LFC Comments: We would like to thank Mr. Ben Capelle, Executive Director, for promptly and completely answering the questions we sent to him from a LFC reader.
Question: (1) How many Chevy Tahoe or similar SUV’s does Laketran own?
3 2016 Chevy Tahoe’s
1 2019 Ford Explorer (Vehicle assigned to staff member)
1 2020 Ford Explorer (Supervisor vehicle)
(2) What is the total cost of each, including added equipment such as light bars and push bumpers?
a. Tahoe unit cost:
i. Vehicle $38,250.00
ii. Lighting and electronics up-fit $5,870
iii. Push bumper $375 installed
iv. Total unit cost $44,495
b. Explorer unit cost:
i. Vehicle $36,470
ii. Lighting and electronics up-fit $8,371
iii. Push bumper $375 installed
iv. Total unit cost $45,216
(3) What are the luxury options?
All of the vehicles are base models with the standard options. No additional options were included. The vehicles are new enough they include some standard options that might have been considered ”luxury” in the past. One of the Tahoe’s has “fancier” wheels because Classic Chevy had difficulty finding a vehicle with the base wheels and they asked us if we would accept the upgrade if they did not charge us for it, we agreed.
(4) Why did you buy these?
The Tahoe’s replaced 4 2003 Ford F-350 diesel crew cab trucks that were used by our Road Supervisors. 1 of the Tahoe’s was totaled by a distracted driver downtown, it was replaced with the Explorer.
These vehicles are used by our Road Supervisors who are the front line supervisors for the drivers. Supervisors report to accidents, passenger incidents and any issue that takes place on the road in addition to monitoring driver performance.
(5) Why do they have push bumpers? Are these capable of pushing a 12,000 pound bus? No?, then why do you have them?
Each vehicle is equipped with a push bumper to push buses that get stuck, most frequently in snow. Typically when a bus is stuck in the snow it does not take significant force to move it, so we have actually pushed our larger buses weighing 40,000 pounds. The cost to pull a bus out with a tow truck Is usually around $150 dollars, so it does not take long to recover the cost of the push bumper. Additionally when it is very snowy tow trucks usually take several hours to respond.
Some of our older large buses did/do not have traction control so they can get stuck relatively easy, particularly on a slight grade after stopping.
(6) What is the fuel economy of each? You make constant claims to be energy efficient and green: why did you buy expensive gas guzzler luxury vehicles?
Average lifetime MPG for each unit is below
· U11 – 14.78 (Tahoe)
· U12 – 15.45 (Tahoe) This is the vehicle that was totaled, I included the MPG data but it is no longer in the fleet.
· U13 – 14.89 (Tahoe)
· U14 – 15.02 (Tahoe)
· U15 – 21.92 (Explorer)
There vehicles are the lowest model available for purchase (I don’t know what options/specs come on the Ford Police Interceptor Explorer, it could have fewer options/features but we were not able to buy one, not being a police department), we did not purchase them based on any “luxury features”
The vehicles were selected based on the needs of the person who uses them, so a larger vehicle was required. We always try to buy the most efficient vehicle available for the task, unfortunately the task does not always allow for the smallest most efficient vehicle.
(7) Why didn’t you buy something economical such as an AWD Buick Encore?
We evaluated several vehicle options when we purchased the Tahoe’s and Explorer. Our Road Supervisors carry various pieces of equipment that take up space within the vehicles (Radio’s, laptops, large first aid kits, cones, etc.) the larger trunks of the Tahoe’s/explorer are required to fit the equipment. We used to keep that equipment in the bed of the pick-up trucks.
The Tahoe’s and explorer we on State of Ohio term purchasing contracts when we bought them. I forget what the small SUV was at the time, but it we reviewed it and found it to be too small. We were happy when the explorer was on the state contracts because it has a smaller engine than the Tahoe’s.
(8) If a supervisor needs to get somewhere, why can’t they take a dial a ride bus, one of the many that are constantly idling in the empty Park-N-Ride lot in front of your headquarters?
The Tahoe’s and explorers are much cheaper to purchase and operate than buses of any kind. It is significantly more economical to use some type of traditional passenger vehicle than it is to use a bus.
The buses in our Headquarters lot are typically being pre-tripped to ensure they are ready for their run that day. We often direct them to complete these pre-trip’s in the overflow lot because there is more space for the drivers to walk around the buses and identify any issues. Having the bus running is required to test/inspect the wheelchair lift.
(9) Why are these expensive gas-guzzlers only for supervisors? Since these are labeled for supervisors, is there a separate fleet for non-supervisors and what is it?
· These 4 vehicles are specifically for our Road Supervisors. They are labeled so that the public clearly knows what they are. We have found the label to be particularly useful when pulling up to a passenger problem or tense accident situation, it clearly communicates to those at the scene who the person is.
· We have several sedans we use for driver shift changes. These are two 2013 Chevy Impalas and 1 2007 Dodge Caravan.
· We also have 3 vehicles assigned to employees: A Ford Explorer, Ford Escape and Ford Ranger.
(10) You bought many new smaller buses to “take people to the doctor”; why can’t you take people to the doctor in a Chevy Tahoe and eliminate some of the smaller buses?
Current Federal Regulations require every vehicle we operate in revenue service to be wheelchair accessible. We are working on a pilot program with the FTA (Federal Transit Administration) that would allow us to use sedans in revenue service.
We have been working on the project for quite a while. The FTA requires to have an “equivalent service plan” to operate non-accessible vehicles. We have developed the plan and we are in the testing phases using our traditional vehicles, but operating them as if they do not have wheelchair capacity. Once we have completed testing and the FTA has approved our ability to provide service without impacting service quality for people in mobility devices, we will be able to purchase sedans and use them for Dial-a-Ride. We are hoping to have the testing done by the end of the 2nd quarter of next year, allowing us to place some sedan orders in the second half of 2022.
Ben Capelle | CEO
Direct (440) 350-1001