Apples to apples - Writing apparatus specifications

The life you save may be your own

CarolinaFireJournal - Willie Wimmer
Willie Wimmer
08/01/2012 -

(This is part three of a four part series on writing specs for your apparatus.)

In this article we will review the steps involved in opening the bids. Step one — open the bid. We are done because this is the lowest bid. No we are not. A lot of people believe they have to go with the lowest bid. If you are into getting a slight pressure against your southern reason then always just go with the lowest bid.

What we are talking about is every manufacturer offers slight variations to everyone’s specifications and each truck may have a little extra cost here and there. You have to compare apples to apples — not apples to oranges.


Step One

Any bids received late should be removed from your list. If a salesman cannot get a bid together and delivered to you within the standard time of 30 days there are major issues. If they can’t get the bid to you on time then the entire process is going to be the same way. This is something that does not need to be added to the already stressful decisions being made.

The manufacturer should have added some extra points to the bid to show that you are important to them. Delivering the bid in person shows they care about your department and you’re important to them. This action usually means they will take that extra step all the way through the process.

Remember it is your truck and your investment. It is for your area and jurisdiction so don’t let them tell you what they think you need. Your truck committee has already decided what you need.

Step Two

Create a spread sheet for each bid package. In this spread sheet you should take the various items that were in your specification and lay it out and compare each bid package. If it is more than you requested then mark whether it is to either better the truck or hurt the truck. Compare at the end.

This is where it will get a little tricky and you may want to involve someone with quite a bit of mechanical knowledge. This person is needed due to driveline size and other items that may be added because the engineering department found that the truck specifications didn’t exactly meet the weight classifications or the safety NFPA standards that are set in place. The bid would have the additional costs included, where other manufacturers may not have. Did the manufacturer just not care or did they want to draw you in and then gradually increase the price?

Compare apples to apples because there are some manufacturers that do this intentionally. I am not naming any names due to the fact this is not my week to piss people off — that was my last article.

This advice should be followed with all the components of your bid. For example, if you spec a 1000 gallon tank with high side compartments you want a 400 horsepower engine and you spec a 1610 driveline series. With that weight and horsepower a 1610 series driveline is just going to give you problems from day one. This goes back to the salesman that cares and makes you aware of your future problem and not just the one that is trying to make a dollar.

You should also calculate your storage space needs to make sure your specifications will accommodate them. This calculation will also give you an idea of compartment configuration. Some manufacturers can design different options than others and some compartments aren’t even worth counting as storage. This is where you compare apples to apples again. Brand X gives you a 36 inch wide rear compartment and Brand Y gives you a 20 inch rear compartment. Well, about all you can store in that is a cooler. But if you do not look at this and you sign a contract based on price — you might end up feeling a slight burning sensation when you go for your final inspection.

When reading each bid also compare warranty items from each manufacturer. This is pro-rated by some manufacturers and some are a true warranty. Again not naming any names but you all know who you are. Also compare the service locations and who will be performing the service and warranty work. This is very important for warranty claims to be processed.

Some manufacturers do not even build the bid to your specification. Obviously this can cause major issues if all you did was look at the price. Sometime this could work out in the end, but most of the time it will end up biting you in the rear end.

If you do receive some variances from some manufacturers it is fine ask the salesman to explain why they did not comply to your specifications. This can be done at the end of the opening. You would request an answer within 15 days from all of the perspective manufacturers so you are not confused.

The reason for doing all of this work is to make sure that the investment is the correct one and not just because you want Brand X in your firehouse. This also goes back to the first article — “Not Just The Big Boys” — where it explained all the reasons why you should look outside the box when writing your specifications and receiving the bids on the trucks.

Once all bids have been reviewed and a manufacturer is selected send out notification letters. Explain why that specific manufacturer was or was not chosen. A good explanation will go a long way. You have to remember that these salesmen work on commission and have invested a lot of time and money to try to complete this sale. If they are given feedback as to why you rejected their bid, they can take that back to each manufacturer and adjust for the next time and no hard feelings are felt.

You have to establish a relationship with that person and then that person will do the same. This person will in return look out for your best interest in the rest of the process. That type of salesman will actually go over the truck before you look at it and will catch the issues before you have to.

After you have reviewed all the bids and sent out letters — the fun begins. This is where we will pick up in the next issue. The hard work has already been completed and the rest is smooth sailing if you have completed the process correctly. If you have not here is where you may have wanted to include a year supply of KY in your spec.

Thanks for your time and see you in the next issue where we will review pre-build and final inspections.

Willie Wimmer (owner/head mechanic) started working for KME in 1996 while in school and continued to work there until 2007 when he relocated to the Outer Banks. He started with KME building trucks, moved into repairs and finished by traveling across country repairing trucks, selling and training on the apparatus. He has been an active volunteer firefighter since 1996.
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