A couple of quick updates first. Apparatus is apparently rolling off the line at American LaFrance, and dealers are confirming they are getting some deliveries. ALF itself is not returning phone calls. Any departments suffering from bankruptcy delays and/or an upward price renegotiation who want to talk about it, let us know.
E-ONE is in the “final stages” of being sold to a financial investment-type buyer. They have been chalking up increases in sales, indicating the so-called national economic slowdown hasn’t hurt the fire industry in any significant way. We expect details of this sale will be wrapped up before Labor Day.
If you are planning to order new fire apparatus in the next three years or so, the following news about chassis selection and diesel engine availability deserves your attention.
Spartan Motors, Inc., second only to Pierce as the largest manufacturer of fire apparatus chassis in the country, has refined its custom product line and marketing approach. It will concentrate on the medium-priced Metro Star and the premium Gladiator, long the company’s top model. With the recent introduction of the new Furion chassis with its galvanized steel cab and engine choices between 330 hp and 360 hp, the company has a product that directly competes with the commercial chassis lines offered by Freightliner, Sterling, GMC and International.
Last year Spartan delivered more than 900 chassis units to about 40 apparatus builders. It is the top choice of custom chassis for such manufacturers as Rosenbauer, Smeal, Marion, Alexis, Hackney, Darley, Custom Fire, 4-Guys, Toyne, SVI, Fort Garry, Rescue 1, Spencer and, of course, Crimson Fire, which is a Spartan subsidiary.
Repositioning the line by producing only two major models of large chassis but still allowing room for customization and introducing a smaller-sized “custom” to compete with commercial or vocational series chassis is a step that should lead Spartan to an even larger market share. This change also makes it easier to designate diesel engines according to chassis due to the cooling and emissions requirements mandated by EPA in 2007.
Speaking of diesels, that 2007 standard increased the cost of fire apparatus from $10,000 to $12,000 last year. The upcoming 2010 EPA standard will be even more difficult to meet and is expected to add another $15,000 to the overall engine price. That’s remarkable for a class of product that only cost $15,000 a couple of years ago.
Caterpillar, Inc., announced in June that it is going out of the on-highway diesel engine business, a move that was largely prompted by the 2010 emission requirements. The CAT C7, C9 and C11 engines commonly used in fire apparatus chassis will no longer be available for any large, on-road, heavy trucks.
At the same time, Caterpillar and Navistar, manufacturer of International chassis and on-road diesel engines, announced they would work jointly on producing a heavy-duty off-road truck to be sold by CAT. The yellow-engine company will continue to produce the 400,000 off-road and marine diesel engines that have become the major focus of its diesel manufacturing, but in essence will leave the on-road engine business to Navistar.
At this point, it looks like the new 2007-certified Navistar Maxxforce diesels will be the primary option. Previously Navistar produced only medium-duty truck engines to about 350 hp. The new Maxxforce 13 is designed for Class 8 heavy trucks and is available up to 475 hp and 1,700 ft-lbs of torque.
Remember it is torque that moves a fire truck, not horsepower. Horsepower is important only for pulling loads at high speeds, more than 50 mph. Torque is what gets a heavy truck rolling, and engine choice should be governed by torque for nearly all fire departments. Too many people select a 330-hp engine over a 300-hp engine when they both develop the same torque, thinking the extra horsepower will be useful. It is not.
The diesel selection in 2010 will be further complicated by the fact that it is unlikely the legendary Detroit Diesel Series 60 will meet the new EPA standards. Already Detroit has produced the 2007-certified DD15 at 14.8 liters to cover the 455-to-560 hp range at up to 1850 ft-lbs of torque.
Detroit Diesel is owned by Daimler-Benz, and the only other two engines it is offering originated in Europe – the MBE 900 and the MBE 4000, which are 190-to-330 hp and 350-to-450 hp range models.
That probably leaves Cummins and Navistar fighting over the bulk of the fire truck market in the years to come, and already people in the industry are predicting the 2010 emission standards will raise prices by 50 percent. Engine selection will be a big deal in the future.
Caterpillar, by the way, says it will continue to provide parts and service for CAT over-the-road engines. So CATs available now might be had at a bargain compared to what the replacements will cost.