Fire Extinguishers: Simple turned complicated & costly.

Jan. 27, 2015

On a recent fleet visit to review the PM program for a newly appointed director of maintenance, we visited a number of shops to meet with all the mechanics and shop managers. Inspecting some of the vehicles, we noticed all of the vehicle fire extinguishers had paper tags or service decals with the same details as the tags on the facility fire extinguishers. Upon review of the PM program and PM sheet there was a distinct requirement to inspect, check the mounting and insure that the extinguisher was charged and ready to be used.  All the trucks had them mounted as well as some trailers, all secured, and all with a tag or decal. 

Curious, I asked about the program during the various shop reviews. Most had a different story, but the general attitude was, we don't  worry about them because the driver is supposed to check them, A few others told me that a company comes in and tags or decals then periodically. 
When we got to the last shop, ironically the fire extinguisher company had arrived the day before and swapped out all the extinguishers. No one knew the reason. While there is a facilities requirement for annual inspection and tagging, neither of us had ever heard of that procedure for trucks.  So it appears that someone just included the trucks in the process. Is also appears that all the trucks got new extinguishers every year. Doing the math, the replacement on 400 each year was quit costly.  
By strange coincince  the extinguisher guy showed up at the shop while we were there  and loaded his truck up with a dozen units, all charged and in the green part of the gauge by our inspection. When we asked why and at what cost, the  first answer was this is a program we provide. We asked are they all bad? He hesitated, danced and finally replied yes. That wasn't the case when we looked at the extinguishers he was loading, though he claimed that the ones he'd removed the day before had been bad. and he said the ones he did yesterday were but someone moved them. 
When we suggested that complete replacement every year might be a tad overkill as drivers inspect them every day, and the shops each two month during the PM,  he said it was a DOT requirement. I'd already reviewed the regulations and told him I knew it  was not. He then shifted position and said trucks in this facility go over the border to Canada which requires truck extinguishers be tagged to cross the border. 
I am sure that his company service program is well intended and has value in the facilities as most forget to or have no process to inspect them,  But the question is why incur the cost if you have a structured PM program and inspect them every  two months. I do not believe that the DOT requires an outside company and I question whether the border crossing really requires it.  I have checked with some of my peers and to date no one had heard of that requirement.
So if anyone out there knows of this requirement we would like to hear about it. I want to understand if this just a service that shifts the responsibility to an outsource company to meet border requirements, or or is it a lack of internal discipline in the PM program. 
If you have any more information, please share it with us in the comments.

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