In addition to my duties as a senior analyst for Fuld + Company, I work as an on-call firefighter in my hometown, about 10 miles north of Boston. Perhaps the most visible symbols of the fire service are the trucks we use, known as “apparatus.” Like a true analyst, I couldn't help but notice some interesting competitive and industry dynamics present in the fire apparatus industry. In particular, behind the lights, sirens and bright red paint, the fire apparatus industry is as fragmented as it is old, with some marques pre-dating the internal combustion engine by several decades; and fire apparatus manufacturers and suppliers would have it no other way.
At present, there are approximately two-dozen companies producing motorized fire apparatus in the United States. This includes nine full-line manufacturers producing their own chassis for pumpers and ladder trucks. These core manufacturers are complimented by fifteen limited-line manufacturers producing only pumpers based on purchased chassis. All of these twenty four manufacturers are either independent or owned by a separate parent company, which represents a significant amount of fragmentation. This raises the question of how the fire apparatus industry has remained so fragmented compared to other industries.