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Cambridge commits to over $2M for new fire trucks to get ahead of pending price hikes

Pumpers will replace two Hespeler vehicles in 'very poor' condition that were built by a company that went bankrupt shortly after they arrived in Cambridge
Cambridge Fire Department
Photo from Cambridge Professional Firefighters Association.

The city is moving ahead with a $2-million plan to purchase two new fire pumper trucks to get ahead of annualized price increases that would have seen the city pay significantly more by the time the 2023 budget rolls around.  

The city needs to replace two pumpers at the Hespeler station that are in “very poor” condition, fire chief Brian Arnold told council. 

One is a 2008 American LaFrance with 151,000 kilometres on the odometer and 7,200 engine hours. The other pumper, which is a reserve vehicle, is the same year, make and model with 178,000 kms and 8,700 engine hours.

American LaFrance went bankrupt shortly after the trucks were ordered and there has been no maintenance support from the company since they arrived in Cambridge.

Arnold said the skin of the cab roof in one of the pumpers has separated from the internal cab, allowing moisture and water to leak in and affect the electronics.

“It’s an ongoing battle,” to keep the water out, Arnold said.

Both pumpers also received damage that hasn’t been properly repaired, including to one of the steering columns that had to be bolted to the floor.

“There’s a host of issues with their reliability,” Arnold said. 

When they do go in for service, they’re taken out of service for longer periods of time because it takes more time to source parts, he added.

Instead of selling the reserve pumper, fire services plans to keep it for parts.

Council was given two options for replacing each truck; one for standard vehicles coming in at $1,021,428 for each truck, and a second option to go with hybrid models at a cost of about $30,000 more each. 

Arnold said the hybrid vehicles are better since they run on lithium ion batteries and when idling at the scene of a fire can result in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when compared to the diesel engines in a standard model.

Staff recommended going with the hybrid option in order to meet the city’s climate change commitments and to award Commercial Truck Equipment Company of Delta, BC, the contract for a total cost of $1.5 million US, or over $2 million CAD based on the current exchange rate.

Staff says it will mitigate any risk in fluctuations of the exchange rate prior to completing the purchase.

Cambridge councillors voted unanimously in favour of the request Tuesday after deferring their decision from an earlier meeting.

The city had planned to replace one of the trucks next year and had included it in the 2022 Capital Budget Forecast, but since there is a lead time to order the truck of 12 to 14 months, coupled with a known cost increase of 7.5 per cent as of January 1, staff wanted to move on the decision now.

The second truck was included in the 2023 Capital Budget Forecast, but with a further cost increase of another 7.5 expected as of January 2023, council’s pre-approval guarantees saving the annualized price increases.

Money for the purchase is coming out of the city's equipment replacement reserve fund.

Both vehicles won’t be paid for until they are delivered in 2022 and 2023, but by committing to the purchase now, the city guarantees the price.

Arnold said the pending price increases have been attributed to supply chain issues and increasing costs associated with sourcing raw materials.

Coun. Mike Devine wanted to know how long the company doing the build has been in business.

“Are we aware if this company is financially stable?” he asked.

“Yes they are,” Arnold responded.


Doug Coxson

About the Author: Doug Coxson

Doug has been a reporter and editor for 25 years, working mainly in Waterloo region and Guelph
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