If you are a fire chief, the purchase of a new fire truck may be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in your career. You will be making a decision that will cost your town or municipality no less than $200,000 and probably a whole lot more. Just recently, we delivered a truck to a Canadian department that cost upwards of $1 million.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901 recommends that departments replace their fire trucks after 20 years of service. Many will need replacement earlier, because of an accident, mechanical failure or simple wear and tear. While not mandatory, most departments will abide by this standard to ensure that their equipment is reliable and ready to go when needed. Most likely, the fire chief—as well as the town—has long anticipated this expense so it will come as no surprise when the time is ripe.
When it does come time to move forward with a truck purchase, many departments are left in the dark about how to get the project started. If you haven’t ordered a significant piece of equipment for eight or more years, you may be in for a quick education.
Chances are that you are not the same fire chief that supervised the last procurement process some ten years ago. Maybe you were a fresh-faced high school senior back then or a rookie just starting your career. It’s quite possible that all those involved in the last equipment purchase are long retired or have moved on to other departments.
There are a few ways people typically get started in preparing their tender – the document that describes their intended purchase with detailed specifications. Many dig up their old tender from decades before and make modifications to it in accordance with current and anticipated needs. Many get on the phone with their neighboring fire chief and glean information about their potential needs that way. Still others do internet searches and look at generic proposals to find examples of what others are doing.
There is nothing wrong with starting off in these ways. Talking with a trusted colleague is a great way to begin to learn about some of the newer equipment now available. And let’s face it, digging up information online is the way we do a lot of things these days. But in this case, you are getting ready to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars of your town’s money. Not only are their hard-won budget dollars on the line but, frankly, so is your reputation. Your fire engine purchase can become the beacon of more effective emergency response services in your municipality for years to come—or in the worst-case scenario, the expensive result of government ineptitude.
Start by doing your research. As someone that’s never ordered fire truck equipment, you have a lot to learn. There are publications you can familiarize yourself with like Fireapparatusmagazine.com and FIREFightinginCanada.com. You can read about vendors online, visit local ones for in-person tours and attend trade shows if your budget allows.
As vendors of firefighting equipment for over 50 years, we have seen first-hand what happens when buyers don’t do enough research. When you revert back to tenders from ten or more years ago, you may not be aware of how much has changed in the world of fire truck technology—starting with price. Companies looking to their last tender to anticipate current pricing are in for a tremendous case of sticker shock.
Increases in the cost of materials and expensive new technologies and safety features have greatly accelerated the cost of fire trucks. In addition, those relying on old tenders to set current specifications can miss out on a wide range of new technologies, including sophisticated back-up and side cameras that make maneuvering the heavy equipment easier and safer. Lighting technologies have advanced from halogen to LED technologies, sophisticated air primers have replaced electric rotary vane primers, and CAFS foam systems, customized aerial ladders and electronic pressure governors have improved operation and safety. Anyone considering a new fire truck purchase needs to familiarize themselves with these developments to ensure that their departments will take advantage of important new technologies.
Some fire departments research their needs and costs before approaching their town or city for approval to move forward with purchase. Others prepare their tender with a rough idea of their budget before beginning the process of talking to vendors and suppliers. This approach can backfire however, if, as is often the case, they end up over budget and need to cancel their tender and start all over. This is a huge time-waster and the reason we always recommend that customers talk to suppliers and get an idea of their costs before going to their municipality for approval.
We are always happy to talk to customers about the products we offer and educate them about current technologies. Please call Ryan Stacey, Business Development Manager at Metalfab LTD for more information at 1-800-561-0012, ext. 24.