The Austin Fire Department this year has seen a spike in fire truck accidents. That, in turn, has led the agency to enact a new disciplinary system, which has upset the firefighters union and has led to more than 20 suspensions in recent months.
Over the past six years, the department has averaged 54 fire truck accidents. The year, the department has 99 crashes involving fire equipment and vehicles. Fire officials have not determined why more collisions have occurred. But they are now collecting crash data, including weather conditions and asking whether the driver was unfamiliar with the vehicle.
The Fire Department says the new system is working, resulting in a 50 percent drop in preventable crashes since it was started.
But the union says the count is flawed and that the policy change has led to morale plummeting among Fire Department employees.
All of the punishments have been light: suspensions and docking three to eight hours of pay according to the American-Statesman.
Since September 16, 23 firefighters have been suspended for their involvement in preventable fire truck accidents, including striking walls and buildings.
An examination of 73 crashes from January 1st to September 1st showed that the department had determined that 49, or about 67 percent, were preventable. Some crashes resulted in vehicles being taken off the streets for months, which could lead to slow response times.
The target of the policy is zero crashes involving the Austin Fire Department vehicles.