European regulations leave police struggling to find replacement vehicles

Tough new European emission regulations for cars have put the brakes on police plans to update worn-out versions of their high performance vehicles, it has emerged, because of a delay in getting replacements to pass new tests.

By Paul Whitehouse
Wednesday, 27th March 2019, 6:36 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th March 2019, 6:43 pm
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All new cars have now to go through a revised form of checks on the pollutants their exhausts put out and police wanting to replace their high performance BMW saloons and X5 four wheel drive vehicles have found those vehicles at the back of the queue to be approved for sale.

The situation is further compounded because all variants of non-standard vehicles how have also to be checked individually, rather than relying on the results from one generic example.

For the domestic market that means a vehicle with an optional sunroof would also need to be approved for use before it could be sold and the same restriction applies to police forces and other emergency services which modify cars with items like blue lights.

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Details have emerged from the South Yorkshire force, but the same situation applies everywhere because police vehicles are now bought as a national £255m fleet, with all forces using similar high performance models rather than doing the local deals which were struck in the past.

Nigel Hiller, South Yorkshire Police’s director of resources, told a meeting of the county’s Public Accountability Board, held by Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings, to hold the force to account: “We have had serious issues with delivering new cars since September.

“Every car sold in Europe has had to meet new emission standards, they have completely changed the rules.

“We tend to use high performance variants and they have been the last to be tested,” he said.

There were also changes to the manufacturer’s model range to add to the confusion, but looking to buy alternative replacements had not worked, said Mr Hiller.

“We have ordered replacements with alternative suppliers and they have terminated the contract because they could not supply them.

“It has had an impact on maintenance costs,” he said.

Police vehicles often cover very high mileages and replacement programmes are worked out to achieve the optimum value from vehicles before they are likely to need increased maintenance, which leads to increased costs and workshop ‘down time’, when they are not available for use.

Delaying replacement means the mileage continues to increase, with an inevitable impact on the cost of keeping vehicles overdue for replacement on the road.

“It has caused major problems for the emergency services,” said Mr Hiller.

South Yorkshire Police are also in the process of introducing telematics to their vehicles, a sophisticated version of ‘black box’ devices which provide fleet managers with details of how their vehicles are being used.

That allows the fleet to be tailored to the force’s specific needs, providing efficiency savings of around £280,000.

Similar equipment is expected to be installed in vehicles used by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, which are operated under a joint arrangement between the two emergency services.

South Yorkshire Police are also switching to alternative fuel for its vehicles where possible, including a fleet of 11 Nissan electric vans, due to go into service this month.

It is anticipated they will save £108,000 over their lifetime, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A fleet of hybrid cars are also in use by the force and regarded as popular among the officers who use them. “People are charging them, which shows how popular they are,” said Mr Hiller.