Polk officials working against clock to repair 12 firetrucks

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County is dealing with a costly blow as officials work against the clock to repair a dozen Ferrara firetrucks in their fleet.

The firetrucks all have the same issue, failing front suspension. Currently, four trucks are out of service because of the problem. Repair time is expected to be lengthy.

“Lead time, even on the new axles can be up to five to six months, so it’s not one of those quick turn around things,” Polk County Director of Fleet Maintenance Chuck Cheatham said.

“It’s kind of premature in their life span, so in order to preserve the life of the vehicle, we’re going to retrofit a more conventional suspension in it,” Deputy Chief of Operations Tony Crouse said.

Spares are being used in place of the trucks out of service, and will continue to be used until all 12 are fixed.

“We need the trucks. We can’t afford for them all to go into service. We are stretched a little bit, we have a lot of our spares in service,” Cheatham said.

“When we have these component failures on these trucks it kind of cripples us for having a good, safe amount of spares,” Crouse said.

This week County Commissioners approved spending $300,000 to replace the front suspension for all 12 firetrucks.

“The trucks are ten years old. They’re probably half to two-thirds of their life gone. Do we want to replace them? Then you’re talking six to seven million dollars,” Cheatham said.

Cheatham admits the one-year warranty has long since expired on the trucks, which were purchased from 2005 to 2007, but, said he’s never experienced a wide-spread issue like this.

“It’s uncommon to have a group fail this quickly.”

He said the company, Ferrara, has not been willing to help with the repair costs. “The chassis only have a one year warranty, and we’re 10-12 years into it. They’ve denied participation. Our legal department looked into it, and other avenues to try and get some recovery. They have not had any results yet,” Cheatham said. “It’s disappointing.”

Calls and emails to the company were not returned.

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