Ballam: Pierce Gives Sneak Peek of New Cab at Factory

Sometimes, this job has its perks like traveling to Wisconsin in February on a minus 16 degree day. How could that be a perk you might say? Traveling to Pierce Manufacturing, one of the biggest fire truck manufacturing facilities in the world is always a treat. And, to be given the VIP treatment is even better.

There was a reason to travel to the plant in February. The company wanted to show a few editorial folks a new product the company is planning to unveil at Fire Department Instructors’ Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis next month.

Pierce made us promise not to say too much about it, in fact we had to surrender our cell phones and cameras before we could even get in the building to see it so we couldn’t take photos. But company officials are OK with me sharing a few tidbits to keep people excited about the new product.

So, here’s a sneak peek at a new “industry standard” cab and chassis Pierce will unveil at the Lucas Stadium in Indianapolis on April.

For the past couple of months, Pierce has been publishing “teaser” videos on its web site showing workers welding a cab and chassis and then adding wiring, seats and other components to the new cab. You can check them out by clicking here.

We’ve promised not to reveal the name of the new cab as well, but we’ll tell you all about it next month.

Here’s the low down on what we can tell you about it.  It has more room for the driver and officer as well as firefighters in the back with some nifty new options that give firefighters the opportunity to customize some seating arrangements in house with hand tools.

It also has a one-piece front windshield for better visibility and some “dog house” modifications that give all the occupants more room, front and back. There’s a lot more room for hips and elbows in front and overhead switches makes it easier to control essential warning lights and other accessories.

Pierce representatives said they listened to customers and incorporated their desires and suggestions through a lot of “voice of the customer” surveying.

One of the biggest things they heard was the need for better access for maintenance. So the company strategically located access panels to check fluid levels and electrical breaker panels. Power distribution areas can be found in the cab, on the chassis and in the body, all easily accessible. Even the cab tilt angle has been increased to provide better access to the engine and chassis components.

Pierce took the time to build in some wire raceways in the new cab. There’s always something to be added in the cab that needs power, even on the most well thought out apparatus. Most departments I’ve had experiences with always need to add something and wires are run hither and yon to get power to the latest gizmo. Pierce has figured out a way to make that easier and neater because you know in the decades the apparatus is going to be in service, there will be a need for power to some accessory that probably wasn’t even heard of when the apparatus was built.

After climbing on stair-style steps into the rear of the new cab one of the most immediately noticeable things is the spacious “cathedral ceiling” like feel.  Pierce achieved that feel by lots of tweaks that really add up to something special. Something as simple as moving the raised roof transition line forward slightly vastly opens the rear seating area without encroaching on the occupants of the front seats.

A raised air intake and air cleaner means the apparatus is able to ford deeper waters in flooding conditions too. And, Pierce did that while keeping the floor flat in the crew cab area.

Pierce has been marketing the new custom cab and chassis with buzz phrases like “timeless reliability” and “the legacy grows.” Both statements are true.

Pierce has put a lot of thought in this new product and not only improved safety with ready reach seatbelts, but also improved things like cramp angle and angle of approach for better maneuverability.

And the new cab looks good with classic lines with modern touches.

Pierce didn’t share all its secrets with the media last week. Company representatives promised more surprises and other variations and configurations to be revealed for the first time at FDIC. They say they’ll have three of the new cabs and chassis at the show, each with some different features and options.

We’ll be there and we’ll show you some photos of the new rig. I promise it will be worth the wait.

While the big news was the new cab and chassis, the invited guests were treated to a factory tour in just one of the company’s 285,000-square-foot manufacturing facilities.

There were an estimated 100 trucks on the floor in various stages of production ranging from bare frame rails to gleaming apparatus awaiting final inspection and delivery. There were at least 11 ready to go home last Friday. That’s impressive to say the least.

Pierce representatives say every fire department that visits the plant for inspections and conferences are hosted to the “Pierce Experience.”

Pierce practically owns (not really) the nicely appointed Holiday Inn just five minutes from the plant in Appleton where Pierce guests are invited to stay. In fact, there’s a hospitality room dedicated to Pierce guests serving adult refreshments and light snacks. The walls are covered with patches from every corner of the nation and around the world reflecting the true international scope of Pierce’s customer base. It’s a place that most firefighters would feel right at home.  The local fine restaurants have Pierce logos on their menus and entrees like Firefighter’s stuff steaks.

Pierce’s facilities are impressive by any measure and I’ve been to dozens apparatus manufacturing facilities all over the country. It’s clean, organized and technologically advanced. And more importantly, its staff looks happy and are competent in what they do.

Our tour group saw a crew “huddling” in a meeting to talk about product quality at a check point before the apparatus under construction is moved on to the next line toward completion.