Smeal Breaks New Ground With Tiller Aerial

Issue 5 and Volume 13.

For the past couple of years, Smeal Fire Apparatus Company has been doing research and development to develop its own 100-foot tractor-drawn aerial. The fruits of that labor can be found in an apparatus recently built for Riverside County Fire Department, headquartered in Perris, Calif.

The TDA is the first Smeal-branded unit of its kind, according to Brian Smeal, regional sales director for the fire apparatus company his late grandfather, Don Smeal, started in 1963.

“The Riverside County guys had a need for a tractor-drawn aerial, and we had a real good idea what they wanted,” Smeal said while showing off the truck that was exhibited for the first time in San Diego in February. “We had engineers working on a TDA for the past couple of years and we had meetings with Riverside County and came up with this.”

Smeal said Riverside officials called for bids on the new apparatus, and Smeal Fire Apparatus won. 

“I think the market is growing, and the need for this type of apparatus is going to be very strong,” he said. “This will give us a product to complement the other apparatus in our product line.” TDA are popular on the West Coast, he said, and Smeal has a strong dealer network supporting that region of the country. 

“We can meet all their apparatus needs and didn’t want to send them away to buy TDAs from another manufacturer,” he said. “This rounds out our product offering.”

With more than 40 years in the aerial business, Smeal Fire Apparatus engineers took that experience and refined some points on the company’s TDA.

For instance, the company designed a tiller operator’s cab with a slightly triangular shape to offer more visibility on the sides where the tiller driver needs it most. The company calls it a “Tru-Vue” custom tiller cab.

Brian Smeal pointed out that the cab design permits the company to use more glass than its competitors.

“When you sit in the cab, you can see down the entire side of the apparatus,” he said, noting there’s ample forward visibility with a windscreen directly in front of the driver. 

The tiller cab also boasts a huge heating and air conditioning system – bigger than any offered by competitors, Smeal said. Company specifications on the apparatus said it has a 10,000 BTU cooling system and a 2,000-watt heating system. 

Riverside County officials also asked for Smeal to create a tiller-driver training jump seat so instructors would have a place to sit while teaching new TDA operators how to steer and operate the vehicle. The company met that requirement with a bolt-on, removable driver training seat that attaches to the outside of the tiller cab with the right door opened, or removed. 

“It’s a heck of a lot better than welding something on it,” one show attendee commented.

Other features found on the Smeal TDA include storage for 284 feet of ground ladders in the torque box and compartments capable of carrying up to 10,000 pounds of additional equipment, some with 1,000-pound capacity rollout trays. 

The aerial has a 500-pound tip load, an outrigger spread of 18 feet, an electric shiftable waterway and an Akron 1,250-gpm combination nozzle.

A Spartan Gladiator Classic medium four-door flat roof cab and chassis serves as the tractor. It’s powered by a Caterpillar C13 525-hp engine and an Allison 4000EVS transmission. 

The apparatus also has an array of Whelen warning lights, including a Whelen TAM 65 traffic advisor with a third brake light on the rear; an Onan 10,000-watt hydraulic generator; two Hannay electric reels and four Fire Research 500-watt Optimum non-telescoping lights. 

“We’ve had a lot of people looking at it,” Smeal said from the trade show floor. “We are really excited about its potential.”

For information about Smeal call (402) 568-2224 or go to

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