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  • Custom VS Comercial Cabs

    I Am currently looking into bids for a new engine for our department. I am interested on some input on Comercial VS Custom cabs. Our department is settled on freightliner chasies. I would like to see us go to the custom cab as I feel it offers better maneuverability for our rural drives without the giant engine compartment out front. Another issue is our maintenece on these comercial trucks seams to be never ending. I need some good arguments for our board, so any input will help.

  • #2
    Safety. Try this approach.

    The custom cab was designed for firefighters w/ gear and pack entering and exiting. Big doors and wide open spaces. The commercial cab is only adapted for this use and hence doesn't work even half as well. Think workmans comp claims. Big dude in a hurry with lots of gear on squeezing through a door partially blocked by a seat to step on a step that might not be big enough ( depending on manufacture ).

    The other point I always made was crash protection. Yes, everything has to meet a standard, and freightliner used to offer airbags in some of their chassis. They probably still do, I just don't know.

    I'm talking about a big crash, usually with a rollover. The commercial cab gives you two strong points: the engine in front of you and the frame beneath you. The cab has little protection, it is there to keep the weather outside. It shreads, and easily collapses under the weight of the rest of the vehicle.

    Most custom cabs have crash ratings for front impact, side impact, and rollovers. The cab is a cage constructed to protect those inside, just in case.

    Ask them if firefighter safety is worth the extra money. Gather all the facts from the chassis builder the back yourself up.

    As for manuverability, get the specs from every manufacture on steering angles, also compare wheelbases on commercial vs custom.
    We do not rise to the occasion. We fall back to our level of training.

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    • #3
      DFDMAXX covered it pretty well. The first thing that comes to my mind is safety. I have too many pictures of commercial cabs that have completely come apart after an accident. Custom cabs are not perfect, but from everything I've seen, they are miles ahead of the commercial cab. Additionally, once all of the appropriate equipment is installed (flashlights, radios, TIC's, airpacks, etc.), it leaves even less room for your personnel. In a nutshell, life is easier with a custom cab instead of a commercial cab. Use, maintenance, capabilities, and most importantly... safety are all much improved.
      TruckCommittee.com

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      • #4
        DFD hit the safety aspect to a T. Custom chassis are designed for firefighting purposes, while commercials are built to go up and down the road hauling freight.

        The same principle applies to how they're built and hold up, as well. I've been on a number of Frieghtliner apparatus and have noticed that with all the plastic, they don't hold up that great to a busy department that's in and out of the trucks frequently. The same applies to other commercial chassis. They're built for a driver to get in, in street clothes, and drive down the road several hundred miles. We get in, drive a few blocks, get out, get back in, drive a few blocks, and get out, then do it all over again.

        Of the commercial chassis that I've dealt with, Kenworth seems to hold up the best. The Frieghtliners and Internationals seem to be built more for ergonomics (which isnt' a bad thing) and comfort for delivery driving. While it's great for delivery driving, it's not the best for what we do. The Kenworths (and Peterbilt's, for that matter) seem to be built with a bit less of that, which benefits what we do.

        What's going to work best is going to involve both how your department operates and your budgetary constraints. If you can afford a custom, that's great. If you can't, there are some good commercials out there that'll do the job fine.

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        • #5
          I'd go with a complete custom deal if you can afford it. I understand that some departments can't afford to go the custom route and have to go with commercial chassis, but putting a custom cab on a commercial chassis only solves half of you problem. Commercial chassis weren't made or designed with fire apparatus application in mind. They were made for beer trucks, cargo trucks, etc. Commercial trucks, not trucks meant to haul around a heavy pump, heavy equipment, and a 500-750 gallon water tank all the time. Eventually this wears on the frame and it doesn't hold up as well as a custom shassis does that is made by a company specializing in fire apparatus.

          Again, I understand, your department may not be able to afford a custom package, I don't know your situation. But if your governing body has the funds, I'd press them to go with the entire custom deal as it saves you money in the long run.

          But, that's just my $0.02 worth. Hope this helps you.

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          • #6
            Depends a lot on your call volume, your response area, if people respond POV or not. For us, it's all commercial. We have a very low call volume, rural area, and we wouldn't fill a custom cab on response. Plus, no airpacks are kept in the seats on the engines. Our attack teams come off the rescue truck. We run a commercial two seat engine (Driver and Officer, usually highest ranking that arrives quickest), three two seat tankers, and a rescue truck where we can fit 8 guys if needed. It is most effective for us to get trucks out the door as quick as possible while still providing adequate manpower. Having 4 or 5 on an engine wouldn't be effective for us. It all depends on what your department needs.

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            • #7
              I completely agree that the Custom is a better chassis for the fire service, but i also understand that costs do play a big role into purchasing.

              It has been just over 3 years since my department had a truck committee and since then NFPA has issued a new revised 1901 standard. Being that Custom Chassis manufacturers can add the new NFPA requirements into the chassis, do commercial manufacturers install the VDR (Vehicle Data Recorders), Seatbelt monitoring systems or is it something the apparatus builder has to install and what does that add to the cost of the typical commercial
              chassis?

              Comment


              • #8
                IH and Frtliner are NFPA compliant. (Note that IH has roll stability control available which is a great safety feature). At Chief's show Ford rep told me they soon will have available also (maybe by now) great for those with low doors (F750).

                Other chassis can have black box, seatbelt sensors, etc equipment installed (Akron/Weldon, FRC, etc) by the apparatus mfg. Just wastes $.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by fireinfo10
                  IH and Frtliner are NFPA compliant. (Note that IH has roll stability control available which is a great safety feature). At Chief's show Ford rep told me they soon will have available also (maybe by now) great for those with low doors (F750).

                  Other chassis can have black box, seatbelt sensors, etc equipment installed (Akron/Weldon, FRC, etc) by the apparatus mfg. Just wastes $.
                  All those parts that wastes money are needed to be NFPA compliant. Get a clue.

                  FM1
                  I'm the one Fire and Rescue calls, when they need to be Rescued.

                  Originally posted by EastKyFF
                  "Firemens gets antsies. Theys wants to goes to fires. Sometimeses they haves to waits."

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                  • #10
                    our new 2010 freightliner had all the data boxes and seat belt deals all included on chasis delivery
                    sigpicWhos says Fire Trucks cant be YELLOW!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Not really sure why a comercial chassis isnt designed to haul around tank and pump. My freind uses a International 4800 to haul not tow a Case 580m four wheel drive backhoe, weighing in just under 15,000 lbs. The truck is used 5-6 days a week for the past 12 years. I agree they are not the easiest to get in and out of with turnout gear but they make good tankers.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by InstructorJV87 View Post
                        our new 2010 freightliner had all the data boxes and seat belt deals all included on chasis delivery
                        Hopefully you never have to see it, but commercial cab chassis don't hold up very well when they are rolled.
                        RK
                        cell #901-494-9437

                        Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

                        "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


                        Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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                        • #13
                          My thinking is along with the majority of the members, custom.

                          Using a commercial cab you take out 6-8ft. of usable chassis/frame space that could be used either for a topmount pump panel or equipment storage.

                          As noted, how many members show up POV? Is the truck a heavy pumper tanker? Will it be used to shuttle water at a mutual aid event? I believe HME and Ferrera, (these two come to mind), make short custom cabs that will allow a response of six fire fighters to the scene, (two in the front and four riding backwards).

                          Where are you in the states? For a rural department a twelve man cab would be beneficial if/when used for rehab from the heat or cold. A large cab can also be used for command at an extended event such as search and rescue operations.

                          In my small opinion of the world, when specing and purchasing trucks, we have to be careful to NOT turn this chassis into a "64 tool Swiss Army Knife". Yeah it can do sixty-four different jobs, but none of them well. We can also not financially afford a "Uni-tasker", like a scalpel, doing one job exceedingly well. Two maybe three jobs for a truck should be sufficent. If you need it to do more than that... You need another truck!
                          Jeffrey

                          "Plan for the worst, hope for the best!"

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by CGITCH View Post
                            Depends a lot on your call volume, your response area, if people respond POV or not. For us, it's all commercial. We have a very low call volume, rural area, and we wouldn't fill a custom cab on response. Plus, no airpacks are kept in the seats on the engines.
                            I understand being a small FD and saving money, but call volume should not be an excuse to ignore the safety features offered by a custom cab. In fact, most often, low run volume means less wheel time, increasing the likelihood of that drivers will not be as familiar with the apparatus. Also, very often rural roads are narrower and less maintained, again increasing the potential for incident. Lastly custom cabs can be had in two seat configuration and nearly anything up from there. I literally can see very little reason other than saving money (which is a big one!) to spec a commercial cab.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              All very well said/put. $$ are the biggest factor still today for the reason in purchasing a commercial chassis over a custom. We have been purchasing commercial chassis for 25 years and, just recently, we have ordered a new custom.
                              As others have said, the custom "Is Built" for the fire service. They are NFPA compliant, (I know, I know) they are more Firefighter Friendly, and they are very thouroughly crash tested & proven. (ie. safer)
                              We weighed all of this over cost. Our commercial chassis' are definitely not manufactured for the fire service. Mainly just because the newer trucks are not made like they used to be. (understatement)
                              If it's at all possible, go with the custom chassis. All the data is out there, all the testing requirements are out there, all the NFPA stuff is out there, etc.
                              All you have to do is do the research and show everyone the results.

                              Good Luck in your venture!

                              Comment

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