First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

Delay, Defer and Reduce

"This department is being held together with bubble gum, baling wire and duct tape," says Pat McOsker, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City.

This video shows Dirk Steinhardt riding with Chicago Tower Ladder 14 last September. They were using a reserve rig when Dirk was there.

Ride along with Tower ladder 14 of the Chicago fire department responding to a fire. Engine 117, engine 113, truck 26 and a battalion were also on scene. It was actually a small electric fire. Truck 14 normally runs a new Pierce rig but it was out of service for some reason so that they had to use this older truck.

The rattles, groans, slow/dim/not working emergency lights when E252 responds (a the 1:20 mark) reminded me of another complication of multiple years of budget crisis.

The rate of vehicle replacement is slowed down, routine maintenance is deferred and shop staff are reduced. 

A Spiral of Increasingly Worse Performance and Critical Failures

The optimum time to replace a vehicle is when its total costs, averaged over the vehicle's lifetime, are at a minimum. That is determined by looking at the operating expenses, maintenance, downtime and deprecation.

The New York State Comptroller shared data they accumulated on local government automobile maintenance costs:












During a 1980s budget crisis, a suburban Virginia county tried to get more than 200,000 miles from all vehicles. For police cruisers, the cost-per-mile maintenance approached $0.30 per mile.

The sweet spot for Ford Crown Vic police cruisers used by some large law enforcement agencies was 50,000 miles. After that point, major maintenance expenses (transmission, air conditioning compressors, electronics, etc.) would start accumulating.

Putting all of the factors creates the "Economic Life" of a vehicle:











What happens when a municipality tries to keep apparatus well beyond their economic life?

Pictures by Gordon J.Nord, Jr. of the front-line Tower 14 at a greater alarm fire December 14, 2011.

Source Chicago Area Fire.

Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

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