Whether it’s a fire, crash or an urgent medical situation, St. Joseph first responders work to quickly arrive at the scene, despite a limited number of emergency vehicles.
Like many agencies, area first responders have been slowly waiting for their aging vehicles to be replaced.
St. Joseph Interim Police Chief David Hart said there is a shortage of fleet vehicles across the country, and St. Joseph is no exception.
“We’re having the same problem that every other citizen is,” Hart said. “If you go out on a car lot right now, trying to get a new car it’s very, very thin.”
Hart said the department has seen progress with seven new vehicles coming in, but the police department still needs around 12 new patrol cars and equipment for the new ones. All they can do, however, is wait.
“That’s all on backorder until April and it was ordered eight months ago,” he said. “So, you know, we get hit on both sides of things. It’s a struggle to get the cars, and then once we do get the cars, the equipment that goes in them is a struggle to get.”
He said while they wait for new cars, they’ve had to replace engines and even use the vehicles that were in a reserve fleet.
“We’re getting cars wherever we can find them,” he said. “We’ve changed the way we ordered cars so that when we find some available, we’re pushing them through and ordering a couple at a time.”
It’s not just the police department dealing with the shortage. Officials with the St. Joseph Fire Department said they are due for new fleet vehicles, and they’ve been waiting on a new firetruck since last year.
“We just ordered a new 100-foot aerial truck in September of this last year and we don’t expect to get it until September or December of this next year,” said Jamey McVicker, the assistant fire chief. “It takes a good 12 to 18 months to produce, and now they’ve even pushed that back in time to two years.”
McVicker said in the meantime, they are working with the vehicles they have on hand.
“We’re maintaining our vehicles as best we can,” he said. “Quite a few of our pumper trucks need to be replaced and those take about two years to produce, so we’re getting on it. While we wait on that, the council did approve two more stock trucks for us, which are built faster, so we’re hoping to have that in by the end of the year.”
In a city like St. Joseph, officials said the demand for first responder vehicles is only going to increase, and they are keeping up the best they can.
“You can’t have a car that’s on its last leg out there responding quickly to emergencies,” Hart said. “We’ve recognized that, the council’s recognized that, and we’re taking the steps to make a safe and modern fleet to drive in.”
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