|(1) The Commander chassis was introduced at the Texas Motor Speedway, in Fort Worth, Texas, to a crowd of approximately 300 attendees. (Photo courtesy of Rosenbauer America.)|
|(2) The Commander chassis is powered by a 2010-emissions-compliant Cummins engine that is set lower on the frame and farther back. The company expects to add Navistar engines as well. (Photo by author.)|
|(3) The Commander is built on a frame that contains no cutouts and gives it true straight frame flanges. The frame also uses 50,000-psi cross members to add strength and rigidity. (Photo by author.)|
|(4) With the introduction of its Commander chassis, Rosenbauer America now joins other single-source providers in the market. (Photo courtesy of Rosenbauer America.)|
On February 22, 2012, Rosenbauer debuted its new "Commander" chassis at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. The company could not have asked for a better day. With sunny skies and warm temperatures, 300-plus attendees were able to inspect, drive, and ride in four of the new chassis.
Two years ago, Rosenbauer launched an effort to learn what firefighters, officers, and emergency vehicle technicians really wanted in a chassis, according to Harold Boer, president of Rosenbauer America. During this period, the company conducted research with fire departments and vehicle mechanics across the country. "We started considering building a chassis in 2009, and early 2010 is when we started doing research on needs and opportunities for improvement-what it would take as far as building facilities and engineering personnel, for example," he says. "It was mid-2010 when the Rosenbauer America board of directors gave the go-ahead for the project."
Rosenbauer started with a blank piece of paper and developed the chassis from scratch. The goal wasn't to redevelop or modify existing chassis but to come up with something completely different. Another goal was for the unit to be cost-effective for the consumer and for it to be easier to maintain. The chassis design also addressed safety of operation, comfort of the crew, and sustainability of the chassis.
Developing this chassis allowed Rosenbauer to become a single-source manufacturer-something the company had been considering for some time. "We have access to custom chassis, but some departments wanted sole source," says Boer. "We wanted to go after some of that business, so having our own chassis allows us to be in that market as well." Boer also states that building its own chassis allows the company to introduce ideas from the world market to the United States market. He expects the presence of another sole-source provider to be a good thing for the market. "It will increase the competition in the sole-source market, which ultimately is good for the end user," he adds.
The "Commander" series is built on a frame that contains no cutouts and gives it true straight frame flanges. The frame also uses 50,000-pound-per-square-inch (psi) cross members to add strength and rigidity. The chassis is powered by a 2010-emissions-compliant Cummins engine that is set lower on the frame and farther back. This helps incorporate the redesigned cooling system that allows for better air flow and helps lower the center of gravity of the vehicle. This system also allows for the removal of the radiator from either the top or the bottom of the vehicle.
The cab is constructed using 3/16-inch aluminum and incorporates a one-piece "A" pillar. The front grille is designed to accent the lighting package and provide exceptional air flow to the engine. The doors open to almost 90 degrees and are 45 inches wide in the front and 41 inches in the rear.
Once inside the cab, it is hard to miss the view out of the one-piece windshield. The cab is an open design to allow communication between the crew members and for all to have a view out of the windshield.
The HVAC system has been designed so it doesn't interfere with the vision of the members in the rear and has vents in the dash for the officer and the driver. "We really focused on the HVAC," says Boer. "We've got full dash vents that are right at the bottom of the windshield for defrosting. We also piped heat to the feet of the driver and officer." Instead of one air-conditioning unit mounted to the roof of the cab for the rear seats, Rosenbauer mounted two units, one at each outboard location between the front seats and rear-facing seats. "They are basically right over top of the front wheels," says Boer, "So, your center visibility is very good. There's nothing hanging down from the ceiling."
The drainage for the condensation is a gravity system down the side of the cab to eliminate interior dripping. The HVAC system provides 67,000 Btus of cooling and 82,000 Btus of heating.
The driver's area has a wraparound dash that uses five-inch gauges for visibility and allows for the ease of operation. The engine cowling is lower and gives both the officer and the driver added hip room. Along with the other features, frontal and interior air bags are standard as well as the Weldon V-Mux electrical system, making this a totally integrated unit.
Servicing the Commander chassis is simplified by placing the lift cylinders for the cab farther apart. The cylinders tilt the cab to a 45-degree angle, allowing an emergency vehicle mechanic unobstructed access to the cooling system, motor, transmission, and other engine components. This unobstructed access and off-the-shelf items for many chassis components help reduce service time.
Some of these off-the-shelf items include Bilstein shocks and the Hendrickson suspension system. Fire departments and maintenance personnel can use local retailers to provide preventive maintenance and repairs to their apparatus quicker and usually at a reduced cost. All chassis are third-party tested and meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, requirements along with the SEA J-2420 and SEA 2422 requirements.
Feedback So Far
Boer says feedback on the Commander has been good so far. Rosenbauer encouraged attendees at the unveiling to speak freely about what they liked and disliked. Attendees liked the ride of the chassis, how it drove, and the quietness of the cab. The types of suggestions attendees made included things like the placement of door handles, where the mirrors were placed, or how things were piped. "That was the purpose of this-to get some of our initial units in the hands of end users," he says. "Now we'll go back and tweak it a little bit. We're very happy with the initial design and how it worked out."
Boer states that the introduction of the Commander does not mean Rosenbauer will not continue building trucks on other chassis. "We'll build on anybody's chassis," he says. "We have a lot of common customers with other chassis customers. And we'd just as soon have a happy customer with a different chassis if that's what the customer wants." Rosenbauer builds on Navistar and HME chassis and has an agreement with Spartan to continue to sell its chassis for a period of time in the future.
Although the preproduction units only had Cummins engines in them, Boer says, "We are in the research and development and design phase of adding Navistar engines to the Commander."
Boer states that the company currently has 30 units sold domestically that will be built on the Commander, as well as an order for 350 units for export that will be built on the new chassis.
The company expects to have four to six Commander units on hand at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC).
STUART GRANT, a 33-year veteran of the fire service, is a battalion chief with Dallas (TX) Fire Rescue and a task force leader for TX-TF2. He is a master firefighter and fire instructor with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection. He has been an instructor at Collin County Community College, McKinney, Texas; and at the Texas A&M University Municipal Fire School. He has two associate degrees and a bachelor's degree in fire administration. He received the Chief Fire Officer designation. He is a "Member" of The Institution of Fire Engineers.