FIVE years ago I joined a group of dedicated members of the SES from all over New South Wales with the aim of developing vehicles that would meet the operational needs of the NSW State Emergency Service.
Until recently, most SES vehicles in NSW were 50 per cent owned by local government and 50 per cent owned by the SES.
Registration and insurance was the responsibility of local government.
This meant that the type of vehicle used by the SES was generally aligned with supplier contracts of each council.
There was no standard vehicle across the service.
Each vehicle was set up different which meant that teams from other Units would have no idea where the equipment was stored.
Another point was that when a Unit became operational in a city area, then motorway tolls were the responsibility of council or the individual SES Unit.
The buy-back of vehicles by the SES resulted in no need to pay motorway toll charges.
The Fleet Design Group worked with staff of the SES to look at standard designs for Light, Medium and Heavy Storm vehicles and Light, Medium and Heavy Road Crash Rescue vehicles.
The main aim of the Light Storm vehicle of which I had the greatest interest was to develop a vehicle that could accommodate the standard equipment identified by the SES, be of a size that required only a car licence to drive and be packed with features that would make operational activities much easier for the volunteers.
Other services already had standard vehicles and the SES looked at vehicles from SES Units in other states as well as standard vehicles from other services.
There were safety issues that needed to be addressed such as weight distribution, easy access of frequently used equipment, and unloading and loading of ladders.
After five years of effort and many design meetings vehicles are now in production.
Last Saturday night was the final meeting of the Vehicle Design Group, where a wrap up of the achievements of the group was delivered.
It has been a long journey with some very positive feedback, much of it from the Units that have received the new vehicles, however I suppose the most positive has come from the NSW Police Service with them now looking at the designs for their use, and SES in other state updating their specifications.
The only item not delivered in the five years was production of a new Heavy Rescue vehicle.
I was able to view the finished products on Saturday night, and they are absolutely brilliant.
We now have standard vehicles that meet the needs of the service.
The only thing remaining is for funds to be made available so that the rollout can continue.