Fire Industry Today

By Spencer Dell,
Senior Marketing Communications Specialist,
Cummins Inc.

During the past ten years, the fire industry has seen the many changes in emissions regulations relative to on-highway diesel engines. New emissions regulations have brought on new engine technology including electronic fuel systems, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), as well as aftertreatment technology including diesel particulate filters (DPFs) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR), which can be found on most of today’s engines. These changes in regulations and the resulting new technology developments have raised some questions on how the exhaust aftertreatment systems will impact fire and emergency vehicle operation. This article will focus on the evolution of the aftertreatment technology used by engine manufacturers in the industry and address how these systems impact the operator.


The year 2007 brought the introduction of the DPF for most in the industry. Engine manufacturers used the DPF to help clean up the particulate matter-one of the emissions pollutants regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and more commonly referred to as soot. By using the DPF in place of the traditional muffler, the engine could operate more efficiently, allowing the aftertreatment system to handle the exhaust emissions control and lowering particulate matter. With the introduction of the DPF came a term known as “regeneration.” Regeneration is the process of removing the excess soot (particulate matter) from the DPF by raising exhaust temperature. It often is performed passively while the engine is operating at a certain temperature, although some instances require the operator to manually perform a parked regeneration to clean the system. Standard in all fire and emergency vehicles with a DPF is a series of dash lamps helping to inform the driver when regeneration is required. As the DPF begins to fill with soot, these lamps will illuminate, notifying the operator that a regeneration needs to be performed. One key point to note is that in 2007, Cummins chose not to initiate a “derate,” or performance penalty, for fire and emergency vehicles as the DPF filled with soot.

2010 Regulations

In 2010, new regulations brought the emissions levels, most notably oxides of nitrogen (NOx), down to near-zero levels as particulate matter levels were already at this level in 2007. Many engine manufacturers chose to use SCR, which uses diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to help attain these new emission levels. DEF is an additional fluid stored on the vehicle in a specifically labeled tank that the driver needs to refill when needed, much like engine coolant and windshield wiper fluid.

Keeping an adequate DEF level ensures that the engine will operate appropriately and as designed. Just like in 2007 with the introduction of the DPF, drivers are notified of a low DEF level through a series of lamps on a vehicle’s dash. Based on typical DEF usage in an emergency vehicle application, operators can expect to fill up their DEF tank roughly 10 times per year or about once every 5.5 weeks depending on the vehicle’s use. Maintaining an adequate DEF level is a simple procedure, and Cummins recommends simply topping off the fluid when filling up the diesel fuel tank.

If the DEF level reaches a critically low point on Cummins EPA 2010 engines, a performance penalty (also known as a derate) is initiated to incentivize the driver to refill the DEF tank. This derate, mandated by the EPA in 2010, is a reduction in engine power (torque) applied only when the DEF level is critically low. Cummins implemented a modification in July 2011, based on a change issued from the EPA, to alter the derate specifically for fire and emergency vehicle applications regarding critically low DEF levels. This change resulted from the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) approaching the EPA to propose that the current derates be adjusted specifically for fire and emergency vehicle applications. After the change from the EPA was announced, Cummins responded, and engines built after July 8, 2011, imposed a vehicle speed derate of 55 miles per hour (mph) instead of the previous engine torque derate.

More Change for 2013

In 2013, the new emissions requirements did not result in additional aftertreatment technology. Engines still feature both the DPF and SCR aftertreatment technologies. What did change for 2013 engines was relief for fire and emergency vehicles provided by a Direct Final Rule (DFR) issued by the EPA. This DFR, published in June 2012, gave engine manufacturers the flexibility to apply certain modifications to the emissions control systems that would allow emergency vehicles to be operated without reduced performance during an emergency situation. This was a voluntary opportunity for engine manufacturers to participate based on the detail within the DFR.

Cummins elected to participate and worked closely with industry organizations, chiefs associations, and Cummins customers to provide outreach and education on how our aftertreatment system works and to determine the best solution for our customers. In addition to our efforts, we chose to implement a new solution for 2013 that eliminates all performance-related derates on our 2013 fire and emergency vehicle rated engines through a new software calibration. What this means for the operator is that the in-cab warning lamps will still function to alert that the matter should be addressed at the next available opportunity, but there will not be a performance derate initiated by the engine system that could hamper the ability to respond to an emergency situation.

This new software calibration on Cummins 2013 engines is also available to customers with previous model year engines as a service calibration update. So, for example, if you have a 2010 model year Cummins engine that operates with one of the previously mentioned performance derates, you can upfit your engine with this new 2013 emergency vehicle calibration.

The many emissions regulations and the aftertreatment system technology developments over the years have raised many questions, but it is important to note that today’s products are designed to help emergency personnel respond efficiently and effectively without hampering their ability to complete a mission.

SPENCER DELL is a senior marketing communications specialist and has been with Cummins for five years. He is responsible for on-highway market communications including advertising and PR support specifically for the fire and emergency vehicle market. In addition, he is responsible for educating and consulting the North American sales and support team at Cummins.

Fire Industry Today

At the end of each year Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine recognizes companies that have introduced new products that we believe will make a significant impact on the fire service in years ahead.

Best New Apparatus Model

The Best New Apparatus Model was no contest this year. Pierce’s Velocity wins the honor hands down for numerous reasons.

Not only will the innovations offered by the Velocity and its smaller sister chassis, the Impel, offer many things standard which were previously optional, but they help streamline the manufacturing process and cut delivery time to fire departments.

More important, the Velocity incorporates many suggestions from firefighters in the field. And the biggest contribution is to occupant safety, an area where Pierce has led the industry. For the first time, fire apparatus will have front seat air bags to protect both the driver and the officer.

The driver’s air bag deploys from the middle of the steering column, but the difficult one was designed for the officer’s position in the right front seat. This bag exits a knee-level bolster on the dashboard. Side impact air bags and occupant rollover protection systems have been available in Pierce apparatus for nearly five years. Now the system is complete.

At the same time Pierce introduced a dual-retractor, three-point seat belt system to easily permit seat belt use with an SCBA pack already donned. Furthermore, the new Pierce seat developed with 911 Seats exceeds NFPA requirements for air bottle retention in accident. The crew compartment floor was also redesigned to eliminate the rear stairwell, replacing it with useable flat deck space.

According to Mike Moore, Pierce’s product development director, other features of the Velocity cab and chassis include a quarter-inch thick steel firewall protecting the cab from the engine compartment and half-inch thick engine tunnel walls. These provide increased safety as well as dampen noise. And neatly covered raceways for all the electrical wiring at the inside roof edges allow faster construction and easy access for maintenance.

Moore says the huge one-piece front windshield has 86 percent of its surface area swept by three simultaneously moving windshield wipers for maximum visibility. All interior surfaces are of a hard composition material which resists wear and marking by tools or equipment and several small conveniences suggested by a firefighters development panel have been incorporated.

The Velocity and Impel chassis development, in our view, represents a far greater impact on future fire apparatus manufacturing than is apparent to anyone but a few visionaries at Pierce and Oshkosh Truck Corporation, its parent company. As soon as build-out of present orders is complete, the Dash, Saber, Lance and Enforcer models will be replaced by either a Velocity version or an Impel. While the Arrow XT and the Quantum will continue to be produced through 2010, emphasis on Velocity series production will increase.

The basic platform will offer virtually unlimited options and the economies of production will give the manufacturing division a lot more flexibility in pricing and delivery times. Pierce will dominate the fire apparatus market for years to come by developing the Velocity/Impel line.

Best New Product

With the emphasis on safety being at the forefront, the European-developed Rosenbauer SCBA seat gets our 2006 Best New Product Award. While the Pierce SCBA seat is excellent, the Rosenbauer model clearly takes the edge in several areas, especially in providing comfort for the return ride from a working fire or during non-emergency use for in-service inspections, hydrant testing or other duties.

When a firefighter sits down, the ready-to-don SCBA harness is pre-positioned for immediate access. The same type system holds the seat belt in position so that it can be fastened as the SCBA is donned. The air bottle itself is held securely in a built-in “gripper” which will withstand a 10-G force in the event of an accident.

The Rosenbauer SCBA Safety Seat earns the best new product award because it was the first to address a problem that contributes to more than half the Line-of-Duty Deaths in the fire service each year.

This system, introduced in February, is complemented by many similar features that came out with the new Pierce SCBA seat that first appeared on the Velocity chassis in September. These two companies are leading the way and we believe others will soon follow to make improvements in this crew protection area.

Best New Component System

Waterous, one of the three major suppliers of firefighting pumps in the United States, gets the 2006 Best New Component System Award for its new Advantus Foam Proportioner. The unit actually analyzes various qualities of the water going through the pump – whether from a hydrant or from draft – and adjusts the amount of Class A foam concentrate being injected to provide maximum firefighting effectiveness.

Less sophisticated proportioning systems have been based solely on volume, usually mixing .4 percent or .5 percent foam concentrate to the discharge side of the pump.

The Advantus foam system not only accurately measures the precise amount of foam solution needed by the type water being used, but it also uses conductivity-based sensors to control the foam solution volume for the most economical application rate.

Now for a few year-end State of the Industry comments.

Pierce Manufacturing, America’s largest maker of fire apparatus and emergency vehicles, is also the most profitable. And with nearly one-million-square-feet of modern production capacity in Wisconsin alone, few other companies are in a position to challenge it.

Ten years ago Pierce held a slight edge over E-ONE, but then John Randjelovic took over. With a steady hand and a realistic vision, he built the best dealership network in the country for Pierce, and year-by-year kept the company pulling away from its chief rival in both market share and quality.

In the meantime, E-ONE went through a series of presidents and CEOs as well as multiple phases of redirection coupled with delivery problems. E-ONE makes a quality product at a competitive price and there is no doubt about that. Its 75-foot aluminum rear-mount quint has been the standard of the industry, but two years ago Pierce came into the aluminum aerial market with a competing product.

Then Sutphen – the Mont Blanc pen, the Omega watch, or the Rolls Royce of the aerial fire apparatus industry, introduced a mid-mount 75-foot aluminum quint as well. E-ONE’s best product was threatened by two premium manufacturers who began chipping away at its market share. E-ONE’s president Marc Gustafson has made several moves to counteract these threats, including improving production facilities and delivery times.

While many companies have benefited by the Assistance to Firefighters Act – which technically is not a Homeland Security program – none have done so more profitably than Spartan Motors Corporation.

At the end of September Spartan reported third quarter sales of $108.9 million, up from 2005 – its previous best year – of 89.3 million. And the company’s stock price has zoomed from $14 a share a couple of months ago to more than $22 a share. Spartan makes a wide range of apparatus chassis for the independent body builders, plus special chassis for such customers as Smeal and Rosenbauer. It also operates Crimson Fire and Crimson Fire Aerials as well as Road Rescue ambulances and rescue trucks.

Crimson Fire – representing the merger of Quality Manufacturing and Luverne Fire Apparatus under Spartan – was the brainchild of former Spartan Chairman George Sztykiel who went into the acquisition mode when Jim Hebe was running American LaFrance for Freightliner and buying up a lot of smaller manufacturers.

At the time, there were a lot of doubters, but in the long run George will be proven to have been right in doing so. Being a manufacturer of apparatus – and aerials – keeps the company close to the end users, the fire departments. That gives a chassis maker the edge in reading consumer demand and reacting quickly to serve the marketplace.

Ferrara and KME at this writing continue to exhibit strong sales. The biggest unknown in the industry is American LaFrance (ALF), which is constructing a new plant near Charleston, S.C., to be opened next spring. ALF, now owned by a private investment banking company, could surprise everyone when its plant begins to operate and President John Stevenson introduces product line changes late in 2007.

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