The San Francisco Fire Department’s new fire trucks are ­smaller, have a better turning radius,...

The San Francisco Fire Department’s new fire trucks are ­smaller, have a better turning radius, and have cameras with a 360-degree view.

Photo courtesy of San Francisco Fire Department

For the San Francisco Fire Department, acquiring custom fire engines meant spending a little more upfront, but saving a lot more money — and lives — in the long run.

San Francisco is known for its steep hills and narrow streets. Navigating that topography can be challenging for the massive engines traditionally used to fight fires. But by working closely with the procurement team, in 2016 the Fire Department was able to purchase smaller, more effective custom fire engines that can navigate to an emergency better — and safer, too.

The new engines have an increased turning radius that requires just 25 feet for a U-turn — a major advantage on tight city streets. They also feature cameras with a 360-degree view to eliminate blind spots and ensure operators can see the cars, cyclists, and pedestrians surrounding the truck. And solar panels on the roof ensure the vehicle’s batteries are constantly charged and conditioned for optimal performance and longevity, which also results in maintenance cost savings.

From a cost perspective, acquiring the custom units cost the fleet approximately $30,000 more per vehicle than its previous order in 2010, bringing the cost per vehicle to $630,000. But in the long run, these new units are doing their part to actually save costs.

“The procurement of these new vehicles will show an immediate cost savings in maintenance over the older units that they will be replacing,” Anthony Rivera, assistant deputy chief, explained. “There are also quality of life ‘savings.’ ” For instance, the engine compartment now has extra reinforced insulation to reduce heat transfer from the engine compartment to the cab’s interior and a new siren design reduces decibel exposure to those inside the vehicle, important for preventing hearing loss.

Likewise, with a better turning radius and improved sight around the truck, the custom engines are less likely to roll over or crash into vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians, resulting in fewer risks to human life and lower costs associated with crashes.

Editor's Note: This story is part four of a four-part series on the cost impact on procurement. Click here to read part one about the City of Detroit's decision to revamp its purchasing strategy.

Related: How is Your Fire Truck Pump Testing Program?

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Shelley Mika

Shelley Mika

Freelance Writer

Shelley Mika is a freelance writer for Bobit Business Media. She writes regularly for Government Fleet and Work Truck magazines.

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