Over the years, emergency response vehicles have evolved. In the 1970’s first response vehicles could include anything from large fire trucks, to station wagon ambulances, to police cars with a fire extinguishers.
Vehicle missions have changed over time as well. Ambulances once only transporting vehicles, are now life-saving. Battalion Chief vehicles once used as just a means of transportation are now equipped with the latest communication technologies to keep incident commanders informed at all times.
Today, emergency response vehicles have evolved into specially equipped small SUV style units to small, medium and large trucks.
The ambulance and fire truck industry is governed by federal organizations such as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA and other organizations standardize and monitor the vehicle structure, components, wiring, safety and functions that must be approved before vehicles are put into service. Since Ambulance and Fire Truck manufacturers are regulated, the threshold for poor quality is limited.
Unfortunately these organizations do not regulate or standardize the manufacturing of smaller response vehicles (SUV, Pickup Trucks, etc). The possibility of inferior and unsafe vehicles grows when an unqualified company with limited experience is hired to manufacture or upfit a vehicle.
Lack of regulations can lead to issues with Manufactures
The lack of regulations within the small emergency vehicle space has lead to an increase in less qualified shops performing non-standardized work.
With so many new emergency lighting products and auto aftermarket accessories on the market today there are many small radio and parts installers calling themselves specialists. With little to no experience in the specific mission of the customer and no concept of operations, these upfitters many times are under qualified.
Adding to the issue, budgets are tight and many procurement departments choose the lowest price over the best, most qualified and safest solution.
The major issues that arise when an under qualified upfitters or manufacturer builds your emergency vehicle are:
- Unsafe operating environments
- Long term costs
- Technology breakdowns
- Vehicle service outages- inability to perform mission
- Personnel time costs
It is important to research and choose the best upfitter or manufacturer to build your new response unit.
Choosing a Qualified Manufacturer
The best solution is a company that can supply the base vehicle, upfit and equipment for a turn-key solution. Some of the less qualified companies have the ability to install emergency lighting, radios, off the shelf cabinets, and arrange graphics. This may not make them qualified to outfit a specialty or emergency response vehicle for your specific operation (tactical team, bomb squad, fire and crime scene investigation, accident reconstruction, hostage negotiation, DUI processing and many more). These operations require specific work to be done to the vehicles which requires a professional design and understanding of requirements.
Keys to finding a Qualified Manufacturer (…and questions to ask):
- Facility quality and capacity
- Staff and technicians capability
- Past performances
- References from Agencies with similar operations
- What support do they provide?
- What is their design process?
- Do they understand your specific operations?
- Do they have the ability to scale the project?
- Do they have the ability integrate technology into the vehicle as needs change and new technology emerges?
Better-qualified manufacturers (who may be more expensive) understand your operations and are able to supply a fully turn-key solution to you. The time-old tale of “you get what you pay for” rings true in specialty vehicle manufacturing and integration. Safety, dependability, service and support are priceless.