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NAPFM Educational Sessions

Written by PFM Staff

The Wiltshire Constabulary in the United Kingdom has organized and hosted a police fleet manager’s conference since 1973. Originally called the Fleet Engineers Seminar, the purpose was to bring vehicle manufacturers together with police management. Now based in Swindon, 100 miles west of London, the National Association of Police Fleet Managers (NAPFM) has grown to the largest event of its kind in all of Europe.

The 2007 NAPFM conference broke an attendance record with delegates from all of the UK’s 55 regionalized police agencies across England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Australia. Attendees also came from the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Royal Barbados and in the past from Germany, France, Spain, Finland, Sweden and Canada.

All types of vehicles that see any kind of police use in the UK are on display on a former airfield. Representatives from more than a dozen carmakers are on hand to answer questions. Aftermarket vehicle accessory companies and service groups fill an aircraft hanger. The NAPFM has more than 100 exhibitors with a waiting list of nearly 100 companies. An impressive 400 police and emergency services vehicles are on display. While the clear focus of the NAPFM is on police vehicles, attendees are from, and some exhibits are geared to, both ambulance and fire and rescue services.

Keynote Address

The conference involves a series of four educational sessions followed by two days to tour the vehicle and accessory exhibits. The conference was opened by Martin Richards, chief constable of the Wiltshire Police, who received his master’s degree in criminology from Cambridge University.

Richards’ keynote message reflected on the modern role of policing: no emergency service agency is in isolation. Each must partner with another. This was emphasized by the recent terrorist events in both London and Glasgow. Richards noted that the cooperation and collaboration at the local level between police, fire and rescue and ambulance / EMS is good. Just like in the U.S., he said “there are still opportunities for greater collaboration” at other levels, thus his emphasis to “close the gap.” He also said police fleet vehicles play a major role in supporting both the fight on terrorism and serious crime, i.e., responding, and in the efforts toward neighborhood policing, i.e., reassuring.

Fuels of the Future

Mike Waters is in senior management with ARVAL. As a member of the CBI Road Transport Working Group, he is an active contributor in the development of fleet and fuel national policies. Waters discussed the fueling options for the future fleets. In the long term, they are identical to the priorities in the U.S. However, in the short term, these priorities differ dramatically.

Fuel options for the future are being driven by changing technology, global awareness and long-term fuel supplies. The UK is intensely concerned with global warming, climate change and carbon footprint. Environmental issues aside, dwindling petroleum supplies and rising prices are forcing the worldwide automotive industry to hydrogen fuel cells.

BMW currently has a limited number of pre-production hydrogen-powered sedans on the streets. General Motors, Ford, Mercedes, Toyota and Honda will all have production-ready, hydrogen-powered vehicles available between 2010 and 2012. This means hydrogen vehicles may be just ONE purchasing cycle away. Some of the 2008 vehicles purchased today could be replaced with hydrogen-powered vehicles. Hydrogen is, indeed, the fuel of the near future. Hydrogen is, in fact, the long-term replacement for gasoline and diesel. Hydrogen will be commonplace during the career of today’s fleet managers.

It is the fuel used in the meantime that is in question. No great solutions exist. And the priorities on the options that do exist vary widely by country and continent. These options include gasoline-electric hybrid, diesel-electric hybrid, bio-diesel and either E85 or pure ethanol. Non-viable options for general fleet use are all-electric and LPG. This is all based on available infrastructure, government (tax) support and available vehicles.

The UK has a very different view of E85 than the U.S. The UK gasoline is currently E5, while most U.S. gasoline is E10. The UK does not expect any use of E85, or an increase from E5 to E10 until alternate feed stocks for ethanol production are developed. From the UK perspective, E85 cannot become a mass market fuel because of sustainability issues. Ethanol must be made from something other than plants in the food supply, i.e., it can’t come from corn kernels. The Mexican Tortilla Riots in February 2007 were cited as an example of the food versus fuel concern.

The UK police fleet emphasis is diesel and soon to be diesel-electric hybrid. Volvo will have a diesel-electric hybrid in 2008. Ford and Toyota will have enough gasoline-hybrid production volume by 2010 to remove the hybrid initial price penalty.

No one knows for sure, of course, but the date of “peak oil” is sometime in the next 20 years. Some U.S. petroleum experts think it has already occurred. “Peak oil” is the date after which the supply and the production of petroleum will peak, and then began to run out. After this time, prices will greatly increase.

Waters had a word of caution for fleet managers: government tax policies that can promote certain fuels and technologies can just as quickly change, which will make that fuel or technology obsolete. In the UK, the government’s Power Shift program was cited as an example. Government policy changed to strongly favor LPG, and many fleets were converted to this fuel. Then policies changed, and both fuel supplies and fuel infrastructures were swindled. Keeping these vehicles on the road became a challenge, and the residual value feel to zero. In the U.S., E85 FlexFuel vehicles present no such purchasing risk. However, E85-only or ethanol-only vehicles would be quite another story.

Waters’ final advice on fuel costs was to urge fleet managers to focus on the total cost of ownership, and not the cost of fuel, the fuel mileage, the fuel type or the carbon footprint. For U.S. fleet managers, that means two things. First, the lower mileage from E85 vehicles must be at least offset by proportionately lower E85 prices, and today it is not. Second, the greater mileage from gasoline-electric hybrids must offset the higher initial price of a hybrid vehicle, and today it does not.

Crashworthiness

Nigel Skellern is a mechanical engineer and program manager with Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA), an independent design and testing facility. The UK’s MIRA really doesn’t have a direct U.S. counterpart. It does independent testing like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and it develops specialty defense vehicles like the car companies.

Skellern’s first advice was for fleet managers to be sure of the crashworthiness of upfitted police equipment. Be sure the brackets and fasteners and mounting locations are robust enough to survive a crash without having the gear dislodge to become a projectile. This is especially true for anything mounted to the headliner or package tray behind the driver. Be sure that everything is out of the deployment zone of the front airbags, side thorax airbags and side roof-rail airbags. Again, anything in these zones, and that includes raised laptop screens, will also become a projectile.

His second piece of advice involved electro-magnetic compatibility. He drove the point home with two video clips. In one case, certain external radio frequencies flashed on and off the blue emergency lights mounted on an in-service police vehicle. In the other case, keying the handheld police radio caused certain dash lights to illuminate, depending on where the radio was held.

Using the police radio may affect the electronics in the drivetrain. The carmakers test their vehicles for RFI, the effects of both the car on the surrounding and the surrounding on the car. The component makers do the same for aftermarket devices. Separately, each may be OK, but that doesn’t mean the combination is OK. Be careful who upfits the police vehicle.

Finally, be sure to evenly distribute the extra weight added to the car with upfitted gear and cargo. MIRA does a lot of police training and high-speed testing. If the extra weight is mounted too high, this may be a rollover stability problem, especially for the SUV and wagons. If the extra weight is mounted too far to the rear (overloaded trunk), this may cause oversteer problems. Finally, if too much weight is added and the front axle, rear axle or gross weight limits are exceeded, unpredictable handing will result, and the brakes will be overloaded.

Vehicle Defects

Jeffrey Sweeting is an automotive engineer with Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and head of the Vehicle Safety Branch. VOSA is the direct UK equivalent to our NHTSA. It has direct authority over vehicle safety, driver education and road safety engineering. The Vehicle Safety Branch has the authority to force a recall, levy fines, halt production, require engineering changes or demand a technical service bulletin or special service message.

The VOSA focus is on unexpected defects that result in catastrophic failures. Their definition of “unsafe” is any situation that poses a significant risk of bodily injury or death. They investigate about 600 safety defect reports a year. Skellern’s message to the UK fleet managers was to keep VOSA informed. Oftentimes, emergency vehicle operators are the first to discover a design problem. Their most recent example was cracked wheels on a certain ambulance chassis.

Jailhouse Blues
 

Mark Scoggins is a solicitor-advocate (attorney) with the London-based law firm Fisher Scoggins Solicitors. A graduate of Cambridge University, he specializes in defending organizations against high-liability claims and has represented London’s Metropolitan Police on at least two high-profile incidents.

Scoggins really wanted to say that fleet managers could do (or not do) something that would rise to the level of a criminal act and land them (as individuals) in jail. Neither the UK nor the U.S. is quite there yet, but his counsel was to prepare as if that were the case. In fact, today, that kind of documentation is what a lawyer will need to defend the department in the event of wrongful death litigation.

Here is the setup. After an incident of some sort, an internal investigation is always done, and a corrective action plan is almost always developed. Rarely do these plans involve either extensive or expensive changes. It may be as simple as a new maintenance procedure to check the front and rear brake pads every time the tires are changed or rotated. This plan becomes discoverable evidence.

The opposing lawyer will ask just three questions. First, will this new plan prevent incidents like the one he is representing from occurring in the future? The answer is something like yes or probably, hence the name corrective action plan. Second, why wasn’t this simple plan in place before the incident? This means you could have prevented this incident. Third, why didn’t you?

Scoggin’s advice was to document WHY you have done WHAT you have done. The UK calls it “gross negligence,” but the U.S. has the very same legal concept in “deliberate indifference.” If your department has a “pattern and practice” of poor vehicle maintenance, a nasty surprise awaits you, a “gross breach of a relevant duty of care.”

The moment you become aware of a vehicle defect or relevant maintenance issue, and you continue to use the vehicle (or allow its use), you become the proximate cause of the risk! If you know a problem exists and tolerate its continuance, i.e., knowledge plus inactivity, the liability shifts away from the vehicle manufacturer (for example) and shifts to you. The opposing lawyer will ask, “What justified this risk of life?”

Fleet managers can easily foresee some of the consequences of maintenance lapses and thoughtless equipment and options selection. It is their job to have a system in place to manage equipment purchases and maintenance of the vehicles. This includes being sure the plan is followed. Rules without enforcement are not rules.

Critically, document your actions. The law does not require you to be right, only that you be reasonable. Obviously, some aspect was not “right” or else the incident would not have occurred. Being “reasonable” is the legal defense. It is just like some of the math problems in high school. Getting the right answer is only part of the test. You also had to show step by step HOW you got the right answer. And vice versa, you could get the wrong answer but almost full marks for the problem if you showed how you went about solving the problem and got most of that procedure correct.

Your documents are your evidence. This is your proof of how you worked out the problem. Prove that you were reasonable in your decisions related to the incident. You do this by having documents that show you were rational (logical), professional, informed, flexible, concerned, cooperative, accountable and prepared. The mark of a professional is the ability to make reasonable decisions with imperfect information.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, May/Jun 2008

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