The City of Baltimore Fire Department will more closely review its current take-home vehicle policy and distribution following an investigative review from the city’s Office of Inspector General.
The Fire Department had 35 take-home vehicles as of November 2020, costing the city $165,770 for maintenance and repair costs annually. These vehicles are mostly Ford and Chevrolet SUVs. Seven of the vehicles are assigned to members who travel more than 35 miles one-way to residences outside of Maryland — the maintenance and repair costs for these seven vehicles alone is $63,097.
Further, three of the four shift commanders, who have take-home vehicles, live out of state. A policy analyst stated employees who live outside of the state can’t reasonably be expected to quickly respond to an on-call emergency, and taking a vehicle across jurisdictional lines presents a risk and liability to the city.
The policy states take-home vehicles are restricted to official use and should not be used for personal business except for occasional routine errands while commuting to and from work. However, the Fire chief acknowledged a more relaxed policy, such as allowing the employee to travel to restaurants with the family in the take-home vehicle.
The review also found take-home vehicles decrease the city’s ability to contain its maintenance cost within the first three years of the manufacturer’s warranty because the extra miles may take them out of the three-year warranty period.
In his response, the Fire Chief stated the department conducts annual reviews of its take-home vehicles with an eye on vehicle reduction if it can be done without affecting the efficient and effective performance of emergency operations response. In FY20, the department reduced its take-home fleet by 10 vehicles. The chief stated the department would again closely review its take-home policy and distribution.