Police fleet acquisition preferences have seen a number of changes over the years -- most notably, the switch almost entirely across the market from sedans to SUVs to allow for more space. Gone are the days of the iconic Ford Crown Vics. When changing things up in their patrol fleets, what things should police fleet managers take into consideration?
Government Fleet talked to Denver Police Sgt. Jason Brake to get back to the basics.
- Safety – This should always be the number one consideration. It’s crucial to keep up with the manufacturer’s changes and enhancements to each vehicle they offer in the law enforcement arena. This includes things like stability and traction control, improved rear impact remediation, perimeter alert system, pre-collision assist, automatic emergency braking, and more, Brake explains. It also includes improved brake pads, tires, and other vehicle components.
- Durability/Reliability – These are two separate but equal aspects of any vehicle purchase. How much wear and tear will this model handle, and how long will it handle it? With the current state of vehicle procurement, many fleet managers are working to keep aging fleets up to par. With that in mind, Brake says fleet managers should also pick out the best choice in each of these required core elements to help keep officers on the street where they belong, not in the shop.
- Purpose Designed and Built – There is clear evidence that vehicle manufacturers have taken the time to listen to their customers, learn from their hands-on experiences, and take that information back to the drafting table to build something that will surpass the previous version. This is evident in Chevrolet’s new braking system for the 2022-2023 model years on Tahoes, for example, Brake explains. The brakes were a concern in the previous model years, but it’s clear Chevrolet listened to its customers and came back with a much more robust braking system, he says. This has also been done by other major OEMs like Ford and Dodge.
- Overall Performance – For Brake, this core component is comprised of:
- Safe and reliable handling in the local ever-changing climate: snow, ice, rain, extreme heat, and extreme cold.
- The basics: braking, acceleration, and other basic operational features. Combine that with the need for everything from the tires and up through the windshield – to all work together, providing a responsive, agile, and controllable driving platform for customers. Not everyone who comes through the Police Academy doors is a NASCAR driver, so we need vehicles that can make it simple and easy for everyone, Brake laughs.
- Fuel Economy/Savings: this is a big one. Fleet managers should look for performance combined with the newer fuel technologies being made available. In Brake’s case, his fleet has gone through many different options to try to reduce costs, and greenhouse emissions and the waste created in vehicle production: compressed natural gas, hybrids, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery plug-in electric vehicles, you name it. As these technologies emerge and improve, Brake is always keeping his eyes to the horizon and beyond for that truly exceptional means of propulsion that combines performance, safety, and a veracious concern for the environment and carbon footprint of the vehicles.
- Compatibility: Brake also likes to consider the known options versus the unknowns for the ability to build out a safe police service vehicle with parts and vendors who work directly with the “Big 3” OEMs. The ability to get equipment designed around specific makes and models saves him countless hours of downtime trying to either find a one of part or create one in his machine shop.
- Vehicle Maintenance – When Brake’s fleet switched from one OEM to another, he experienced some pretty significant growing pains. His shop didn’t have all the right equipment to diagnose and repair a whole new set of vehicles from a different manufacturer. If you are considering expanding your fleet to numerous vehicle makes and models, ensure you have the basic infrastructure in place to accommodate that change all the way down to the individual fleet technicians’ capabilities and experience, Brake says.
- Availability – Fleet managers across the industry have shared concerns about the availability of vehicles, particularly for police fleets, amid the pandemic. If you are in the market to buy, Brake says he would strongly suggest striking out with your budget early in the year and making those cut-off dates provided by the OEMs. Later in the year, your chances of getting one of the more popular police vehicles are greatly diminished. Brake recommends planning purchases almost a year in advance if possible. Create your “planned fleet replacement list” and be ready to step up to the counter and get your order in as soon as the order window opens.