Cantankerous Wisdom: Pulsating Lights, R-Tanks, and CGs

By Bill Adams

Sometimes old people can get away with saying something and later claim not recall saying it. When you put it in writing and get called on it, you can end up like a stuttering bowl of Jell-O. In last month’s “Cantankerous Wisdom”, I wrote, “The Squad reiterated that fast and super bright flashing, blinking, pulsating, or moving lights make it hard to judge a rig’s speed and direction of travel…” At morning coffee, the Raisin Squad jumped all over me. I don’t remember saying anything about pulsating lights. I know what a flashing red light is but never heard of one that pulses. What the hell is a pulsating light? I know what it is but really couldn’t explain it in whitehair terms. The next morning, I said dictionaries make reference to “pulsating headaches” and “expanding rhythmically like the heart” as well as “vibrating” and “fluttering.” They didn’t buy it. It’s a red light dammit. We ain’t talking about a heartbeat, a headache or a butterfly. I looked up “pulsating warning lights” on a computer search engine and got 3.5 MILLION hits that I really didn’t understand. Realistically, the effectiveness of warning lights on emergency vehicles is a serious matter and probably should be addressed based on engineering and scientific facts rather than being treated like my preceding buffoonery. I’ll work on that.

I was reading a set of specs the other day that called for an “R” booster tank. I was baffled (no pun intended). After 50 years of playing with fire trucks, I thought I could hold my own talking about tanks. Wrong. I was stumped. I heard of L-tanks and T-tanks but never heard of an R-tank. I asked a bunch of people if they ever heard of an “R” booster tank. J.D. Ferrante, an apparatus sales engineer at Ferrara replied: E designates an elliptical tank, T designates a T-shaped tank; L is an L-shaped tank; and R is a rectangular shaped tank. The designations are the typical starting points for a tank setup and pricing of the tank.” Who’da thought it could be that simple?

I was emailing back and forth with Joe Messmer, the owner of Summit Fire Apparatus, about axle ratings, and he mentioned chassis manufacturers can determine a finished rig’s center of gravity (CG). I said to myself, “Where the hell did Joe come up with the idea the chassis manufacturer establishes a CG? It’s the final-stage apparatus manufacturer that tests or calculates the final CG. It must be that Kentucky air he breathes.” Well, I looked it up and damn, he’s right. The chassis OEM can establish the CG if it wants to: NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, sentence says: “The apparatus shall not exceed the chassis manufacturer’s maximum allowable vertical center of gravity for a completed vehicle, if specified, and meet the criteria defined in either of the following: (1) *The apparatus remains stable to 26.5 degrees in both directions when tested on a tilt table in accordance with SAE J2180, “A Tilt Table Procedure for Measuring the Static Rollover Threshold for Heavy Trucks.” (2) The calculated or measured center of gravity (CG) is no higher than 80 percent of the rear axle track width.”

I was right in saying the final-stage apparatus manufacturer tests or calculates a rig’s CG, and he was right in saying the chassis manufacturer can establish the CG if it wants to. Sometimes us white hairs shouldn’t argue with or question the people who actually build the fire trucks. We should stick to reminiscing about the good ole days, open cabs, ¾ length boots, and riding the rear step. Some of us will just never learn.

BILL ADAMS is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board, a former fire apparatus salesman, and a past chief of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has 50 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.

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