CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and Charlotte Fire Department vehicles operate under extreme conditions and put millions of miles on their vehicles every year.
But Channel 9 uncovered that some of those vehicles could be unsafe.
Eyewitness News anchor John Paul spent months going through a public records request he acquired from the city and looked at VINs for every police and fire vehicle in the city of Charlotte.
John Paul took the list to CarFax, which was then cross-referenced with the National Traffic Safety Administration, and found hundreds of open recalls on the cars and trucks that first responders drive every day.
Joey Aycock, a certified master technician who owns Joey’s Truck and Auto Repair in Charlotte specializing in fleets, had some concerns about the open recalls. He found there were open recalls for seatbelts that don’t latch properly, airbags that may not inflate, fuel pumps and power steering that could give out and a problem with engine cooling fans that have led to fires in some vehicles.
The issues occur under extreme conditions, which is exactly what first responders deal with on a daily basis.
“They see every condition imaginable that your vehicle and my vehicle will never see,” Aycock said.
CMPD officers have been involved in several high-speed chases this year, and some of their vehicles could be at risk of shutting off in the middle of the chase.
“If you’re running down the interstate at 70 mph and the car shuts off, you’ve got an issue,” Aycock said.
John Paul took the findings to Sherri Piersall, who oversees the fleet at CMPD. She said she had not been advised of any open recalls.
Piersall said CMPD doesn’t pull the vehicles out of service unless they get a complaint. She said that all the vehicles are safe despite the findings.
When a vehicle is taken in for recall work, it is done through the city.
“Based on the type of recall, city fleet will coordinate that,” Piersall said.
City fleet operates five garages across Charlotte, where they repair all of the city-owned cars and trucks.
Channel 9 asked the director, Chris Trull, why so many vehicles hadn’t been fixed.
“We try to balance that. Obviously, we have a lot of vehicles. We need vehicles to serve the public as well,” Trull said.
Trull said recalls have to be repaired by the dealer. Based on availability of parts and time, the fleet has to prioritize what gets fixed.
“They need to done, so we’re looking to get those done,” Trull said.
Trull also insisted that every vehicle that first responders drive is as safe as it can be.
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