By Barett Poley
Orillia, Ontario -- December 8, 2016 -- What happens when a police cruiser is in a collision, or a local ambulance is involved in a crash? Emergency vehicles have a far higher chance of becoming damaged in a collision than a passenger vehicle does, due to the high-risk nature of the work they do. Before they go back on the road, they need to be up to standard.
According to Sgt. Peter Leon with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the process is just as external as it is internal.
“First off we send the vehicle to Fleet, Supply and Weapons, and they estimate the damage, alongside the age and mileage of the vehicle to see if it’s worth replacing.” This depot is located in Orillia, Ontario. This is similiar to the process used to determine if a regular vehicle is a total loss. If it’s a brand new Ford Police Interceptor with a few hundred kilometers on the odometer, it will likely be repaired. An aging Crown Vic that's seen a lot of action may be better off decommissioned.
Police auctions typically see many such vehicles, either decommissioned thanks to high mileage, or cars that wouldn’t be a write-off if they were passenger vehicles, but are too damaged to warrant repairing them for police work.
“It’s sent through whichever branch it’s from to a local collision shop," says Sgt. Leon. The vehicles are repaired mostly by local autobody facilities, but they need to follow a strict set of guidelines.
Police vehicles are kept in good order, and this applies to the body and finish just as much as the mechanical parts. Public perception is extremely important to police work. A battered and dented cruiser won't project the solid and professional appearance that police officers need when dealing with the public.
Ambulances, on the other hand, are often left unrepaired in the cases of small dings and scratches, as their public image is less important than the fact that they get there swiftly and accurately. Still, like police cruisers from the OPP, their vehicles are sent out to local collision repair shops. This helps to both support the local economy and helps to ensure the vehicles are back on the road as soon as possible.
Fred Kylie is a technician at Fix Auto Peterborough. He used to work with ambulances quite frequently, and says working on the emergency vehicles is business as usual, with a few twists.
“Well, there are specialty parts to take into consideration. Emergency vehicles have special lights and body panels, but really it’s not so different than working on any other vehicle,” says Kylie. Finding OEM parts isn’t that much of a hassle either, despite the relative rarity of purpose-built ambulances. “Usually if it’s a specialty vehicle each body panel will have a sticker saying where it was made, so we can call up the manufacturer and get exactly the part we need,” he says.
City police forces, however, often do things a little bit differently. For example, the Toronto Metropolitan police actually have an internal fleet management system in place, which includes repairs and maintenance. Watch for more in a special report in the next issue of Collision Repair magazine!