Apparatus Purchasing Specifying Hosebed Storage

Bill Adams

The new fire apparatus delivery was going smoothly. The rig was painted the proper color, it passed all the required performance tests, the department’s name was spelled correctly, the troops liked the way it handled and pumped, and it even fit into the station. Just when the crew thought life couldn’t be better, they started loading the hose. It didn’t fit.

Another fire department published a detailed specification spelling out the exact measurements required for its hosebed, which included a hosebed cover. The apparatus was delivered, tested, and accepted. The hose was loaded and the rig put into service. On its maiden voyage, the department laid a supply line and ripped the bed cover off the truck. What happened?

Most cases of “it doesn’t fit” can be attributed to honest oversights by both purchaser and vendor. Although it is obviously not intentional or deceitful and seemingly small and trivial, amicable resolutions may be difficult, if not impossible, to find. This article will attempt to help prevent similar problems in the future. Though applicable to all hosebeds, this article is particular to large-diameter hose (LDH) storage. If you know what manufacturer’s fire truck you are going to purchase and have purchased the same thing in the past and are not changing the hosebed, you might not have a problem. If there is a remote chance a contract may be awarded to another bidder who is unfamiliar with your operations or you are changing hose manufacturers, you should read on.

(1) This generator shortened the length of two tiers of five-inch hose by three feet, and the fill tower reduced the other two tiers by almost 1½ feet. (Photos by author.)

Specifying the Bed

A fire department can write its own hosebed specifications and accept the responsibility and consequences of “it doesn’t fit.” Or, it can place the onus of responsibility on the vendor. Bear in mind, a vendor is only responsible for complying with the requirements you set forth in your purchasing specifications.

A common purchasing specification reads, “The main hosebed shall accommodate 1,500 feet of five-inch LDH.” That verbiage is simple and straightforward, leaving the final design and layout up to the vendor (synonymous with dealer, salesperson, and manufacturer). The purchaser has no complaint or recourse if the bed doesn’t look good or it can’t be loaded as anticipated. You lose. Good looks and assumptions cannot be defined in purchasing specifications.

Another specification may read, “The main hosebed shall accommodate 1,500 feet of five-inch LDH packed in a flat load four tiers wide.” That gives the vendor a more definitive direction. Use caution-your hose still may not fit. Not all LDH is equal. Some vendors use generic “take-out dimensions” when they calculate hosebed capacities. Hopefully, those generic dimensions include your hose. It may be advisable to specify the exact manufacturer, model number, and lengths (in feet) of the hose you are going to carry.

Saying, “The main hosebed shall accommodate 1,500 feet of Brand ABC Model DEF five-inch LDH in 100-foot lengths packed in a flat load four tiers wide,” puts the onus on the vendor. If the hose does not fit, the vendor has a problem.

(2) Consider warning, scene, and chassis lighting placement if your supply line will be extended down to the rear work platform. One tier to the left on this rig, and all rear lighting would be blocked.

Fire Hose

Most hose manufacturers have proprietary charts and data sheets they use when peddling their products. Sometimes vendors and purchasers refer to them when calculating hosebed capacities. Buyers, beware-they can differ. From hose manufacturers’ published advertisements and brochures, flat “widths” for various types of five-inch LDH were listed as 7.88, 8.10, 8.20, 8.40, and 8.75 inches. The diameter of a standard five-inch Storz coupling is eight inches. If your vendor just figures eight inches for the width of each tier of five-inch LDH, you might have a problem.

Be careful when evaluating hose manufacturers’ claims of the “volume in cubic feet required per 100 feet of hose.” Depending on the hose construction, published claims range from 3.89 cubic feet to 7.50 cubic feet per 100 feet. Occasionally, it is shown as how many feet of hose will fit in one cubic foot. Caution-those figures do not include couplings. LDH construction has been advertised as being 100 percent polyester, all nylon, rubber-lined, poly-lined, three-ply, extruded, double-vulcanized, double-jacketed, rubber-covered, high-pressure, and so on. A fact of life is that some types of fire hose take up less space, fold tighter, and pack much better than others. Another consideration is that some types of hose stretch and do not have a “memory.” After years in service, their widths may be slightly wider than when new. Don’t cut yourself short when laying out a hosebed. This article takes no side and has no preference for fire hose; let the hose manufacturers duke that one out. Just ensure you tell the apparatus manufacturer exactly what you intend to carry and how you want to carry it.

(3) A walkway alongside the supply line storage facilitates loading hose.


Training manuals emphasize packing LDH with couplings stacked at the front of the hosebed so they pull straight out. If your hose is packed right to the top of hosebed side sheets and you inadvertently pack it so a coupling flips when laying hose, your hosebed cover might go south with the hose. If your hose load is not packed relatively flat and you lay hose driving at warp nine, couplings can also bounce.

A set of five-inch Storz couplings may consume 12 to 18 inches when flipping over. If you have a metal bed cover and a coupling gets hung up, you could do significant damage. A 100-foot length of five-inch LDH can cost more than $1,000. How much will a new hosebed cover cost? What would be the cost to repair a hose body side sheet? Is your LDH hose in 100- or 50-foot lengths? It matters. A set of connected five-inch Storz couplings may take up a full cubic foot in your hosebed. Bouncing and flipping couplings were not much of a problem in older rigs without hosebed covers. Today they can be.

(4) Beware of projections into the hosebed regardless of whether or not they are protected. This 33-inch-wide hosebed is already tight for four tiers of five-inch LDH.

The Slop Factor

No career, combination, or volunteer fire department wants to be accused of having a sloppy hosebed. A working hose load is enviable; the disheveled look isn’t. It’s embarrassing to have visiting firefighters look at your hosebed, make no comment, and just shrug their shoulders. It happens. All firefighters can experience back-to-back workers, contend with a pouring rain, or repack a bed during blizzard conditions. Sometimes trapped air and water and a long night make for a sloppy load. What do you do-leave a couple lengths off and repack it in the morning? No-consider making room beforehand.

Most fire departments try to cram ten feet of hose into a five foot space. What they might consider is writing a slop factor in their specifications. Whether specifying capacity for two or three lengths in excess of what you intend to carry or that you require a certain dimensional measurement be provided from the top of the packed hose to the top of the bed is immaterial. It could be the distance a set of couplings takes to flip over. Can you increase your hosebed depth without increasing the overall height of your new purchase? Ask.

(5) Keeping every other “fold” of hose back about six inches makes for a uniform, flatter load.


As inconspicuous as a booster tank fill tower is, it can affect your hosebed capacity. A 16-inch-wide by 12-inch-long fill tower in a 28-inch-deep bed eats up three cubic feet. Add a fill tower for a foam tank and double your loss. If you have a 100-inch-long by 33½-inch-wide bed for supply line and you put two fill towers side by side in the front of the bed, you lose 12 to 16 percent of the bed’s length. Most tank manufacturers can locate fill towers just about anyplace. It may be advantageous to inquire if you can choose the fill tower’s location on your rig.

Be aware that specification writers can inadvertently compromise their own hose- bed. As an example, your verbiage may be very explicit in calling out the exact dimensions of a hosebed in one section of the document. In a remote section, you may have specified a hydraulic generator and unintentionally called for it to be located in the main hosebed. One model is 20 inches wide by 34 inches long (photo 1). Oops.

Sizing Up

A simple rule of thumb to judge app-roximately how much LDH will fit in a single tier is to take the hosebed height in inches and divide it by 0.75 and multiply it by the length of the hosebed in feet. As an example, a hosebed is 28 inches high by 108 inches long. Dividing 28 inches by 0.75 inches equals 37 lays of hose. A 108-inch-long bed is nine feet. Multiply 37 by 9 and you get 333 feet. Deduct 10 percent and you have about 300 feet per tier. It’s close. Or, measure a tier in your present bed and develop your own formula.

If you are considering a hose load different from what you are currently running, it may be advisable to build a mock-up hosebed on the floor of your station and physically load it with your hose. The cost of a couple sheets of plywood may prevent 20 years of grief and aggravation. Put the actual measurements in your specifications. I highly recommend a walkway in your hosebed (photo 3). It will provide safe footing for members and will facilitate loading hose. The troops will like it. Your hosebed will work only as well as the time and effort you put into designing it.

BILL ADAMS is a former fire apparatus salesman, a past chief, and an active member of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has more than 45 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.

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