Comment: November 2015
By Laura King
I’ve mentioned before that when I first became editor and was trying to get my head around standards, acronyms and the politics of fire, I’d ask a simple question just to get people talking: “How many trucks do you have?” I still ask.
Not once in nine years have those five words failed me; the question always elicits a fascinating response – much more than the number of pumpers, tankers, aerials or rescues in the bay. I have learned from the respondents about their departments, their members, their calls, their councils and mayors, their communities, their challenges.
I have also learned about trucks – manufacturers, dealers, costs, components and features, and the pride that those who spec the apparatuses have in the finished products.
I’ve spent countless hours on trade-show floors with Asphodel, Arnprior, Dependable, Eastway, E-One, Fort Garry, Hub, Metalfab, Midwest, Pierce, Rosenbauer, Smeal and Spartan asking why particular models work for certain departments, climbing ladders to look at hose beds, opening compartments to see how tools are stored, going up in buckets – sometimes to take photos but also to experience advancements in lift technology.
In October, in Winnipeg, I spent an afternoon at the Fort Garry Fire Trucks (FGFT) plant with president Rick Suche. FGFT makes 38 models and offers a remarkable 6,000 options. It builds about 100 trucks a year of the 600 or so manufactured for Canadian departments – municipal, industrial and military.
Based in the City of Opportunity – as Winterpeg bills itself – where the weather is sometimes despicable and the concrete (not asphalt) roads are washboard-like for much of the year, FGFT knows its market and how to build trucks that can survive the Canadian climate.
Doing so costs money – undercoatings and lined wheel wells, protected wiring, finished and painted seams that will prolong a truck’s lifespan and save repair and maintenance dollars.
Not all truck builders are so client conscious – particularly in challenging economic circumstances – and not all manufacturers understand the severity of a Canadian Prairie winter and the damage that six months of snow, sleet and salt can do to a fire truck.
This isn’t an ad for Fort Garry or a knock against any other manufacturer; it’s a prologue to our story on page 10 about how to get a truck that meets your needs, will arrive fully functional and thoroughly inspected, stand up to regional weather conditions, and won’t cost you money after it is delivered – other than for fuel and preventative maintenance.
FGFT knows chiefs are restricted by budgets, policies and RFPs. It also knows what -40 C for three straight weeks in February feels like. So, how many trucks do you have?