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Cantankerous Wisdom: Willie vs. the Truck Committee

By Bill Adams

Much to the chagrin of the radical committee chairman, the fire company’s president kept slow-talking Willie on the apparatus purchasing committee (APC) for the new rig. The president thought it humorous that Willie would ask questions the chairman could not answer and the chiefs did not want to answer. It was a check and balance between overly progressive members who want everything ever invented on their new fire truck and the grunts like Willie whose common sense questions aggravate the hell out of the gung-ho crew. Willie’s comments are in italics.

The APC’s chairman started off by saying they needed a 10-seat cab. When Willie asked why a 10-person cab, it drew a tirade from the new guys who said someday they might need one. Willie: “We have 40 people on the roster and haven’t taken in a new member in three years. The two chiefs drive their own cars as do the four fire police. The Smith brothers are in their 90s and are kept on the roster only as a courtesy. In fact, one of them is in a nursing home. And, we have four rigs to get on the road.” They told him not to be so negative.

Clean Cab
The new guys were adamant to adopt the “environmentally clean cab” concept. Willie: “Where are we going to put all the turnout gear?” We’ll find room for it in the body. “You said the compartments already were full and we’d have to go to a longer wheelbase if we needed more room.” Don’t argue so much.

Flashlights and Portable Radios
The committee wanted an individual portable radio charger next to each seat in the crew cab in addition to a multibank charging station for each crew member’s rechargeable handlight. “Shouldn’t they both be in the body?” That’s a stupid question. Use your head for something besides a hat rack. They should be right next to the guys who are going to use them. Its quicker and safer. Willie: “I don’t think so. You’re keeping the air packs outside of the cab. What the hell are you going to do with the portable and handlight after you get outside the cab—leave them in a snowbank or a puddle of water while putting on your SCBA?” Don’t be a smart-ass.

Willie: “Why are we specifying aluminum wheels for this thing?” If you paid attention, Willie, we purchased aluminum wheels on the last rig. “Yep, and you guys screamed and hollered because they were expensive and are hard to keep clean. The other two rigs don’t have them. Why do we need them?” Because they dissipate heat build-up better than steel wheels. “Since when have we had a heat build-up or a brake problem?” That’s a stupid question. Anyhow, they look real good. “Why didn’t you say you really wanted them because they just look good?”

At the previous meeting, the chairman passed out preliminary copies of the purchasing specifications for the committee’s review. Willie had some questions that drew mostly blank stares and snide comments from the other members. Following are just a few about paint and overall width.

The specs call for a minimum overall width. Is that for the body or the cab?” What difference does it make Willie? “Shouldn’t they both be the same?” Since when have you become an expert in fire trucks?

“Would it be better if it says neither can exceed the overall width?”Does it really matter?

Does the overall width include the fenders and mirrors?” Give it a break Willie.

Why don’t we address the actual width that’s required to fit into the fire station?” That’s enough yapping about widths.

Our specs don’t specifically say the cab and chassis has to be manufactured in the same facility as the body. They just say the same manufacturer has to build both. And, we all know there’s at least four manufacturers who build their chassis in one state and some of their bodies in another. What happens when the paint on the cab does not match the paint on the body?” That’s impossible.

They can’t be using paint from the same bucket in two different states. Is the paint warranty the same on the cab as on the body?” So, Willie, now you’ve become an expert on painting fire trucks?

“No, but when we bought the pumper-tanker years back, one of the reasons you guys wouldn’t accept a cab and chassis from a separate manufacturer was because it was possible the paint colors might be different. What’s the difference between then and now?”

BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.