethinking this policy because of fuel costs. The managers spent a good deal of time comparing fuel policies and practices, with some using gas cards that only work at certain stations, while some issue regular credit cards to each officer. Other agencies have their own fuel supplies at their stations.

With the increased use of laptops, in-car video and other amp-sucking equipment, the issue of having dual batteries in the police vehicles came up again this year. Many attendees, even the ones using LED lights, said their batteries weren’t even lasting a full year. The manufacturers have been looking into the dual batteries as an option, but like all accessories and equipment on police vehicles, if they are not needed or wanted in retail cars, they are unlikely to happen.

One attendee, while not wanting to offend anyone, claimed that “the drivers cause most of the problems” in his fleet. After a show of hands, everyone in the room agreed, and decidedly, no one was offended by the assertion.

State Police and Federal Agencies
By Michael Blackmer

Ford fuel pumps were discussed. It was noted that Ford originally explained the issues was due to sulfur in the fuel. Now it is being blamed on ethanol with a greater than 10% concentration. The discrepancy was noted with no one sure what to believe. The Grade 8 lug nuts are not yet provided into production on the CVPI.

No other fleets present reported a similar concern, but the North Carolina State Highway Patrol reported issues with the hex being worn off Charger lug nuts. George Bomanski can adjust the warranty start date for Dodge products. Extensive wear was noted on Continental tires used on Dodge Charger and Magnum. North Carolina State Highway Patrol is only experiencing about 6,000 miles. Officials there have been testing Goodyear, and while the testing is still under way, they are so far getting more the 25% greater mileage.

A shortage in metal parts from Ford such as doors and rear body panels was cited as a problem. What should be noted is that when parts are backordered, it does not necessarily mean that they are not available. It means that the local supply depot is out of stock and they have been ordered. If the parts are ordered on an “emergency—vehicle down” basis, parts can usually be shipped from other parts depots and be delivered quickly. Even in cases of a national backorder, emergency orders are filled first.

The use of a hitch on the 2WD Tahoe was discussed, as was GM’s reluctance to “approve” its installation because of a lawsuit, which resulted from an officer in a pursuit Tahoe towing a horse trailer. When a call came in, he forgot he had the trailer on the rear and immediately took off in pursuit. After the destruction of the horse and trailer, the defense was that nobody told him he could not pursue with a trailer attached, and installation of the hitch obviously made it OK. The lesson is that the vehicle is obviously designed and built to tow. A hitch will easily bolt on without modification. But don’t try to pursue somebody when a trailer is attached.

In dealing with the automakers, choose your battles wisely. Develop a relationship with customer service reps. Generally, only seek assistance on things that reasonably should not have failed as early as they did.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2008

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