This is the last winter Cincinnati residents may see old snow plows and rusted-out salt trucks on the streets.
Cincinnati City Council voted in June to infuse $28.5 million into replacing the city’s outdated fleet through 2021.
But the first new trucks won’t arrive until spring, which means city workers are still plowing snow and salting roads with trucks that are plagued with maintenance problems because of their age.
“Our police, fire salt trucks and snow trucks are very much out of life cycle,” said Mayor John Cranley.
The city has been underfunding its fleets since 2001, and that was made worse during the recession. City Manager Harry Black told WCPO last year that he estimates 60 percent of the city’s dump trucks, trash trucks, police cruisers, ambulances, snow plows and other vehicles are past their life cycle.
This means that they are old, have high mileage, need frequent repairs, are not fuel efficient, and, in some cases, are unsafe.
Black made replacing this aging fleet one of the pillars of his proposed 2016 city budget. City Council agreed, voting to boost yearly spending on the fleet on average to $10.7 million per year.
Once the city begins replacing its fleet, it will save $2 to $3 million on fuel and maintenance costs that can be reinvested into new equipment, Black said.
“The orders are coming in a couple of months, so they won’t be ready for this winter,” Cranley said. “But next winter we’ll have a significant increase in snow and salt trucks.”
In the meantime, maintenance issues are keeping a large portion of the city’s trucks off the roads during snowy weather.
On Jan. 12 when snow squalls hit the area, 21 of the city's 78 snow trucks – or 27 percent - were out of service with maintenance problems, at least for a time, Cranley said.
On Wednesday, when the city was hit with one to two inches of snow during the morning commute, road crews went out early to clear the streets, but again suffered from truck breakdowns.
Ten trucks were out for repair, as of Thursday morning.
"The city's investment through the Capital Acceleration Program will certainly enhance our operations during snow events,” said Maraskeshia Smith, public services director.
Four trucks will arrive this spring, and bids for 10 more trucks went out for bid in January and will arrive by next winter. All will be equipped with a plow, salt spreader and brine system, and replace outdated trucks.
"This means we will have more trucks clearing the streets during snow events next season," Black said. "This is only year one. The number will grow each winter for the next five years until we are caught up."
So far this winter most older trucks have not needed major repair, despite their age.
“Only a handful of battery replacements or jump starts,” said Dan Rajaiah, public services spokesman.
Other new city vehicles coming this year: 53 police cars, six garbage packers, an aerial fire truck, two ambulances and two fire pumpers.