New fire apparatus: What can you afford?

Saving money on current fire truck purchases or even refurbishing older apparatus is becoming a big thing

When you begin the spec writing process for your new engine, ladder or heavy rescue, the current state of the economy might play a big role. Essentially, your budget might dictate how much money you can spend on extra bells and whistles for your apparatus purchases.

We are beginning to see many departments spec out the basic manual gate valves and gauges for pump panels, going away from all of the electronics and computer operated systems. Not all, but a lot more than we have seen in the past.

We're also seeing painted bumpers rather chrome. And, instead of buying an engine and a heavy rescue truck, dual purpose pumpers carrying more rescue equipment and technical rescue gear are starting to appear all over the country.

In addition, the increasing use of LED lighting not only saves on batteries and generator power, but maintenance costs, too.

Saving money on current apparatus purchases or even refurbishing older apparatus is becoming a big thing. Let's face it, buying a new platform or aerial ladder is running a million-plus dollars in most cases.

The added cost of the EPA 2010 engine requirements is another big concern for buying new apparatus. This alone has added additional costs to the purchase. Layoffs have been the norm at almost all of the major apparatus manufacturers in the past two years as orders have been down 30-40 percent in some cases.

This all means a lot of planning and thought if your department is looking to buy a new fire truck in the next coming year or so. Make a "can afford or can't afford" list.

Can you do without a 2000 gpm pump? In the majority of the cases, you can. Do you need a remote control deck gun or will a standard manual control model do?

Can you go back to the standard hard wiring and manual gate valves?

The bottom line is that you need to have a truck that will be functional and operate on a consistent basis. If it will suit your needs, then give some consideration to scaling back on some of the options.

The choice rests solely with your apparatus committee, board of fire commissioners or trustees. Make the choice wisely not only for you, but for the taxpayers in your community — after all, the fire service is coming under increasing scrutiny nowadays.

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