By Bill Adams
Most folks in the fire service have heard of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) and the Fire Equipment Manufacturers and Services Association (FEMSA)—although many do not really know what they do. Only a few have knowledge of the Truck Body Equipment Association (TBEA). And, not too many have ever heard of the now defunct Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Division (FAMD) or the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA).
What are or were these “alphabet” organizations? What value were they and are they to the fire service (aka the fire departments)? Do they represent the best interests of the fire service, the fire equipment manufacturers, the commercial trucking industry; or all three? I take no sides.
It is disappointing that many fire department members have adversarial opinions of, and inhospitable relationships with, some fire apparatus manufacturers. Hostility appears prevalent in, but not necessarily limited to, the volunteer sector. The disdain is often directed at nonpreferred manufacturers in bidding scenarios. Malicious disparagement can be directed at all manufacturers because the “whiner and complainer” believes all fire trucks cost too much. It is regrettable when a complainer directs scorn at a manufacturer when the real reason is the whiner didn’t want to purchase a fire truck in the first place.
An inherent trait of some in the fire service is they do not like being told by any person or entity what they can or can’t purchase—regardless of the reason. Besides figuratively beating up apparatus manufacturers, they will express hostility towards governmental rules and regulations such as those promulgated by the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT), the private regulatory organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the trade associations themselves. It isn’t right
The fire service should be aware of the history, value and purpose of these “alphabet” trade associations. This article explains who they are, how and why they were formed, and what value they are to the fire service and the fire apparatus manufacturers—in their own words. The following, including quotations, is gleaned from the trade association Websites.
FAMA (www.fama.org) was started in 1946. FAMA “…is a non-profit trade association committed to enhancing the quality of the fire apparatus industry and emergency services community. This is achieved through the manufacture and sale of safe, efficient fire apparatus and fire equipment. Our goal is to provide tools and information to promote fire apparatus safety. We provide resources on buying fire equipment and finding a fire truck manufacturer to help the fire services find the best possible equipment.
“While FAMA does not directly determine any standards, members serve on many committees of the National Fire Protection Association and actively participate in the development of NFPA standards that apply to fire apparatus and equipment safety.” FAMA’s statistics “…provide information to FAMA members to assist them in making business decisions.” It is important to note their statistics are not used to “raise, lower, or stabilize prices…affect production or allocate customers or markets….”
FEMSA (www.femsa.org), was established in 1966, then called Fire and Emergency Manufacturers and Services, Inc. At the time, FEMSA’s goals were to “provide help and advice to the International Fire Chiefs Association and the fire service in general and improve industry standards.
Today, it’s Web site states, “We are your trade association, focused on helping you grow your business. From networking opportunities to legislative advocacy education to buyer’s guide participation, there are many benefits a FEMSA membership can provide you and your organization.”
Whereas FAMA is primarily for apparatus and component part manufacturers, FEMSA associates with all fire equipment manufacturers. In the late 1980s, FEMSA invited FAMA to attend a meeting which later resulted in the organizations having combined annual conferences. The FAMA Newsletter (https://www.fama.org/fama_newsletters/?id=37) is now a combined publication with statements from the presidents of both organizations. Similar to fire departments, NFPA standards, and fire apparatus manufacturers, the trade associations appear to be merging, combining or amalgamating or whatever you want to call it.
NTEA, TBEA, and FAMD
The National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) (www.ntea.com) was founded in 1964 as the Association for the Work Truck Industry. “The Association was formed principally as a sales and marketing organization for a small group of truck equipment distributors. The Association for the Work Truck Industry represents more than 2,100 companies that manufacture, distribute, install, sell, and repair commercial trucks, truck bodies, truck equipment, trailers, and accessories.”
All the commercial truck manufacturers that sell cabs and chassis to the fire apparatus manufacturers belong to it. Hence, what they promote and do affects that segment of the fire apparatus industry using commercially available cabs and chassis. It may have more clout than the nine domestic manufacturers of job-specific custom fire apparatus chassis.
Some oldtimers from the commercial truck business often refer to the Truck Body Equipment Association (TBEA). It is unknown, and probably irrelevant, if the TBEA was a part of, a forerunner to, or a competitor of the NTEA. Another short-lived group was called the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Division (FAMD). More on it in a later article.
The “alphabet” trade associations described herein attend trade shows, put on seminars, and conduct association meetings. They periodically publish “reports” of association activities and industry projections—some of which can be very detailed. What they do may undoubtedly affect fire apparatus design, requirements, and capabilities in the future. It might be advisable to stay abreast of their activities.
BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.