Intercepting a Shortage: Auto Supply Chain Issues Force County to Switch Brands, Even Consider Used Cars | Local News

It’s one thing when you go to the store and they no longer have your favorite brand of pet food.

What do law enforcement do when the vehicle of their choice disappears from the lot?

That’s exactly the position Forsyth County found itself in when county officials learned in late February that their order for 17 Dodge Chargers and two Durangos, destined for the sheriff’s office, had been cancelled.

Bryan Bolling, a senior fleet technician, works Tuesday to replace a leaking water pump in a Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle at the county garage at the Linville General Services Complex in Winston-Salem.

Allison Lee Isley, Diary

Not postponed, not out of stock, but canceled altogether.

Fortunately, the county has the ability to purchase Ford Police Interceptor SUVs, an Explorer-based model that’s equipped for heavy-duty law enforcement work. The county is expected to approve the purchase Thursday.

But the challenge of dealing with the quicksand of supply chain issues has the county even considering getting used cars for some fleet functions.

“A lot of things are out of our control,” Scott Angell, director of the County Department of General Services, told members of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners at a recent meeting. “We feel like we’re at this point where we have to have our name in the hat every time there’s an opportunity.”

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And it’s not like a county employee can just walk out and drive an Interceptor from the parking lot: Angell told commissioners on March 10 that it could take 30 weeks or more to get an Interceptor delivered after it’s been order.

Forsyth County Sheriff's Office Patrol Car Maintenance

Mechanic Ronnie McLendon reinstalls the rear seat in a Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle Tuesday at the county garage.

Allison Lee Isley, Diary

Winston-Salem Deputy City Manager Johnnie Taylor said it took the city five to six months to get the 75 interceptors the city ordered last September.

“I think there’s a huge backlog now because of the supply chain,” Taylor said. “Everyone has encountered difficulties.”

County officials saw a benefit in getting Chargers because of the lower cost and efficiency that having a standard car in the fleet can produce. Law enforcement vehicles must have racks for computers and weapons, a partition between the officer’s front seat and the rear seat, a brush guard for the front and other features, not to mention lights turn signals on top.

With only Chargers in the fleet, the county garage could reuse much of the equipment if it was still in good condition, when swapping an old car for a replacement. Stephen Brinegar, the county’s fleet manager, pointed to a light bar on a vehicle in the garage that has been rebuilt three times for continued use.

Last December, Angell thought he had successfully fielded all 17 new Chargers. Thinking he had until January to place the order, he was suddenly told in mid-December that the order window was closing in a few days and vehicle production would be extremely limited.

Angell went to county council that month and got informal council approval to go ahead and place the order, then return later for formal approval. It was either that or lose the cars, county officials thought.

This proved unnecessary when the order was canceled in February. Even the 2023 Chargers’ ordering period won’t open until later this summer, and county officials say they’ve heard that the Charger is on the verge of ceasing production altogether.

Plan B

Law enforcement officers cannot rely on a used car when performing typical patrol duties, but County Executive Dudley Watts told commissioners that recently used cars can fill other roles in the county fleet.

“We have developed a strategy to keep this fleet running, given the shortages,” Watts told the board. “We have two vehicles that the sheriff’s office needs to replace now. They’re pretty flexible in what they can use, because they can be undercover, they can be at the school resource office or whatever.

But, as Watts explained, the county’s purchasing procedures prevented decisions from being made quickly enough:

“If you go into the used-vehicle market, nobody’s going to hold them back,” Watts said. “We can’t get back to the board in time to lock the vehicle. We tried many times and lost every one of them.

Watts said the county located a 2016 GMC Acadia and a 2020 Chevrolet Silverado that together could be purchased for about $62,000, but county policy prohibits purchases over $50,000 without the approval of the county. advice.

Watts requested and obtained informal permission to make the purchases without formal approval. The county can also act to allow future purchases to take place on the fly, at least until the end of the fiscal year.

The Interceptor is a little more expensive than the Charger the county had its eye on: $35,000 versus $29,000 for a vehicle. Therefore, the total cost of the purchase will increase by almost $100,000 to almost $700,000.

The city’s Taylor said the Interceptor has received good reviews from city police for how it handles its job. Prior to the purchase, the city’s fleet featured a mix of different vehicles.

“Standardization makes parts availability easier,” Taylor said. “We were happy with the Interceptor.”