police use of ½-ton pickups is a growing trend and we know quite a bit about ½-ton
pickups and police work. First, all three makes offer a Special Service package
for their pickup. Chrysler (RAM) made the most police-specific changes. Ford
made the least changes to their work truck, wanting their SSV to appeal equally
to other severe-use applications and industries. Chevy used a great deal learned
from their Tahoe PPV to benefit the Silverado PPV.
(RAM) was first with a formal package. The RAM 1500 Special Service is based on
the 4x4 CrewCab with either a 5-foot, 7-inch bed or 6-foot, 4-inch bed. It
comes standard with the 395 hp 5.7L HEMI® V8 and 6-speed auto.
police-specific, Special Service package includes a 220 amp alternator, an
upgraded 800 CCA battery, auxiliary engine oil cooler, 10-way power driver’s
seat, spot lamp siring prep, certified speedometer, red/white auxiliary dome
lamp, and heavy-duty interior fabrics. The RAM Special Service has additional
chassis and body welds.
was close behind in introducing their F-150 Special Service Vehicle. Based on
the XL trim level, the SSV is available in 2WD and 4x4 and as a SuperCab (6.5-foot
bed) and SuperCrew (5.5-foot bed). This was unveiled at the Police Fleet Expo–Charlotte.
For the powertrain, the F-150 SSV can be powered by the 360 hp 5.0L V8 or the
365 hp 3.5L EcoBoost V6. Both use the 6-speed auto.
Ford Special Service package includes cloth front seats with the floor console
and center ‘20’ seat deleted. A 220 amp alternator is standard on the SSV, as
is vinyl flooring. Skid plates are standard on the 4x4. Think of the F-150 SSV
as an XL-trim work truck with a bigger alternator, a wider variety of engines,
and other options not generally available on an XL truck.
was the first to have a pickup truck formally tested by the Michigan State
Police. They introduced their Silverado Special Service Vehicle at the Police
Fleet Expo–Kansas City. The Silverado 1500 SSV is based on the CrewCab 4x4.
Using their decade of experience with the Tahoe PPV, the Silverado SSV has a
higher output alternator, auxiliary (isolated) battery, vinyl floor covering,
center front seat delete, and a column mounted shifter with mappable steering
wheel controls. The Silverado SSV is powered by the new, direct-injection, 355
hp 5.3L EcoTec3 V8. This is exactly the same engine as the Tahoe PPV.
Lower Cost of Ownership
of the advantages of the pickup is initial price. The pickup can be $4,000 to
$6,000 less expensive than crossovers and larger SUVs and some police sedans.
In fact, low initial price is the most frequently cited reason for the use of
and capabilities aside, performance and drivetrain aside, look at just the
costs. The V8-powered, four-door, body-on-frame, 4x4 pickup has an initial
fleet price comparable to the average base sedan. It is more expensive than the
lowest bid sedan but much less expensive than the big engine sedans, crossovers
and large SUVs. The pickup has a higher operating cost due to the greater fuel
use. It has the same routine maintenance cost as a sedan but lower repair
costs. It has a much higher residual value. It has a much longer service life.
full-size, V8-powered, four-door, 4x4 truck will get poor gas mileage. At a
time when all of the NextGen sedans boost 3 to 5 mpg better mileage than the
Ford CVPI, the 4x4 pickup will almost certainly get 3 to 5 mpg worse mileage. This
has not been much of an issue for the departments transitioning from the Ford
CVPI to the full-size Tahoe. However, it is certainly a talking point as gas
reaches $4.00 a gallon again. The largest factor in operating costs is fuel
cost. Fuel cost will go up.
the topic of costs, scheduled maintenance on the patrol pickups will be about
the same as the patrol sedans. The overall cost for oil, brakes and tires is
about the same. However, unscheduled repair costs will be less for the pickups.
Simply put, a half-ton pickup is tougher and more durable than a sedan, and so
is a full-size SUV.
tougher, more durable design also leads to a longer duty cycle, a longer
service life. The typical patrol sedan has its tongue hanging out by 100K to
125K miles. The pickups are good for longer use, like 150K or 175K miles. That
extended duty cycle alone lowers the total lifecycle cost, the total cost of
factor in favor of the pickup, one that also lowers the total cost of
ownership, is residual value. Compare the trade-in or residual value of a V6
police sedan with 100K miles to a V8-powered 4x4 pickup four-door with 100K
miles, or even 150K miles. The car gets about $3K while the truck is about
$10K. The residual value might go back to a different budget than the initial
purchase came from, a budget you may not have control over. However, a higher
residual value lowers the total cost of ownership, period.
comparing the total cost of ownership, acquisition, operation, disposition, the
4x4 pickup will almost certainly have a lower total cost, a lower cents per
mile, than the typical police sedan. The large SUV has been costed out as less
expensive in numerous studies, and the full-size pickup has much lower initial
cost than the large SUV.
Compared to SUV
the advantages of a pickup over a patrol sedan are obvious, but what are the
advantages over an SUV? One of the most frequently cited reasons for a pickup
over an SUV is cargo room and storage. The combination of both a rear seat and
an open truck bed allows more cargo and storage options than the rear seat and
closed cargo compartment of an SUV.
said, SUVs are considered to have the advantage when it comes to a secure cargo
area, and temperature-humidity controlled storage. However, aftermarket
accessories are a clear answer for the pickup.
pickup is also considered more robust and durable than a crossover or an SUV,
even though some SUVs use a truck platform. Trucks are tougher than SUVs. The
towing capability of pickup trucks is considered an advantage over that of the
crossovers and SUVs.
room and driver comfort are also cited as advantages of the pickup over some SUVs
and especially crossovers. No sedan has the front seat roominess of a full-size
pickup or large SUV. The back seat of a pickup is comparable to the back seat
of a NextGen sedan.
height, ground clearance and driver visibility are definitely pickup advantages.
Finally, a lower acquisition cost compared to an SUV is a clear, often quoted,
disadvantage of the pickup is a very wide turning circle. The Charger and Ford
PI Sedan have a turning circle (curb to curb) of between 37.8 and 38.4 feet.
Even the Tahoe is just 39.0 feet. In comparison, expect the 4x4 four-door
6-foot bed pickups to take from 45.1 to 47.0 feet to turn. That takes an 8-foot
wider road surface. Not exactly “Jack be nimble.”
advantage of the pickup over the SUV is the huge variety of aftermarket
accessories for the pickup. Police-oriented cargo units for SUVs certainly
exist, but there is a much wider selection of cargo units for pickups: a wider
range of materials, price levels and of course, flexibility in design. From
lockable covers to headache racks to customized storage units to toppers, the
selection is extensive, even bewildering. Even fully upfitted with these
accessories, many departments find it less expensive than the base price of a
pickups move from their more traditional support role to front-line patrol use,
performance becomes a topic of discussion. The RAM SSV with the 395 hp 5.7L V8
reaches 60 mph in 7.0 seconds and 100 mph in 18.3 seconds. Close behind, the
Ford SSV with the 360 hp, 5.0L V8 hits 60 mph in 7.4 seconds and 97 mph in 19.5
seconds. Not close behind, the Silverado SSV gets to 60 mph in 9.0 seconds and
98 mph in 21.0 seconds.
departments considering a pickup as a replacement for the traditional sedan,
let’s put these pickup performance numbers in perspective. Regardless of axle
ratio, the Ford CVPI with the 250 hp 4.6L V8 had only marginal performance. It
took an average of 8.7 seconds to reach 60 mph and 24.0 seconds to hit 100 mph.
Two of the pickups got to 60 mph faster and all three reached 100 mph faster; in
two cases a lot faster.
these trucks have relatively low, speed-limited top speeds. The Ford F-150 tops
out at 97 mph, the RAM 1500 at 108 mph, and the Silverado 1500 at 98 mph. Recall
that the Ford CVPI with a 3.55 axle was criticized for being speed limited to
“only” 119 mph.
now the bad news about the patrol use of pickups: These are all Special Service
package vehicles. None are pursuit-capable, police package vehicles. All come
with harsh disclaimers like, “…may not be used as a pursuit vehicle; no
excessive speed; no aggressive driving…”
“no aggressive driving” caveats are made even more serious for departments that
replace the OE All-Season tires with Off-Road oriented tires. The low top speed
and the lack of a “pursuit-capable” designation from the automakers are two
serious decision points for police departments considering the pickup for
three companies are considering a pursuit-rated pickup, one with a lower center
of gravity for better handling and a higher top speed. Of course, lowering the
pickup reduces some of the advantages of a pickup: ground clearance.
important are a higher top speed, the pursuit-rating, and an upgraded handling?
Pickups currently account for 6 percent of the average police fleet…city,
county, rural, urban. The consensus of a cross-section of police fleet managers
is that the percentage of pickups in police use would double with a
Is the Pickup a Good Fit?
is one factor, but not the only factor. The real question is whether the pickup
is a good fit for your department, or your community. Are some of the pickup’s disadvantages
deal breakers? The low top speed. The wide turning circle. The lack of a
pursuit-rating. The comparatively poor gas mileage. The use of a pickup truck
per se, for routine patrol. The lack of large temperature-controlled storage.
V8-powered, four-door, 4x4 pickup has an initial fleet price comparable to the
average base sedan. It is more expensive than the lowest bid sedan but much
less expensive than the big engine sedans, crossovers and large SUVs. The
pickup has a higher operating cost due to the greater fuel use. It has the same
routine maintenance cost as a sedan but lower repair costs. It has a much
higher residual value. It has a much longer service life. In comparing the
total cost of ownership, acquisition, operation, disposition, the 4x4 pickup
will almost certainly have a lower total cost, a lower cents per mile, than the
typical police sedan.
LaSalle County, Ill. Sheriff
the LaSalle County Sheriff, the primary advantage of the half-ton truck for
police work is price. A four-door, 4x4, V8-powered truck for about the same
cost as the average police sedan—and far less than a police crossover or police
County is the second largest county in Illinois. Most of its 1,100 square miles
is rural: field corn and soy beans as far as the eye can see. There are only
five towns in the county with a population of over 5,000 people. All the rest
is rural with a total population of 114,000. The sheriff’s department has 38
the recent winter with the third most snowfall on record, the pickups proved
their worth. In fact, the pickups worked right alongside the department’s
military surplus Hummers. They did the same thing even though the Hummers had
aggressive off-road tires and the pickups had OE all-season tires. This was
also the coldest December to March on record. The diesel powered snow plows
gelled up while the pickups started every time and ran flawlessly.
course, the advantage of a 4x4 pickup is ground clearance. In addition to snow
accumulation, both the 4x4 and the ground clearance really matter on some
wooded lanes, cross-culverts, field lanes, access roads, field right-of-way,
even some gravel roads, and definitely crossing medians. “There is a reason
conservation officers use pickups,” Sheriff Tom Templeton said.
sees the 4x4 pickup as a true multi-use vehicle. The pickup fits anywhere. It
is so common and low profile it can be used as a surveillance vehicle—hidden in
plain view. It can also be used in traffic enforcement. Nothing blends in
better in a rural community than a pickup.
scenarios ideal for a pickup are also the ones where 100 mph is fast enough for
nearly all police tasks. “I would rather have the top speed where it is,” Sheriff
Templeton commented. He sees the speed-limited as an advantage. “We can’t help
if we don’t get there.”
large percentage of LCSD deputies are cross-trained as tactical officers. That
means they need to carry tactical gear in addition to patrol gear: ballistic
shields, helmets, hard armor, a variety of long guns, and extra ammo. The
pickup offers space that sedans don’t.
LCSD pickups use a rigid, lockable tonneau cover, an $800 cost. The cover
secures the bed cargo, of course, and holds a lot of gear. However, the tonneau
cover has another less obvious advantage. It is strong enough to allow a deputy
to stand on it for late-night surveillance.
lack of a temperature/humidity controlled cargo compartment like an SUV has not
been an issue. There is plenty of storage in the second row seats. The seats
fold up for large volume items. Importantly, there is a lot of storage room
under the rear seat…enough for a patrol rifle laid on top of two filled storage
is a definite officer safety aspect of using pickups for patrol. The pickup is
much safer than a sedan if the deputy hits a deer, which happens. Of course,
physical size and weight equal crash safety, all else equal. One deputy was
T-boned behind the B-pillar of the pickup. The truck was totaled, but the
officer did not miss a day of work.
LCSD was 100 percent Ford CVPI. Like many departments, they used a mix of
vehicles as initial replacements. This included a few Charger Pursuit V8s and a
few Ford PI Sedans (primarily for the AWD capability). Half of the new vehicles
are RAM 1500 SSVs. Importantly, nearly all of the future vehicles will be the
pickup. However, the LCSD is taking a hard look at the new Charger Pursuit AWD.
in their third year with pickups as patrol vehicles, the first pickups went to
larger, taller officers. Then the pickups were spread across all three shifts.
Their first trucks used the 4.7L V8; the second round was a mix of 4.7L V8 and
5.7L V8. All of the new trucks now have the 5.7L V8.
the pickup is steadily replacing the sedan, officers are generally given a
choice between RAM 1500 SSV, Charger Pursuit V8 or Ford PI Sedan AWD. The RAM
1500 5.7L V8 gets the same average gas mileage in patrol use as the Ford CVPI
4.6L V8. The LaSalle County Sheriff’s Department keeps their patrol vehicles
for four years with an average lifecycle of 140K miles. Running the pickups for
five years, or 180K miles, is “within realm.”
the LCSD’s experience, the public’s reaction has been as positive as the
deputies who drive the trucks. “The public understands. It is a fit for the
rural culture,” Sheriff Templeton stated. The officers have had nothing bad to
say, and neither has the public. Occasionally, a citizen will say to the Sheriff,
“nice truck…what did that cost?” Some of the public doesn’t believe the answer.
“I offer to show them the invoices,” Sheriff Templeton said.
is one of the better things I have done,” Sheriff Templeton elaborated.
Pickups vs. Sedans for Police Patrol
- Longer duty
- Lower or
comparable initial cost
- Lower or
comparable maintenance and repair
- Faster or
variety of upfit accessories
- Lower top
- Cargo is
not temperature/humidity controlled
required for lockable cargo
- Lower or
comparable fuel economy