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  1. #1
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    Default Custom (4 door) vs. Commercial (2 door)

    For a poc dept. with 50 members operating out of three stations each with 4 or less apparatus, which is better suited for our dept.? Some of our guys argue that we won't be able to put 4 ppl into a truck for a call and currently, I can't disagree........50% of the time. I would say for most of our day time calls we could get 1, MAYBE 2 in each apparatus. Evening, I would argue that we could get 3-4 without a problem. Also, I know there are other benifits more than just numbers of ff's we can fit into one truck, but I guess I'm asking for help "selling" the custom 4 door, 4 man cab concept to our dept. PLEASE HELP! trailfreek@msn.com


  2. #2
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    Why not meet in the middle with a 4 door Commercial?

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    I guess I can think of three reasons right of the top of my head. First, is safety...most modern custom cabs has a roll cage which will protect personnel in a roll over situation. Second, 5-10 years from now membership may have changed to where you have more personell responding that currently. Third, turning radius/wheel base on a custom is usually better than a commerical cab.

  4. #4
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    This might be a good place for some info

    http://forums.firehouse.com/showthre...tom+commercial

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    That's seems like an odd comparison. A custom 4 door, and a commercial 2 dr are not even in the same family of cab. The cost jump between them is huge (i.e. $100,000+)

    I would agree that a commercial 4 dr is the fiscally responsible alternative, but if money is not the option, the custom would be nice.

    I guess the big selling points for 4 doors of any style (and the ones we used) are:

    -more personnel capacity
    -more equipment capacity
    -reduction in POV responses
    -Fewer vehicles on scene
    -versatility (i.e. in poor weather/winter, a 4 door can also serve as a rehab center/medical treatment center/command post/etc.). There are even versions of 4 dr's that have patient cots and transport capabilities.

    The advantages of a 2 dr however are:

    -Cost
    -Shorter wheelbase and turning radius
    -Reduced curb weight
    -Potentially better handling and acceleration, etc

    I think the money must be sorted out first, but assuming it is there for either a 4 dr commercial or possibly a custom, I would try the versatility route. At the end of the day, your turck committee or officers should definitely research all the options and decide what makes the most sense.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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  6. #6
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    I don't think the cost is quite that drastic. I think there is only about a $35,000 difference between a Freightliner 4 dr and a Spartan Big Easy. I realize the Big Easy is entry level but it's still getting you into a custom cab. It would then get you into a shorter wheel base which is definately a bonus.

    NFPD801 just went through this with his department. Maybe he can give you some info on how they sold it to there city.

    My department just recieved a 4 door top mount pumper. It's a nice truck, but it is long and it can get tricky trying to get the thing turned around. If you can get the money, go for the Custom.

  7. #7
    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toddmcbr
    I don't think the cost is quite that drastic. I think there is only about a $35,000 difference between a Freightliner 4 dr and a Spartan Big Easy.
    4dr custom - 4dr commercial yes, you're right at less than $50G. he was suggesting jumping from a 2dr commercial to a 4dr custom. They are usually closer to $100G apart because the entire chassis must be upgraded for the jump.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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  8. #8
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    When we purchased ours, the jump from a 2 dr. Sterling to a 4 dr. Sterling was a right at 10,000.00. We looked at the Freightliner and it was actually less than $10,000 for the jump. This included all the 911 seats and SCBA brackets.

  9. #9
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    100,000??? No freaking way....you got bad info or you keep adding too many zeros to your price

  10. #10
    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    Well granted that is certainly rounded up, and in Canadian dollars, but here are some local examples.

    When we purchased our last M2 chassis 1050 pumper in 2004, the entry level ALF with a 2 dr commercial cab was $180,000. Moderately equipped the price easily jumps to $200G. Our unit is a 4 dr with a transverse pump and a few simple options came in at $265G. There is not a single department in our region with a custom cab pumper worth less than $400G.

    Our aerial was similar. It is a 65" ALF TeleSqurt on an M2 chassis, and entry level was $450G. We put just a few option into it and came out at $485G. The salesman said the custom cab version of the same truck was going to start at $525G.

    I am currently researching a wildland 4x4 engine to replace our old 79. A Unimog chassis in 4 dr is almost 75G more than the base 2 dr. This one is a little excessive because of import duties on passenger bodies, but it is still high.

    IMO, If you can find a 4 dr upgrade in a major brand commercial chassis for only $10,000 more, you are getting one hell of a deal. And there is a difference between the book price of the cab alone, and the cost of the final unit once equipped and spec'd with the standard options.

    There are often things you must have in a custom that you don't need in a commercial. One simple example is warning device controls. You must duplicate everything, because the doghouse is so big that the driver and officer usually cannot share single controls. You also usually end up requiring in-cab communications because you cannot communicate clearly to each other in such a big cab. You may also need air conditioning because the cabover engine and doghouse design puts a lot of additional heat into the cab.

    It all adds up in the final product.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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  11. #11
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    Well thank you all for your replies so far, my reasoning for trying to get the custom cab rather than commercial 4dr. is that as I understand it the customs are safer for the ff's. I am an officer on our dept. and so I do have some ability to direct the other officers a little bit. I am looking for hard core "evidence" or "research" somewhere can anybody help me find that? Please keep commenting both sides have very valid points.

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    There are often things you must have in a custom that you don't need in a commercial. One simple example is warning device controls. You must duplicate everything, because the doghouse is so big that the driver and officer usually cannot share single controls. You also usually end up requiring in-cab communications because you cannot communicate clearly to each other in such a big cab. You may also need air conditioning because the cabover engine and doghouse design puts a lot of additional heat into the cab.



    mcaldwell, the dept. I'm with uses nothing but custom cab and not one has duplicate siren controls. When you say warning device controls do you mean emergency lights or sirens. There are easy fixes for both, mount the siren in the middle of the dog house, the second is why does the officer need to control the warning lights. Other than the Q2 and airhorn controls, nothing is duplicated, the only reason they are(controls) is so that both the driver and officer can activate them when they want to. We also dont have in cab comm because its not really necessary. It would be nice to have enroute to calls but you can comm. when you need to. I guess it never gets hot way up there, why does a com cab truck not need A/C, the cab doesnt get hot.

  13. #13
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    I also don't agree that much needs to be duplicated, we also have siren controls and radios mounted where they can be reached from both sides. We have both customs and commercials and I would take a custom any day but the main reason is manuverability. When you start talking about a 4 door commercial that thing is as long as a school bus.

    A local paid department decided that they were going to build a "western states prototype" do-everything engine, with a FL extended cab, that didn't go so well. Now they have just received 4 new Pierce 4-doors instead. I like Pierce though I think they may be overpriced. But my everyday engine is a '93 Pierce and it's very high quality and reliable even if the paint is getting scratched and worn off. It's still in better condition than some much newer, lower quality equipment we have. I suppose there are other high quality manufacturers out there looking to make a name for themselves by building good and selling cheap, the trouble is finding out exactly who they are....

    Birken

  14. #14
    MembersZone Subscriber mcaldwell's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by skcfa1523
    Well thank you all for your replies so far, my reasoning for trying to get the custom cab rather than commercial 4dr. is that as I understand it the customs are safer for the ff's.
    A lot of guys argue that, but I have yet to see any scientific data to prove it. For every accident where the Custom cab was touted as a savior, there is another where the engine out-front was given the same praise.

    Custom's are getting better, and I'm sure one day they will clearly come out as the safest, but people knock the safety of a commercial cab too easily. They are road tested in many millions of miles, and face many more accidents than any custom. If they weren't safe, the NHTSA would not allow them out there.

    I guess it never gets hot way up there, why does a com cab truck not need A/C, the cab doesn't get hot.
    A commercial places the engine down front behind the firewall, not under the cab where all that heat radiates up through the doghouse. I'm sure the new ones are better for insulating that, but I have ridden in a couple of older customs that could fry an egg on the doghouse.

    And up here, for a POC dept that doesn't spend half their day in the cab, A/C is a nicety, not a necessity. Four open windows works well enough. If you run a lot of calls, or live in the deep south, I would think it would certainly be different.

    We have both customs and commercials and I would take a custom any day but the main reason is manoeuvrability. When you start talking about a 4 door commercial that thing is as long as a school bus.
    I agree of course that a 4 dr custom has a much better turning radius than a 4 dr commercial, but is often the same or similar to a 2 dr commercial, which is what they are apparently looking at.

    I am not arguing against a custom, as they are definitely desirable. I'm just saying that it is not as simple as dropping another $20,000 and getting a dream upgrade from your existing 2 dr commercials. If your money is tight, and that is the primary resistance to a custom, there is nothing "wrong" with a 4 dr commercial. They are in service in tens of thousands of halls around the world, and they still put the wet stuff on the red stuff.

    Find me a dept that has said "We could have put that fire out if we only had a custom pumper".
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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    MembersZone Subscriber ullrichk's Avatar
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    In our case, the increased turning radius of a commercial chassis makes a huge difference on many of our older streets.

    One distinct advantage of the commercial though, is that you're more likely to find qualified mechanics to work on them. For example, we've got an international dealer just down the street. The nearest apparatus garage is 120 miles away.
    ullrichk
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  16. #16
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    Default General point

    "One distinct advantage of the commercial though, is that you're more likely to find qualified mechanics to work on them. For example, we've got an international dealer just down the street. The nearest apparatus garage is 120 miles away." [/QUOTE]

    I have to jump in here with a general statement on service. After all, it is a major, legitimate concern for all of us. But let's keep in mind one point - until we get to the fire, we're driving trucks. That is, all of today's customs are made out of components - the same exact same components that highway trucks are made out of. Any competent technician (mechanic) in any shop, dealer or independent who works on any given component in a highway truck can work on it in a fire truck.

    If ullrichk's International dealer, for example, deals in International's full product line, they can work on Cat, Cummins and Detroit engines, because International (and every other truck builder) has offered all of them in their product line. Ditto Allison transmissions, Spicer drivelines, Meritor (Rockwell), Spicer, and Eaton axles, and so on down the line.

    Most, if not all truck dealerships have the ability even to perform warranty repairs. Granted, some of the truck builders are reducing the number of optional components that they are offering, but most have the ability to give good, compentent service. Realistically, the only place that you're dependent on your apparatus dealer, is for the pump (and there are people outside of dealers who can do that), body work, some of the electrical and a few other items.

    That is, unless your apparatus builder or dealer insists on doing all of the warranty work themselves. For example, I'm aware of at least one Pierce dealer and one E-1 dealer who don't want you go to anyone but them. And then they put you in line behind whatever else they have ahead, and you wait.

    We have actually done well with apparatus builders who don't have their own service facilities, because as long as we select a factory authorized service outlet for the given component, they've allowed us to pick where we go. We call the builder's rep; they say "who do you have in your area?" We give them that info, they say "go there and have them call us." That's pretty much been all there has been to it.

    It does require some knowledge of your resources, a little knowledge of trucks and a couple of extra phone calls, but the tradeoff, at least for us, has been good, prompt service and minimal hassle. Yes, we are in a major metropolitan area with extensive resources all around us. But those of you in some of the smaller areas who might have a truck dealer (Farmall, KW, Peterwagon, Freightshaker or whoever) nearby may find that that truck dealer may bend over just a little, knowing that the vehicle he's servicing might be coming to an incident at his location. Or that dealer or shop might just like to be able to say to his customers, "Our shop takes care of the local fire apparatus."

    The whole point is, before you go limiting your selection based on who can service it, look around you. Talk to the apparatus salesperson and to the factory that the person represents. Maybe even put some language into your spec, too.

    Stay safe out there, everyone goes home!
    Last edited by chiefengineer11; 07-06-2006 at 04:04 PM. Reason: Editorial clarifications

  17. #17
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    CE11 is spot on,as usual.Running gear components are similar in both commercial or Custom in a given GVW class.As far as not being able to communicate without an intercom in a Custom,well, that is simply not true.We have NO intercom in our Spartan Gladiator and have no issues in holding normal conversations in the cab area.Servicing most Customs with a tilting cab is a breeze,access is simple and wide open.And the price spread betweem commercial and customs is shrinking,as long as you care to keep the driveline specs similar: Ie comparing apples to apples.So pick out what you want the piece to do,how many years you expect to keep it,projected growth in your response area,and collect a few bids on both types of apparatus.You might be pleasantly surprised. T.C.

  18. #18
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    Default Another facet

    Thanks, TC.

    Here's something more to take into consideration. This one can really be tough to quantify under the best of conditions, even more so given differences between departments, run loads, areas of the country and a gazillion other factors. We try, with moderate success, to base decisions on what might be the TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP of the vehicle over its projected life. Many of the comments I've seen here really do support that concept but I haven't seen it given a name.

    No doubt sometimes for political or other considerations we have to accept something other than what we really want. All to often though, we wind up paying more down the road. We had that with our building. When we built it in the early '90s, we had to accept some things that weren't what we wanted, but it was either that or no building. But knowing what we were getting into, we were able to project ahead and budget money to upgrade as the original stuff failed. Having some great money managers in the company (certainly not me!), we've been able to make it work.

    By keeping the money people aware of that Total Cost of Ownership philosophy, we've done reasonably well. I have to admit though, that until we got some experience under our belts, it is all (and still is to some extent), done by SWAG (Scientific Wild A_ _ Guess) calculation.

    Stay safe out there, everyone goes home!

  19. #19
    Forum Member Dave1983's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcaldwell
    A commercial places the engine down front behind the firewall, not under the cab where all that heat radiates up through the doghouse. I'm sure the new ones are better for insulating that, but I have ridden in a couple of older customs that could fry an egg on the doghouse.
    Thats not an issue in the newer customs. You may be able to zap an egg with all the new electronics, but doubt you could fry one.

    As for the rest off it. One of the biggest mistakes I see departments do is plan a rig for today, not 20-30 years down the road when you probably still have it. You may only have 1-2 FFs per rig now, but how in about 2016 or 2026? For me, that alone says 4 door. And unless your way out in the sticks and have plenty of room to turn, stay away from 4 door commercials. The wheelbase/turning radius sucks.
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  20. #20
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    Default Just another view

    We went with the commercial 4 door from Freightliner for just over $6,000 over the two door unit from E-One. We are a small volunteer group and the commercial was out of our reach. We got the four door for the same reasons listed above.

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