With several of the trucks in its fleet causing - and costing - more trouble than they were worth, the Callaway County Ambulance District's Board of Directors has taken the first steps toward purchasing three new ambulances in the next year.
Its decision was based on a recommendation from the ambulance selection committee, which also considered Ford E-Series, Ford F-Series and Chevrolet 3500 and 4500 trucks as options. The board voted to put out a request for bids on three Mercedes Sprinter Type III ambulances to replace three of its existing Ford F-Series trucks.
CCAD Director Charles Anderson noted the vehicles being replaced all have more than 100,000 miles on them, and all cost the district an average of 92 cents per mile in fuel and maintenance fees last year. The fleet's overall fuel and maintenance costs for 2012 were 72 cents per mile.
In comparison, Anderson noted the South Howell County Ambulance District, which runs six of the Mercedes ambulances and one Type III Chevrolet 3500 ambulance had a fuel and maintenance cost average of 37 cents per mile in 2012.
"We're looking at potentially saving up to $10,000 a year in maintenance and fuel costs per vehicle," Anderson said.
In addition to those savings, he noted that upfront cost of the Sprinter ambulances are approximately $10,000 less than a large body GM 4500 Type III, in part because the Mercedes vehicles are smaller.
The district originally had budgeted to replace only one ambulance this year, but with the potential financial benefits of making the switch from the Ford to the Mercedes vehicles, Anderson said the committee wanted to go ahead and replace three at once.
"We can bite the bullet and use our reserves, or do a three-year lease where we pay for one every year," Anderson said. "These F-Series trucks are killing us. The sooner we get them out the door, the better."
Anderson went further in his written report to the board, explaining that, "We have a responsibility to make fiscally responsible decisions to make sure we are able to remain financially stable. One way to accomplish that is to purchase more economical ambulance vehicles. Our projected savings over six years, if we purchased three Sprinters now and three more in 2016 could be up to $240,000.
"The committee's recommendation to purchase three Sprinter Type III ambulances does not come lightly. It was made after extensive research and evaluation," Anderson's report concluded.
One of the main points of consideration, he said, was the smaller size of the patient module in the Sprinter ambulances. Although he anticipated complaints from district employees about the smaller space, Anderson assured the board that committee members had had the opportunity to see one of the Sprinter trucks and came to the conclusions that patient care would not be jeopardized, and the new trucks would meet all criteria. District employees also will have the opportunity to see and test out one of the new trucks next week when the manufacturer sends one up to the district for that purpose.
Anderson added the smaller size has the advantage of enabling employees to reach more supplies from a sitting position, a point which board member John Brandt acknowledged was a safety improvement rather than a downside.
"Every time you stand in an ambulance, it's dangerous. If you can sit and reach everything, that's a good thing," Brandt said. "I think there's a lot of upsides to moving in this direction. I think it would be a great investment."
Anderson said the district is moving forward with preparing the request for bids, and he hopes to have bids ready to present to the board at its May meeting.