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Custom vs. Commercial

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  • Custom vs. Commercial

    Give me your opinions on Commercial chassis vs. Customs. I feel that Customs are usually built better and hold up (except for our 2 E-ones) longer. Anyway, our purchasing board has some questions about whether it worth spending the extra money for a custom. Thanks for any input!
    Last edited by bartnamerif; 07-28-2005, 12:44 PM.

  • #2
    It has been my experience that custom trucks are a big problem. If you can trade trucks every few years they would work. Everything on our two custom trucks are just that custom. We have a 68 Howe and a 1971 Mack customs. If we need parts we have to have them special made or fix up something ourself. After a few years the models change and you can no longer get those special parts.


    • #3
      It depends on what you're looking for. If you can handle a longer wheelbase, less crew space, more durable interior, etc. then a commercial apparatus is fine.

      If you're looking for reasoning to go with a custom chassis, get you local sales rep involved. He'll have a laundry list that can help you show why a custom chassis rig is better. Cab crash testing is likely a big one, does anyone know if commercial chassis 4-doors are tested to the same standards as the custom fire chassis?

      PM me your e-mail, and I'll try to find the list we used to help justify a custom chassis on the last pumper we ordered.
      "Share your knowledge - it's a way to achieve immortality." - Stolen from Chase Sargent's Buddy to Boss program


      • #4
        Commercial cab/chassis aren't built for the fire service. Look at the trucking industry. They keep a commercial chassis, like a Navistar or Freightliner for about ten years, then send it off to the boneyard. We in the fire service are expected to keep it going for 15 to 20+ years.

        Commercial cab/chassis aren't built for the fire service. There is not enough room inside the cab for all the stuff we have to carry, like meters, thermal imagers and no place to put your gear should you be detailed to a medical run.

        The engine I am assigned to is a Central States built on a Navistar 4 door cab/chassis. I can't wait for the new Engine 1 to arrive!
        ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
        Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


        • #5

          I would also like to see that list. We are going through the same proccess right now, and I believe custom is the only way to go for this particular purchase.




          • #6
            Give me a day or so to dig through my paperwork. We've got two rigs on order, both quite different from another, so I have piles of paper from the process. Sometimes my organizational skills are less than stellar...
            "Share your knowledge - it's a way to achieve immortality." - Stolen from Chase Sargent's Buddy to Boss program


            • #7
              Possibly the reason Chief745 can't get parts maybe the 1968 and 1971? We have numerous commercial cabs from 1991 and 1997 that we can no longer get parts for, or they have been changed so many times they can no longer physically work on the original application. The main reason for going custom is FIREFIGHTER SAFETY! The custom cabs are built to meet or exceeed the ECE R-29 Crash Worthiness Standards no matter who the manufacturer. Ever been on the roof of a commercial cab truck and leave a dent? Now walk on top of a custom cab. For the people who say that they will never roll a pumper on the side, show them the number of DUI arrests made in your town every day. Look at the options your a placing on the pumper and try to save money on the stuff you may not really need. A Shield Series, Contender, or Traditional Series Custom cab may not have all the fun options available, but your crew safety should be more important! For the salepeople who say that a commercial chasis can easily be swapped out after ten years... it's a nice thought, but never as easy as just lifting the body off of one and placing on another.
              Just my opinion, I may be wrong


              • #8
                I prefer custom, but we also have some trucks with the Kenworth T300 chassis and they are holding up well and have more room than both the International and Freightliner.
                Buckle Up, Slow Down, Arrive Alive
                "Everybody Goes Home"

                IACOJ 2003


                • #9

                  PM me with an e-mail address, I found our list in Word format and I'd be happy to e-mail it to you.

                  Mind you - we were selective on listing some of the advantages of the custom as we had purchased an IH 4x4 chassis six months earlier for an urban interface type unit. There was no way we could have made the jump in cost on that unit to go to a custom cab 4x4, so we didn't want to trash on that unit before we had even received it... We started that concept as a mini pumper on an F-550, realized how limited we would be with that chassis, and the concept grew quite a bit...

                  Our concerns for the custom chassis engine stemmed from the fact we run top-mount pumpers with 1000 gallons of water, and the unit we're building will have extra ladders and so forth. Putting everything that we did on the unit on top of a commercial chassis would have yielded a very long rig. We also wanted to keep all of our engines on a similar platform, i.e. custom chassis, top-mount pump, etc. The W/UI rig will be a completely different beast, short wheelbase, less water, rear mount pump, etc.

                  Our custom chassis units are all low-end, and while a lot of folks will tell you that you need 400+ horse and extended cabs, we do fine with lower horsepower units. Our newest custom engine is a 1997 with 325 or so horse (Spartan, Cummins), and regardless of the baby-diesel stigma, the engine has been stone reliable with very few issues, and given our flat terrain, it pulls nicely. While I would like to have 400+ horse under the tunnel, the reality is we could never get a truck that expensive through the trustees, and I still think we had a small victory going with a Spartan chassis, smaller motor (330 horse Cummins) as opposed to an IH or FL chassis. There was much talk about going commercial chassis with rigs from now on, and I was sure we'd have a fight (which we really didn't). When we have more money to spare, then we'll go for the bigger motor, more optioned chassis.

                  Our experience was if you're comparing a Big Easy to say an IH, comparable horsepower and such, you're looking at about a $15,000 increase over the commerical chassis. This number also factors in the extra costs to "bring" the commercial chassis up to the level that a custom chassis is as coming from the factory, i.e. trim around cab steps, etc.

                  FWIW - if you must go commercial, we drove a Peterbilt 4-door demo early in the process. It didn't turn all that well (there was mention that the cramp angle had yet to be maximized, if that was something that they could even adjust), but the cab was very roomy and is worth consideration in my opinion for those who have to go the commercial route. The builder that showed it to us was actually getting them cheaper than Freightliner and IH due to a deal they had worked out with the local truck dealer and Pete...

                  Good luck...
                  "Share your knowledge - it's a way to achieve immortality." - Stolen from Chase Sargent's Buddy to Boss program


                  • #10
                    For what it's worth Cincinnati has four Ferrara FL60's (?) that they bought for the sole purpose of spare units. While they do the job, the guys don't like them namely for the sole reason of no cab space. CFD recently placed an order with Sutphen to replace these units, again for spares (CFD is a all E-ONE dept, not getting into that). Many apparatus chassis manufacturers have inexpensive custom cabs, which I think are right in line with commercial cabs. My suggestion is get a custom cab with a slightly extented cab and built a cabinet that holds reference books, EMS gear, meters monitors, and other items as these. Also run electric to this area that runs from both shoreline and generator. Good luck!!


                    • #11
                      custom vs commercial

                      I agree with Capt.Gonzo and KRG1401 that custom is the way to go. We have a water tender on a commercial Kenworth that does the job but there certainly isn't any room and I'll bet that if it ever rolls the crew will be toast. Custom is just that. It is built to fire needs standards while commercial is designed for in town or on the road delivery. I know that a lot of departments, mostly volunteer, who don't have the budgets get a better deal from a commercial chassis conversion to fire service and if that is the case then so be it but custom is the way to go. If you have units as old as you described I think it is high time you replace them since nothing is designed to last forever and they aren't required to keep parts for them past , I think, seven years.Thank go- we have gotten out of the keep em till they can't run any more mode. We are now at 6-7 years front line for pumpers and 10-11 years for aerials. I just wish they would get on the ball for our rescues and stick with the 3-5 and out on them.Our replacement schedule here would probably turn a lot of heads.


                      • #12
                        Custom. Spartan. Can't beat the roominess of the cab.

                        We have two commercial cabs, and two custom cabs. We'll never buy a commercial again, even for a tender. Our commercials are a 1979 Ford L series and a 1976 Kenworth. Our customs are a 1991 Spartan and 1995 Pierce Lance.

                        We'll never buy another commercial, and I doubt we'll ever buy another Pierce. You can't beat the room availible in a custom cab, not to mention all of the customization options availible, such as raised roofs, extended cabs, more chargers and equipment mounting options than you can shake a stick at.

                        Not to mention it'll last the required 15-20 years.

                        Commercial does have the advantage in cost, but its quantity and not quality. And if you must, I'd rather go with a cheaper custom cab.
                        "Captain 1 to control, retone this as a structure and notify the fire chief...."

                        Safety is no accident.


                        • #13

                          Spartan IS a commercial cab! Go ahead and buy a spartan as long as you dont plan on ever hitting anything. 1/8" skin on cabs is not enough. There was a dept. near us that had both a pierce (with 1/8" cab skin) and an E-One pulled up too close to a fire and the E-One skin help up but the whole side of the pierce cab was buckled.


                          • #14
                            We also have several older commercial cab trucks. A 72,73,77 and just sold or 57 chevy pumper. Parts for these trucks can be found almost anywhere. We recieved a grant that allowed us to purchase a 2004 KW T-300 last year. Most items for the older trucks we can get donated from our local salvage yards if we can't find new parts. For a volunteer department that operates on fundraisers and grants these trucks work real well for us. Our custom trucks have been down for repairs more than they have been making runs.


                            • #15
                              How can you not love this kind of commercial chassied rig?


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