1. #1
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    Question American LaFrance

    Can you please relate any Pro's or Con's that you have concerning American LaFrance apparatus. Our company committee is seriously looking into switching from E-One to LaFrance and I would like to have as much info as possible for when we sit down to hash it out. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

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    I'll be straight forward in saying that I haven't worked with ALF all that much. We currently have in operation a 1963 ALF pumper and are looking to get a replacement. However, I must say that in our preperation for applying for the FEMA grant that would fund the new pumper/tender, ALF is the ONLY apparatus manufacturer that would talk to us and help us get estimates together. We got the usual drill of 'here is our brochure, call us when you have money and we'll talk price' from everyone else. And not to dump on specific manufacturers, but Pierce Mfg promised all the help in the world and delivered nothing in the end. It seems to me that these manufacturers should be a little more helpful when it comes to these things knowing a good percentage will end up with grants and be looking to buy in 3-6 months. But anyway, my experience with ALF up to this point has been A1+. Just for pre-spec pricing info, I spent a lot of time on the phone with one of their main Utah factory engineers. And as I said, no one else gave us the time of day. Does that make ALF the best manufacturer? Not necessarily ... but it sure rates them pretty high in my book.
    Greg Smith
    Assistant Chief
    Gakona Vol. Fire Dept.
    Gakona, Alaska

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    You could talk to the Warwick, RI Fire Department. Their engine fleet until recently was primarily Maxims (6 out of the 9 they run). The Maxims are now being replaced by ALF's. They also run an ALF/LTI 95' tower. Here are a few of them: http://www.americanlafrance.com/NewDeliveries/Truck/169

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    Default So far so good.....

    We have a 1999 ALF/General Safety pumper. Our purchase of the chassis fell just before the big ALF dealer re-shuffle, so we wound up having purchased the chassis from a Freightliner dealer who then no longer sold the ALF chassis. RD Murray then became the Western NY ALF dealership. The truck has been virtually problem free so far, some initial paint quality issues, other minor small things that were not service affecting. Murray has done some warranty work on the chassis that were handled quickly and with no hassles.

    All our truck chassis' have been commercial up to this truck. We looked at HME and Spartan, and while there was nothing 'bad' about either of those chassis, the ALF seemed worth the extra money in layout and fit and finish.

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    Just in the interest of full disclosure, I need to say that we'll be placing our 2002 Pierce 105' quad in service in about two weeks, so I have a mild bias. On the flip side, we're 30 minutes from LTI's plant, they've serviced all our aerials up until now, and they've always given us good service.

    Anyway, some comments...

    >> ...I must say that in our preperation for applying for the FEMA grant that would fund the new pumper/tender, ALF is the ONLY apparatus manufacturer that would talk to us and help us get estimates together. We got the usual drill of 'here is our brochure, call us when you have money and we'll talk price' from everyone else. And not to dump on specific manufacturers, but Pierce Mfg promised all the help in the world and delivered nothing in the end... <<

    That is certainly to ALF's credit. However, you must realize that most manufacturers (including Pierce) rely heavily on their dealers to serve customers. As such, your experience with them will vary, depending on the dealer you work with. Pierce has good dealers and bad ones, just like most manufacturers. Apparently, you were dealing with a bad one.

    >> It seems to me that these manufacturers should be a little more helpful when it comes to these things knowing a good percentage will end up with grants and be looking to buy in 3-6 months... <<

    That's not true at all. In fact, the vast majority of those who apply WON'T end up with grants. The first year of grant proposals was a huge pain in the rumpus for apparatus dealers and cost them (and the manufacturers) a ton of labor time & money in developing proposals for companies that never had a snowball's chance of getting the money together to actually buy. It wouldn't surprise me at all if some just walk away from fire departments that ask for apparatus proposals with no funding other than the vague possibility of a grant. I probably would walk away, too.


    In general, I don't have a problem with ALF. I've heard bad and good, but there are almost no ALF engines and only a few LTI aerials in my county, so I don't have much of a frame of reference. We asked them (ALF/LTI) to propose on our new quad and they did. They lost on two counts: (i) they couldn't beat Pierce's price, and (ii) they had real problems meeting our size requirements (Pierce built a 105' quad with 11' 4" OAH and 40' 10" OAL...ALF had trouble just getting the proposed truck under 12' high and the length was a real problem for them). In the end, you have to go with whoever can do the best for you.

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    Bob ... We did not participate last year and I did not realize that it was such a problem for the manufacturers as it seems to have been. I realize that there are reps for each area and that they in no way reflect on the actual quality of apparatus made by each manufacturer. But, they do reflect in some form on the service you will get from a manufacturer post sale. And yes, there are good reps and bad reps, but from what I've seen, we're not able to pick and choose who our regional rep is. On the flip side of the coin, it wasn't like we were asking for a firm price or anything special. The letters we sent out asked for a 'price range estimate' for what I would consider an 'off the shelf' model pumper/tender. The specs were basically Custom 4-6 man cab, 1250-1500 GPM pump w/ CAFS, 2000 gal tank, diesel pusher with an automatic trans. We also pointed out that other than the 2000 gal minimum tank size and an overall apparatus lenght of no more than 34', everything else was conditional on cost issues at this point. It's something that the ALF rep/engineer figured out in his head. I spent months on top of that figuring out the costs for options, bells and whistles myself. I didn't ask the manufacturers to do that at all. I realize where you're coming from on the matter knowing now about the problems steming from last years grants. However, I still don't think we were asking for so much as to get the cold shoulder from everyone but ALF. And to get back on the topic of this thread, as I said in my earlier post, we're still running a 1963 ALF pumper ... it may not be shiney anymore, but 40 years and still going! My $0.02 and not a penny more.
    Greg Smith
    Assistant Chief
    Gakona Vol. Fire Dept.
    Gakona, Alaska

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    Here it goes again:
    We bought 2 ALF/Spencer rigs about 2 1/2 yrs ago. Spencer is a body builder from western MI. For the first 2 yrs we had constant problems with them.

    The Spencer bodies suck, not built for a busy (?) dept. We had looked at some owned by volunteer depts, thought they were good to go, but our engines do over 2000 calls/yr. Lights fill with water and don't work. Compartment doors out of square and difficult to close and other poor workmanship.

    Here are some of the mchassis/mechanical problems I know about. One of them has blown 2 transmissions. Both A/C systems soaked us with condensation at first. 3 alternators blown on one truck. Brake and suspension problems, vehicle pulled left so hard it almost ran off the road. The Freightliner dealer wanted nothing to do with them and we had to fight them tooth and nail.

    We seem to have worked out the bugs, they haven't been out of service for a while now. Unfortunately, NOBODY LIKES THEM OR TRUSTS THEM.

    We went to ALF because we had some problems getting parts and maint done on our older Pierces. That cleared up after we got a new company to do vehicle maint. Our new rig, due next month, is a Pierce Dash. We had a lot of communication problems with the Pierce salesman, but things are working out.

    Ask Detroit about the ALF ladder that snapped when they first got it. They have also had a lot of problems with the engines they got.

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    Greg, a few more comments...

    >> I realize that there are reps for each area and that they in no way reflect on the actual quality of apparatus made by each manufacturer. But, they do reflect in some form on the service you will get from a manufacturer post sale.

    Actually, they reflect the service you will get from your dealer post-sale. In any case, you're correct in that this is an important issue and that, ultimately, if you can't trust the OEM's dealer to give you good service, you can't buy the OEM's product with confidence, no matter how good that product might be.

    >> On the flip side of the coin, it wasn't like we were asking for a firm price or anything special. The letters we sent out asked for a 'price range estimate' for what I would consider an 'off the shelf' model pumper/tender. The specs were basically Custom 4-6 man cab, 1250-1500 GPM pump w/ CAFS, 2000 gal tank, diesel pusher with an automatic trans. We also pointed out that other than the 2000 gal minimum tank size and an overall apparatus lenght of no more than 34', everything else was conditional on cost issues at this point.

    I can still see why a dealer wouldn't want to do this. If you talk to apparatus salespersons in depth, you'll find out that the most complicated apparatus to spec & price are rescues. The second most complicated are engines. This is because there are so many options, so many ways they can be configured, etc. Unless you specify that you want a price on a stock model, you're in no-man's land when you ask for a "price range". Things that you think are standard may be expensive options, your size requirements might be a problem, and the list of potential issues goes on and on. For example, I know that CAFS isn't standard or O-T-S, and neither are 2,000 gal water tanks. Many salespeople would shy away from that "ballpark" number to avoid getting into a situation later where they end up with you screaming at them because they told you to put "around $275,000" in your grant proposal and the truck you want will actually cost $345,000, or some such problem.

    >> It's something that the ALF rep/engineer figured out in his head. I spent months on top of that figuring out the costs for options, bells and whistles myself.

    I don't know how anyone who doesn't have access to the OEM's database and pricing data could do this, but I'll take your word for it.

    >> I realize where you're coming from on the matter knowing now about the problems steming from last years grants. However, I still don't think we were asking for so much as to get the cold shoulder from everyone but ALF.

    I think that the fact that almost every dealer you talked to wouldn't give you that "ballpark" number is the best evidence you could have that your request isn't as simple as you think it is. I just think that you'd be making a mistake to limit yourself to one OEM just because one dealer was willing to take a stab in the dark at a price. Actually, I'd be a little suspicious of that dealer, but that's probably just me. I'm not saying that you shouldn't let ALF bid if you get the grant, just that limiting yourself seems counter-productive.

    >> And to get back on the topic of this thread, as I said in my earlier post, we're still running a 1963 ALF pumper ... it may not be shiney anymore, but 40 years and still going! My $0.02 and not a penny more.

    The only thing to keep in mind there is that ALF has been in and out of financial trouble numerous times, as well as bought and sold since that truck was built in 1963. The engineers who designed it are retired or dead, and the pl;ant it was built in may not even be around anymore. Probably, the only resemblance between that 1963 ALF and an ALF today is the nameplate. That doesn't make the ALF you'd get today bad, it just means that the 40-year old truck that you have isn't that good an indicator of what you'll get. Like I said, I've heard both bad and good about ALF. Lately, I've heard more bad than good, but that might just be a function of where I look for info.

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    Talking

    Capt. Bob Snyder

    Good Luck with that new Pierce. I hope that it gives you the many good years of service that your LTI's have!

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    There has been some confusion in the information that I introduced concerning American LaFrance. For the time being I have removed it and will talk about this at a later time.

    Sincerely,
    Grant Mishoe, Editor
    www.sconfire.com
    Last edited by sconfire; 05-03-2002 at 02:10 PM.

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