It took a lot of work by a special committee, but the Prince Albert Fire Department’s new ladder truck was a great acquisition.
In 2012 the Fire Department officially placed our Rosenbauer 101’ Ladder truck into service. Even though the NFPA 1901 Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus defines this truck as an Aerial Fire Apparatus because of its elevating platform, we just refer to it as our Ladder truck.
There is nothing simple when it comes to creating specifications for fire apparatus as this is a labour intensive endeavour. All fire truck manufacturers must comply with the NFPA 1901 Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus and because this standard is very stringent we wanted to ensure that the manufacturer we dealt with would have a strict quality control process in place.
To get a glimpse of what it takes to put a tender forward for a fire truck, let’s use our ladder truck as an example and walk through some basic steps that the PAFD followed.
• Step 1 -- We created a truck committee that identified the core specifications for the ladder truck. In our case we had three staff from the fire department to identify our needs and one mechanical technician from the city’s municipal service center to ensure that the mechanical components were matched to the truck. With the computers, electrical components, chassis weight limitations and drivetrain options, our city mechanical technician provided the expert advice needed for the truck specifications.
• Step 2 -- Several manufacturers were notified of the fire department’s pending tender and at the manufacturer’s expense, the truck committee members were flown to manufacturing sites to test ladder trucks and to get ideas for our final tender. The committee gained significant insight into how the trucks were built and of the quality control measures from each manufacturer. Through this process the truck committee realized that in order to properly service a ladder truck, the successful bidder would need to supply training and orientation to a city mechanical technician. This was added to the tender document.
• Step 3 -- The committee spent days reviewing notes, pictures, ladder truck options in order to finalize the tender document with a “minimum component listing.” Since we expect our ladder truck to have a service life of 20 years, the time and energy put into this process was a critical factor as any oversight could be costly in the future.
• Step 4 -- When all of the tender proposals are received, each submission is thoroughly reviewed to ensure that they met our tender requirements. This process literally required days of reading and analyzing as the manufacturers that responded with their tender proposals submitted them in three-ring binders.
• Step 5 -- To ensure that we received a well-built truck, bids would only be accepted from manufacturers that had an established reputation in the industry and have been in the business of making ladder trucks for a minimum of 20 years.
• Step 6 -- Identify the successful bidder and provide to city council for approval.
• Step 7 -- Attend a pre-build meeting at the manufacturers expense and site, which consisted of 14-hours of examining the specifications to ensure that we received the product the city was paying for. These were long days as mechanical, electrical, body components and compartment designs were checked and revised when necessary.
• Step 8 -- Attend a body and pre-paint inspection meeting, again at the manufacturer’s expense to ensure that all tender specifications were being met. During this inspection the truck committee was able to suggest an additional body modification that would prevent potential electrical problems in the future. The manufacturer agreed that the modification was relevant and made the changes at no additional cost.
• Step 9 -- At the manufacturer’s expense, attend a final inspection and conduct a complete inspection of the truck. During this 10-hour process an inspection checklist was used to identify every specification from the tender document as well as any modifications agreed to during the pre-build and body inspections. Any imperfections were identified and corrected prior to delivery.
Normally this process takes up to 12 months, but fortunately we were able to get our ladder truck about five months after the tender was approved by city council because it was originally being manufactured as a demo unit. One of the big price tags when designing a truck is the customization of the body and compartment sizes. Some luck helped us out here because we were able to suggest changes to the body and pump plumbing while the truck was on the assembly line and because of this we saved significant manufacturing time and costs.
The purchase of a pumper fire truck or aerial fire apparatus is a significant capital investment by the city. The chassis, drivetrain, electrical components, emergency lighting, body design, compartment sizes, fire pump, foam proportioning systems and paint warranty are all factors that the truck committee analyzed in order to ensure that the city received a ladder truck that would require minimal service maintenance.
In 2011 while creating the specifications for our ladder truck the truck committee felt that an environmentally friendly option was required. The fire department is proud of the fact that we have the Green Star Idle Reduction technology on our ladder truck. This is an auxiliary power unit that turns off the main diesel engine when stationary and idling, and an 8KW diesel gen-set takes over and runs the ladder truck electrical and hydraulic components, thus reducing fuel costs.
There is little doubt that the hard work of the truck committee has paid off in dividends as we have an extremely sophisticated ladder truck that will serve our city for 20 years. If you are interested in seeing our ladder truck, please feel free to call the administration office at 953-4200 to book at tour of the truck.
Les Karpluk is the chief of the Prince Albert Fire Department