Granite Shoals Police Department fleet manager Chris Cowan explains the process of ‘upfitting’ a new patrol vehicle. He recently acquired three new vehicles for the department, despite a $306,000 deal falling through due to a nationwide shortage. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
The Granite Shoals Police Department managed to acquire four much-needed patrol vehicles in the new year despite supply chain issues and a manufacturer’s inability to fulfill an order placed by the city. The department has an aging fleet that it is struggling to upgrade amid a nationwide shortage of law enforcement-quality patrol vehicles.
The GSPD was allocated $306,000 by the City Council in October 2022 for four new patrol vehicles. Four 2023 Ford Explorers were ordered soon after the appropriation. Chris Cowan, the department’s fleet manager, learned that only one Explorer was actually made and the other three might not be delivered until October 2024.
Cowan scoured the state for replacements and, by luck, came across what might have been the only three new patrol vehicles available in Texas.
The four vehicles are expected to be on the road by May of this year. The department is getting a 2023 Ford Explorer, a 2023 Chevrolet Tahoe, and two 2022 Tahoes, all coming in at $46,000 under budget.
“It’s been a blessing,” Cowan told DailyTrib.com. “This will keep our officers on the road.”
The department only had 11 patrol vehicles for 11 patrol officers, meaning that if one vehicle went down for maintenance, officers would have to double up and share, packing on double mileage for an already high-mileage fleet, Cowan said.
Patrol vehicles often need maintenance, according to Cowan, who said most law enforcement agencies cycle out a vehicle every four or five years. Some of the rides in the Granite Shoals fleet are 11 years old.
“Aging fleets cause problems,” Capt. Chris Decker said. “It’s not just for the officer’s safety, it also destroys the budget. We have older Tahoes that have surpassed their value as vehicles with the repairs that we have had to put into them.”
Decker explained that pandemic-related supply chain issues derailed vehicle manufacturers and the companies that outfit law enforcement vehicles for patrol work. Prior to the pandemic, vehicle orders were usually fulfilled within three months. Now, it can take years to get a vehicle manufactured and fitted for patrol.
The Llano County Sheriff’s Office is dealing with similar issues. A third of the county’s fleet needs to be replaced, and vehicles ordered in January 2021 have yet to be delivered. The Sheriff’s Office was ultimately allocated $500,000 by the Llano County Commissioners Court from American Rescue Plan Act funds to acquire just half of the needed vehicles.
Most municipal and county agencies usually have their budgets approved in October and then all compete for the same pool of law enforcement-style vehicles, which are only manufactured by Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge. As a small department, Granite Shoals is lower in the food chain and has a harder time getting orders filled before larger clients.
“There are agencies with 10,000 vehicles and there are agencies with four vehicles,” Decker said. “Bigger agencies have more options. We may only have four vehicles we’re ordering, but they’re important to us.”
It could take years for the department to catch up to normal fleet standards due to the manufacturing delays caused by COVID-19, Decker said, but these new vehicles are a blessing.
“Everyone is facing the same challenges right now,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate with what we have found here.”