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PFE Ride & Drive

Written by Ed Sanow

The PFE’s Ride & Drive event at Kentucky Speedway gave fleet managers a chance to drive the latest police package, special service, admin and support vehicles. The PFE also gave a few of the attendees the ride of a lifetime...three laps around main oval in a NASCAR racecar at 165 mph.

The Ride & Drive event was made up of two different EVOC cone courses for the police package vehicles and a 4.5-mile driving loop for the non-police package vehicles. In addition to the driving events, the Ride & Drive also included live demonstrations of select police products. Shows & Shoots, the group that operates GM Fleet vehicles, set up the EVOC cone courses.

The EVOC courses are an opportunity to test the low-end throttle response and steering precision on various vehicles. Some vehicles are definitely more nimble in tight and twisty conditions than other vehicles. Just how much difference exists between some of the vehicles was a surprise to many. The cars used on the two EVOC courses were the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor (CVPI), Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum.

Another surprise was the difference between driving a police car without traction control and driving a police car with full stability control. No one with a stability-controlled Charger lost control on either of the EVOC courses.

Stability control is a safety feature. No wheel spin. No brake lockup. No oversteering, even under heavy acceleration. No understeering, even under heavy braking. No loss of control. No leaving the driving lane. No cones knocked over. The cars without stability control, on the other hand, when aggressively driven, would leave the cone course.

ALERT Pursuit Course

One EVOC course was the standardized ALERT driving course. ALERT is the police pursuit and emergency driving association, Association of Professional Law Enforcement Emergency Vehicle Response Trainers. This course has been used since the 1980s to qualify EVOC instructors. It includes straight-line slalom; emergency lane change; evasive maneuvers; increasing and decreasing and constant radius turns; straight-line braking; and acceleration.

The other EVOC challenge was more of a road course. Instead of boxy lane changes and straight-line slaloms, this road course was more of a sweeping, curving, twisty course. Instead, of the more common, sudden and evasive maneuvers in these kinds of driving courses, the road course called for a long series of smooth and rapid steering wheel inputs.

The two EVOC courses were designed to get a feel of the dynamics of the car in a controlled setting and were not wheel spin and drifting contests. Speeds on the two EVOC courses were around 35 mph, but the sensations were totally different. The ALERT course was much more about on and off the brakes, on and off the gas. The road course was much more about easier gas and brakes with the emphasis on smooth steering.

Neither of the EVOC courses was timed. Neither was a race against the clock or another attendee. Instead, the emphasis was on getting a feel for the vehicle dynamics of each car. The PFE draws a mix of fleet managers, mechanics and EVOC instructors...a diverse background with diverse driving skills. A timed event puts pressure on some people, intimidates or embarrasses them, so they simply don’t take the drive…and the whole purpose of a Ride & Drive is to drive.

NASCAR Racecars

Now, if you wanted to go fast, the PFE had the answer—the Richard Petty NASCAR racecars on the main oval! Nearly 190 of the 500 PFE attendees signed up for the Richard Petty Driving Experience. For $80, they were passengers in one of four Richard Petty Monte Carlo or Charger racecars for three laps around the main oval. This was under full-race conditions…open exhaust…full throttle down the straight close to the wall at 165 mph…off the throttle and into the turns…back on the throttle.

The ride in the racecars was also in full driving suit and helmet, right down to the 5-point seat harness and HANS Device (Head And Neck Support). Of course, virtually everyone wanted a photo of themselves with the racecar!

Street Drive

Police fleet managers often buy vehicles other than four-door sedans, like pickup trucks, vans, SUVs, medium duty trucks and higher-end executive vehicles. The street drive portion of the PFE’s Ride & Drive is a chance to drive these and other interesting vehicles.

The street drive was a 4.5-mile, 15-minute drive on the streets, access roads and multi-lane roads in and around the Kentucky Speedway. Not a race, this was a drive at normal traffic speeds under routine patrol and admin situations. The posted speed limit was 35 mph, which put virtually all drivers at somewhere between urban and rural speeds for the entire street drive. The drive itself was a combination of access roads, city street surfaces, and quad lane highways. There were steep hills, gradual hills, wavy pavement, perfect pavement, potholes and broken pavement.

After an entire summer of gas well over $3.00 a gallon (retail), the street drive had a definite “green” theme. Ford offered its Escape Hybrid, while General Motors had on hand its Tahoe E85, Avalanche E85 and Saturn Vue Hybrid. At the big end of the scales were the GMC C4500 medium duty truck and Hummer H2. At the luxury and high end were the Cadillac STS, Buick Lucerne and Grand Cherokee. The Corvette and the Pontiac G5 GT convertible were just bonuses.

More to the core of police work were the sedans: Five Hundred, Fusion, Impala, Charger, Magnum; and the SUVs: Explorer, Tahoe, Suburban, Expedition, Expedition EL (long wheelbase), Durango; and finally, the pickup trucks: F-150, Silverado, Ram 1500.

In addition to 20 times the actual seat time of an EVOC course, the street drive allowed the drivers to get the true feel of the car, stress-free, on their own. They could take plenty of time to adjust the seat, wheel and mirrors. This, in turn, allowed them to check the visibility of the road under realistic conditions. The street drive also allowed drivers to get a realistic impression of the comfort, ride and Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) of the vehicle under a variety of driving conditions.

Product Demos

The Ride & Drive also included a couple of product demonstrations. The first demo was FedSig’s newest siren, the Rumbler. This uses a penetrating, low frequency signal in addition to the normal wail and yelp siren sounds. It definitely produces a different audible signal.

Magnum Spike and Federal Signal Stinger Systems demonstrated their tire deflation devices. This took place on the pit road, where the fleeing vehicles hit the spike strips at speeds typical urban speeds.

In both cases, the tires were punctured, and the fleeing car came to a stop without loss of control. In fact, in one demo, the brakes were slammed on after hitting the spikes, and the ABS worked as designed, flat tires or not.

Ed Sanow is the editorial director of Police Fleet Manager magazine. He can be reached at esanow@hendonpub.com.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Sep/Oct 2006

Rating : 6.0


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