Aerials, Apparatus, Pumpers, Rescues

Apparatus Makers See 2013 as Year of More Multiuse Vehicles

Issue 12 and Volume 17.

Alan M. Petrillo

Pumper, aerial, rescue, tanker, and interface vehicle manufacturers are looking at 2013 as a year that will continue the trend toward specifying multifunctional pieces of apparatus, a movement that has helped fire departments mitigate recent tight budgets and address staffing issues.

Although the trend is putting more functionality into single pieces of apparatus, manufacturers also note that there remain strong markets around the country for traditional types of vehicles that serve a single purpose-pumper, rescue, aerial ladder, or tanker.

(1) Maneuverability, a big issue with many fire departments, has led some of them to turn to tractor-drawn aerials like this Pierce Manufacturing unit built for the Oceanside (CA) Fire Department. (Photo courtesy of Pierce Manufacturing Inc.)

More Jobs, One Piece

Tim Smits, senior manager of national sales and product support for Pierce Manufacturing Inc., says that “what we’re seeing for trending in the next year and beyond, as in the past few years, is the multipurpose vehicle.” He cites Pierce’s PUC product, where the pump and its components are located low in the chassis between the vehicle’s frame rails, “as a super popular product that allows a smaller, more maneuverable vehicle on a shorter wheelbase, yet with expanded storage capacity, that’s available as a pumper, rescue-pumper, pumper-tanker, or aerial vehicle.”

Chris Wade, Mid-Atlantic regional director for E-ONE, also sees the multiuse trend continuing into the near future. “In looking at fire departments with budget issues, manpower reductions, and station consolidations, many are trying to put two trucks into one,” Wade says. “Then they have to answer the question of what equipment they carry on that one vehicle.” Wade notes that E-ONE’s eMAX concept gives firefighters a very maneuverable vehicle that still has a great deal of storage room for equipment.

(2) Manufacturers report that fire departments are continuing to purchase multipurpose fire apparatus, such as this Rosenbauer rescue-pumper built for the Sioux Falls (SD) Fire Department on a commercial chassis that features Rosenbauer’s SmartCab concept. (Photo courtesy of Rosenbauer.)

Smaller Pump Components

Besides the multiuse aspect of new fire vehicles, Smits also notes that smaller pump panels are fast becoming an industry standard, a trend followed by many manufacturers who are trying to make more maneuverable and shorter wheelbase vehicles in response to fire departments’ requests.

Scott Oyen, vice president of sales for Rosenbauer, agrees that most manufacturers are making the pump house area smaller on pumpers to either shrink the overall size of the vehicle or to allow more compartment space. “A lot of real estate on a pumper is used for the pump, its components, and the pump panel when the vehicle is used to fight fires only five percent of the time,” he says.

Blair Schrock, strategic business manager for E-ONE, says, “eMAX is a repackaging of a pump into a smaller space where the smaller pump control panel means we can shorten the wheelbase and still provide the needed compartmentation.” The eMAX pump panel is only 30 inches wide, he says, compared with a typical 45- to 48-inch-wide pump panel. The eMAX pump panel also is isolated from the elements in an enclosed compartment, he adds.

“We’re also seeing some decision making based on how to make the best use of a vehicle in terms of what its real mission is vs. the historical perspective,” says Jim Salmi, general manger of the aerial division at Spartan ERV. “On a fire truck, everyone thinks about pumps, tanks, and hoses. But, most of the vehicle is dedicated to other scenario uses, including rescue and EMS. So, there’s a trend toward reducing the amount of cubic feet for the pumping system. Departments still want 1,000- to 1,500-gpm pumps but also more space for rescue and other equipment.”

(3) Pumper-tankers are gaining popularity with fire departments, such as this Alexis-built model for the Good Hope-Sciota (IL) Fire Protection District, which carries a Waterous CXVC 1,250-gpm pump and a 1,000-gallon Poly water tank. (Photo courtesy of Alexis.)

New Questions

In addition to the trend toward multiuse vehicles, Oyen says Rosenbauer has been seeing many fire departments opt for “basic-build vehicles. The higher dollar options are not as prevalent as they once were. Departments are moving away from the show trucks and more toward workhorse vehicles.”

Mike Harstad, Rosenbauer’s aerial products manager, says fire departments are asking a lot more questions about what’s available to them on apparatus. “For example, they’re getting to details like comparing tip loads among the brands, when in the past most people wouldn’t even ask about something like that,” Harstad says. “The end users are becoming much more educated and information is much more accessible.”

Is it a Rescue, Pumper, or Both?

Phil Gerace, director of sales and marketing for KME, says his company continues to see the multipurpose vehicle playing a big role in fire department buying patterns in the future. “We’re seeing more pumpers with full rescue capability,” Gerace says. “Our new Pro pumper has the carrying capacity of a full rescue but still is a Class A pumper.”

Gerace notes that KME has seen a resurgence in the use of tractor-drawn aerials, notably because of their maneuverability, as well as what he termed “wet rescues”-rescue trucks with a pump, 300 gallons of water or more, yet maintaining full traditional rescue truck design and capabilities.

Shane Krueger, sales manager at Marion Body Works, says Marion has been a part of the multiuse vehicle trend. “We are seeing fewer rescue squads being built,” Krueger says. “When fire departments are looking to replace rescues, they very often combine them with a pumper into a single vehicle.” When Marion does build straight rescue trucks, they generally are combination rescues, what Krueger calls “a blend of walk-in and nonwalk-in rescue. The walk-in portion is forward, married with a two-door commercial chassis of choice, while the back end is all nonwalk-in storage.”

Krueger believes that manufacturers should be more involved in the tool outfitting on fire vehicles. “We need to help departments make their equipment fit in the compartments,” he says. “Manufacturers have to be in tune with the tools that will be going on the vehicle and help the fire department with compartment design that fits their tool needs.”

(4) Heavy rescue units continue to be used by some departments around the country, like this heavy rescue vehicle built by VT Hackney for the Winterville (NC) Fire Department. (Photo courtesy of VT Hackney.)

Foam Interest

Foam systems seem to have gained new life recently, Reese notes. He believes the problems of fewer firefighters to staff apparatus and the trend toward making each piece of apparatus perform more functions are reasons foam is again gaining popularity.

“We’ve also seen resurgence in interest in using foam, both Class A and one-step systems,” Gerace points out. “More cities and counties are buying industrial foam tenders-2,000- to 4,000-gallon tankers that carry that amount of foam. A six-gpm foam system on a typical fire truck with 30 gallons of foam means you will run out of foam in five minutes. At a big industrial fire, you will need a lot more foam than that, and a foam tanker will fill that need.”

Other Trends

One of the trends Harstad sees in aerial ladder products is the use of information display screens for operators. “They always had the information before, but now it’s in a visual display that’s easier to see and digest rather than only represented by numbers,” he says. “And electronic control of aerials, like our Smart-Aerial system, that allows short jacking and all the other elements of envelope control, is continuing to gain acceptance.” Harstad notes that approximately 70 percent of the aerials Rosenbauer sells are SmartAerial-equipped.

Salmi says he’s begun to see a trend toward smaller horsepower engines in fire apparatus. “We’re not talking tiny engines,” Salmi notes. “But in a custom cab chassis, we’re seeing 350- to 400-hp engines as opposed to the bigger power plants.” Besides the obvious economic reasons of a smaller engine not costing as much as a larger one, Salmi points out that the secondary operating and maintenance costs associated with larger engines and their drivetrains are helping some fire departments move toward smaller engines.

Attention to safety and increased use of electronics are two added trends that Salmi sees continuing into future years. “Trends like Spartan’s Advanced Protection system of front and side airbags in the cabs will continue and be enhanced,” he says. “And, electronics are being used on vehicles for all kinds of functionality. Manufacturers are shrinking the operating panels for pumpers by using electronic controls, saving space that had been taken up by gauges.”

The aspect of safety has reached new heights in fire vehicles, Ed Smith, director of sales and marketing for VT Hackney, says. Drop-down step platforms have become almost standard on all Hackney trucks, and Hackney’s automatic deploy staircase to reach the top deck of a rescue truck is gaining in popularity. “Well-lighted compartments and the apparatus perimeter make night operations much safer. And with the advent of LED technology, lighting the compartment from top to bottom isn’t a drain on the vehicle’s electrical system,” Smith notes.

Dan Reese, general manager of Alexis Fire Equipment Co., says he has seen a trend toward smaller vehicles, perhaps in response to the economics of purchasing and operating fire apparatus. “A smaller vehicle, like a quick-attack vehicle or urban interface vehicle, might save a department from running a full-size pumper on calls for service and EMS calls,” Reese says. “Many fire departments are being very careful with their expenditures and are working hard to make every dollar count.”

Smith says, “What is being purchased today are apparatus that can multitask and are capable of carrying more equipment in a smaller footprint,” Smith says. And, the United States fire service is turning away from the “just make it bigger” attitude, Smith points out, and looking for more practical, maneuverable, and less costly vehicles.

Wayde Kirvida, sales engineer for CustomFire, says more fire departments are asking for stainless steel in the construction of their apparatus. “There’s been more interest in stainless steel as more fire departments are facing high repair and maintenance costs, both from corrosion and fatigue of the aluminum bodies they bought in the past,” he says.

Kirvida notes that CustomFire is seeing far less demand for generators on vehicles because of low-power-drawing LED technology. “An inexpensive $5,000 three-kW hydraulic generator would be useful to run a cord reel for an electric fan,” he says. “Compressed air foam systems also seem to be out of favor,” he adds, and “the demand for deck guns is far less in light of the successful Task Force Tips Blitzfire monitor.”

(5) The Carteret (NJ) Fire Department had KME build this 3,000-gallon foam tender (tanker), a unit that would prove especially useful at the scene of a large industrial fire. (Photo courtesy of KME.)

Departments no longer buy a rescue body with shelves and trays, hoping to be able to get all their equipment on board, Smith says. “Today, each piece of specialized equipment mandated for certification as a heavy or technical rescue or hazmat unit is designed into the body up front.”

Smits sums up the dilemma that manufacturers and fire departments often face when it comes to building a new piece of apparatus. “Fire departments still want to carry as much equipment as possible on the smallest wheelbase,” Smits observes. “Both the economy and staffing issues are pushing many departments to a decision to combine two trucks into one, where they have to do as much and more with a single piece of apparatus.”

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.