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Report Blasts Irving Police on Tire Maintenance

(Akron/Tire Review – Dallas Morning News) A blistering internal review of Irving’s (Texas) police vehicle maintenance procedures after the traffic death of a police officer concludes that the city has allowed tires on squad cars to become too worn before being replaced.

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Irving auditors also found the city has no clear policy regarding rotating tires and wasn’t changing defective tires in pairs.

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The auditors say the city needs to address those issues quickly and take better care of all city vehicles to improve employee safety.

The audit’s findings are part of the fallout from an April accident that killed Officer Andrew Esparza, who was driving a squad car with worn tires. But the audit points to widespread deficiencies within the city’s fleet maintenance department, as well as concerns about cars other than police vehicles.

The city’s fleet maintenance manager is no longer in that position and won’t be returning to the fleet operation, Irving officials said. An outside company was brought in Tuesday to serve as interim manager of the department, which could eventually be outsourced.

City Council members met in private Wednesday afternoon to discuss the fleet maintenance audit, which issued several recommendations regarding police tires. They include replacing tires before they get too worn, developing a tire rotation policy and having technicians include tire tread depths and pressures on work orders on all city vehicles.

The audit also recommends the city consider giving tire gauges to all drivers of city vehicles and give drivers vehicle inspection checklists so they can ensure their cars are in good condition.

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Some of the recommendations have already been implemented, city officials said in the audit.

Council members said they’re disappointed about the deficiencies but glad that city officials are taking action.

"It’s disturbing, very disturbing," council member Allan Meagher said. "The city manager is taking appropriate steps. The council will back him 100%."

Mayor Herbert Gears, who’s out of the country, said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon that he’s encouraged that city staff members have taken "swift and thorough action."

"The report seems to indicate that the average resident of Irving knows how to take better care of their cars and their tires than the city of Irving," Mr. Gears said. "We’re going to change that. We cannot tolerate inefficiencies that can affect the safety of our employees."

The audit states: "We conclude that improvements are needed as soon as possible to the preventative maintenance process. … The city can take steps now to increase our employees’ safety and protect property."

Officer Esparza, 26, was driving on a State Highway 183 entrance ramp on his way to an accident scene as severe weather hit. He crashed into a light pole after his car apparently hydroplaned.

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Worn tire treads may have been a factor in the officer’s death, and the rear tire treads were below minimum standards, police reports show. City documents state that the minimum tire standard has been one-sixteenth of an inch, which is lower than some other North Texas cities.

Officer Esparza’s car was inspected in the city shop and apparently fitted with used tires a few weeks before the deadly accident, police documents say.

But city documents show that the city’s work order for the officer’s car indicates billing for four new tires on the squad car. A police report on the accident said it was "inaccurate" that new tires had been placed on the car.

The officer’s death spurred City Manager Tommy Gonzalez to move up an internal audit of the fleet department, city officials said.

Some of the systemwide problems cited in the audit were the result of inadequate quality control or lack of oversight in fleet maintenance, which has about 30 employees and is responsible for maintaining about 750 city-owned vehicles.

Among the audit’s other findings:

• Technicians aren’t provided lists for checking off steps during inspections, which means there’s no documentation showing the steps were performed.

• Fleet maintenance hasn’t been rotating tires on police pursuit vehicles and hasn’t been replacing defective police tires in pairs. Fleet officials told auditors that tires weren’t rotated because they typically are replaced before it’s time for them to be rotated.

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• There was confusion in the city shop regarding appropriate air pressure levels in tires.

Among the recommendations:

• Replace police pursuit vehicle tires when they’re at three-sixteenths of an inch.

Develop criteria to determine when police pursuit tires should be rotated.

• Ensure that technicians include tire tread depths and pressures on work orders for all city vehicles.

• Give all drivers of city vehicles tire pressure gauges so they can check air pressure.

The company serving as the fleet department’s interim manager will work for four to six months, said Cliff Miller, managing director of utilities and general services. The city will study its options for the department, including outsourcing, Mr. Miller said.

City officials and elected leaders say it’s premature to say what will happen to the fleet department.
 
 

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