Alternative apparatus purchasing

CarolinaFireJournal - Daniel J. Cimini
Daniel J. Cimini Retired Assistant Chief, Myrtle Beach Fire Department
10/14/2011 -

During this economic down turn the fire service is being forced to keep apparatus longer due to budget cuts. Fire apparatus are expected to remain in service for 20 plus years, this is causing fire departments to keep vehicles that are marginal or unsafe in service. 

Today with the rapid changes in technology, improved safety features and the demands on fire department apparatus, the 20 plus years replacement program is not in the best interest of the fire department.

National statistics show that after 10 years fire apparatus have mechanical problems more often and cost more money to repair and keep in service than units under 10 years of age.


The 2003 Edition of the NFPA fire department apparatus standards includes, among many other things, requirements for fully enclosed riding areas, stronger aerial ladders, auxiliary braking systems, reflective striping, improved warning lights, and no roof mounted audible warning devices. Because the changes, upgrades, and fine tuning to NFPA 1901 since 2003 have been significant, especially in the area of safety, fire departments should seriously consider the value (or risk) to firefighters by keeping pre-2003 fire apparatus in first line service without major upgrades or replacement.

NFPA 1911 Section D.1 states: “To maximize firefighter capabilities and minimize risk of injuries, it is important that fire apparatus be equipped with the latest safety features and operating capabilities. In the last 10 to 15 years, much progress has been made in upgrading functional capabilities and improving the safety features of fire apparatus. Apparatus manufactured prior to 1991 usually include only a few of the safety upgrades required by the 1991 and subsequent editions of the NFPA fire department apparatus standards or the equivalent Underwriters Laboratories.”

There is an alternative method for the fire department to have fire apparatus that are built with the most modern safety features, the most current technology available and are more reliable than your current apparatus.

A lease program allows fire departments to maintain a safe, modern, dependable, standardized fleet of apparatus under 10 years old. This can be accomplished at a lower cost than the 20-plus year replacement program.

It stretches budget dollars; this allows the fire department to pay for the apparatus as they use them. The fire department or city pays only for the time the apparatus is used rather than full depreciation of the apparatus. This conserves cash; plans can be developed that require zero down payment and first payment not due for one year after delivery.

This gives the fire department or city a fixed budget expenditure each year for the term of the lease with no penalty for early buy out. Trade-in allowance on current units can be applied to purchase or returned to support budget needs. Trade in money is received at time of delivery of new units; first lease payment may not be due until the one year anniversary if you have selected payments in arrears.

New units will have a higher trade in value by requesting a guaranteed trade in cost as part of the new apparatus bid process; this puts equity of your current fleet to use when trading in at end of lease.

You have options on a lease program — one being at the end of the lease you can purchase the apparatus for the guaranteed trade cost, or extend the lease for a pre-determined number of years at the guaranteed trade cost with a new interest rate, or just turn the apparatus back in with no obligation and purchase new units. 

The term of lease programs can be for five years, seven years and 10 years.

Program can be custom designed to fit the fire departments or city’s needs, many apparatus builders and leasing companies have various plans to help fire departments get apparatus with little to no down payment.

Lease plans offer savings by allowing for no large cash outlays, reduction in repair costs, puts equity of existing fleet to use, allows for fixed budget expenditures, lease periods up to 10 years with no penalty for early buy out.

Some benefits of operating newer apparatus include confidence and improved morale, latest safety features, better NFPA and ISO Compliance, latest fire fighting technology, and it reduces budget costs for breakdown and repairs.

A department with an aging fleet or a single apparatus is lacking many of the safety features that NFPA 1901 and 1911 require for firefighter safety.  The leasing of apparatus gives the fire department, and or city, the ability to replace the aging apparatus with modern up-to-date units that comply with all the latest technology.

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