Oklahoma could save money and improve safety for troopers by getting rid of cruisers when they reach 80,000 miles, or about half the mileage being put on vehicles now, a lawmaker said Thursday.
The state would be able to fetch a higher price for the cruisers, which would be more attractive to Oklahoma police and sheriff's departments, said Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview.
Several local departments are buying used patrol vehicles from Kansas, which gets rid of its trooper vehicles when they reach 49,500 miles.
“Those dollars are leaving the state,” Hickman said. “It would be nice to keep those dollars in the state. We're exporting a great deal of law enforcement funding now to surrounding states to buy their used vehicles and quite frankly putting the Kansas … troopers in better vehicles.”
Hickman told members of the House of Representatives Public Safety Committee that troopers are driving cruisers until they reach 125,000 to 175,000 miles, depending on their conditions.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol over a three-year period could be able to replace the cruisers when they reach 80,000 miles. The patrol would start replacing them at 120,000 miles the first year, 100,000 miles the second and 80,000 miles by the third year, he said.
Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Paul Roan, D-Tishomingo, said the patrol, during better economic times, replaced cruisers when they reached 70,000 to 100,000 miles.
Roan, a retired state trooper, said cruisers were replaced at 80,000 miles when he joined the patrol 37 years ago.
Trooper Keith Barenberg told committee members a bolt on his cruiser's frame broke when he was on patrol about 12 years ago. His vehicle had about 130,000 miles on it.
“It's just the wear,” Barenberg said. “We're fairly rough on cars. You get that many miles on them, and stuff happens.”
To replace vehicles at 80,000 miles, the patrol would have to buy about twice the number of vehicles a year, he said. Oklahoma spends about $4 million a year on 75 new vehicles, mostly four-door cruisers, for the patrol and that figure would go up to about $9.2 million for 163 vehicles.
Hickman said the patrol strips its cruisers and sells them at auction, where they usually are sold for about $2,000.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Pete Norwood said his agency equips its cruisers with the best radars, cameras, radios and other equipment. His agency likes to sell the cruisers when they reach 80,000 miles but with the equipment left intact.
Police and sheriff's departments then would have a fully equipped law enforcement vehicle, which would be a selling point, he said. He expected the cruisers could sell for about $28,000, or about half the price the state invested in the vehicle and equipment.
Hickman said the patrol also would save money by replacing the vehicles sooner. Maintenance costs are about $6,000 for vehicles in the first 80,000 miles and about $12,000 for vehicles that log an additional 80,000 miles.
Hickman said the higher sale prices for the patrol vehicles along with reduced maintenance costs should generate enough money to make the patrol's cruiser program self-sustaining. It also could raise enough money to allow the patrol to go back to black-and-white cruisers. The state went to solid black or white vehicles in 2010 to save $800 a vehicle as a way to deal with budget crunch brought on by declining state revenues.
Many troopers would like a return to the black-and-whites, he said.
“Just the visibility to the public seeing that black-and-white car on the highway, when you see that vehicle pull up on a scene you know that the best of the best has arrived,” Hickman said.
Just the visibility to the public seeing that black-
car on the highway, when you see that vehicle pull up on a scene you know that the best of the best has arrived.”