BRADENTON, Fla. - Drivers see them daily but they are heard first. Fire trucks are unique and complex vehicles used in life-saving conditions – and many of those are built right in Bradenton.
Pierce Manufacturing is located along 38th Avenue East in Bradenton. They build fire trucks and literally send them to emergency agencies around the world. They build trucks for agencies as close as the city of Bradenton and as far as China. They are even building trucks for the U.S. Army.
They build all different styles and features for each agency. Rachel Forsythe, the general manager, says they continue to evolve and search for new products that would benefit emergency responses.
“We’ve got a lot of international business. We’re still shipping trucks to China,” she said.
The company celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019. Over those years, they have grown and now have 500 employees at the Bradenton location. They’ve also introduced other items into the marketplace.
For instance, a new design of the “mini-pumper,” used by Clayton County in Georgia, was applied.
“We had them sit and meet with our engineering staff,” Forsythe explained. “A lot of that new feedback was a lot of additional storage place up at the top – which we call hatch compartments. Some of the storage place here utilizing some previously-wasted space in the body.”
They have a new truck called the “FX3 Wildland Truck,” designed to fight forest fires mainly on the west coast. Steven, a principal engineer at Pierce, said they needed to build a truck that can travel over rugged terrain.
“They take these trucks a long way off the road, into the woods and out to fight these fires. They have to be able to manipulate that terrain without breaking,” he explained. “We designed the structure of the body so that it can move with the chassis.”
“They’re going over boulders, in ditches, through mountains – wherever they have to go,” he added.
Scott, a senior project engineer, said because wildfires tend to move, you need a truck that can move with it.
“Something that’s a requirement for this is the truck must also be able to drive and move along and fight fire at the same time,” he said.
Those trucks, sometimes become a home for the firefighters for a couple of weeks -- or more -- as they battle wildfires.
“Not only does it have to be rugged and durable, it has to be comfortable,” Scott said.
The company would even build just the shell of the truck for an agency that wants to finish out all the details themselves.
The only other manufacturing plant owned by Pierce is in Wisconsin. You can learn more about the Pierce Manufacturing by heading over to the company's website.