What vehicles end their life cycles being bombed? Perhaps a movie-star vehicle or two, but more consistently, this distinction belongs to fleet assets of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC).
A component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FLETC trains nearly all federal law enforcement agencies and officers, including those in Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, and Inspectors General offices. Because of the variety of training scenarios, FLETC has a varied fleet of patrol vehicles that includes sedans, SUVs, and trucks of all makes, as well as administrative vehicles, totaling about 1,200 vehicles.
DHS has had a telematics mandate since 2017, and it uses telematics to collect utilization statistics from the 51,000-vehicle fleet spread across multiple components. For FLETC, telematics is helping prove that although its vehicles fall under the utilization threshold, they are being fully used.
How Vehicles Are Used
FLETC provides driver training at its four Training Delivery Points (TDPs). Training takes place on emergency response ranges and non-emergency vehicle operations courses, which include a 10-exercise cone course with 2,000 cones.
“Many accidents are within parking lots, you know, the patrolman backing up into something,” said Shaun Flint, fleet manager, Assets and Logistics Management Division (ALM), Mission and Readiness Support Directorate (MRSD), explaining the importance of the cone course.
There’s also a counterterrorism range consisting of mock villages with scenarios to drive through. That’s where ramming takes place, he said.
In addition, trainees handle real-life traffic stops on campus. They’re taught to expect anything — sometimes it’s a situation where they’re expected to deescalate. Other times, the scenario might involve diplomatic details, bombs, or mental health situations.
“You think about an officer’s contact with a civilian and you use your imagination to think of the very worst scenario possible in the world; we probably have a training scenario for it,” said John Youhas, deputy chief.
Low Mileage, High Use
Vehicles rarely leave the four TDPs, so they get low mileage. Chris Caldwell, ALM fleet management specialist, explained the DHS utilization standard is between 10,000 and 15,000 miles annually, but FLETC vehicles get 1,200 to 2,000 miles annually.
Since odometer readings alone don’t provide a clear use picture, the division uses engine hours and idle time to determine vehicle use, Caldwell said. He explained that a vehicle being used for two different two-hour classes may only get 10 or 15 miles all day, but they’re in use, often in idle.
In reporting data to DHS, Caldwell also sends max vehicle speed, oil and maintenance information, and how many times a vehicle has been started.
Before telematics, everything was done on paper and spreadsheets. Automated reporting has cut back on time dedicated to data collection and management, allowing the division to pull reports for annual requirements, data calls, disaster assistance, etc., said Caldwell, who was on the team for the telematics initiative.
While utilization data is not used to reduce the active training fleet vehicle size, it has been used to reduce the administrative fleet size. Flint said administrative sedans that don’t reach a 50% average mileage (average among administrative sedans only) need justification.
“We’re finding that divisions may have administrative vehicles that haven’t been gassed for several months or may have fewer than 50 annual miles on the odometer,” said Jannett Bradford, Ph.D., ALM division chief. “Telematics gives you the data to say, ‘You don’t need an assigned vehicle.’ It’s tough to argue with that. Instead, the division can then sign out a vehicle from the motor pool as needed, thus allowing the fleet manager to re-assign the vehicle to a division with a demonstrated greater need.”
Because vehicles don’t get a lot of miles on them, FLETC’s replacement criteria is eight years, no matter the mileage — higher than DHS’s five years, 60,000 miles and the federal standard of three years, 60,000 miles. Even so, some only have 30,000 miles on them before retirement.
“Mileage doesn’t matter to us because it could be assigned to a certain program [where it] just gets used four times a year, but we have to have that platform because we need it for that training class,” Flint said.
For example, Border Patrol students often use 4x4s at the Artesia, New Mexico, TDP. Or those training in diplomatic security may use specialized protection vehicles. Fleet management defers to instructors when it comes to determining vehicle platforms.
“The instructor staff know which vehicle platforms should be used for optimal law enforcement training operations,” Bradford said.
COVID Changes the Game
The pandemic shut down the training center before it came back on to, first, train while distancing, and then later, train fully vaccinated students.
While distancing, the instructor, who used to sit in the back seat of the vehicle with the student, instead rode in a separate car. This increased the need for vehicles for a while, but with training not fully booked, Flint said the team was able to accommodate this change.
After FLETC began only taking vaccinated students, students and instructors could double up on vehicles again.
“We are back, almost to normal,” Bradford said in August. “I think hopefully we’ve seen the worst of it.”