Fire Service Leaders, Apparatus Suppliers Embrace Cooperative Purchasing
Fire chiefs favor CP over traditional RFP processes to simplify procurement of apparatus, equipment
Fire apparatus is typically the biggest purchase a fire service leader will make in their career. Historically, this procurement process is neither easy nor fast, but cooperative purchasing is changing the status quo and giving fire chiefs a different way to secure apparatus.
Fire service buyers utilize cooperative purchasing organizations like Sourcewell, offering contracts that meet their procurement requirements without having to engage in a lengthy RFP process. Fire chiefs experience a fast process with transparent pricing and less paperwork.
Mike Harstad, Government Sales Specialist at Rosenbauer, continues to see an uptick in departments using cooperative purchasing contracts.
“More and more of the fire truck purchasing market has shifted to cooperative purchasing,” he explains. “Ten years ago, you would have seen that 80% of the trucks purchased in a given year would have been done by the old RFP or bid process. Today, more than 60% of the trucks purchased are done so via cooperative agreement.”
Sourcewell, a cooperative purchasing organization, supports the procurement process to give fire service leaders more flexibility.
“Cooperative purchasing is like mutual aid for your procurement process,” says Crosby Grindle, who provides strategic direction for Sourcewell's public safety market. “As a government agency, Sourcewell uses a solicitation process designed to create contracts that meet the procurement requirements of government agencies across the country, saving agencies time and money.”
“We're seeing an increase of customers seeking an alternative to the RFP process. Some of our long-term customers that have always required a lengthy RFP are now using Sourcewell,” says Harstad, noting the example of a large metropolitan county that once took six to 10 months to go from RFP to signed contract. “We recently completed a contract with them utilizing the Sourcewell contract that took that time down to six weeks.”
Many fire chiefs across the U.S. and Canada find it convenient to use Sourcewell's fire apparatus contracts because they already use the organization's contracts for other equipment.
“Their public safety portfolio includes fire apparatus, ambulances, PPE, breathing air, equipment, and support services,” says Fred Cureton, National Contracts Manager of REV Fire Group, a Sourcewell supplier since 2014.
Rosenbauer's Harstad adds that working with a trusted government purchasing agency gives fire service leaders real advantages.
“They find that their purchasing people are already well-versed in utilizing Sourcewell,” he says. “They already buy office supplies and other items, and most don't realize that they can also purchase fire trucks.”
At REV Fire Group, Cureton works with fire departments through both Sourcewell and other procurement entities.
“For those customers who have changed to Sourcewell from other contracts, or become new Sourcewell members, we find their experience to be very positive and they embrace the solutions within the Sourcewell contract,” Cureton adds.
Industry leaders see firsthand the benefits to fire chiefs who use Sourcewell for their procurement needs.
“Sutphen's customers have expressed great satisfaction with Sourcewell's ease-of-use and competitive cooperative purchasing rates,” says Zach Rudy, Director of Sales and Marketing at Sutphen. “Sutphen's relationship with Sourcewell has streamlined the purchasing process, enabling our customers to buy fire apparatus that their departments and their communities need.”
Such support from fire service industry leaders shows why Sourcewell is the only cooperative purchasing partner of the IAFC. The organization continues to expand, now representing nearly all major fire apparatus manufacturers in addition to the equipment and services fire departments need.
The growth of Sourcewell's public safety offerings, along with the increased preference of fire chiefs for cooperative purchasing, is the latest example of the organization's long, trusted relationship with fire service leadership.
Jeff Johnson, Executive Director of the Western Fire Chiefs Association, reflects on the 2021 announcement when FireRescue GPO became part of Sourcewell.
“We really wanted a great home for the FireRescue GPO program,” Johnson recalls, “a partner who can help us serve our members. Because of Sourcewell's size and strength in this space, most governments are already either using Sourcewell for something else or have some level of familiarity with them. Working with such a large agency saves fire chiefs and vendors the trouble of working elsewhere.”
As a government agency itself, Sourcewell's cooperative purchasing options save fire leaders time, effort, and money by connecting them with hundreds of awarded contracts with trusted manufacturers, says Sourcewell Manager of Supplier Development Tom Perttula.
“Over the past fiscal year, our catalog of contracts has helped agencies manage $6 billion worth of purchasing,” Perttula notes. “And beyond that, we continue to provide support in a variety of ways, including leasing options, customization of contracts, and the flexibility to execute amendments to contracts.”
Quicker turnaround, better pricing, less paperwork, ease of use – it's easy to understand the increasing trend in cooperative purchasing. Sourcewell, your FireRescue GPO, is working to give fire chiefs new options for fire apparatus purchasing.
To learn more about Sourcewell's cooperative purchasing contracts for fire departments, visit sourcewell-mn.gov/resources-public-safety or call 877-585-9706.
If you're attending the Fire-Rescue International (FRI) conference in San Antonio from Aug. 24-26, 2022, stop and visit with Sourcewell representatives at Booth 640 in the exhibit hall.