Specifying & Financing Fire Apparatus in Today’s Economy

Firehouse Magazine asked a cross-section of apparatus manufacturers, large and small, about their recommendations and creative ideas on how to specify and finance apparatus in this challenging economic environment. An excerpt appears in the November issue...

There are some items, such as lettering and graphics, that departments may find more affordable if done locally, especially if the shop is willing to make a donation or a cost reduction for the ability to claim the local apparatus as an example of its work.

When departments make the decision to purchase apparatus, they must protect that investment. Krueger highly recommends third-party performance bonds to protect departments from manufacturers that may not be able to live up to their promises. “Bonding is always a good idea,” he said.

Tom Whitmer director business development for Oshkosh Capital, a division of the Oshkosh Corp., the parent company of Pierce Manufacturing, touts a proprietary lease program for Pierce apparatus as a good way of getting departments the new apparatus they need.

Pierce Flex Financing, which is exclusive for Pierce apparatus, offers serious savings for departments, Whitmer said. The Pierce financing program has a tax-exempt lease for municipalities where Pierce gets tax credits for leasing money to towns and cities and passes the savings on to the departments in reduced interest rates, Whitmer said, adding that the payments are tied to a department’s budget cycle and not start until the next cycle.

“Interest rates are at historically low levels,” Whitmer said. “We believe it’s an opportune time to purchase equipment.”

Pierce, through Oshkosh Capital, offers 15-year, 100% finance programs at a fixed rate for the entire term with no closing costs, Whitmer said. “We make it simple and economical,” he said.

Whitmer said another advantage of leasing is departments do not have to go to the voters for bond approval to get the equipment they need. “We think it’s a good solution for our customers,” Whitmer said.

Mike Watts, national sales manager for Toyne Inc., said when departments are looking for affordable apparatus, they should not be willing to sacrifice quality. To meet the needs of price-conscious departments, Toyne developed a new program truck called the HQRP, which stands for high quality reasonably priced, Watts said.

Toyne is known as a high-quality manufacturer, Watts said, and the company is not willing to sacrifice its reputation for quality simply to make sales. So, the company developed the HQRP program which allows customers to pick one of five body styles that have been pre-engineered and offer the accompanying cost savings.

“Not all trucks are created equal,” Watts said, adding that a higher-quality truck is going to last longer and give better service than a lower quality unit.

Too often, manufacturers will “take money” out of a bid by offering shorter warranties, which in the long run do not help the community and may end up actually costing more. That is why Toyne offers robust warranties on paint, electrical systems and other components, he said.

An apparatus will be around for 20 to 25 years,” Watts said. “So you have to look at total cost of ownership, not simply who is the lowest price at the bid table.”

When it comes to trying to come up with money to pay for apparatus, Harold Boer, president of Rosenbauer America, has some creative ways of coming up with cash – looking for the green stuff by going green.

Boer, who is also the chief of the Lyons (S.D.) Fire Department and founder of Rosenbauer’s Central States division, said there are many state and federal grants available to help communities retire aging, inefficient and polluting equipment. Many communities don’t realize that can also mean fire apparatus.

“It’s kind of like the ‘cash for clunkers’ program,” Boer said, noting that he’s heard of communities receiving $20,000 or more in grant funds just by specifying clean diesel technology in their new apparatus.

They want to clean up the air and they’re willing to help pay for it,” Boer said. Some grants will cover the entire cost of the cab and chassis which can be a substantial amount of the total cost of apparatus.