First off, let me admit something. Over the years, I have operated a number of home built apparatus. I am not going to name departments, or describe the rigs other than to say that some of them were scary as hell, and some were just shy of superb!
I want to discuss here a trend that I see nearly everywhere I have traveled. Departments that otherwise would never utilize a home built piece of apparatus seem to think nothing of slapping together a "brush truck" or "grass rig" with whatever they can lay their hands on. I have seen ag tanks and trash pumps, homemade tanks and skid units mounted on a variety of vehicles ranging from WW2 era Jeeps to commercial truck chassis.
The crucial safety issues such as weight and center of gravity are often just guessed at. At worst, they can be a totally homebuilt affair by shade tree mechanics over a weekend. In the best of circumstances, a pre-assembled skid unit is inserted into a regular pickup truck bed, lights and a siren are bolted on and a radio added, and VOILA! A brush truck is born at minimal cost to the department. This is not to say that either of these methods can't produce a good and safe rig. However, there is little to no oversight (depending on your states laws) before this vehicle hits the road and starts responding.
Is this good enough? Or do we need to go the route of the purpose built apparatus manufactured by a licensed company? Will a DOT inspection suffice to certify the home built or purchased skid trucks as safe enough to operate?
I feel that a DOT Inspection is a good first step, and should be required on ALL emergency apparatus (including LE vehicles and ambulances) due to the operating extremes that they will be subjected to. There needs to be proper baffling in the tanks to safeguard the stability of the vehicle. The vehicle should have the proper margin of safety in its Gross Vehicle Weight.
I would not want to see anyone hurt or killed because a truck was slapped together without considering safety, yet I don't recall the last time I heard of a brush truck incident where the construction was the cause of injury or death. To the best of my recollection, it is usually a firefighter on foot struck by the apparatus.
What are your feelings? How should these types of apparatus be constructed, inspected, and certified prior to use? Is there a tendency to under think them due to the familiarity of most folks with vehicles that size?