The Maricopa City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to hire a broker to sell three city fire trucks, a move designed to improve the dependability of the fire department and rid the city of potential liability issues.
“We have looked at a number of ways to rid ourselves of this problem, and this was the best solution,” said Fire Chief Wade Brannon.
The problem Brannon refers to centers on three fire trucks purchased in 2008 from Florida-based manufacturer E-ONE for nearly $1.5 million. The trucks, which are the department’s primary frontline firefighting vehicles, were expected to serve as the foundation for the department for years. But after just 16,000 miles, the first truck in the new fleet required a complete engine rebuild. The engines in the other two E-ONE trucks failed before they reached 30,000 miles.
“Typically, we would expect these trucks to go a minimum of 150,000 miles before a rebuild was needed,” Brannon said.
The rebuild on the first truck was covered by the five-year warranty offered by the manufacturer of the engine, Cummins Engine Co., but the company was not so accommodating the next two times around, leaving the city with a $20,000 bill.
“Both E-ONE and Cummins agree the city should not have to pay the cost, but they can’t decide between the two of them which is at fault,” Brannon said.
Fire truck manufacturing is different from standard automobile manufacturing. A fire truck maker typically builds the frame of a truck and then gathers all the other parts from subcontractors needed to complete the vehicle.
Brannon said the issue with Maricopa’s three trucks is a faulty air-filtration system that is allowing dust into the engine. “This is a serious design issue that puts the city at financial and operational risk.”
While E-ONE designed the placement of the air filter intakes, it contends that Cummins was familiar with the design before it agreed to put its engines in the trucks, and so should accept responsibility, according to Brannon.
Denis Fitzgibbons, the city’s lawyer, said he has filed a formal letter of demand with both companies, requesting the issue be resolved, but that it is still early in the negotiation process. “If the issue is not settled, this could turn into a lawsuit,” Fitzgibbons said.
While the legal battle about responsibility for the design flaw plays out, the city will work on negotiating the sale of the trucks.
Once a buyer is found, Brannon said the city will need to move to secure new trucks for the department.
“There is not a good solution to this problem, no matter how you look at it,” said Councilmember Marvin Brown. “We need to seek legal counsel as quick as possible.”
Photo by Howard WaGGner/Maricopa Fire Department