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Overheard at Police Fleet Expo - Southwest

Written by Ed Sanow

Let me try to condense a week of solid fleet management and fleet maintenance sessions and networking into one column. Along with Dallas Police Fleet Manager Sgt. Steve Hoyer, I moderated the Large Agency Networking session. This is an open forum, no rules discussion of whatever is on anyone’s mind. At the Police Fleet Expo - Southwest, we break these networking sessions into Under 50 Vehicles, Between 50 and 150 Vehicles, and Over 150 Vehicles. Similar experiences in similar fleets can be aired—and similar problems solved.

The single biggest problem is too much gear and too little room for it. A companion problem is the difficulty of fully uniformed officers getting into and out of the NextGen sedans. One of the fleet managers—in obvious frustration—voiced that all of the NextGen sedans were simply too small. That sentiment resounded—and led to unilateral, widespread praise for the Chevy Tahoe PPV.

The Tahoe is off the radar when it comes to MSP and LASD/LAPD vehicle tests. The only thing it excels at is…room. Its overall performance is adequate; its full economy is adequate. However, it is stand-alone when it comes to officer ergonomics, roominess and cargo capacity. Due to its low maintenance cost, high residual value, and long service life, the Tahoe has the lowest total lifecycle cost of any police package vehicle. Push has come to shove when it comes to room for officers and cargo. For the first time, many agencies are looking at crossovers and SUVs for the first time. Don’t overlook the Tahoe.

From Ford, the Police Interceptor Sedan now comes standard with the 3.7L V6 and AWD, the same driveline in the PI Utility. Together, these two vehicles account for 53 percent of the police market.

From Chevrolet, the emphasis is that the size of the Caprice and Tahoe matters. The Caprice now has a steering column (IP)-mounted gear selector and larger seats. The current generation of Tahoe is ending—but Chevy will build ahead while the 2015 Tahoe is being built.

From Dodge, All-Wheel Drive will be a mid-year option on the 5.7L V8 Charger. The Charger also got a redesigned column (IP) shifter and a more contoured police seat with extended seat belt receptacles.

Right-sizing police vehicles? Pick the smallest, most economical vehicle that is actually needed for the task. Not every police vehicle needs a fire-breathing V8. Refurbished vehicles? Yeah, you get about 60 percent of the promised new life. Not to mention just prolonging technical and safety obsolescence.

As fleet managers, we could probably use lifecycle costing more than we do. This is a fiscally persuasive way to move the focus from initial cost to total cost. It is as simple as initial cost plus upfitting cost plus operating costs plus decommissioning costs minus residual value—all divided by miles of service life. The math is not that hard and the facts are rock-solid.

Tablets in police vehicles? This is not the future, it is the now. Android or Windows, the use of ruggedized tablets in the place of laptops solve all kinds of ergonomics and cost problems. Many of your peers have already gone to tablets.

Brake maintenance? All police (semi-metallic) brake pads must be burnished before the vehicle is put back into service. Pedal pulsation does not come from excessive heat warping the rotor. Rotors don’t warp—they wear unevenly. The number one cause of this uneven wear is thickness variation in the rotor. The number one cause of thickness variation is excessive lateral runout in the rotor. You simply must dial-indicate the rotor after a brake job.

Year-end reports? We must know all of our operating costs, document them, and pass them on to the decision makers. Knowing and being able to fully explain them is the best defense to a cut budget. More than that! Knowing your vehicle operating and total costs—and keeping them in line—is the best defense against an even worse and increasingly frequent reality: privatization.


Published in Police Fleet Manager, May/Jun 2013

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