PHOTOS: FDIC International 2021, Front Bumpers

Bill Adams examines the front bumpers he saw at FDIC International 2021 in a manner only Bill Adams can.

By Bill Adams

The front bumper configurations on custom pumpers at the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference International 2021 (FDIC) were as varied as they were in previous years. Front bumper aprons (the tops) contain valuable real estate that purchasing committees in the past have crammed with so much equipment that functionality could have been compromised. This year, ease of operation and prioritization of the space seemed to be the rule of the day. Standard disclaimer:  Rigs are designed to suit the needs of individual fire departments, and commentary is not intended to be disparaging of any department or apparatus manufacturer.

This rig has two full-width preconnects with recessed swiveling elbows. The hose has to be lifted out of the beds or packed to easily slide over the ends. Watch for kinks. Vinyl covers are less expensive than treadplate doors; however, don’t stand on them to clean the windshield. No front steamer. The lay closest to the cab is tapered to allow for cab tilting.

The steamer protrudes straight through the front bumper, eliminating two elbows required for a top-mounted swiveling fixture. It could be an expensive hit if the rig thumped something. Fewer elbows means less friction loss and increased flow—especially when drafting. Ask vendors what the flow difference is before writing specs. 2½-inch bumper discharges were common this year. Compare the cost and flow differences between 2-inch and 2½-inch bumper discharges. The adjustable divider in the center storage well allows versatility—a good idea.

It appears this front discharge will be not be preconnected. The treadplate cover is not notched for hose. It is held down with two rubber “T” handles—easy to unlatch. It has a good-sized handle to raise it.

The discharge for this “jump line” must be recessed in the hose well. It has a flush door with a recessed D handle—might be hard to grasp with gloved hands. The caution tags on each side are bi-lingual and say, “NOT A WALKING SURFACE” and “DO NOT STEP ON THIS SURFACE.”  Tell that to the firefighter that has to clean the windshield.

Another driver’s side 2½-inch discharge with an open center hose well. It looks like a donut-rolled-soft suction sleeve could be held in the compartment next to the steamer’s swiveling elbow. You’ll get more hose in it than with a flat lay. The steamer is set back more than the one on the rig in the background.

Another adjustable divider in a center hose well with an officer’s side swiveling steamer elbow and a discharge on the driver’s side. No Q on this rig. The 20-inch extended bumper appears to be tapered inward from the cab forward. Does it lessen the wall-to-wall turning radius?

The center well’s door is corner-notched, allowing hose to be preconnected to the officer’s side discharge. I don’t know how easy it is to clean “blacked-out treadplate” but I do recall getting wax on black vinyl pump panels caused headaches with the hierarchy. Everything is blacked out except the discharge elbow.

This rig’s bumper extension is not that long for having a swiveling steamer elbow on one side, a discharge on the other, and a decent-sized hose well in the center plus a recessed Q. Note the short “taper” on the bumper ends—common on many bumper extensions. Ask your favorite vendor how much these short tapers reduce the wall-to-wall turning radius. It might not be worth the cost to “make it look good.”

Another short but busy extension. Open hose wells can be a fall hazard. Recessed lights on the bumper’s side is a good idea.

This rig, probably a rescue, also sports the recessed-side warning lights. The cornering poles with marker lights is a good idea. Only one air horn. Curiosity questions: Is one air horn “enough”? If there are two air horns, is it “better” if they are mounted side-by-side or do they have to be mounted a certain distance apart?

Looks like this 2½-inch discharge has an adaptor to other NST threads plus a reducer. There doesn’t appear to be “stops” to prevent the elbow from facing the cab—an expensive “oops” when the cab is tilted. If the requirement isn’t in your specs—it does not exist. An unpainted bumper is a rarity.

The flush hose well cover is notched to preconnect hose to the swiveling elbow. The notch for the steamer connection is wide enough to easily remove the cap. Specify exact or minimum width measurements. If you don’t you might get the size the manufacturer wants and not the one you really need!

The center hose well cover has an elongated notch next to the discharge elbow for preconnecting hose. Front steamer is not preconnected. Note what appears to be stamped louvers in front of the air horns and electronic siren speakers.

This commercial chassied rig for Wildland applications sports a front discharge with what appears to be an auxiliary shut-off valve on the bumper. That could be beneficial for a preconnected bumper jump line—only open the valve when all the hose is deployed—especially if the pump operator charges the line before checking the bed.

At every show at least one rig has an extended bumper sporting a booster reel. Add the cost of extending the bumper, the plumbing to the reel, the wiring to the electric rewind as well as the cost of the reel, rollers, hose, nozzle, and cover. Divide it by the intended gpm flow to determine the “cost per gallon of water delivered.” But, if it works for the fire department—go for it!

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Purchasers should be cognizant of the “angle of approach” when extending front bumpers. Just because an apparatus manufacturer says the angle meets the requirements of the NFPA Standard 1901, it does not necessarily mean it will work in your response district or in the ones you regularly respond to. Don’t forget you may be driving into a drive-through apparatus bay as well as backing into and driving out of a bay. Determining an acceptable wall-to-wall turning radius is equally as important. Front bumper extensions are very useful “tools” that will only be as effective as the time and effort put into designing it.

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