Utility Vehicles Prove Well Suited for Prison Work

January 2007, Government Fleet - Feature

by Dawn Bernatz

As a vehicle consultant for the state of Michigan, it’s Vince Reynolds’ job to think big. But in many cases, thinking big has led to smaller vehicles, which is a good thing, according to Reynolds.

“Our state has reduced its overall fleet during the past few years, and within the fleet, we’ve been able to replace many trucks and vans with small, efficient, utility vehicles,” he explained. “They get the job done in an economical way and offer several important advantages.”

Complex Needs Can Help Create Diverse Situations
Michigan employs five vehicle consultants, and each is responsible for 1,800 to 2,000 vehicles used throughout the state for a variety of ongoing projects and responsibilities. Reynolds’ biggest customeris the Department of Corrections, which manages the state’s penal institutions and the services required to support each facility. In the past, large trucks, vans, pickup trucks, and cars filled most of the group’s transportation and hauling needs, but that matrix has been changing.

“The penal system has some very unique challenges in terms of vehicle requirements,” Reynolds explained.

In addition to housing and caring for prisoners, the institutions operate extensive farming and manufacturing systems, all staffed with inmate labor. The system also operates prison stores, healthcare facilities, and administrative offices. Each setting requires specific vehicles, as do professionals such as plumbers, carpenters,groundskeepers, and locksmiths, who service prison buildings and surrounding properties.

Each prison compound may encompass several freestanding buildings situated throughout a prison’s property. Buildings within each compound serve different functions with varying levels of security.

Flexibility is the Key
To accommodate this range of locations, functions, and needs, Reynoldsrelies on utility vehicles (UVs) from Club Car, an Augusta, Ga.-based company that manufactures electric- and gasoline-powered units. “We have always used utility vehicles, but now we’re relying on them even more,” Reynolds said. Specifying each vehicle to accommodate the end-users’ needs, Reynolds works with Bob Bailes of U.S. Golf Cars, a Michigan-based utility vehicle dealer.{+PAGEBREAK+}

Currently, the Department of Corrections uses a variety of Club Car vehicles, including the compact Carryall 2, the XRT 1500 with on-demand 4x4, and the XRT 900 — a smaller 4x2. The bulk of the penal system’s utility-vehicle fleet is comprised of Club Car’s Carryall 6equipped with IQ Plus; 24 of the vehicles have been ordered this year alone.

“The Carryall 6 has been a very popular model for us, thanks to its size and cargo capacity,” Reynolds said. “It’s really handy. It can haul loads of up to 1,000 lbs., and it can also handle large-size, awkward items thanks to its large cargo box.”

Club Car’s IQ Plus feature, offered on the Carryall line, combines a 48-volt power source with advanced drivetrain technology to deliver a vehicle that works longer, harder, and faster.

“One of the reasons we switched to Club Car was the 48-volt platform,” Reynolds said. “It gives us more power and longer battery life.” He also likes Club Car’s flexibility, noting that vehiclescan be modified to suit each particular function. In addition, Reynolds said, utility vehicles offer lower maintenance and operating costs, and are less costly to acquire than cars or trucks.

“Club Car is able to modify its utility vehicles, making them even more valuable to us,” Reynolds explained. “Sometimes we need to make adjustments for ground clearance and add lug tires for traction. By all indications, these modifications are really important. The guyswho use them tell us they love them.”

A Well-Suited System
Security is another important consideration when choosing vehicles.

“There are specific limitations as to which vehicles are allowed into gated areas,” Reynolds said. “Vehicles such as the Carryall 6 have a top speed of less than 20 mph. For obvious reasons, these lower speeds are ideally suited for use inside the prison compound.” Installing speed-governing controls on a full-size vehicle would be “an expensive prospect,” he noted.

Fuel is another important issue for two reasons.With high gasoline costs, electric-powered utility vehicles offer a cost-effective solution for most of the prison’s needs.

“Many of the vehicles travel between and inside buildings such as warehouses and kitchens,” Reynolds said, “In those situations, electric vehicles are the only option, being safer, quieter, andexhaust-free.”

A Cost-Effective Solution
Ultimately, small vehicles deliver a big bang for the buck, Reynolds said. “The ability to customize the UVs gives us a lot of flexibility,” he said, “and using UVs, as opposed to other vehicles, save us a large amount of money. The only vehicles that could even come close, cost-wise, are compact cars, but they’re still not comparable. The Club Car vehicles are a better alternative for theDepartment of Corrections.”

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