2009: Some Bright Spots In A Year of Transition

Ferrara's MVP is extremely well thought out and equipped.
Ferrara’s MVP is extremely well thought out and equipped. (Ferrara photo)
End suction, single-stage pumps are becoming very popular because of the flexibility of mounting they offer apparatus builders. You can put them in the middle, rear or in the front of a pumper.
End suction, single-stage pumps are becoming very popular because of the flexibility of mounting they offer apparatus builders. You can put them in the middle, rear or in the front of a pumper.
This department has a unique way of using the back seat area of a four-door commercial cab. It may be less expensive to purchase a two-door cab and add a compartment to the body.
This department has a unique way of using the back seat area of a four-door commercial cab. It may be less expensive to purchase a two-door cab and add a compartment to the body.
This urea tank and associated piping is some of the equipment you will be seeing on most of the 2010 engines. The tank will have to be protected from freezing
This urea tank and associated piping is some of the equipment you will be seeing on most of the 2010 engines. The tank will have to be protected from freezing. (Fire Apparatus Photo)
Never thought I would see this – commercial advertising on an apparatus. I guess it does no harm, and it may gain closer ties to the community
Never thought I would see this – commercial advertising on an apparatus. I guess it does no harm, and it may gain closer ties to the community.

With this being my 50th year in and around the fire apparatus manufacturing arena, 2009 was as uneventful a year as I have ever seen. Considering the National Fire Protection Association 1901 apparatus standard’s changes that became effective in January 2009 and the federal Environmental Protection Agency upgrades required for engines (power plants) produced after Jan. 1, 2010, one would think that you would see a big rush to purchase apparatus before the purported $10,000 to $30,000 is attached to the cost of apparatus with 2010 engines. In actuality, manufacturers are selling off stock units (look at the ads) and municipalities are holding off purchasing as they wait to ascertain what their reduced budgets will allow.

There are some bright spots in the marketplace. Ferrara has new owners and continues to build quality units under the leadership of Chris Ferrara. The company seems to have a good handle on the apparatus business in Houston, which has always been a challenging account for manufacturers. Ferrara was the low bidder on 20 aerials for FDNY, which will be a real change for the city.

Darley continues to gain ground in the pump business. Not only has it become a major pump supplier to apparatus manufacturers, in 2009 it received a $487 million order from the Department of Defense to provide worldwide support for special equipment needs for the military and federal agencies. A “Tip of the Helmet” to President Paul Darley for his “Inside Darley” video messages, a monthly series of 3-5 minute videos bringing you up to date on the company, industry news, new products and tips to help you in your business/fire department. Check out Darley’s Web site to ensure you receive these informative epistles.

KME, Rosenbauer, Pierce

In Nesquehoning, Pa., KME continues to turn out 400-plus units a year, but its line now includes a very modern crash truck with a European-type design that was introduced at the FDIC trade show in Indianapolis. KME is the principal supplier of aerials and pumpers to the L.A. County FD and more recently of pumpers to the L.A. City FD.

The largest builder of fire trucks in the world, Rosenbauer, continues to expand its capabilities with new facilities in Austria as well as in the U.S. It is exciting to watch the blending of the better ideas from Europe with the needs of the U.S. fire service. It is like having two (or more) R&D facilities working toward a common goal.

The result has already yielded electronic control system components being used on U.S. aerials, compact European pumper designs being available for the U.S. and manufacturing techniques that improve quality and reduce costs. Look for more innovation from this rapidly growing builder, such as the “green trucks” that offer a positive effect on the environment.

From Appleton, Wis., news is that Pierce’s 100-foot aluminum aerial platform has been a popular and successful addition to the line, along with the PUC and the new Contender pumper. An interesting note is that Pierce is still accepting orders for apparatus with 2007 engines. Best guess is they will be producing apparatus with those engines through most of 2010. The question is what happens when there are no more 2007 engines? Are fire departments ready to accept the up-charges for 2010 compliant engines or will they hold off buying until they can adjust their budgets in 2011? The answer could affect Pierce and all the other apparatus manufacturers.

E-ONE Debt Free

A couple of years ago, E-ONE was acquired by a partnership of its management team and American Industrial Partners, the same group that owns Wheeled Coach, the ambulance builder in Orlando. With the new owners in control, it seems they have purposely stayed “under the radar” while reducing costs and investing in process improvements. Peter Guile, E-ONE’s CEO, states that the backlog is good and they are now debt free (which not many builders can say).

E-ONE dealers are touting the quality of the products and saying deliveries have improved. In 2009, the Ocala-based builder introduced an updated HP-78 aerial with a 750-pound tip load and a vacuum tanker called the Water Master. The contest for a free fire truck was so successful last year E-ONE is doing it again in 2010.

One of the real mysteries of 2009 and a few years prior to that is American LaFrance. Talk about changing directions. First it was the move to Cleveland, N.C., then to Ladson, S.C., then to a new plant in Summerville, S.C., when a news release stated that production of some apparatus was being moved to the former R. D. Murray plant in Hamburg, N.Y. and the former LTI facilities in Ephrata, Pa. Next was the announced closings of Hamburg and Ephrata facilities. Then we were advised that LTI aerial production would be up and running in South Carolina by the end of 2009.

I’m not so sure I would hold my breath on that happening. It’s anybody’s guess how long the owner, Lynn Tilton, will hold on to this American icon. Maybe she is rethinking her situation. The question is what will happen to ALF if she decides to dump it? Could International and Jim Hebe be waiting to tuck the Condor and the American Eagle chassis under the wing of International trucks? If so, what happens to the leftovers of LTI?

With all the municipal budget problems, plus the lack of profitability and mismanagement of some companies, there have been a few casualties. The assets of Westates Fire Apparatus in Woodland, Calif., were sold to American Truck and Fire Apparatus. After a big splash at the FDIC, Gimaex has all but disappeared. Semo Tank has decided to exit the final stage manufacturing and will now sell its tanks to any builder. Foster Rescue Products of Waynesboro, Pa., announced it was closing its rescue/fire apparatus business.

Two former Pierce executives purchased U.S. Tanker in Wisconsin and will continue to offer their complete line of small and large mobile water supply vehicles.

During 2009 Plastisol, the Dutch composite builder who had just finished a new facility in Groton, N.Y., unexpectedly dumped its number one cheerleader and North American president, Alan Saulsbury. Since then, the company has gone silent after naming Keith Purdy to replace Saulsbury.

Looking forward to 2010, I think we will see two, maybe three companies close their doors and maybe another chassis manufacturer surface. With the reduction in orders, it should be an interesting year with an even more challenging time in 2011.

All of us at Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment wish you the very best in the New Year.

Editor’s Note: Bob Barraclough is a 50-year veteran of the fire service and fire manufacturing industry. He is chief columnist for Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine and a 20-year member of the NFPA 1901 Fire Apparatus Standards Committee. A principal organizer of the annual FDSOA Apparatus Specification Symposium, he is also a past president of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association. Barraclough serves as a consultant to Rosenbauer America and is called upon as an expert witness in litigation involving fire industry products. His career includes executive positions at E-ONE, Hale Fire Pumps, National Foam, Span Instruments and Class 1.

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