The City of Austin, Texas has begun transitioning its fleet of Ford Explorers and Police Interceptor Utility vehicles back into service. Four hundred thirty-nine vehicles were removed from service in July after suspected carbon monoxide exposure. Currently, 44 vehicles are back on the road and 18 more are being tested before redeployment.
Since the initial incident, the city has worked with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Ford, resulting in Ford issuing a Customer Satisfaction program that outlined repairs to be carried out by local dealerships to address carbon monoxide concerns.
In September, Austin’s Fleet Services Department took delivery of the first batch of repaired vehicles back from Ford and further testing was carried out by Fleet Department staff and Austin Police Department (ADP) officers. While testing the first batch of returned vehicles, an issue with the vehicle’s auxiliary power unit (APU) triggered a false positive on its carbon monoxide detector. The city has since replaced the APU battery, and plans to replace all APU batteries with newer zero-emission batteries.
The city continues to send vehicles to Ford for repairs. Each vehicle will undergo at least 20 hours of police testing before being returned to regular service. The process of transitioning the remaining vehicles to normal service is expected to take a number of months.
“As we receive the vehicles back from Ford we will continue to test and monitor these vehicles closely,” said Jennifer Walls, fleet services officer. “Throughout this process our priority has been the health and safety of our city employees and we are grateful to them for their patience and understanding while we worked to get this issue resolved.”
When the vehicles were removed from service in July, Austin Police transitioned to two-officer patrols. As the vehicles are redeployed, the agency will decide how to deploy them and transition back to single-officer patrols, according to APD Chief Brian Manley.