Friday, August 7, 2009

Getting Legal

Unsurprisingly, I do not have a great deal of experience in owning a fire engine. Like, obviously, none.

Thank the powers on high that there are others who have traveled this path before.

Wouldn't you know it, there is an entire community of American LaFrance apparatus owners. Not just a group of fire truck owners in general (that group also exists), but a specific group just for American LaFrances, populated with guys who have seen, fixed, answered and done it all, and are willing to help others. Can you hear that angel song in the background? They've already helped me start to solve a minor air leak and track some other parts down.

I went to the DMV with the title to square things away. The clerk had never seen a fire engine title before. Now, these clerks have pretty much seen it all, dealt with the dumbest people and handled the craziest of requests, so her reaction to titling a fire engine title was telling - clearly this doesn't happen very often. She was fun and pleasant. We both wondered about why the title has a bunch of zeroes down under the Weight Rating field, but it let her update the records without fixing that (as if either of us knew what to put there anyway). This mattered because of the next topic....

Title: DONE

So the State of Washington has a very easy-to-understand flowchart on their web site about when a CDL is required. A 1970 American LaFrance passes all of these questions without needing a CDL, except the weight rating question which went unanswered at the time of titling. It remains unclear what the weight rating is. I haven't yet found a nameplate on the truck with this info, and am wondering if it got removed at some point. So, the question got posed at the ALF Owners forum. It still isn't crystal clear, but it seems that while it is very likely that a CDL is technically required to drive it, that most law enforcement types won't bother about it as long as there are no other glaring issues, especially once it is determined that I have been exempted from CDL status through fire department requirements that provide equivalent training for a long time, hence I am competent and allegedly know what I am doing.

I failed to mention on the Krang post, by the way, that in my 16 years on da job that I have (knock on wood) never kranged a rig - nary a scratch. I put one in a snowy ditch once (Minnesota, give me a break), but no damage done. I waited until I bought my own, and then did it in the first week. Nice.

License to Drive: DONE (kind of)

So I called my insurance agent, a nice lady, and kind of played her. Hi, this is Frank, and I need to add a vehicle to my insurance. Sure Frank, can I have the VIN number? Yes, its serial number is 1412045.

If you don't know VIN numbers, let's just say that what I provided was several characters short of a standard VIN.

It was quiet for a moment and then she said she missed some of it and could I repeat it. I spilled the beans and said it was a fire engine, and that was its full serial number, which stands in for a VIN on the title in these cases.

What ensued was a fun conversation. She didn't even know where to begin, but eventually decided that it would fall under the same umbrella as collector vehicles, and required a call to some of their underwriters to find someone willing to do a policy. Long story short, we got it squared away within a few hours, full coverage (liability-only for some reason not offered on collector vehicles) for about $32 a month. Not too bad.

Insurance: DONE

Yesterday, the Collector Vehicle license plate arrived in the mail and was promptly installed.

This is clearly going to be an ongoing interesting ride. I wonder what it might be like, years down the road, when I am helping another lost newbie with a new toy fire engine figure all this out, and realize that although to the new kid I look like I know what I am doing and that guys like me induce angel song for him in the background, internally I will continue to be aware that I am as clueless as ever. It is all about perspective, I guess.