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Utilizing a Procurement Cooperative

Save your department time, money, and get the apparatus you want when you utilize a purchasing cooperative.

By: Ed Boring, Deputy Chief, Retired


Why does a department go out for a competitive bid?

Often, state law or local ordinance requires a competitive bid process to determine fair and reasonable pricing. During this process, companies are given a specified amount of time to respond with their bid. Companies respond to the department's solicitation to bid with a bid proposal. This proposal represents the company's closest representation to the specification at their best price.   

Typically, it is frowned upon to have the specifications written around one manufacturer’s practice in a competitive bid process. The intent is to give manufacturers a fair platform to provide their goods and services to the department. All bidders will be shown proper consideration, no matter the size or annual revenue of the company.  

The competitive bid process often mandates that the bid be awarded to the lowest cost proposal, regardless of the department's desire to utilize equipment from that company.


Wouldn't it be great if you could avoid the competitive bid process?

Imagine getting the apparatus or equipment you want for your department and saving time and money in the process. Sounds fantastic, right? What would this mean for your department.

  •  Reduced cost:           
    • Eliminate the need for a bid bond or a performance bond.  
    • In some instances, there are legal fees incurred with a competitive bid process that can add up.  


  • Reduced time:     
    • Quite a bit of time is involved in preparing for the competitive bid process. Committee meetings regarding specifications and creating bid documents can extend the process by months.  
    • Once bids are received, more time is tied up in reviewing all of the bid proposals for compliance to the specifications, compliance to requested bid documents, any exceptions to the specification, and overall pricing.
    • Committee time is valuable in today's world. Follow-up meetings can cut into free time for volunteers and become costly for career departments with overtime.


  • Reduced Exposure:     
    • Many things can go wrong during the competitive bid process. Bid responses can be contested, the evaluation process can reveal bias from the committee, and secured funding or budget can be lost. 
    • These factors can lead to the bids being "thrown out" and the entire process starting over again.   

What if there were an easier way? 

There is an easier way, and here is how it works: 

  • Cooperative Procurement   
    • Cooperative purchasing programs have become very popular over the last several years. Government agencies or public entities often administer these programs, and they have taken on all of the work of the bid process for you. These agencies have worked directly with the manufacturers to obtain the product line specifications at their best possible pricing.
      This means your department can be sure you will get the best product to fit your unique demands at a fair and reasonable price. All while reducing the administrative burden and processing time of a competitive bid.  


  • Simplify purchasing    
    • With the traditional competitive bid process consisting of research time, spec and solicitation writing, advertising of the bid, evaluating responses, and entering into a contract, working with a procurement cooperative is much more simplified.
      You select the manufacturer you want to work with, select the product type and options you want, and submit a purchase order or contract for purchase. You can work directly with the manufacturer for any customizations or specific options you may choose.


How do they do it? 

State procurement agencies perform much like buying co-ops. They negotiate pricing ahead of time for a specified period. Typically, state procurement is limited to vehicles such as cars, SUVs, light trucks, state types for police, wildlife service, and staff vehicles. Seldom is a fire engine or ambulance referenced in state procurement processes. 

Cooperative procurement agencies solicit for all types of emergency apparatus. Engines, rescues, aerials, and ambulances are solicited for various configurations, as are the options packages for each. It is relatively easy to build a truck from the available options and equally easy to compare options and pricing to configure the apparatus that serves you best. 

What is the catch? 

It all sounds too good to be true, right? The only catch is determining if buying through a Procurement Cooperative is suitable for your department and if you qualify. 

The best place to start is with your purchasing agency or whatever body governs purchasing for your department. They can tell you whether it is legal for your department to do business with one of these Cooperatives.   

If it is legal, you can begin registering with the specific program you would like to utilize for your purchase. Each program has a different process, and you can find that information through the links provided below.   

If it is not legal, you will need to obtain an ordinance from your local government to reverse that decision.   

The good news is that HME Ahrens-Fox is here to help you through every step of the way. We have a team of experts on hand to help guide you through the process smoothly.  

We are listed on several of the industry coopertive programs.  You can check them out

Everyone here at HME Ahrens-Fox looks forward to working with you and building you the best fire apparatus for your department and community’s needs.   

Ed_BoringAbout the Author: Ed Boring is the Fleet Sales Manager for HME Ahrens-Fox. He has been a lifelong firefighter starting in a high school forest fire crew and having retired as Deputy Fire Chief in Hilton Head Island, SC, after a career spanning 42 years. He has specialized in fleet management and standardization and successfully standardized their prior fleet of over 30 emergency vehicles. Ed also created a standardized preventative maintenance and repair program to maintain and gather detailed fleet information for predictive analysis of apparatus reliability, operation cost, and life cycle used by fire departments across the United States. While retired from the fire service, Ed has maintained his professional credentials, including his Chief Fire Officer Designation from the Commission on Professional Credentialing, and is a peer assessor with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.