Ford Device Fails Crash Tests

It could worsen police car fuel leaks, officials say

July 16, 2003

BY JOCELYN PARKER
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

A device Ford Motor Co. hoped would protect Crown Victoria police cars from fuel tank leaks could actually worsen the problem, according to crash tests ordered by the City of Dallas.

Dallas officials said Tuesday that Ford's Trunk Packs, which are supposed to safeguard the fuel tank from sharp equipment during rear-end crashes, may increase the amount of fuel leakage during accidents.

City officials reported significant fuel leaks in two 75 m.p.h. crash tests.

A test conducted last week on a Crown Victoria equipped with a plastic trunk pack resulted in a 7.6-gallon fuel leakage, far more than the 0.3 gallons of leakage that resulted from a test Ford conducted last year without the Trunk Pack, according to Dallas City Attorney Madeleine Johnson.

"While a full analysis of test results is still under way, we felt we could not sit on the results about the Trunk Packs since Ford has recently started shipping them to departments who ordered them," Johnson said in a statement.

She added that Ford is making the Trunk Packs, which hold sharp items such as axes and crowbars, available to dealers for $250. They're touted as safety devices.

The news is the latest blow for the police car, which has been involved in several fuel-tank fires following high-speed, rear collisions. The vehicle, which has been the subject of several lawsuits and a federal investigation, has been the overwhelming choice of police officers and state troopers in the United States. About 85 percent of all police departments and state troopers use the vehicles.

Fuel tank fires following high-speed rear-end collisions have killed at least 12 officers.

Johnson told the Free Press that the City of Dallas began the tests recently because there was no evidence that Ford has tested the Trunk Packs before releasing them. Johnson said Dallas invited Ford to participate in the testing, but the company declined.

"You just don't want to put out a device unless you've adequately tested it," Johnson said.

Johnson added thatone of the tests consisted of filling the Trunk Pack with 200 pounds of sand to represent the weight of the police equipment and then crash-testing it in the vehicle at 75 m.p.h. She said the force of the Trunk Pack hitting the fuel tank caused it to split "like a melon."

Ford meanwhile, says it has conducted tests for the Trunk Pack and those tests have determined that the device protects the tank from puncture.

"We've done our own testing and we believe it does what it's intended" to do, said Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley.

Kinley said it's difficult for Ford to make any determination about the tests ordered by the city because the company hasn't had an opportunity to examine the vehicle.

"It would be ideal for us to test the vehicle to better understand their test," Kinley added.

Consumer advocate Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, said the news will just put Ford under more pressure to redesign the vehicle.