Leasing a fire truck may not seem like it makes sense. But James Wessel of Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus, based in North Alabama, believes it’s the best solution for public sector fleets looking to keep their highway fire apparatus (aka fire trucks) updated and maintain a consistent lifecycle within their fleets.
Wessel founded Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus in 2001. For over 20 years, his company has specialized in buying and reselling fire trucks, providing a space for fire departments to list surplus trucks to sell, and for providing routine and heavy refurbishment services to fire apparatus fleets.
How Brindlee Mountain’s FireFleet Program Works
In its years of providing services and vehicles to many of the 30,000+ fire departments across the country, the team at Brindlee Mountain has taken note of several variables every department goes through during this process that puts a strain on them: the capital expense, the procurement process, the below-the-line costs, and the liquidation plan for the vehicle after its service life.
The FireFleet program works to eliminate these strains in one of two ways: the team can start with the new vehicle purchases that are being made now, or the team can buy the existing rolling stock from a fire department and lease the fleet back to them.
Either way, the process starts with a master lease agreement. Then, each unit is assigned a schedule that has an annual operating lease amount. When the department decides it needs to purchase another vehicle, it is added to the master lease agreement, so there is no procurement process. The Brindlee Mountain team simply adds the vehicle to the lease schedule.
Running a More Efficient Fleet
Wessel noted that many fire departments would like to put their fleets on a seven-year rotation cycle, and FireFleet makes that easier for them to do. That typically keeps them in line with warranty schedules, so the major components of the vehicles are always warrantied.
The department still works on the regular preventive maintenance for the vehicles, but the major components are covered by the warranty if they need repairs. Apparatus that are under 10 years old also tend to have less down time, leading to fewer disruptions with a department that operates essential public safety vehicles. This can also lead departments to not need as many reserve vehicles, because their fleet is newer and typically does not require as many repairs.
“This gives them a newer, more dependable fleet. I think that's where the value comes in,” Wessel said. “It's a mechanism for them to be able to spend the money on newer apparatus instead of maintaining older apparatus. That's a very frustrating thing for the firefighters and for the citizens. It’s an organizational tool and a flexibility tool.”
The program is also designed to make the funding process for the fire department easier, because the cost of the lease is written as an annual line item on a budget, as opposed to the up-front sticker cost of a new vehicle.
Caring for Taxpayer Dollars
At the end of the lease agreement, the fire department can continue to lease it, or it can turn it back into the FireFleet program and receive a new truck. Bottom line, FireFleet can help public sector fleets run more efficient fire vehicles and aid them in becoming better stewards of taxpayer dollars.
“You’ve got taxpayer dollars intended to invest into the community for protection of people and property. That's what the fire department is,” Wessel explained. “If your main tool — the fire truck that — is out of service for ‘X’ number of days, which is simply the case as the fleet gets older, you're not delivering an efficient return on that taxpayer dollar. So you can take the same dollar and get a much more consistent delivery of the product. Then you're getting a better return on the taxpayer dollar.”
While all fleet vehicles are important, emergency response vehicles are the ones a community can’t live without.
“Out of all the city departments, the vehicle that has to show up that has to work when it's needed is fire,” Wessel added. “Dependability is just the name of the game when it comes to emergency service.”
Visit Brindlee Mountain Fire’s website to learn more about the FireFleet program.