I-Team: Police departments taking action as feds investigate Ford Explorer safety concerns
SOUTH PORTLAND (WGME) -- The CBS 13 I-Team discovers police departments across Maine are taking action to keep officers safe in their own cruisers, as federal regulators investigate Ford Explorers for concerns over carbon monoxide.
South Portland Police Chief, Ed Googins, said about half of his department's fleet is Ford Explorers, so as his officers drive around, he's keeping tabs on the national probe.
"Obviously you want to keep their work environment as safe as possible," Googins said.
Last week, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, expanded its investigation into reports of exhaust leaking into the passenger cabin. An estimated 1.3 million vehicles, model years 2011 to 2017, could be affected.
NHTSA cites more than 2700 complaints, many from civilians, leading to reports of at least 41 injuries and three crashes.
The City of Austin, Texas pulled its entire fleet off the road after 20 police officers got sick, and in Henderson, Louisiana, police said an officer passed out behind the wheel.
"When she was treated at the hospital, we requested testing for carbon monoxide, which is a special test, and her levels came out near lethal," said Henderson Police Department Capt. James Thibodeaux.
That's why Googins installed detectors, which are set to go off for even the smallest trace of carbon monoxide.
"The officers roll windows down, air the car out and as long as it doesn't go off, they're good to go," Googins said.
Other departments are taking action, too. The chief in Biddeford said CO monitors have been ordered for nine vehicles and should be delivered on Wednesday. In Kennebunk, the chief is planning to install detectors in eight vehicles, which is nearly their entire fleet.
Maine State Police also drive these types of vehicles. A spokesperson told CBS 13 they have had no issues with the carbon monoxide, but continue to monitor industry and Ford Motor Company information on the problem. A president for the Maine State Trooper's Association said, "Maine State Police have been and continue to address the issue by thoroughly checking the exhaust system at every service, specifically checking for exhaust leaks."
In a video from Ford Motor Company, Hau Thai-Tang, executive vice president, Product Development and Purchasing said owners of regular explorers shouldn't be concerned. He said there may be unsealed spaces in police cars allowing exhaust in due to installation of police equipment like radios and lighting, but the company intends to cover the cost of repairs.
"There's nothing that we take more seriously than providing you with the safest most reliable vehicles to support your life saving work," said Thai-Tang.
In the mean time, Googins said this little detector is making a big difference.
"Just to be cautious until Ford decides whether or not there's a recall or some fix that needs to be done," Googins said.