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NHP and CHP Cooperative Upfitting

Written by John Bellah, Powell, Charles

In 2012, a major fleet operations hurdle was to overcome was the demise of the Ford CVPI. The department needed to research and evaluate various vehicles to determine what vehicle(s) would best suit the needs of the NHP. The NHP began to closely examine the NextGen police package offerings. During this time, NHP purchased the Ford PI Utility, the Ford PI Sedan, and the Chevrolet Caprice.

The evaluation process involved a limited number of Command, Fleet and EVOC personnel testing these vehicles on various tracks nationwide under varying conditions. This information and experiences, along with data and information from other law enforcement agencies, helped assist the process.

The final selection boiled down to the crossover/SUV platform for various reasons such as availability, versatility, performance, standardized replacement parts between PI Sedan and PI Utility, and the fact other law enforcement agencies had also tested the Ford Utility with positive feedback. All this was inline with NHP’s plan to form a standardized fleet system whose equipment would be recycled based on equipment life cycle.

In the past, the NHP would lifecycle their vehicles strictly on accumulated mileage—sedans at 105K miles, SUVs and trucks at 125K miles, and motorcycles at 50K miles. Often these older vehicles were phased out of active service to serve as spares, handle “people-moving” duties, serve as pool vehicles, used for EVOC training, or other minor assignments. The end result was an “older” fleet with numerous high-mileage vehicles.

 

Standardized Vehicle Builds

One of the key issues NHP experienced prior to the business model change was standardization in the vehicle builds and evaluation processes. While the NHP used the Ford CVPI as their primary patrol vehicle, it also used Dodge Chargers, Durangos, Chevrolet, and Ford trucks to name a few of the other vehicles within their fleet.

The Nevada Highway Patrol is divided into three regional commands within the state: North, South and East. These three regional commands operated completely independently from one another. In the past, each region retained its own anonymity. Thus, a vehicle from one command may be upfitted and equipped differently from the other two commands in the state. They were allowed to build their vehicles based on their abilities and expectations with minimal oversight by the Fleet Team.  

For instance, Southern Region vehicles were hand-wired, and connectors were of the crimped, barrel-connector type. The Northern and Eastern Region’s vehicles were built with aftermarket MNStar harnesses, which allows “plug & play” installation. So if a Southern vehicle went to a Northern or Eastern Command, and had wiring issues, troubleshooting of the problem usually led to many wasted hours and lots of frustration due to the lack of standardization. 

 

CHP Assembly Line

In July 2012, NHP’s Fleet Team took the two-hour drive to the CHP Motor Transport Division upfit facility outside Sacramento. Upon arrival, the team met up with the Captain of Fleet Operations, the Shop Operations Manager, and the Field Operations Manager who graciously provided the Nevada team with a full-blown walk-through of CHP’s build facility. CHP’s build process for their respective vehicles would make Henry Ford very proud. 

Each vehicle would roll through an assembly line equipped with eight separate stations. As with any assembly line, each station was tasked with installing their respective equipment, providing a sequential modular assembly process. Interestingly, the CHP build facility created many of their own specialty items such as their wiring harnesses with weather-pac connectors for a modular standardized build process.

Thus, while vehicles may have different equipment, depending on where it is assigned, the wiring and connectors are identical—regardless of the type of vehicle or where it is assigned. A recommendation to any smaller agency such as NHP looking for improvements to a modular-style build process would be to take the time and walk through this facility; it truly is breathtaking in efficiency and functionality.     

At the time of the NHP team’s visit, the CHP was in the process of building their last remaining CVPIs and they were in the process of selecting their potential new model vehicles.  Additionally, the CHP was in a purchasing freeze regarding new vehicles, which would eventually lead to idle time for their vehicle build line. During the conversations with the CHP’s fleet personnel, a discussion ensued about having Nevada’s new SUV’s built on the CHP line during their idle period awaiting vehicles. This conversation grew roots, and the practicality of the venture gained momentum for multiple reasons. 

Some of the reasons included a possible prototype to re-tool the CHP line for the new Ford PI Utility. NHP’s Ford PI Utility would be a great tool for this process. In comparison, Nevada’s vehicle builds are somewhat simpler compared to the equipment and build process of CHP’s vehicles. Any jump on a learning curve and research and planning would be beneficial to any agency, regardless. After the last CVPI was upfitted, the CHP’s line would be idle, even after maintenance and cleanup, until their new vehicles (Ford PI Utility) arrived. 

 

Quick Turnaround Time

Next issue would be vehicle cycle and build times. Based on the past model of laissez-faire or command demand, the new models of pre-, operational and post-operational phases started to address older high-mileage vehicles sitting idle; however, it did not address the issue of build times. To implement these models, NHP would need an accelerated path for vehicles builds.  Working with the auditors, it was revealed Nevada had a cycle times from purchase to deployment that were over a few months, a time period that was unacceptable to all.    

Having a viable course of action with the support of California Highway Patrol, the Nevada Fleet team pushed hard to obtain a build agreement with California. At various times the agreement stalled at various points within both sides of the respective State Government. The Fleet team diligently worked to smooth out these logistical issues.

In October 2012, a formal agreement between Nevada and California was approved by both governments. The final numbers of the agreement were for 70 vehicles to be completely outfitted. On the day the agreement was approved, Nevada delivered the vehicles, which had so far been delivered by Ford. 

At the time of delivery, California was in the process of re-tooling and conducting other builds.  Despite this, coupled with the upcoming holidays, the NHP vehicles began to be upfitted in mid-December. Eventually, 63 vehicles had been built by CHP for Nevada. 

Ultimately, with California’s assistance, the Nevada Fleet team is meeting or has met many of its projective goals, objectives and/or taken corrective actions for many of the issues identified within the audit. Moreover, the bonds built between the two departments will last and grow, both at a personal and professional level. The experience gained from the Nevada team is exponential, items such as simplified wiring, large-scale logistics, and standardization of build procedures. 

 

Continued Research

The NHP will be starting the evaluation process of the new Dodge Charger All-Wheel Drive as they become available. With the Ford announcement that the PI Utility will be available with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6, the NHP will also look at that more powerful vehicle. NHP has leaned the fleet out to a reasonable level, implemented the phases as outlined, and now are conducting maintenance work to better streamline their internal operations based on all the culture changes that have been implemented.

 

Lt. Charles E. Powell is the Fleet and Radio Commander for the Nevada Highway Patrol.  Powell holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University Nevada, Reno in Information Systems. He can be reached at cpowell@dps.state.nv.us. John Bellah retired from California State University, Long Beach Police Department with the rank of corporal. He can be reached at pfmteched@yaoo.com.


Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2014

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