Press Releases

For Immediate Release: April 4, 2006

The State of FDNY Fire Trucks... JALOPIES

New York, NY - New York City Firefighters are counted on by millions of New Yorkers to be their safety net in case of an emergency, but union leaders say New Yorkers are at greater risk due to the failure of basic FDNY equipment, including trucks that firefighters call Jalopies.

"Clearly this is an issue of mismanagement by the Fire Department," said Steve Cassidy UFA President. "Members of the greatest fire department in the world should not be driving around New York in Jalopies with equipment that fails when life is on the line."

Cassidy compared the regular maintenance checklist of an FDNY fire truck to that of a New York City Sanitation Truck. In a head-to-head mechanical check, a garbage truck gets a strenuous review that is 7.5 times more rigorous than for a life saving fire truck.

The preventive maintenance checklist for New York City fire trucks are: 25 check list items for an FDNY Engine Company; 26 check list items for a Ladder Company; with FDNY provisional employee mechanics, encouraged to take no longer than 2 ? hours before getting an FDNY rig back out into the field.

By comparison, the checklist for a New York City Department of Sanitation garbage truck is 189 checkpoints with a safety review by a Sanitation mechanics regularly taking 8 hours to fully inspect.

"FDNY mechanics do not want to be in this position, but are mandated by management to churn these rigs back out into the field faster than time allows for them to be properly inspected," said Mr. Cassidy. "These employees know that if they do not comply they can and will be fired by the FDNY."

This type of risk management utilized by the FDNY's Fleet Services division compromises firefighters and civilians' safety on a daily basis. The department's Fleet Service Technicians are not to blame, but are being unnecessarily hampered by the lack of resources and bureaucratic red tape, that is more concerned with saving dollars than putting the best fire truck out on the street.

"If this results in a fire truck being delayed in getting to the scene of an emergency or results in delays in getting in service once at the scene of an emergency the results can be disastrous," he added.

Recently the department also purchased new fire trucks that were found to have problems immediately off the assembly line. FDNY Fleet Services response to get the manufacturer to fix the non-operating fire trucks, was to order 12 more trucks from the same company, without putting it out for competitive bid.

Mr. Cassidy suggested that common sense, good business practices and city's bidding rules would lead one to think that the FDNY would utilize competitive bidding among the various fire apparatus manufacturers, causing them to improve the quality of the final product and compete on price, versus simply isolating the fleet to deal with only one product and one vendor.

"We need to be asking what are the qualifications of the FDNY official directly responsible for decisions that result in tens of millions in taxpayer dollars being spent on contracts for new FDNY trucks, and the maintenance of older vehicles," Cassidy suggested. "Even after Comptroller Thompson's analysis last year, the more questions you ask of the department the less answers you get. There needs to be some accountability and answers."

He also pointed out that due to the inadequate amount of spares FDNY trucks, some fire companies who usually operate with tower ladders are using an aerial ladder trucks, which affect operations and the safety. With the overuse of old, spare fire trucks by the FDNY Fleet Services, he asked, what are standards for spare fire trucks, are there any age limits and oversight over their use.

Last December the UFA called for an outside investigation of the FDNY's procurement and bidding process for new fire trucks, after a Manhattan firefighter was ejected from an a fire truck dating back to the Koch Administration. To date, the City Council is the first to begin looking into this serious equipment issue.

Given that none of the Comptroller's recommendations from May of 2005 have been implemented by the FDNY and the practice of ancient fire apparatus has only worsened, Mr. Cassidy renewed his calls for an independent investigation.