of firefighting vehicles is finding more work building specialty trucks
for California utility companies that are preparing to compete in a
fleet sizes diminish, utility companies need to do more work with fewer
trucks," says Todd Davis, director of sales and marketing at Phenix
Enterprises Inc in Pomona, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. "Utility
fleets are adding more equipment to trucks so they can be used to do
two jobs instead of one."
Southern California Edison equipped trucks used to repair downed power
lines with digger derricks so that damaged telephone poles could be
replaced at the same time. In the future, utility companies will need
to be more efficient because they will be competing with each other
under deregulation. In 1996, the PUC choose one of several proposals
that would deregulate all electric utilities in the state beginning
This new business
climate for utilities has created an increased demand for a variety
of specialty trucks. Phenix has long been established in this niche
as a manufacturer of custom fire trucks, utility trucks, and other vehicles.
started in 1978 by Ben Albertini, whose sons Rick and Paul now run the
company. The company began by building large line bodies with backhoes
and underdeck PTO-driven air compressors for the Southern California
Gas Company. Another truck body Phenix built for the Sparkletts and
Arrowhead water companies carries five-gallon bottles of drinking water.
As the company
grew, it began building more truck bodies for fire departments, utility
companies, and municipalities, says Rick Albertini. Today, Phenix concentrates
chiefly on building firefighting trucks and specialized trucks for local
utility companies at its 4 acre plant and main office in Pomona, CA.
every truck Phenix builds is used for a special purpose," Albertini
says. "That was the niche our company started to fill. Hardly any
of our customers ever want a standard eight-foot truck body. There are
several other manufacturers that build a good standard truck body."
body companies are hard to compete with because they can offer lower
prices than a small truck body manufacturer such as Phenix, Albertini
says. Phenix's pricing reflect the fact that special truck orders for
very limited quantities, in some instances just one prototype unit.
can be competitive when someone asks for something a little bit different"
built several trucks that accomplish several tasks for the Los Angeles
Departrnent of Water & Power and the City of Los Angeles. 'The low-cab-forward
trucks are equipped with concrete mixers, 100-gallon water tanks, and
bins that hold sand and gravel. Right after new manholes are installed
in city streets, the truck pulls up, turns on its flashing yellow warning
lights, quickly concretes the area around the manhole, and moves down
this type of truck for a specialized job is the emphasis of Phenix Enterprises,"
Albertini says. "That's where we can make inroads into the market
for utility bodies."
are for one to five truck bodies. "Our company builds quite a number
of truck s a year and each order is custom designed."
stainless steel dump body designed and built by Phenix for the Los Angeles
Sanitation Department is mounted on a one-ton chassis and is used to
transport dead animals. The Dead Animal Removal Truck (DART) is equipped
with a Venco dump body hoist and a Venturo CT 1003 crane with a 1,200-lb
capacity. 'The crane is needed to lift the heavy carcasses of deer,
sheep, and seals that wash up on beaches.
a more conventional truck body for the Los Angeles Department of Water
& Power. 'The service-style bodies, used for repairing high-voltage
transmission lines, are mounted on GMC 3500 or Ford F-350 4x4 chassis.
The trucks often drive offroad underneath the transmission lines and
are equipped with heavy-duty Braden Hydraulic winches. Phenix has built
12 of the trucks in 1995.
and installs aluminum van interiors for the Los Angeles Department of
Water & Power. The company also sells and installs van interiors
from Crown Manufacturing in Wooster, Ohio.
City of Los Angeles and its Departrnent of Water & Power are our
largest municipal customers," Albertini says.
local utility companies, most business comes from the US Forest Service.
Phenix builds truck bodies for Forest Service stations in California,
Oregon, and New Mexico.
does a tremendous amount of work building firefighting trucks for the
Forest Service," Davis says. "We can't stay in business by
building trucks only for municipalities and utility companies."
trucks are used to fight fires in rural, off-road areas. The company
modified two Hummers for the Los Angeles Fire Department to fight small
brushfires. Because of their size, the trucks have only 200-gallon water
tanks. They also are used as multipurpose vehicles.
the City of Los Angeles and certainly Los Angeles County have some very
rural areas where the Hummers will be used as quick-response trucks
for small brushfires," Davis says. "Since the Hummers can
climb a 60% grade, they are ideally suited for this type of work."
Model 46 Wildland Brush Truck is mounted on a Ford F-700 4x2 chassis
and is designed as an initial response fire truck for the Forest Service.
It has a 600-gallon water tank and a Hale 350-gpm water pump with a
Flo-Mix system driven by a Chelsea 832 series PTO. On the rear of the
truck is a reel with 100 feet of hose and a storage area for picks and
shovels used to break fire lines.
a hotshot crew carrier to transport firefighters who cut fire lines
by hand. Two hotshot crew carriers each carry eight firefighters and
have 12-ft bodies with 7-ft intetiors.
recently built a 16-ft hotshot crew carrier with a bathroom and an 8-ft
interior for San Diego County to transport 15 firefighters and their
equipment. Since the truck often is used on rough terrain in emergency
situations, the ceiling has an escape hatch in case of a rollover.
emergency vehicle is a paramedic squad unit for the Los Angeles County
Fire Department. The F-350 4x2 crew cab has a service-style truck body
with deep compartments to carry breathing apparatus, medical equipment,
and large rescue tools such as the Hurst "jaws of life." A
compartment underneath the floor carries a litter basket.
In the last
three years, sales to fire departments, utilities, and municipalities
have increased 38%, Davis says. Davis attributes the sales increase
to a greater demand for specialized trucks, more aggressive saleswork,
and the company's emphasis on filling customer needs.
give your customers a good price and make it easy for them to do business
with your company, in time it will pay off," Davis says. "Phenix
tries to complement the work of fleet engineers. More and more customers
are asking for specialized trucks. Its important to provide those customers
with precisely what they need