Firefighters have lost all confidence in the Tactical Response Vehicles (TRVs) operating in North Yorkshire after a series of failures left the public and fire crews at risk, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.
Last Wednesday (28 June), one of the TRVs broke down en route to an emergency incident in Harrogate. It comes on top of brakes and on board water pump failures in other vehicles. There have also been steering problems as the vehicles ‘snake’ across the road when driven at high speeds.
Introduced in January by North Yorkshire Fire Service as cheaper, ‘reliable replacements’ to standard fire engines, the TRVs have been plagued by faults and failures. One fire service source says the vehicles have “spent as much time in the workshops being repaired as they have on the stations”.
Steve Howley, secretary of the FBU in North Yorkshire, said: “It is outrageous that these new vehicles are so chronically unreliable that fire crews have to take them off the run. If a car had similar problems 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 TRVs 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 engines are unavailable each day. This is taxpayer’s money and in these times of austerity someone should be held to account.”
Senior managers are refusing to acknowledge the severity of the faults, say the FBU. One manager has reportedly said of a TRV: “This vehicle cannot be removed as it will become political.”
Despite serious, 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 the public alike at risk.