State Police Needs to Develop A Cost Effective Fleet Plan

4x4 Vehicles Are Not Assigned To Counties In Relationship to Snowfall

Supplementing Other Agencies' Vehicle Fleet

Approximately 45% of State Police Vehicles Are Unmarked


The West Virginia State Police maintains a vehicle inventory of 974 vehicles. This number is made up of cars, sport utility vehicles, light trucks, flat bed car haulers, all terrain vehicles and two helicopters. The State Police use General Revenue, Special Revenue and Federal and State grant money to purchase vehicles. Table 1 below shows the budgeted and actual amounts for vehicle purchases from various funds for fiscal years 98, 99 and 2000. There are no totals for actual expenditures in FY 2000.

Table 1

Actual Vehicle Expenditures

  Actual Actual Budgeted
Fund FY 1998 FY 1999 FY 2000
0453 $2,931,533 $2,124,943 $5,221,499
6501 66,711 466,845 70,000
6502 1,427,132 137,284 1,136,250
6504 57,559 47,255 0
6505 0 19,080 0
6506 0 0 48,750
6509 0 0 14,125
6510 0 0 0
6517 0 0 300,000
6519 500 0 990,000
8741 6,189 0 0
Total $4,489,625 $2,795,407 $7,780,624

Issue Area 1: The State Police Needs To Develop A Cost Effective Fleet Requisition Plan When Purchasing Four-Wheel Drive Vehicles.

The West Virginia State Police (WVSP) purchased 71 full size sport utility vehicles (SUVs -Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban) in the past three years at a cost of $1,973,383. In comparison, the State Police could have purchased 71 four-wheel drive Jeep Cherokees at a cost of $1,569,597, a difference of $403,786. In addition, the large SUVs are more costly to operate. Over a three year period, at 30,000 miles per year, the 71 large SUVs gasoline costs are approximately $88,461 more than the cost of gasoline for 71 Jeep Cherokees. The Legislative Auditor's Office estimates that at a minimum over a three-year period, the 71 large SUVs will cost the State a minimum of $492,247 more to purchase and operate than 71 Jeep a three year period.

Large Sport Utility Vehicle Cost More & Are More Expensive to Maintain

Table 2 summarizes the State Police's purchases of large SUV's for the last three years.

Table 2

Purchase of Large Sport Utility Vehicles For The Last Three Years

Year Make Model Number Vehicle Cost Total
97 Ford Expedition 34 $27,753 $943,602
97 Chevy Suburban 1 32,275 32,275
98 Ford Expedition 3 28,591 85,773
98 Chevy Suburban 2 33,356 66,712
99 Ford Expedition 1 29,777 29,777
99 Chevy Suburban @ 2 28,308 56,616
99 Chevy *Tahoe 4WD 28 29,178 758,628
Total 71 $1,973,383

@Communication Technician vehicle.

*2 are leased by federal funding and not in total cost.

The State Police also purchased 33 midsize vehicles during the same three year period. These vehicles included Jeep Cherokees and two other General Motors models. Table 3 summarizes number of midsize SUV purchased, cost per vehicle and total cost of midsize vehicles for past three years.

Table 3

Midsize Four Wheel Drive Vehicles


Make Model Number Vehicle Cost Total Cost
98 GM SUV* 6 $22,088 $132,528
99 Jeep Cherokee 23 22,107 508,461
99 GM SUV* 4 18,746 74,984
Total     33   $715,973

* These are models used by the Bureau of Criminal Investigations. Due to the sensitive undercover nature of their work, these models are not disclosed.

The cost of large SUVs are significantly higher than police equipped cars/cruisers or midsize SUVs. SUVs are currently the hottest selling vehicle style in the US and are being marked up accordingly by the manufacturers. The Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor, which is a police equipped Crown Victoria, cost approximately 30% less. To illustrate the cost differences, Tables 4 and 5 below shows purchases and prices paid for large SUV's over the past three years.

Table 4

Cost Difference Between

Large SUVs and the Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor

Type of Sports Utility Vehicle # Cost Per Vehicle Total Purchase Cost Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor Cost Total Cost If Same Number of Ford Police Cruisers Were Purchased Difference
1997 Ford Expeditions 34 $27,753 $943,602 $20,175 $685,950 $257,652
1998 Ford Expeditions 3 28,591 85,773 20,893 62,679 23,094
1999 Ford Expedition 1 29,777 29,777 20,314 20,314 9,463
1999 4WD Chevrolet Tahoe 26 29,178 758,628 20,314 528,164 230,464
Total 64 $1,817,780 $1,297,107 $520,673

Table 5

Cost Difference Between

Large SUVs and the Police Equipped Jeep Cherokee

Type of Sports Utility Vehicle

Cost Per Vehicle
Total Cost Jeep Cherokee Cost Total Cost If The Same Number of Jeep Cherokees Had Been Purchased Difference
1997 Ford Expeditions 34 $27,753 $943,602 $22,107 $751,638 $191,964
1998 Ford Expeditions 3 28,591 85,773 22,107 66,321 19,452
1999 Ford Expedition 1 29,777 29,777 22,107 22,107 7,670
1999 4WD Chevrolet Tahoe 26 29,178 758,628 22,107 574,782 183,846
Total 64 $1,817,780 $1,414,848 $402,932

Note: Since there were no 1997 or 1998 Jeep Cherokees purchased, the 1999 model Cherokee price was used for all comparisons.

The Jeep Cherokee is used extensively by the State Police. This vehicle is 9" smaller in exterior width and approximately 7" smaller in driver seat width than a Ford Expedition. This leaves little room for equipment and personnel when compared.

The State Police has recently purchased two Chevy Suburbans at $28,308 each, but these are for communication technicians and are not intended for police use. These technicians maintain all state police radio and electronics equipment, and their assignments include frequent travel to remote mountaintop radio transmitter sites.

Gasoline Cost Comparison

There are certain factors pertaining to large SUVs that make them more costly to maintain than Jeeps. Large SUV's have very poor gas mileage and can be more expensive to maintain. Given a vehicle which records 30,000 miles in a year, the fuel cost differences can be great when applied to an entire fleet of vehicles. The price of gas per gallon that the Division of Highways charged the State Police was on average $0.960571for the six month between July and December 1999. Using the 30,000 miles per year estimate and the cost per gallon of gasoline, both the Ford Expedition and the Chevy Tahoe cost $415 more per year to operate than the Jeep Cherokee, or $1,245 over a three year period. The different gasoline cost is displayed in Table 6.

Table 6

Gas Mileage Comparison


Miles Per Gallon City/Highway Annual Cost of Gasoline Annual Difference With Jeep Three Year Difference
Jeep Cherokee 15/20 $1,651    
Chevy Tahoe 12/16 $2,071 $415 $1,245
Ford Expedition 12/16 $2,071 $415 $1,245

When comparing the gasoline cost between the 71 Ford and Chevrolet SUVs and 71 Jeep Cherokees, the additional gasoline cost per year for the 71 Ford and Chevrolet SUV is $29,487. Thus, had 71 Jeep Cherokees been purchased instead of the 71 Ford and Chevrolet SUV the gasoline savings over a three year period could have been $88,461.

Large SUVs Have Worse Road Performance Than Regular Size SUVs and Cruisers

Large four wheel drive sport utility vehicles do not perform as well as sedans and regular sport utility vehicles in virtually every aspect. Although the SUVs of the State Police are not classified as pursuit vehicles, they were reviewed without bias in every category. The objective is to show the all around differences of the vehicles. The first performance measure analyzed is acceleration. This is measured by the amount of time it takes the vehicle to get from 0 mph to 60 mph. Table 7 below shows that the Jeep Cherokee and the large SUV Chevy Tahoe were comparable, but the Ford Expedition was slower.

Table 7

Acceleration Comparison from 0 - 60 mph


Seconds Difference With Jeep
Jeep Cherokee 9.1 0
Ford Crown Victoria 9.2 0.1
Chevy Tahoe 4WD 9.4 0.3
Ford Expedition 11.4 2.3

The extra weight of these larger, heavier vehicles also reduces braking performance. The distance it takes to get a large SUV stopped versus both the Jeep Cherokee and the Ford Crown Victoria police cruisers is listed below in Table 8. This measurement deals with a vehicle's ability to make a sudden stop at high speed. The test is performed by having a vehicle reach a speed of 60 mph and then bring the vehicle to a stop. As the table depicts, it takes a larger vehicle more distance to come to a complete stop, which can increase the chances of an accident.

Table 8

Comparison of Braking Distance

Vehicle Braking Distance 60 - 0 mph Difference With Jeep Cherokee
Jeep Cherokee 128'  
Ford Crown Victoria 136' 8'
Ford Explorer 148' 20'
Ford Expedition 4WD 157' 29'
Chevy Tahoe 4WD 165' 37'

SUV has more ground clearance and sets higher, raising its center of gravity and reduces the vehicle's road handling. One particular rating known as road handling index, measures a vehicle's G forces. This rating is used to quantify a vehicles ultimate steady state cornering grip. Simply put, this rating tells how hard a vehicle can corner before its tires start to slip. The measurement is obtained by using what is known as a skidpad. The test is done by driving the vehicle centered on the outside of this circular skidpad as quickly as possible. The vehicles are timed around the circle in both directions and the results are converted into G forces. The best numbers are taken in each direction and then averaged. The higher the index number, the better the vehicle's handling. The ratings of various vehicles are included in Table 9 below. Note the difference between 4WD vehicles and the 2WD Tahoe and automobiles.

Table 9

Road Handling Index Comparison


Road Handling Index

Ford Crown Victoria .79
Chevy Tahoe 2WD .77
Jeep Cherokee .73
Chevy Tahoe 4WD .68
Ford Expedition .66

Sport Utility Vehicle Safety

SUVs are more probable to rollover during driving than automobiles. A study performed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 47% of all fatalities in light trucks result from rollover. By comparison only 22% of car deaths are attributable to vehicle rollover. This is due to the vehicle's higher center of gravity and the sideways force from a turn causes the vehicle to be more likely to rollover. The NHTSA requires warning labels for SUVs which have a wheelbases of 110 inches or shorter. The Jeep Cherokee, which the state police currently have 69, has a wheelbase of 101.4". In addition to the Cherokee, the State Police also have 10 other midsize SUVs models, which have wheelbases less than 110". The large SUVs do not fall into this category having much larger wheelbases than the midsize versions. But, the large SUVs have recently come under scrutiny from insurance companies due to the harm they cause to smaller vehicles.

A typical large SUV can weigh as much as 5,275 lbs. (Ford Expedition). When compared with a typical family car at 2,900 lbs. (Honda Accord), the outcome of a wreck between the two is obvious. One major automobile insurance company has already raised liability premiums of SUVs due to an analysis that determined medical bills for people hit by these vehicles were unusually high.

Based on recent crash tests performed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration most SUVs did not fair as well as cars or minivans. The crash test involves colliding vehicles into a barrier at 35 mph. Table 10 reports crash ratings of SUVs and cars used by the State Police in addition to others within the same classes possibly being considered for purchase.

Table 10

Frontal Impact Crash Testing Results


Driver Rating

Passenger Rating

Ford Crown Victoria 5 stars 5 stars
Chevy Tahoe 4 stars 4 stars
Ford Expedition 4 stars 4 stars
Ford Explorer 4 stars 4 stars
Jeep Cherokee 3 stars 3 stars
Dodge Durango 2 stars 4 stars

5 Stars - less than a 10% chance of life-threatening injury

4 Stars - a 10-20% chance of life-threatening injury

3 Stars - a 20-35% chance of life-threatening injury

2 Stars - a 35-45% chance of life-threatening injury

1 Star - Better than a 45% chance of life-threatening injury

Table 11 reports the results of NHTSA testing of side impact for vehicles. The SUVs tested perform better in the side impact category versus the frontal impact category. The NHTSA has not tested all trucks in the 1999 model year. For side impact testing, NHTSA runs a deformable barrier into the side of a car twice, once at the front passenger's level and once at the rear passenger's level at 38 miles per hour.

Table 11

NHTSA Side Impact Crash Testing Results




Ford Explorer 5 stars 5 stars
Ford Crown Victoria 4 stars 4 stars
Jeep Cherokee 3 stars 5 stars
Ford Expedition no data no data
Chevy Tahoe no data no data
Dodge Durango no data no data

5 Stars - a 0-5% chance of life-threatening injury

4 Stars - a 6-10% chance of life-threatening injury

3 Stars - a 11-20% chance of life-threatening injury

2 Stars - a 21-25% chance of life-threatening injury

1 Star - better than a 25% chance of life-threatening injury

The possible losses from SUV accidents can also be of greater cost due to the expensive components of a four-wheel drive system and injuries to other vehicle passengers caused by the large SUVs. The average losses over a six years period are used to set premiums at the Board of Risk and Insurance Management (BRIM), the self-insurance agency. BRIM is currently considering a premium plan which not only uses past losses but also takes current loss exposure into account. Based on Progressive Insurance data, the large SUVs could create higher premiums in the future due to increased loss exposure from accidents and repairs.

Large SUVs Were Purchased For Interior Space And Comfort

The large SUVs were purchased for both officer morale and comfort. Comparing the large SUVs with the midsize SUVs, one difference is interior space. The State Police has considerable amounts of electronic components which must be mounted near the driver. The midsize SUVs has limited front interior room which brings safety issues into concern when equipment is in the air bag deployment zone.

The large SUVs were made available on the statewide contract issued by the Purchasing Division within the Department of Administration. State code requires state agencies to utilize statewide contracts issued by Purchasing when items are available. Various types of vehicles are made available on the statewide contracts. The contract did not have other midsize four-wheel drive SUVs available except the Jeep. Thus, the State Police chose to purchase the larger, more costly SUVs.

The Purchasing Division does allow for the agencies to submit in writing their needs and additional specifications on any product. Police cruiser packages are part of the specifications issued when the state submits proposals for vehicle purchases. However, the specifications cannot be so specific that it eliminates any vendor or certain products from participating in the bidding process as required by the Code. The bidding process required in the Code and the manufacturers packaging of the vehicles limits the types of vehicles available for selection.

The state police requires every police vehicle to have enough interior room to place the various electronic equipment, cloth seats, power windows and power door locks. When this standard is applied to SUVs the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe met the vehicle specifications better than the Jeep. There are other vehicles within the same class of the Jeep Cherokee, such as the Ford Explorer. However, the State Police has not been allowed to purchase these vehicles because the Jeep Cherokee has consistently won the statewide contracts due to cost. While the Jeep Cherokee may be cheaper than other vehicles in its class, it may not have the interior room that the State Police desire. However, the State Police could submit a request to the Department of Administration which allows them to purchase vehicles outside of the statewide contract, if such vehicles better suit the State Police's needs.


The reorganization of state government in 5F-2-2-(2) during 1989 mandated that

...various agencies and boards operate effectively, efficiently and economically, and develop goals, objectives, policies and plans that are necessary or desirable for the effective, efficient and economical operation of the department.

The State Police uses four-wheel drive vehicles for various police work and to serve the citizens of West Virginia. The state police's for need four wheel-drive vehicles is not questioned, but the purchasing of the large and more expensive SUVs is difficult to justify based on cost. Based on cost, the large SUVs do not meet the code's mandate to operate efficiently and economically.

West Virginia has a very rugged topography and SUVs are a necessity for some areas of the State; specifically in the mountainous and snow counties. The additional cost for purchasing and operating the 71 large four wheel drive SUV over a three period will cost the state $492,247.

Large SUVs are not only expensive to purchase and operate, but are also the worst vehicle in handling performance when compared to a Jeep Cherokee or a cruiser. The vehicle is slower in acceleration, needs at least an additional 20 feet to stop at 60 miles per hour than the Jeep and its road handling is less than the Jeep or the cruiser. Thus, these two factors alone cannot justify the purchasing of such a large number of Ford Expeditions and Chevrolet Tahoe for police work.

Recommendation 1

The State Police should reduce their inventory of large SUVs through attrition. These vehicles should be replaced with more efficient and lower cost midsize SUVs or sedan cruisers. In areas where 4WD SUVs are necessary, it is recommended the State Police purchase the SUVs that provides the best compromise between cost, performance, and safety.

Recommendation 2

The State Police should work with the Purchasing Division by providing the specifications to the type of SUVs or 4 WD vehicles needed to perform their police duties. These specifications should include interior room, resale value, operational cost per mile, and, when possible, road handling, and crash ratings.

I: Issue Area 2: The State Police 4x4 Vehicles Are Not Assigned To Counties In Relationship To Snowfall.

The State Police informed the Legislative Auditor's Office that they allocate the number of four wheel drive vehicles assigned to a detachment based upon manpower levels and whether an area typically experiences severe winter weather. SUVs are helpful during inclement weather and allow for off road use in rural areas when needed. They are to be assigned to areas with higher snowfall and rough terrain. Appendix A summarizes each county's population, number of police vehicles assigned to that county, number of SUVs assigned to the county, and the 30-year average annual snowfall for the county.

These vehicles should be assigned to areas with rugged terrain and/or large annual snow fall. Our analysis of the inventory of SUVs assigned indicates that the vehicles are not always assigned to areas that seem to fit into these categories. The Legislative Auditor's Office conducted a regression analysis of the State Police's assignment of four wheel drive vehicles by counties. The regression analysis showed a statistically significant correlation between manpower and vehicle assignment. However, there was no correlation between vehicle assignment and annual average snow fall. Thus, the current assignment of 4-wheel drive vehicles may not allow the State Police to appropriately respond to some county needs during inclement weather.

For example, the state police assigned 23% (38 of 166) of their four wheel drive vehicles to Kanawha County which has 20-40 inches of snow fall annually. In contrast, none of the 13 State Police vehicles stationed in Fayette County, which receives between 30-55 inches of snow annually, are four wheel drive vehicles. Another example is Wyoming County. There are four State Police troopers stationed in Wyoming County. However, even though Wyoming County receives between 25-40 inches of snow annually, it has no 4-wheel drive vehicles assigned to the area. Finally, some 4-wheel drive vehicles are assigned to locations such as the Executive Office of the State Police, Traffic Records/Motor Vehicle Inspection and to the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety when some rural detachments have none.

Prior to December 1998, there were 12 non-interstate detachments throughout the state without an SUV. Two of these detachments have since been assigned SUVs. Another six SUVs have been reassigned to the Troops these detachments are in. This leaves four detachments which are still without SUV assigned Troopers.

Recommendation 3

The State Police should review whether they are appropriately assigning 4x4 vehicles throughout the state.

Issue Area 3: The State Police is Supplementing Other Agencies' Vehicle Fleets.

The review of the State Police vehicle inventory indicates eight vehicles are assigned and are being used by five other state agencies. The eight vehicles and agencies that they are assigned to are listed in Table 12 below.

Table 12

Vehicles on Loan to Other Agencies

Vehicle Agency
1985 Mercury SW Division of Corrections
1988 Dodge Dynasty Division of Natural Resources
1991 Pontiac Bonneville Division of Natural Resources
1996 Dodge Intrepid Attorney General
1997 Dodge Minivan Attorney General
1996 Ford Crown Victoria Division of Capitol Security
1996 Ford Crown Victoria Division of Capitol Security
1998 Ford Expedition Secretary of Military Affairs

Chapter 15, Article 2, Section 10 mandates the superintendent to "provide the members of the department with suitable arms and weapons, and, when he deems it necessary, with suitably equipped automobiles...". The code did not provide the superintendent with authority to provide other agencies with state police vehicles.

Recommendation 4

The State Police should attempt to transfer these vehicles from their inventory to the other state agencies' inventories.

Issue Area 4: Approximately 45% of State Police vehicles are unmarked.

An analysis of the West Virginia State Police fleet indicates that 45% of the vehicles are unmarked. Although unmarked vehicles are needed in some instances, marked vehicles encourage citizens to be law abiding therefore, the state may be losing the full deterrent effect of having troopers on patrol. Table 13 shows the number of marked and unmarked vehicles the State Police has.

Table 13

Summary of Marked and Unmarked Vehicles


Unmarked Vehicles

Marked Vehicles

Number of Vehicles






Controlling for the 100 vehicles at the Bureau of Criminal Investigations which are all technically assigned to a Captain, 87% of the remaining unmarked vehicles (243 out of 278) are assigned to Troopers of the rank of Sergeant or higher.

Citizen Reaction To Marked Police Vehicles

In response to an inquiry regarding troopers commuting to and from work in agency vehicles, the State Police acknowledged that:

Since citizens have no way of knowing whether the Trooper is on or off duty, the state receives the additional direct benefit of these 'free patrols' as drivers respond to the police presence in traffic by driving more conservatively and fully complying with the traffic laws. The thousands of hours derived for these uncompensated patrols is a significant part of the State Police traffic safety enforcement and crime deterrent program and represent a man-hour equivalent of many full time Trooper positions that currently do not exist.

If this is true, it would also stand to reason that a more visible police presence would make even more of an impact.

Recommendation 5

The State Police should consider whether having 45% of its vehicles unmarked is appropriate given the positive effect vehicles have on encouraging citizens to be law abiding.