Thank you very much for your letter dated Feb. 17, 2014 (this letter ran as commentary in the Feb. 27 issue of The Glendale Star). While my career as a fire fighter means that I’m not a salesman by trade or, frankly, much of a letter writer, I feel compelled to respond to your letter, and especially to your claim that I’ve made “baseless” accusations against Freightliner of Arizona. I believe I have done nothing more than outline the facts of the City of Glendale’s bidding process and the shortcomings of Freightliner’s disappointing bid and subpar fire vehicle.
To make sure that there is no miscommunication here, I hope you’ll bear with me as I respond to some of the spin included in your letter paragraph by paragraph.
You wrote: “In your opinion piece, you point out that Freightliner of Arizona was offering an inferior product that lacked the extruded body and cab, the telma auxiliary brake in our proposal. Maybe you never got a chance to look at our proposal, but it included those items at a price of $422,833 plus tax. We spent a great deal of time trying to get specific information in written form so we could verify we were providing exactly what Glendale Fire wanted. What we received were a couple of verbal “must haves”: extruded body and cab, telma brake and electronic valves. These items were all supplied in our proposal. We even went as far as going to a Glendale Fire Station to measure the body and compartment dimensions so we could have Rosenbauer duplicate them and draw up the apparatus to best match the equipment being used by the department today.”
I’d urge you go back and check all of Freightliner’s various bids. The above statement represents the last of three truck quotes that you provided to the committee. Your first quote was solicited for separate processes that did not include the grant fire truck in question – a vehicle the Glendale Fire Department intended to purchase via the Houston Galveston Area Council (HGAC), to ensure the least expensive price possible. While the cost figure you cite does match the quote given, your statements are absent additional items in your submission that raised the price quote substantially. Your statement also omits the very relevant fact that the truck you quoted has a much longer wheelbase than what the GFD requested.
Perhaps more startling is seeing Rosenbauer/Freightliner condemn the use of telma braking systems and extruded cab bodies in Glendale – after you sold the Glendale Fire Department an American LaFrance Heavy rescue vehicle equipped with a telma braking system and constructed with a premium stainless steel body.
The Glendale Fire Fighters Association contacted the Phoenix Fire Department. PFD advised us that all 83 American LaFrance trucks they purchased from your dealership were equipped with telma braking systems – the same system you denigrate by saying, “There is no data that would indicate that these items improve safety for a fire fighter.”
It is also interesting that you condemn an extruded body as a luxury item when the Phoenix Fire Department’s American LaFrance trucks were all constructed out of stainless steel – quite simply the most expensive material available. Stainless steel is the heaviest and strongest material used in apparatus construction and is widely accepted in every major fire department in America. We have found similar performance and safety by using a lighter, cheaper aluminum body reinforced with extrusions for support and strength. Any trucks we have built without stainless steel or aluminum extruded bodies have resulted in body cracks and support failures.
A few other points of interest:
You wrote: “We even went as far as going to a Glendale Fire Station to measure the body and compartment dimensions so we could have Rosenbauer duplicate them and draw up the apparatus to best match the equipment being used by the department today.”
Bill McAuliffe, a sales engineer for Freightliner, stopped by GFD’s Resource Management building Oct. 30, 2013 inquiring about a grant the department had received to buy a fire truck. This visit was unsolicited and especially curious, given that the grant had not yet been made public. In fact, the grant was not presented to Glendale City Council for approval until Nov. 26, 2013. While the evaluation process had yet to begin and the grant was not public knowledge, GFD still accommodated Mr. McAuliffe in his unusual request to submit a quote for a new product (MP3) from Rosenbauer, and then measure an existing truck.
You wrote: “… some of the “must have options” are very expensive and not widely used throughout the industry.”
This statement may be true when evaluating all fire departments throughout the state – given that most of departments operate in rural settings with less dynamic traffic environments. However, after contacting other metro Phoenix departments – which operate in busy traffic environments similar to Glendale’s – we find the statement to be false, or “spun.” Valley fire departments that use telma braking systems and or extruded bodies in their apparatus include Phoenix, Chandler, Tempe, Daisy Mountain, Goodyear, Peoria and Surprise.
In the same vein, you wrote: “You claim that all of the communities around Arizona have these options. I would ask that you investigate this claim; because you will find that 80 percent do not have extruded bodies and that 90 percent do not have telmas.”
Again, while we understand that your statistic may be true in regards to statewide departments, including volunteer forces and small fire districts, departments here in the Valley typically utilize extruded bodies for their strength and durability. We don’t compare ourselves to rural and suburban fire departments due to our response frequency and traffic congestion. Comparing the GFD to agencies that do not respond in similar circumstances tortures that comparison beyond reason.
You wrote: “Freightliner of Arizona’s proposal … communicated to the department that there were less expensive, more widely used options that could be provided, thus saving the department and Glendale money so that these funds could be used for other purposes in the department.”
While we certainly appreciate your concern for the economic welfare of the city, the funding from this grant could not be utilized for any other reason than to purchase a fire truck.
You wrote: “I am sure that you feel that these are needed in Glendale, but the majority of fire fighters do not. There is no data that would indicate that these items improve safety for a firefighter. If there was, the National Fire Protection Association, which provides governance over fire fighter safety, would require these devices on all fire apparatus.”
As we stated above, the majority of fire fighters in the Valley, where we provide the safest, most efficient and most effective service to our citizens, believe that this equipment is necessary. More importantly, we would disagree that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides governance over fire fighter safety. The NFPA 1901 Committee, which includes representatives from all fire apparatus companies including Rosenbauer, provides a minimal standard that fire departments attempt to meet. NFPA 1901 should not be viewed as a checklist for firefighter safety – it should be viewed as a minimum requirement. NFPA standards are developed for all fire departments throughout the United States, including volunteer and career fire departments in rural, suburban, and urban areas. The expectations of service delivery, safety, and efficiencies of these fire departments are vastly different depending upon the location and type of fire department.
We believe that the citizens of Glendale expect a high level of safety and efficiency from our fire fighters. We are aware of at least three serious accidents involving fire apparatus, two in Phoenix and one in Daisy Mountain, in vehicles equipped with extruded bodies. In each case, the extruded body construction limited firefighter injuries. While these accidents may not provide “data,” those of us who ride fire trucks for a living don’t live in a world of spreadsheets and stats. We live in the real world, a dangerous place where it matters when fire fighters are seriously injured or killed.
You stated: “Freightliner of Arizona has been providing fire apparatus and parts, service and warranty to Arizona Fire Department since 1998, and did not just return to selling fire trucks as you said.”
Phoenix Fire Department told us that currently they have to take their American LaFrance apparatus to H & E Crane for service because of “service issues” with Freightliner. We do not believe that this aligns with a company that would support “service and warranty since 1998,” as you suggest.
You wrote: “Freightliner of Arizona isn’t the enemy of Glendale firefighters. That is not why we brought this issue to the council. We did it because the procurement process to purchase this new fire truck was broken.”
You stated at the Jan. 28 Glendale City Council meeting: “Serious questions should be asked of people in the fire department making these decisions,” and that the “direction of a few people have steered this process.” Mr. McAuliffe requested to meet with our apparatus committee in October 2013, after his unsolicited visit to the GFD’s Resource Management Building. Again, given that the fire truck grant was not yet public knowledge, this seems to suggest that your employee had somehow obtained information not yet available to the general public. It also suggests that your employee was aware that a committee of employees makes decisions about the apparatus that the GFD purchases. Given that Glendale fire fighters serve on this committee, your comments about the people making decisions or “steering” the process certainly appears to be direct attack on our fire fighters.
Additionally, the Phoenix Fire Department advised us that they recently purchased four Pierce fire pumpers with aluminum extruded bodies and telma braking systems through the same HGAC process that the GFD will use for the grant truck. Phoenix included the same “luxury items” in their purchase – items you derided in both your letter and comments at the council meeting. Given that, we have to wonder why you did not protest to the Phoenix City Council about the same issues? The PFD also advised us that Rosenbauer recently sold ladder tenders to them using the same HGAC process with no quotes from other manufacturers. The purchase of your ladder tenders from Phoenix through the HGAC would indicate that you do not seem to have much of an issue with the procurement process – provided that the process declares your company the winner.
That last point seems essential here, so I’ll end with it. As I said in my The Glendale Star opinion column, I understand that your company must be sorely disappointed by losing the chance to make a big sale. I find it unfortunate that, rather than attempting to do a better job next time, you instead chose to publicly attack the process, your potential customer and the integrity of the fire fighters employed by the Glendale Fire Department. While you may have found my response “insulting,” it was in fact your company’s public posturing that insulted a good number of very dedicated public safety employees. Perhaps that is standard procedure in your world. It is not in mine.
Thank you for your time. Perhaps we ought to simply agree to disagree. In the future, I won’t tell you how to sell fire trucks if you don’t tell me and my fellow fire fighters how we should best fight fires to ensure that we go home to our families when the day is over.