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The snow season is coming, which means it’s time to winterize your fire truck fleet. If you haven’t yet put a winter preparation plan in place for your fire trucks, let this serve as a reminder to do it sooner rather than later. As we all know, the weather can turn on a dime. To help get your department ready for the change to colder weather, we’ve put together some information on winter traction device options for your fire trucks this season.

Winter traction devices come in two primary categories: traditional chains and automatic traction chains. The best choice for your units will vary depending on where your department is located. If you are in an area that receives heavy snowfall throughout the winter months, traditional snow chains are likely the better choice for winterizing your fleet. If you are located in a region where snowfall is more intermittent, then automatic traction chains may be more appropriate. You can always call us here at Metalfab if you are unsure which option is the best fit for your department.


Traditional Chains

Traditional chains, also referred to as snow chains or tire chains, are winter traction devices fitted to the tires of your trucks. These chains provide maximum traction when your crew is driving through snow and ice, so they are ideal in regions that receive heavy snowfall or where conditions are consistently icy throughout the winter. They are, however, more time consuming to install than automatic traction chains, which deploy automatically at the click of a button. This may be detrimental to your emergency response efforts if you need to install them on the way to a scene.

If you are opting to purchase traditional chains for your fire trucks this winter, remember that they are usually sold in pairs. If you only need to replace a single chain, confirm with your supplier that the chains you’re purchasing are sold individually. Also be sure to double check the tire size of each unit you are winterizing to verify the chains are the right size for your trucks before finalizing your order.

Although they provide maximum safety in winter conditions, traditional chains are prohibited in some regions because they deteriorate road surfaces. If you have not used traditional chains in the past, talk to your municipality about the road regulations in your area before you buy.


Automatic Traction Chains

Automatic traction chains, as the name suggests, deploy automatically when activated. Once installed on your fire truck, they can be easily activated and deactivated using a control panel from inside the vehicle. This is helpful to provide additional traction as needed without having to get out of the vehicle to outfit your tires each time, as is the case with traditional chains. Automatic traction chains are common in areas that only experience severe weather conditions periodically throughout the winter. Bear in mind that with most automatic traction chains, your truck must be travelling between 5 mph and 25 mph to deploy.

If you are looking to purchase automatic traction chains for your fleet, you will find there are a number of brands to choose from. At Metalfab, we recommend using either OnSpot or Insta-Chain, which are both based in the United States and well known across North America. In addition, both of these brands have an incredible reputation for producing quality winter traction devices. OnSpot has been an industry leader in winter traction devices since 1977 and prides itself on having developed and refined the most effective automatic winter traction system available. Some departments prefer Insta-Chain, however, because the chain wheel bearings on their systems are greaseable and you have the option to replace individual chain strands. Discuss with your crew which is the best option for your fleet.


Winterize Sooner Than Later

Winterizing your fleet before the colder weather hits is a must. Because driving with chains reduces fuel efficiency, you may be tempted to wait until you feel the chill to make the switch. However, the last thing your crew needs is to find themselves unprepared to safely respond to a call. Installing your winter traction devices sooner ensures your trucks will be prepared in the event of an early or unexpected snowfall. If the temperature takes a quick dip overnight, a winterized fleet will be ready to take on the icy roads and get your crew to the scene safely.

Find a Supplier You Can Trust

When it comes to purchasing winter traction devices for your fire trucks, you want to purchase equipment with integrity. At Metalfab, we work with a number of trusted suppliers that produce only the best of the best in safety equipment for fire trucks. If you are looking to upgrade your chains or are unhappy with your current supplier, we invite you to reach out to us for advice. Our team can help connect you with a supplier to provide you with the right chains for your department so you can hit the road with peace of mind this winter season.