Ky. agency reports high cost of maintaining 7 high-mileage ambulances

Board of directors for the service reviews the maintenance costs of each ambulance and management request to purchase 4 new ambulances

By Melinda J. Overstreet
Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW, Ky. — The least number of miles on any of the seven ambulances in use by the Barren-Metcalfe County Emergency Medical Service was 107,350 as of Thursday morning.

It is the only one with less than 156,517 miles. The highest one has 204,367 miles.

At the last meeting of the ambulance service’s board of directors, four new ambulances were requested by the management staff, so a committee was appointed to get more information and make a recommendation. It met Thursday afternoon.

Tim Gibson, assistant director of the service, started them off with a list of all the ambulances, complete with vehicle identification numbers, the model year and make, the amount of mileage as of 7 a.m. that day and the dollar amount spent on maintaining each from July 1, 2013, through March 1 of this year.

The service has four 2010s, two 2011s and one 2012 model, all Chevrolets. The range of maintenance costs was $7,462 for one of the 2010s to $26,512 for one of the 2011s. That latter one raised eyebrows right away, with Greg Wilson, committee member and Metcalfe County judge-executive, asking what happened to that one. Gibson explained it had had a fuel injector issue recently, plus several other significant problems.

Gibson later told the committee he is meticulous about making sure regular maintenance gets done.

“We want ‘em to run, and we want them to run top notch,” he said. “We’ve got a lot riding back there.”

He also provided a printout of the purchase prices, loan amounts still remaining and payoff dates for each, as well as other related information. The two with the highest mileage are paid off, the document shows.

Two representatives from Mid-America Ambulance and Coach Sales, based in Campbellsville, were also on hand to provide additional information and answer questions.

Randy Herron, president of the company, explained there are basically three types of ambulances: Type 1 has a truck front with the box-type structure on the back; Type 2 is a van; and Type 3 has a van-style front but a box in the back, and BMCEMS has Type 3s.

Gibson asked Herron whether, in his experience, the chassis on any particular type of truck tended to have more longevity, and Herron told him some services had gone to bigger trucks with that goal in mind, but they were finding it was about the same.

He said that at one point, Ford had 94 percent of the market, but after a change in its engines, Chevrolets had become the more popular.

After committee member and Barren County Magistrate Carl Dickerson asked about the pros and cons of smaller versus larger box sizes, Mike Swift, director of the service, said sometimes in the rural areas where his trucks have to go, it’s hard for them to get turned around in the bigger trucks.

Herron said most bigger trucks don’t get much more life after 200,000 miles.

Dickerson later asked Swift and Gibson whether they had always been satisfied with the type they have.

Swift said they’ve tried all different types, and Type 3 seems to work best.

“Type 3 is the most patient-care-friendly,” said Joe Middleton, a former employee of the service who was just recently appointed to the board.

Herron added that most services in the country use that type.

Dickerson asked him whether, having had an ambulance service, which type he used.

Herron said he used to be the director of Lake Cumberland EMS, which covered 10 counties, and he had used all three types.

“If I was buying them today, I’d buy Type 3; it’s all I’d buy,” he said.

Additional discussion centered on the possibility of leasing, which typically is not an option with ambulances except with a lease-to-own program, Herron said; what could be done with the old ambulances – whether it would be better to trade in the entire vehicle or perhaps just the chassis, for example; and the possibility of remounting the box on another chassis, which Herron discouraged.

He said by the time a service is considering replacing the chassis, the box generally needs bits and pieces of work as well, and the cost savings were not as great as one might expect by the time those are done.

After the Mid-America representatives and staff had gone, the committee members met alone, and discussed options.

Barren County Judge-Executive Micheal Hale said he was thinking of visiting a friend who works with the Hardin County service to talk with him about what they use, and Middleton told him they use Freightliners, so it could be a good opportunity to see how they feel about those.

Herron had told them his dealership had more problems with that make than any other truck with “little things” going wrong.

Hale said after everyone else had left and no action was taken, “I think we’re just going to continue to still gather information. I know I am. We’ve got to have a dependable truck and we’ve got to have a safe truck. Those are my two keys – dependable and safe.”

©2015 the Glasgow Daily Times (Glasgow, Ky.)

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