B-118903, MAY 4, 1954, 33 COMP. GEN. 539

B-118903: May 4, 1954

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ARE DESIGNED AND CONSTRUCTED SOLELY TO TRANSPORT THE SICK OR INJURED AND NOT FREIGHT. CLEARLY ARE PASSENGER VEHICLES AND NOT TRUCKS. THEREFORE THE PURCHASE OF SUCH VEHICLES IS SUBJECT TO THE PROHIBITION IN SECTION 5 OF THE ACT OF JULY 16. IT WAS DETERMINED THAT SAID OFFICE HAD PROCURED DURING FISCAL YEAR 1953 THREE AMBULANCES IN ADDITION TO THE NUMBER OF PASSENGER VEHICLES AUTHORIZED FOR THAT PERIOD. * * * IT IS EVIDENT FROM THE FOREGOING THAT THE CONGRESS. STATING THAT SINCE THE AMBULANCES WERE BASICALLY PANEL TRUCKS CONVERTED TO AMBULANCE USE THEY WERE BELIEVED TO BE PROPERLY CLASSIFIABLE AS TRUCKS RATHER THAN PASSENGER VEHICLES. - AND HENCE WERE NOT WITHIN THE PROHIBITION ON THE PURCHASE OF PASSENGER VEHICLES.

B-118903, MAY 4, 1954, 33 COMP. GEN. 539

VEHICLES - "FIELD AMBULANCES" ADAPTED FROM PANEL TRUCKS - CLASSIFICATION AS PASSENGER VEHICLE OR TRUCK "FIELD AMBULANCES" DESCRIBED AS BEING BASICALLY ONE-TON PANEL TRUCKS ADAPTED AT THE FACTORY TO AMBULANCE USE BY THE ADDITION OF SPECIAL EQUIPMENT, WHICH, AS COMPLETED, ARE DESIGNED AND CONSTRUCTED SOLELY TO TRANSPORT THE SICK OR INJURED AND NOT FREIGHT, CLEARLY ARE PASSENGER VEHICLES AND NOT TRUCKS, AND THEREFORE THE PURCHASE OF SUCH VEHICLES IS SUBJECT TO THE PROHIBITION IN SECTION 5 OF THE ACT OF JULY 16, 1914, AS AMENDED, AGAINST PURCHASE OF PASSENGER MOTOR VEHICLES WITHOUT SPECIFIC AUTHORIZATION. 29 COMP. GEN. 213, AMPLIFIED.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL WEITZEL TO THE CHAIRMAN, ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION, MAY 4, 1954:

IN THE COURSE OF THE AUDIT CONDUCTED BY GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE AUDITORS AT THE ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION OPERATIONS OFFICE, OAK RIDGE, TENNESSEE, IT WAS DETERMINED THAT SAID OFFICE HAD PROCURED DURING FISCAL YEAR 1953 THREE AMBULANCES IN ADDITION TO THE NUMBER OF PASSENGER VEHICLES AUTHORIZED FOR THAT PERIOD.

SECTION 5 (C) OF THE ACT OF JULY 16, 1914, AS AMENDED BY SECTION 16 (A) OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 2, 1946, 60 STAT. 810, 5 U.S.C. 78, PROVIDES IN PERTINENT PART AS FOLLOWS:

(A) UNLESS SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED BY THE APPROPRIATION CONCERNED OR OTHER LAW, NO APPROPRIATION SHALL BE EXPENDED TO PURCHASE OR HIRE PASSENGER MOTOR VEHICLES FOR ANY BRANCH OF THE GOVERNMENT OTHER THAN THOSE FOR THE USE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, THE SECRETARIES TO THE PRESIDENT, OR THE HEADS OF THE EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS ENUMERATED IN SECTION 1 OF THIS TITLE.

(C) UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFICALLY PROVIDED, NO APPROPRIATION AVAILABLE FOR ANY DEPARTMENT SHALL BE EXPENDED---

(1) TO PURCHASE ANY PASSENGER MOTOR VEHICLE (EXCLUSIVE OF BUSSES, AMBULANCES, AND STATION WAGONS), AT A COST, COMPLETELY EQUIPPED FOR OPERATION, AND INCLUDING THE VALUE OF ANY VEHICLE EXCHANGED, IN EXCESS OF THE MAXIMUM PRICE THEREFOR, IF ANY, ESTABLISHED PURSUANT TO LAW BY A GOVERNMENT AGENCY AND IN NO EVENT MORE THAN SUCH AMOUNT AS MAY BE SPECIFIED IN AN APPROPRIATION OR OTHER ACT, WHICH SHALL BE IN ADDITION TO THE AMOUNT REQUIRED FOR TRANSPORTATION; * * *

IT IS EVIDENT FROM THE FOREGOING THAT THE CONGRESS, BY EXCLUDING THEM FROM THE RESTRICTION THEREIN PROVIDED WITH RESPECT TO THE PURCHASE PRICE FOR OTHER PASSENGER VEHICLES, HAS CLASSIFIED AMBULANCES AS PASSENGER VEHICLES AND THUS SUBJECT TO THE PROHIBITION AGAINST PURCHASE WITHOUT SPECIFIC AUTHORIZATION.

ACCORDINGLY, BY LETTER OF JANUARY 11, 1954, THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE REGIONAL AUDIT OFFICE, ATLANTA, GEORGIA, QUESTIONED THE OAK RIDGE ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION OFFICE REGARDING THE PROCUREMENT OF THESE AMBULANCES. THE MANAGER OF THE OAK RIDGE OFFICE REPLIED BY LETTER OF JANUARY 22, 1954, STATING THAT SINCE THE AMBULANCES WERE BASICALLY PANEL TRUCKS CONVERTED TO AMBULANCE USE THEY WERE BELIEVED TO BE PROPERLY CLASSIFIABLE AS TRUCKS RATHER THAN PASSENGER VEHICLES--- CITING AS ANALOGOUS OFFICE DECISION OF NOVEMBER 8, 1949, B-89913, 29 COMP. GEN. 213, PERTAINING TO SUBURBAN CARRYALLS--- AND HENCE WERE NOT WITHIN THE PROHIBITION ON THE PURCHASE OF PASSENGER VEHICLES.

THIS APPEARS TO INVOLVE A MISUNDERSTANDING AND MISINTERPRETATION OF THE DECISION OF NOVEMBER 8, 1949, B-89913. THAT DECISION WAS INTENDED FOR APPLICATION ONLY TO CERTAIN HYBRID DUAL-PURPOSE VEHICLES WHICH COMBINED THE CONSTRUCTION FEATURES AND THE FUNCTIONS OF BOTH PASSENGER AND FREIGHT VEHICLES, AND WAS NOT INTENDED TO MEAN THAT ANY VEHICLE EMBODYING CONSTRUCTION FEATURES OF A TRUCK SHOULD BE CLASSIFIED AS A TRUCK. WHILE IT LONG HAS BEEN HELD THAT THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF A VEHICLE RATHER THAN THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH IT IS INTENDED TO BE USED BY THE AGENCY ACQUIRING IT IS THE DETERMINING FACTOR IN ITS CLASSIFICATION (21 COMP. DEC. 116; 23 ID. 19; 26 ID. 879; 3 COMP. GEN. 900; 8 ID. 636; A-27490, JUNE 8, 1929; A-36376, APRIL 28, 1931; B 30391, APRIL 20, 1943), IT IS OBVIOUS THAT THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION TO BE CONSIDERED MUST BE THAT OF THE WHOLE COMPLETED VEHICLE AND NOT THAT OF ANY COMPONENT PART TAKEN ALONE.

THE AMBULANCES HERE IN QUESTION, KNOWN AS "FIELD AMBULANCES," ARE DESCRIBED IN THE LETTER OF JANUARY 22, 1954, FROM OAK RIDGE AS BEING BASICALLY ONE-TON PANEL TRUCKS ADAPTED AT THE FACTORY TO AMBULANCE USE BY THE ADDITION OF SPECIAL EQUIPMENT, SUCH AS CHAIR-COTS AND HOLDERS, MEDICINE CABINETS, STRETCHERS, LIGHTS, PARTITIONS BACK OF THE DRIVER'S SEATS, SAFETY GLASS WINDOWS, STORAGE LOCKER SEATS, THE LINING OF THE SIDES AND CEILINGS WITH FIBER BOARD, AND THE INSTALLATION OF LINOLEUM FLOORS. IT IS STATED THEREIN THAT THESE VEHICLES ARE USUALLY USED ON CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS WHERE ROUGH TERRAIN AND THE LACK OF PAVED ROADS RENDER USE OF THE SO-CALLED METROPOLITAN TYPE OF AMBULANCE IMPRACTICAL OR IMPOSSIBLE.

IT IS APPARENT FROM THE ABOVE THAT THESE VEHICLES AS COMPLETED ARE DESIGNED AND CONSTRUCTED SOLELY TO TRANSPORT THE SICK OR INJURED, NOT FREIGHT, AND HENCE CLEARLY ARE PASSENGER VEHICLES. THE MERE FACT THAT THE MANUFACTURER UTILIZED TRUCK CHASSIS AS THE BASIC VEHICLES IN CONSTRUCTING THESE AMBULANCES DOES NOT WARRANT THEIR CLASSIFICATION AS TRUCKS. IT IS APPARENT THAT THE TRUCK CHASSIS WERE USED SOLELY BECAUSE OF THEIR RUGGED CONSTRUCTION AND CONSEQUENT ABILITY TO STAND UP UNDER ADVERSE CONDITIONS OF USE AND TRAVERSE ROUGH TERRAIN WITHOUT PAVED ROADS. SUCH RUGGEDNESS AND ABILITY TO TRAVEL CROSS COUNTRY DO NOT REQUIRE OR PERMIT THE CLASSIFICATION AS A TRUCK OF A VEHICLE OTHERWISE DESIGNED AND CONSTRUCTED SOLELY TO CARRY PASSENGERS. EVEN THOUGH THESE AMBULANCES WERE ORIGINALLY MANUFACTURED AS TRUCKS, THEY WERE SO ALTERED STRUCTURALLY AND IN A MANNER OF SUCH PERMANENCE PRIOR TO THEIR ACQUISITION AS TO DESTROY THEIR CHARACTER AND PRIMARY USEFULNESS AS TRUCKS AND REQUIRE THEIR CLASSIFICATION AS PASSENGER VEHICLES. CF. B 62865, JANUARY 30, 1947, AND B-115608, JUNE 16, 1953.

ACCORDINGLY, THE PROCUREMENT OF THESE AMBULANCES IN EXCESS OF THE NUMBER OF PASSENGER VEHICLES AUTHORIZED FOR THE ATOMIC ENERGY COMMISSION BY THE INDEPENDENT OFFICES APPROPRIATION ACT FOR 1953, 66 STAT. 395, WAS IMPROPER. HOWEVER, SINCE SUCH PROCUREMENT WAS BASED UPON A MISINTERPRETATION OF OFFICE DECISION OF NOVEMBER 8, 1949, B 89913, 29 COMP. GEN. 213, NO FURTHER ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IN THE MATTER BY THIS OFFICE, BUT ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN BY YOUR AGENCY TO PREVENT ITS RECURRENCE.