When you are building a custom fire truck, you have to make a lot of decisions around the structure of the body. First, you have a variety of materials to choose from, including aluminum, stainless steel, polypropylene, and even carbon fiber. You also need to decide whether to go with a formed body or an extruded body.
Each body type has benefits, but at Metalfab, we exclusively build extruded aluminum bodies. In this article, we’re going to explore the differences between the two main body types and let you know why we think extruded is the way to go for your next custom fire truck.
Comparing Body Types
Formed fire truck bodies are typically made from classic stainless steel. Building a formed body usually requires a modular approach where panels are bolted together. The bent flat plate is used to form the body with either the subframe or the chassis frame used as a foundation. It is tedious work requiring perfect conditions and careful attention to the speed and temperature used in the welding process. The final product is heavy, and you’ll generally find that formed bodies have welds from bending and forming the compartments.
Extruded bodies, on the other hand, use extruded aluminum to construct the body. While the use of panels in the formed body makes it easier to repair the body in the event of a collision— meaning your apparatus will be back in service sooner—it tends to be a more costly approach. Since the recent tariffs on metals have pushed the cost of raw metals up 40 to 60 percent, many fire departments are opting to use an extruded aluminum body type for their custom fire trucks instead.
If you decide to go with an extruded aluminum body, your manufacturer will use shaped aluminum pieces to tie a flat aluminum plate together. This creates the structure of the body. Using the subframe as a foundation, extrusions provide additional strength for the unit. They also have more flexibility. When you tender your request for proposal, you can opt for a generic extrusion or one specific to the purposes of the unit. Of course, Metalfab uses custom extrusions in all of our units.
Why Metalfab Uses Extruded Bodies
The primary reason we manufacture extruded bodies is the ability to leverage additional strength. Each unit has different weight capacity requirements, and with aluminum extrusions, we can increase that capacity as needed. Although a stainless-steel frame of the same dimensions might be stronger, it’s heavier and can use more fuel. It also costs more to make, which can be a challenge for fire departments on a limited budget. This is especially true for those departments that rely on raising funds directly from the community.
Another thing we like about extruded bodies is the finish. While formed bodies tend to have weld lines at the joints, the use of automotive seam sealant in extruded aluminum bodies allows for a cleaner look in every corner of the apparatus. We know presentation matters, and that’s why we value not only structural integrity in our units but also a sophisticated appearance.
Metalfab’s Severe Duty Extruded Aluminum Body Design
At Metalfab, we understand that all of your fire trucks are used in extreme situations and highly susceptible to stress and abuse. That’s why we designed the Severe Duty Extruded Aluminum Body to overcome even the toughest of situations. Tried and tested, we’ve been manufacturing this esteemed body design for over 25 years.
Metalfab’s Severe Duty Extruded Aluminum Body is filled with incredible features to enhance your department’s service capabilities. Each body is made using 6061/6063 aluminum extrusions, a 3/16″ and 1/8″ aluminum plate, and an NFPA-compliant, nonslip, 1/8″ aluminum deck plate. The body is fabricated on a subframe of 3″ x 3″ x 1/4″ aluminum tubing, which is attached to the chassis frame using four spring-loaded hold downs. A spring-mounted hold down system prevents costly cracks to the body by allowing for independent flexing at the front and rear. The subframe is then isolated from the chassis using a 3/4″ ultra-high molecular weight (UHMW) material.
All of the compartments in the Severe Duty Extruded Aluminum Body are built in sweep-out style, making them easier to clean. They are constructed with interlocking extrusions and then are MIG- or TIG-welded into place. Each compartment is also equipped with floor drains and vents and a flange formed out to protect against water runoff.
With a 10-year Body Structural Warranty for your peace of mind, there’s really no reason not to opt for an extruded aluminum body for your next fire truck. Give us a call or email Business Development Manager Ryan Stacey at firstname.lastname@example.org to start exploring your options today.