Managing Rural Police Fleets

March 2017, Government Fleet - Feature

by Roselynne Reyes - Also by this author

Photo courtesy of Town of Jonesborough
Photo courtesy of Town of Jonesborough

Managing a fleet in a small town or rural area can lead to challenges from a variety of environmental factors, including animals, weather, and rough terrain. 

Beware of Deer

Recently, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department in N.C. addressed an issue that it has faced for years: deer strikes.

“We probably don’t have any worse problem in this county than any other counties in North Carolina, but we have typically about five to seven deer strikes a year, usually in the fall and early winter,” Sheriff David Grice said. “It seems like the further east you get, the more you have open fields, and deer populations are a lot stronger than around here.”

But Grice said the agency has seen three particularly rough deer strikes, in which vehicles incurred significant damage. In one case, the vehicle’s hood and front doors were hit, setting off all of its airbags. In another, the front end of the car was completely wiped out.

“Interesting enough, that one could be repaired, but that was the third time that car had been repaired from deer strikes,” Grice said.

As a result, the agency is trying out push bars to see if that mitigates any damage. For now, the agency is trying it out on its new vehicle purchases, which includes five patrol vehicles this year. It is also opting for larger push bars that wrap around the whole front end of the vehicle rather than a traditional push bar.

Grice noted that results may be difficult to measure. After all, no deputies plan to hit deer, and even if it does happen, they can’t predict which vehicle it would happen to or what angle the deer would hit. But any savings would be worth consideration. Even with one less crash, a $600 push bar could save money compared to $2,300 in body work.

Seasonal Challenges

David Tifft is the fleet manager for the State of Vermont Department of Public Safety. The state is mountainous, with a lot of snow in winter and muddy roads in spring.

After Winter Storm Stella hit last week, Vermont State Police officers went to work, taking on longer shifts than usual. The Department of Transportation cleared roads quickly, but major streets took preference, which limited officers’ ability to get around until back and side roads were cleaned up much later in the night.

“Most of our patrol vehicles are all-wheel drive (AWD) so that has made a positive impact on our ability to respond to crimes and to citizen request. When we just had the rear wheel drive pursuit vehicles we found it much tougher to respond in muddy or snowy weather,” Tifft said.

The fleet also uses snow tires, which are softer than regular tires and easier to maneuver in snow but can wear out more easily in warm weather and urban environments. The tires are generally installed in November and removed in May.

Photo courtesy of Vermont State Police
Photo courtesy of Vermont State Police

Looking Past Mileage

For the Town of Jonesborough, Tenn., the close proximity of officers has allowed fleet to develop a stronger relationship through preventive maintenance (PM). Jonesborough is a historic town with a population under 5,000, but on weekends the town can bring in 25,000. The Police Department does not have a wide area to patrol, approximately five square miles. As a result, patrol cars don’t rack up much mileage, and spend a lot of time idling.

“More than anything else, what we have issues with when it comes to our cars and road conditions are speed bumps,” Lykins said. “A lot of people come through town so we try to control that by speed bumps. What that does to a police car that rides these roads every day, it would be comparable to New York City — for lack of a better comparison — if you’re hitting a bump every 200 yards.”

About five years ago, the Police Department implemented a new policy: vehicles would be brought to the shop for PMs every four weeks, regardless of mileage. With no vehicle to use, officers would often stay in the shop, and now all officers stay for the duration of the service.

Matt Rice, operations major for the Jonesborough Police Department, said getting officers on-board with the idea was difficult at first, but officers now see the value in finding issues before they become major problems.

“Anytime you can build a relationship with staff and other organizations you’re working with its great. The fact that we’re finding problems before they become major problems is even better,” he said.

Thanks to this improved relationship between technicians and officers, Lykins has noticed more constructive conversation about patrol cars in the shop.


  1. 1. Kevin Baker [ April 03, 2017 @ 07:14PM ]

    In Australia, we have numerous animal strikes with kangaroos, cattle and other wildlife. Many of our Emergency Services Vehicles are fitted with a SmartBar which is made from a specially engineered polyethelene. The construction of the bar allows it to absorb the impact rather than transferring it through the vehicle. There is dash cam vision of a vehicle fitted with a smartbar colliding with a small cow on the SmartBar Facebook site. The car suffers no damage apart from a broken spotlight and the cow survives. As a leader in providing innovative pedestrian friendly Vehicle Frontal Protection Systems (VFPS) the team at SmartBar have achieved the unachievable! To create the first VFPS which complies with the European Regulation for Pedestrian Safety. Regulation (EC) No 78/2009 of the European Parliament and of the council of 14 January 2009 on the type-approval of motor vehicles with regard to the protection of pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.

    The light weight properties of the polymer and the hollow construction consequent to the rotational moulding manufacturing process minimises the weight added to the vehicle when fitted, mitigating the effect the VFPS has on Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM), which in turn has long term positive effects on fuel consumption along with reduced wear and tear on tyres and suspension components. Not only benefiting the customer’s pocket, but the environment too.

    The hollow construction of the one piece moulded bar allows impacts to be absorbed rather than transferring the energy through to the vehicle chassis. This is particularly important in accidents with large animals that would otherwise cause substantial damage to the vehicle. The Polymer material is extremely UV stable and corrosion resistant which is a very important feature in Australian beach side locations and in Europe where applying salt to prevent ice forming on roads is common practice.
    This low-density polyethylene material, which has been specifically engineered for its application, has outstanding impact absorbing characteristics; giving the StealthBar a unique ability to effectively absorb impact and return to its original shape. Testing indicates that the hollow body can compress by up to 85% of its width upon impact and return to 95% of its original shape within minutes, extending the service life of the bar after an impact. This cushioning effect not only prevents impact forces being transferred through the vehicle’s chassis, but it is crucial in the protection of the vehicle’s vital engine components, cooling systems and decreasing the risk of the vehicle being immobilised post impact.


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