The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Fatal Boston Fire Dept. Truck Crash Blamed on Lack of Fleet Maintenance Program

January 14, 2009

BOSTON --- The issue of truck fleet maintenance has been thrust into the spotlight in Boston since a city Fire Department truck crashed into an apartment building Jan. 9 in the Mission Hill neighborhood after barreling down Parker Hill Avenue.

The accident killed Lt. Kevin M. Kelley, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, the Boston Globe reported. The driver, Robert Bernard O'Neill, reportedly lost control of the truck when its brakes failed entirely.

Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser on Jan. 12 acknowledged that the Boston Fire Department has no rigorous schedule for routine maintenance on its fleet of firetrucks. Instead, the department has relied on annual state-mandated safety inspections that fall short of the safety checks and maintenance practices recommended by the truck manufacturers.

The ladder truck in the Jan. 9 fatal crash hadn't had a brake inspection since March 2008, according to maintenance records. The truck manufacturer, E-ONE, recommends brake inspections every three months or every 125 hours of service, whichever comes sooner.

After the fatal crash, a similar truck in the fleet was inspected and taken out of service because mechanics discovered loose brake components. Fraser has ordered an internal review of the department's inspection and maintenance procedures.

The issue of fleet maintenance has also entered into the controversy surrounding a firefighter labor dispute, the Boston Globe reported. Unionized firefighters, rather than licensed truck mechanics, are responsible for some of the fleet's maintenance and light repairs. But some city officials have long pushed for the hiring of licensed mechanics who aren't members of the firefighters union to oversee fleet maintenance. These city officials argue that the union has thwarted those efforts.

Edward Kelly, president of the union, told the Boston Globe that he doesn't oppose the city hiring nonunion mechanics, as long as this policy change is negotiated with the union. He blamed the lack of fleet brake inspections on City Hall. "Certainly had the city been doing that to our vehicles, Kevin Kelley would probably be alive today," Kelly said.

Kelly, president of the firefighters' Local 718, earlier this week called upon the governor to authorize Fire Department fleet inspections by the State Police in order to protect the lives of city firefighters.

The Boston Fire Department's fleet includes 33 fire engines, called pump trucks, and 23 ladder trucks in service at any given time. The truck involved in the fatal crash was a ladder truck.



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