Firefighters have lost all confidence in the Tactical Response Vehicles (TRVs) operating in Scarborough after a mounting series of failings that have left the public and fire crews at risk, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.
Last Wednesday, one of the TRVs broke down while on route to an emergency incident in Harrogate.
The union says it is the latest in a series of worrying incidents that include the vehicle’s onboard water pumps failing, the vehicles’ brakes failing to work and the vehicle ‘snaking’ across the road whilst responding to emergencies.
The vehicles were introduced in January by North Yorkshire Fire Service as cheaper, ‘reliable replacements’ to standard fully equipped fire engines.
However, the vehicles have been plagued with constant reliability issues with sources in the fire service saying they have “spent as much time in the workshops being repaired as they have on the stations”.
The FBU has said that senior managers are refusing to acknowledge the severity of the faults with one manager reportedly saying: “This vehicle cannot be removed as it will become political.”
Steve Howley, secretary of the FBU in North Yorkshire, said: “It is outrageous that these new vehicles have such appalling reliability issues that are serious enough for fire crews to take them off the run. If a car had these same issues, it would fail an MOT test. Yet these are the vehicles we are relying upon to respond to emergencies where people’s lives are on the line. Enough is enough.
“Those who are responsible for purchasing the vehicles have clearly not exercised due diligence. They were rushed into service, ahead of the agreed schedule, as a way to cover up the serious staff shortages that mean up to 14 fire appliances are unavailable each day. This is taxpayer’s money and in these times of austerity someone should be held to account.”
"Despite the continuing problems, fire bosses want to reduce the number of firefighters who crew the TRVs from three to two. They will ask North Yorkshire Fire Authority to vote on this plan in September.
"Firefighters say slowing response times to incidents in North Yorkshire, as well as the questionable reliability of the TRVs means further reductions in staff or fire stations is ‘unacceptable’ as this puts firefighters and public lives at risk."
In response Assistant Chief Fire Officer Owen Hayward said: "The Tactical Response Vehicles are a new type and make of vehicle and, as with all new vehicle types, there have been some initial problems.
"However, the Service is working with the suppliers to resolve these issues. We have also commissioned an independent report by the Fleet Transport Association, which has confirmed that the vehicles are safe, legal and roadworthy.
"It is not true to say the vehicles have been rushed into service. There has been extensive consultation, testing and staff training since the decision was made to introduce them in December 2015. Two of the six vehicles are not yet operational and they are planned to start operating in September as part of a phased implementation."