fleet managers for La Habra, Calif. found a cost-effective to way to replace
some high-mileage patrol vehicles in their fleet. Running a relatively small fleet
and on a limited budget, they came across a nearby dealer who had a backlog of
unsold Ford CVPIs. While these cars were old models, they were new cars and the
factory warranties begin when the vehicles entered service. La Habra submitted
a bid for these vehicles, which was accepted by the dealer, who was happy to move
vehicles on the lot may mean passing on some bid specs, like a lack of driver
side power seat, driver side spotlight. However, in most cases, adding a few
new components can make the vehicles a good fit in the department. The bottom
line is the officers were happy to get new cars and the city got a considerable
amount of “bang” for the taxpayer’s buck, which was less than the cost of the
fleet managers often source low-mileage used vehicles for administrative and undercover
uses from dealer auctions, or rental fleet returns. This practice is far
cheaper than buying new vehicles, saving the cost of depreciation. Additionally,
returned rental vehicles often come with their own warranty from the rental
company. These types of vehicles would be ideal for undercover applications as
they appear as “stock” vehicles without the “plain-wrapper” appearance. Another
advantage is these vehicles can easily be rotated—or resold, if a variety of
vehicles are required.
of ordering custom paint combinations, some law-enforcement fleet operators are
ordering solid-color vehicles and utilize a vinyl wrap on the doors, fenders,
and/or roof to make a two-color vehicle. This practice aids during resale as
using a heat-gun will quickly remove the wrap, reverting the vehicle back to a
solid color. This saves the cost of ordering custom paint and the cost and environmental
concerns of repainting the vehicle for resale. All three police carmakers now
offer vinyl wraps on their NextGen vehicles.
Los Angeles Police Department has been testing a urethane plastic spray over
the back seat area of their cruisers. This coating, similar to that of bedliners
sprayed inside the beds of pickup trucks, covers the rear seat and upholstery
panels of their cruisers. Manufactured by Scorpion, this coating also has
antibacterial properties, lest the rear seat occupants have an “accident.” If
such an incident occurs, the back seat area can be hosed out. Later, when the
vehicle is to be prepped for resale, the coating is removed, leaving viable
upholstery in the rear seat area.
agencies cannibalize parts from decommissioned or wrecked vehicles. The LAPD completely
strips their collision-damaged vehicles and stockpiles fenders, doors, seats,
engines, transmissions, differentials, and other viable components. With the
stockpile of parts, if a vehicle comes in needing minor collision repairs, a
surplus door or fender can be quickly bolted on and the vehicle returned to
service without waiting for new parts or repainting.
budgets have tempted many law enforcement fleet administrators to keep police
vehicles in service until they are no longer serviceable—in other words, run
them until the wheels fall off. While this theory appears to be cost-effective
to the uninformed, it is not economical in the long run when major components
begin to fail and repair costs skyrocket. Excessive repair costs can very well
be a determining factor as it would make very little sense to install a $4,000
engine in a five-year-old police sedan, with has a resale value of maybe $1,500.
agencies are realizing a better bang-for-the-buck by replacing vehicles when
they are still viable—selling them to other law enforcement entities, security,
or taxi companies and factoring in the resale value toward the new replacement
vehicles. This practice pays off in higher officer morale and lower repair
overall repair and maintenance costs, due to vehicles still being under
warranty. New vehicles are more fuel-efficient, and more and more are E-85
vehicles also have advanced safety features, over and above ABS, such as
side-curtain and knee airbags, enhanced rollover protection, and stability
control. These advanced features make for safer vehicles and reduced liability.
On the other side of the coin, replacing vehicles too frequently, such as on a
yearly basis, may not be economical given the costs of upfitting and later
removal of equipment of decommissioned vehicles.
the subject of “doing more with less,” many agencies are reducing upfitting
time and costs by purchasing vehicles already manufactured with one of the
available upfitting prep packages. There are various packages available
including completely upfitted, “turnkey” vehicles, where little is needed aside
from installing communications gear, weaponry, and to affix the agency’s graphics
or insignia on the doors. An additional advantage to purchasing the prep
packages is they are standardized, meaning the information is covered in the
factory shop manuals and covered by the factory warranty.
a fleet manager can be too efficient, and with a relatively “young” fleet,
requiring fewer repairs, find their technicians standing around idle with
little to do. If this practice continues, the manager may be forced to
downsize—meaning layoffs. Some managers will actively solicit maintenance,
repair, or upfitting work from other departments within their organization or
even outside agencies.
becoming an in-house warranty provider, which can also generate additional
income and save the downtime or hassles of shuttling vehicles back and forth to
the dealership. Richard Lee of the San Francisco Police Department has a tough
and demanding job keeping his 1200+ vehicle fleet on the road in a rough
operating environment. Unfortunately, in law enforcement, accidents do occur
and in the traffic-clogged City of San Francisco, about 240 police vehicle
collisions occur annually.
of the things Lee does is push the City Attorney for restitution against the
at-fault drivers that cause damage to his police vehicles. This averages an
additional $150K to $200K annually. Lee insists this funding is diverted back
into his budget to offset repair costs, rather than the General Fund, where the
money would never be seen again. Vehicle abuse can be another issue and Lee
addresses it by rewarding areas reporting the least abuse with later-model,
low-mileage vehicles. Areas with vehicle abuse issues are “rewarded” by being
issued high-mileage vehicles.
SFPD orders their marked cruisers to be keyed alike and one of Lee’s concerns
is for an unauthorized individual to obtain a key and be able to access their
vehicles. Due to San Francisco’s
operating environment, viable retired cruisers are sold as taxicabs and the
rest sold for scrap. Sergeant Lee’s policy on surplus cruisers is to force the
new buyer to replace the lock cylinders. This is accomplished by damaging the
existing lock cylinders, either by drilling out the tumblers or by ramming a
screwdriver into the lock.
work that can be done faster and cheaper should be subletted to outside
vendors. Depending on the shop’s capacity, and technician’s skills, such
“farmed out” operations may include wheel alignment, paint and collision work,
air-conditioning service, machine-shop operations, radiator repair, and
alternator, starter, and drivetrain component rebuilding.
the subject of transmissions, instead of rebuilding the unit or sending the
vehicle to a transmission shop, many fleet managers will exchange the bad
transmission with a factory-remanufactured unit, which has all of the latest
upgrades and is backed by the factory warranty.
successful fleet manager needs be knowledgeable in not only basic business
practices, but the area they serve. If this pertinent information is not
immediately available, it would be difficult to justify purchasing a new piece
of equipment or hiring a new technician.
DeRousse, retired fleet manager for Everett, Wash. advises to keep all of the
necessary pertinent information close at hand and whenever a new city administrator
stops by, DeRousse prints up a briefing book with the latest facts and figures
and hands it to the new administrator.
then conducts a two-hour sit-down session with the administrator and he
explains exactly how his operation functions and answers whatever questions
come up. DeRousse also stresses customer service. A person can be a great
service manager; however, if he/she gives poor customer service, the end result
is customer will become unhappy.
John L. Bellah is a member of SAE
International and is the technical editor for Police Fleet
Manager Magazine. He is a retired
corporal with the California State University, Long Beach Police Department. He
can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.