5 Oct 2017

Blacklisted fire trucks due back on the road

5:42 am on 5 October 2017

A multi-million dollar fleet of fire trucks blacklisted by a union because of safety fears about a year ago is expected back on the road by December.

The MAN model trucks, worth over $13.5 million, have been riddled with faults since they were first introduced in 2015.

The problems ranged from broken door handles and hinges to faulty throttles, and it got to a point where some firefighters would avoid using them if they could.

The black-listed fire truck.

The blacklisted fire truck Photo: Supplied

The Professional Fire Fighters' Union blacklisted the entire fleet in January this year, worried they were a risk to both firefighters and the public.

At the time, the then Fire Service - now Fire and Emergency - said it was confident the nature of the faults would not put firefighters or the public at risk.

A union spokesman, Boyd Raines, said it got to the point where officers heading to callouts would wait until another model of truck, which they already knew was on their way, turned up before starting their response.

"We, as firefighters, lost the trust and confidence because of the repeated faults and inability of the trucks to actually perform and do what they needed to do."

Mr Raines said it took a long time for the organisation to start getting the faults fixed.

"They were very, very slow to react, which was disappointing.

"They weren't trusting of us when we did report faults or issues. It took the unusual step of the union blacking the entire fleet to get them to do anything."

But Fire and Emergency national operation's manager Paul Turner disagreed, and said it was aware of the problems and was working hard to get them fixed.

He said it had taken time because they wanted to get it right.

"The number one priority throughout has been to ensure firefighters can rely on the appliance to perform.

"Working with local and international suppliers, they have addressed each fault in turn.

"Fire and Emergency, the union and front-line firefighters are in the process of finalising an agreement that the fixes and enhancements to the MAN fire trucks are complete, and can be accepted back into service."

He said a final round of testing by union representatives would be underway this month.

That would include testing of eight Auckland trucks, which were expected to be back in service in the next month or two.

One Wellington MAN fire truck that was blacklisted has been fixed and was back in action already, he said.

"We're very confident they'll be as good as any other truck in the service. They've been subjected to a rigorous and really thorough testing regime.

Christchurch-based firefighter Mike Gillon said he was not convinced the trucks would ever be without faults, despite the fixes.

He has previously called for the organisation to ditch the MAN model entirely and now hoped it would not opt to buy more.

"All we want [Fire and Emergency] to do is to give us a decent tool to use, and these haven't been the sharpest tools in the box."

Mr Raines said other firefighters felt the same way.

"The groundswell from the troops on the ground is that they're totally opposed to the thought of getting more of these."

Mr Turner said it was not yet decided on whether the service would buy more of the trucks.

He said the fixes were paid for by the supplier, at no cost to the organisation, and he expected crews would get 20 years of service out of the trucks.