Worn-out Illinois state trooper cruisers to be replaced
As many as 450 high-mileage Illinois State Police (ISP) squad cars could be replaced each year, thanks to a new $1 license-tag renewal fee surcharge plan that’s waiting for the Illinois governor’s signature. Both the Illinois House and Senate have approved the plan.
The term “well-worn” doesn’t begin to describe many of the cruisers in ISP’s fleet of 2,450. The average mileage of a typical cruiser is well over 120,000 miles, according to the agency. Extended and expensive maintenance often is required to ensure that the aging vehicles are able to reach accidents and other emergencies.
Troopers began encouraging the idea of a license-tag fee surcharge to fund vehicle replacement after a slow-speed crash that involved an ISP cruiser this past summer in Cook County. Mechanics found that the cruiser’s brake lines were corroded all the way through and that there was a sizable brake-fluid leak.
That led to an inspection of all state patrol cars with more than 180,000 miles. Investigators found 442 of them still in service, approximately 25 percent of the total fleet. Mechanics looked for major maintenance issues, and determined that 43 percent, or 193 of those squad cars, were unsafe. Many were repaired but 47 were pulled from the road permanently.
Ideally, ISP fleet managers would like to retire squad cars at 80,000 miles. Record-setting (and budget-busting) gas prices this past summer forced ISP to curtail its vehicle replacement plan.
‘Challenging budget years’ have led to fleet decline
In 1995, the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill establishing the State Police Vehicle Fund, which allows for proceeds from the sale of used vehicles to be deposited and used for the purchase of new ISP cars. The concept of this program was to use funds from the sale of mid-mileage, used police cars to augment a consistent revenue stream, eliminating the dependency upon General Revenue Funds. The mid-mileage vehicles would be offered for sale to local law enforcement agencies, providing them an economical and dependable vehicle purchase option.
Unfortunately, because a consistent revenue stream never was identified, the State Police Vehicle Fund never received its initial kick-start of dollars.
“Challenging budget years,” said an ISP report, “have allowed the ISP fleet to progress to its current state where upkeep and repair costs for high-mileage patrol cars far exceed the vehicles’ actual value.”
According to the report, the license fee surcharge plan “will enable the ISP to implement the program [that] was passed in 1995 and allow us to retire Illinois State Police squad cars at an estimated 80,000 miles as opposed to the average 176,400 experienced today.”
The funding plan should raise $9 million each year for state police car maintenance and replacement. The plan calls for a $1 surcharge to be collected in addition to the scheduled fees for autos, SUVs, motorcycles, motor-driven cycles and pickup trucks and other trucks up to 8,000 GVW.
“While this legislation still needs to be signed by Gov. Blagojevich to become effective with the 2010 registration year, we anticipate receipt of the surcharge into the State Police Vehicle Fund and the purchase of squad cars to begin during the first half of 2009,” ISP’s Sgt. Brian Copple told GovPro.com.