Opening Up Fire Apparatus Cabs

(1) Pierce Manufacturing's Dash CF has an open cab design that allows more room for the driver and officer because the vehicle's engine is located down between the frame rails.
(1) Pierce Manufacturing's Dash CF has an open cab design that allows more room for the driver and officer because the vehicle's engine is located down between the frame rails. (Photo courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing.)
(2) Rosenbauer's Smart Cab is 100 inches wide and can be configured with a variety of storage options.
(2) Rosenbauer's Smart Cab is 100 inches wide and can be configured with a variety of storage options. (Photo courtesy of Rosenbauer.)
(3) The Smart Cab that Rosenbauer builds can be configured in either an open design, where there is no barrier between the officer and crew area, or as pictured here, with a wall that contains storage spaces.
(3) The Smart Cab that Rosenbauer builds can be configured in either an open design, where there is no barrier between the officer and crew area, or as pictured here, with a wall that contains storage spaces. (Photo courtesy of Rosenbauer.)
(4) When KME redesigned its Predator chassis, it increased the width of the front doors by three inches and the crew door by six inches to allow better ingress and egress by firefighters.
(4) When KME redesigned its Predator chassis, it increased the width of the front doors by three inches and the crew door by six inches to allow better ingress and egress by firefighters. (Photo courtesy of KME.)
(5) KME is able to shorten and narrow the engine doghouse in the cab's interior to provide more elbow and leg room, as well as a base for equipment storage.
(5) KME is able to shorten and narrow the engine doghouse in the cab's interior to provide more elbow and leg room, as well as a base for equipment storage. (Photo courtesy of KME.)
 (6) Spartan Motors Inc. builds a variety of cabs in different lengths and heights, including the Gladiator, a 99-inch-wide cab that can be configured to hold up to ten occupants.
(6) Spartan Motors Inc. builds a variety of cabs in different lengths and heights, including the Gladiator, a 99-inch-wide cab that can be configured to hold up to ten occupants. (Photo courtesy of Spartan Motors.)
(7) E-ONE's Hush midengine cab is 94 inches wide and, because the engine sits behind it, is wide open from the dash to the back wall.
(7) E-ONE's Hush midengine cab is 94 inches wide and, because the engine sits behind it, is wide open from the dash to the back wall. (Photo courtesy of E-ONE.)
 (8) The ALS cab configuration offered by E-ONE is an 80-inch-long extended version that has a 22-inch-wide full transverse compartment behind it
(8) The ALS cab configuration offered by E-ONE is an 80-inch-long extended version that has a 22-inch-wide full transverse compartment behind it. (Photo courtesy of E-ONE.)

Firefighters have long groused about the tight quarters inside of some fire apparatus cabs, especially considering the bulky turnout gear, breathing apparatus, and other equipment they must wear or carry while trying to shoehorn themselves into a too-narrow space. Complaints have ranged from narrow elbow room, short leg room, and little space to grab and extend a seat belt harness in the crew part of the cab to tight leg, elbow, and seating room in the officer's and driver's areas. Lack of gear and equipment storage space in both the front and rear cab areas also has been cited as a shortcoming in some fire truck cabs.

But, apparatus manufacturers take firefighter comments and complaints seriously and have turned out a number of innovations in apparatus cabs that give firefighters more room to maneuver their elbows, shoulders, and legs while seated, as well as provide for easier ingress and egress from the cabs. Gear and equipment storage space also has been increased.

Combination of Needs

Tim Smits, senior manager of national sales and product support for Pierce Manufacturing Inc., says Pierce surveyed firefighters, officers, and other fire industry individuals to develop a list of apparatus cab elements that created problems for users. Lack of adequate space for the driver and officer, cab step heights being too high, seat belts getting caught in door frames, inadequate sight lines (both interior and exterior), and inadequate storage were some of the shortcomings firefighters cited about apparatus cabs in general.

"Officers especially were affected in their situational readiness," Smits says. "They need to get in and out of the cab easily, have their map boxes and other equipment nearby, shouldn't be worried about being trapped in a tight seat, want to be able to look back and read the crew's body language in terms of their readiness, and want to be able to see what they're approaching so they can do a proper size-up."

Pierce's answer to those and other concerns is the Dash CF, a vehicle with improved visibility, a roomier interior, improved sight lines, and lower step heights. "The Dash CF has the engine pushed down in between the frame rails and back under the crew cab area," Smits points out, "so the officer and driver can physically walk from side to side in the front part of the cab. There is no obstruction between them, which has opened up storage solutions for the officer and driver."

The Dash CF also added a couple of inches of width to its seats and moved them inboard 15 inches to get them away from the doors, a move made easier because there is no engine tunnel in the way inside the cab. "Moving the seat inboard gives the firefighters and officer more elbow room and provides easier access to the seat belt," Smits notes. "When the seat belt is released, it doesn't get caught in the door.

The Dash CF also has a stair-step type ingress, where the ground-to-first-step height is 19 inches, followed by a 16-inch height from the first step into the cab. Pierce also provides a handrail on the A-post and another outside the cab so the driver and officer can pull themselves up into the cab instead of having to lever themselves up using either the steering wheel or another piece of gear.

The Dash CF cab has 3,000 square inches of flat interior surface, Smits says, allowing storage for backboards, cabinets, hand tools, hand lights, helmets, large boxes for bunker gear, and EMS equipment. "A customer can lay out the cab interior the way it wants it because there's no engine tunnel to work around," he points out. "There's almost no limit to what the customer can do back there."

Getting Around Inside

Bruce Nalesnik, senior chassis sales engineer for KME, says when the company introduced its new Predator cab lineup (Premium Predator, Panther, and Severe Service), it first got input from key customers and found their chief concerns revolved around maneuvering inside the cab and getting in and out of it.

"We made some drastic changes in our redesign and designed our front doors three inches wider and our rear doors six inches wider to enable suited-up firefighters an easier time getting in and out of the cab," Nalesnik says. "We also increased the cab width to 100 inches to allow more elbow room and can lengthen or shorten the doghouse length depending on the engine used, as well as narrow it by a couple of inches. The shortened and narrower doghouse provides more legroom in the back."

KME offers more than 300 cab designs, says Jason Davis, KME's product manager, in four-, three-, and two-door model; multiple raised-roof; enclosed pump panel; various door length; and a variety of cab length versions. "By making our own cab, we have greater flexibility to meet the demands of our customers," he says.

Bridging the Gap

Scott Oyen, vice president of sales for Rosenbauer, says his company's Smart Cab bridges the gap between four-door commercial and custom cabs. "Our medium-length custom Smart Cab is 100 inches wide, which gives firefighters more room to move in, and has enough room in back to seat four firefighters and still stow extra gear or EMS equipment," Oyen says. "And, with our carousel style steps, it's an extremely safe cab to get in and out of."

Oyen notes the Smart Cab allows for overhead storage in the rear section and at the front of the cab, and that Rosenbauer works with fire departments to craft storage spaces where the firefighters want them.

Donley Frederickson, Rosenbauer's national sales manager, says Rosenbauer can build the Smart Cab without a wall between the officer and the rear section of the cab to allow for an open cab format. Alternatively, if a department has a greater need for storage space, the front wall can be installed and used to mount equipment or as a backer for storage boxes.

Frederickson points out that the Smart Cab version designed on a commercial chassis allows additional room for the driver and officer because of the cab-forward design. "With a four-door International or Freightliner, the rear face of the cab is pushed back eight inches toward the rear axle," Frederickson says. "We can either store SCBA bottles in that space or push the seat base back from the standard four-door cab, which makes a big difference in leg room on those two chassis variations."

Frederickson says Rosenbauer also makes an extended version of the Smart Cab. "It's customizable in length," he says. "The largest we've currently proposed is eight seats in back, plus two up front, but we also can install a three-person bench seat in front."

Space Drives Design

Chad McCoige, manager of mechanical engineering for Spartan Motors Inc., says interior cab space has always been priority criteria for his company. "Usable space in the cab is one of the primary drivers in cab design," McCoige says. "With the 2010 engine emissions changes, treatment and cooling system packages grew bigger, which impacted cab space. So, we did extensive work to optimize the cooling package and the tunnel geometry to allow us to review the cab structure and improve the room there."

McCoige says Spartan conducted ergonomics studies using a 3D mannequin in the test cab to be sure all interior dimensions were proper and met the requirements of firefighters. "Firefighters need more room because they're carrying more equipment and they want to store that operating equipment in the cab," he says. "But we can't simply keep making cabs bigger because they have to maneuver on the street and fit into firehouses."

McCoige notes Spartan provides surfaces in its cabs to mount instruments like laptops and navigation equipment, as well as make space available under the officer's side for boots storage without having an impact on leg room. "We also build EMS compartments at the rear of our cabs that allow for both interior and exterior access," he notes.

Spartan builds a variety of cabs in different lengths and heights, with the smallest being a two-person, two-door cab and the largest an extended four-door cab that can hold ten occupants. The cabs are available on both of Spartan's chassis variations-the MetroStar and the Gladiator. The MetroStar is 94 inches wide, while the Gladiator is 99 inches in width. The Gladiator also comes in a drop cab configuration that lowers it 1½ inches, useful when confronted with an overhead clearance issue in an older firehouse.

Spartan also offers a range of cab heights, from flat-roof cabs used with aerials to 24-inch raised roof versions. It can also make the raised roof with a trench in it for use on an aerial.

Creative Interiors

Joe Hedges, product manager of aerials and chassis for E-ONE, says his company's cab that delivers the most interior space is the Hush midengine cab, a 94-inch-wide cab that has the engine behind it, allowing the cab to be wide open from dash to the back wall with a completely flat floor in the back. "The Hush provides the ability to configure the interior of the cab however the fire department needs it to be," Hedges points out. "We can have seating for ten with storage space, or configure it with six seats and lots of cabinetry and open space."

The Hush is offered in 58- and 68-inch cab lengths and is available with or without E-ONE's Vista roof. "With our Severe Duty engine cover and dash package, the engine cover is designed to give optimum space for the driver and officer in terms of shoulder and elbow room," Hedges says. "The officer's seat has been moved back as far as possible to provide maximum room, and we've reconfigured the components on that side to push the lower dash area forward. For the driver, we've added more space around the knees, right elbow, and right arm areas."

E-ONE's other cab versions-the Typhoon, Cyclone II, and Quest-also have been tweaked to take into consideration providing extra space for the driver, officer, and crew, Hedges says. "Part of their design puts the heating and air conditioning system on the overhead so there are none of those components on the engine cover, which leaves that area open for map boxes, radios, or storage boxes," he notes. "On the Quest, the windshield is much larger and configured so the wipers park down and out of view, allowing the driver to see the mirrors through the sideswept area. In addition, the officer's side dash is very low, allowing for more room." The Quest cab is 100 inches wide, allowing for more interior space as well, Hedges observes.

Hedges says E-ONE's cab interiors offer many storage options to make inside space usable-in lower door panels, below the front seats, below the rear bench seat, on the rear of the engine cover, in roll-up doors on the front or side, in cabinets across the front and back of the Vista roof, and in a turnout gear box between the driver and officer.

E-ONE also makes an 80-inch extended cab usually used in an advanced life support configuration with a full transverse compartment about 22 inches wide. Another version has increased seating inside, no transverse compartment, but adds 68 cubic feet of storage. "People are starting to get pretty creative with their interior cabinetry for the longer cabs," Hedges says. "These cabs can hold ten people without them being on top of each other, and are versatile enough to also carry a lot of equipment."

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.

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