Hose Loads as Varied as the Departments that Spec Them

Alan M. Petrillo

Fire apparatus manufacturers are responding to firefighter requests for better management and placement of hose loads on apparatus, from lower crosslays and hosebeds to slide-out and pull-out trays that make extending hose and reloading it easier.

Crosslays and Speedlays

Jason Witmier, pumper and tanker product manager for KME, says many fire departments are requesting crosslay arrangements that place handlines lower than in the past. “Fire departments want them lower now, so we typically are putting them about 42 inches above the running board, which is about 56 inches off the ground,” Witmier says. “That means the hose comes out right at the shoulder so the firefighter can easily take the load.”

The disadvantage to a lower crosslay is that firefighters have to repack hose by sliding it into the crosslay area from each side of the vehicle. “You can’t get to it from the top,” Witmier notes, “so the solution is a slide-out try that is removable. It’s usually held in place by a thumb latch and can be taken out of the crosslay area, put on a table or other flat area, and repacked. Some departments also purchase spare trays that they prepack with hose so they are ready to be inserted into the crosslay area after hose is used.”

Witmier adds that another potential pitfall with a slide-out crosslay is that sometimes the nozzle is too big to fit into the tray. “We talk to our customers beforehand and determine what kind of nozzle they will use on their crosslays to determine if they can be deployed from each side of the slide-out tray.”

Crosslays under the cab extension (the crew area) have become popular with fire departments trying to keep the vehicle’s wheelbase short, Witmier points out, but such a location causes a different issue in terms of deployment. “It puts the crosslay at waist height instead of chest height,” Witmier says.

E-ONE offers crosslays and speedlays in several configurations
(1) E-ONE offers crosslays and speedlays in several configurations, such as
these stacked crosslays shown on a top-mount pumper. (Photo courtesy of

Grady North, product manager for E-ONE, believes there are as many hose loads as there are fire departments. “Everyone wants something different so the hose load becomes a customized part of the truck,” North says. “With preconnected hoselines, we’ve seen a 50/50 mix of speedlays and crosslays,” North says. “The common configuration for speedlays is vertically stacked on top of each other, which helps tighten up the wheelbase, and we do a lot of double and triple speedlay setups.”

Crosslays tend to be higher off the ground, North points out, typically located on top of the pump module with open tops to the beds, compared with speedlays, which are usually in front of the pump module or behind the cab.

Slide-out trays, for both crosslays and speedlays, especially those that can be accessed from each side of the vehicle, have become very popular, North says. “Our trays are fully removable and made out of either aluminum or polypropylene,” he says. “A short six-foot length of hose connects to the swivel and then to the hose in the tray.”

North notes there is a difference in the preconnect water source for the two types of lays. “The swivel fitting on crosslays comes up from the bottom,” he says, “but with a speedlay, the swivel comes from the top of the hose compartment.”

And while dual and triple crosslays and speedlays are the most common, North says he’s seen much more unusual configurations. “We recently built an aerial ladder that has six crosslays on it,” he notes. “It’s always an interesting challenge for our designers to accommodate everything a customer wants.”

Smeal Fire Apparatus makes the ergonomic hose load (EHL) and the side hose load (SHL) for aerial apparatus
(2) Smeal Fire Apparatus makes the ergonomic hose load (EHL) and the
side hose load (SHL) for aerial apparatus, both shown here in their
deployed positions on an aerial for the West Point (NE) Volunteer Fire
Department. (Photo courtesy of Smeal Fire Apparatus.)

Firefighter Safety

Mike Watts, national sales manager for Toyne, says hose loads on his company’s apparatus are varied by a fire department’s needs and operating procedures. “For attack hose, it’s popular to get the hose to the lowest point from a risk management standpoint,” Watts says. “Firefighter safety has to be one of the primary concerns when an apparatus is laid out.”

Watts says that many of Toyne’s top-mount pumpers feature a low-mount crosslay system that is at frame rail height mounted behind the cab. “This enables the hose to easily be reached from the ground without climbing onto the truck,” he says, “and also allows for easy assistance for reloading the hose from the walkway.”

Toyne’s side-mount pumpers allow different crosslay options, Watts notes. “One is a low single-stack design that allows the hose to be pulled off much easier than the traditional crosslay at the top of the pump house,” Watts says. “Another popular option is the speedlays in front of the pump box that use polypropylene trays. The hose is easy to deploy and the trays can be removed for reloading, which keeps the personnel from climbing on the apparatus in the pump house area, thus reducing the possibilities of falls.”

The rear-mount pumpers Toyne makes often feature crosslays or speedlays in the front compartment of the apparatus, Watts points out. “These are frame rail height and easy to deploy,” he says, “and can be fitted with roll-out polypropylene trays that extend 100 percent in dual directions.”

Toyne built this pumper with a hosebed that sits at the height of the vehicle's frame rail
(3) Toyne built this pumper with a hosebed that sits at the height of the
vehicle’s frame rail. (Photo courtesy of Toyne.)


Joel Konecky, regional sales director for Smeal Fire Apparatus, says his company’s ergonomic hose load (EHL) vehicle design offers a number of choices for crosslay and speedlay configurations. “We have roll-out tray assemblies that can be placed either above or ahead of the pump module,” Konecky says. “The tray slides out on both sides of the apparatus and can be either fixed or removable. Some departments buy extra trays that they preload with hose.” Typically, a crosslay tray will be able to carry 200 feet of 1¾-inch hose and a nozzle, he adds.

Firefighter safety is a big motivating factor that helped drive the EHL design, Konecky says. “It keeps firefighters off the top of the truck because of its lower hosebed heights, making it safer to deploy and reload hose.”

Smeal accomplishes this by having the hose load encased in a hydraulically controlled slide-out tray that extends 12 feet, six inches from the rear of its aerial apparatus. The EHL is positioned chest high and holds a minimum of 1,000 feet of five-inch large-diameter hose (LDH). “The hosebed lowers to approximately 50 inches from the ground when fully deployed,” Konecky says. “Hose can be reloaded while the firefighter is standing on the ground.”

Smeal also offers an EHL that can be fitted to pumpers and accommodates up to 1,500 feet of five-inch LDH. “We can get the extra hose on it because we don’t have the height and weight issues of an aerial,” Konecky observes.

Last year, Smeal introduced a smaller cousin to the EHL-the side hose load (SHL)-in further response to fire departments that wanted to keep firefighters off the top of vehicles. The SHL is a hydraulic hosebed that lowers off the side of the apparatus down to waist height so a skid load can be replaced. “The SHL hosebed comes with a 750-pound load rating,” Konecky says, “doesn’t restrict access to compartments, and is accessible from all four sides for replacing hose.”

Toyne builds some of its side mount pumpers with enclosed crosslays that feature removable polypropylene hose trays
(4) Toyne builds some of its side mount pumpers
with enclosed crosslays that feature removable
polypropylene hose trays. (Photo courtesy of Toyne.)

Rear Hosebeds

E-ONE offers what North calls “a very popular hosebed on our aerials, the SideStacker. It uses the officer’s side of the vehicle over the wheel and is customizable in length and width. It’s a fixed hose load designed to match up with the aerial turntable and the torque box.”

North points out that between 25 and 30 percent of E-ONE’s customers want a low rear hosebed. “But there are tradeoffs with a low hosebed,” he says. “A lower hosebed pretty much does away with a large rear compartment. Also, low hosebeds often are short, so sometimes they get filled up with hose so the top layer is almost as high as with a traditional hosebed.”

North says that E-ONE defines a low hosebed to be 48 inches off the ground. To accomplish a low hosebed, he adds, the vehicle uses an L-shaped water tank. “The biggest would be a 750-gallon tank because the design has to consider weight distribution and body height,” he says. North adds that he’s also seen what’s called the “California hose load,” which runs the full width of the body, making it lower and wider but giving up some compartment space.

Witmier says the height of rear hosebeds varies widely on apparatus. “Many fire departments want it down low for ergonomics and to be easily deployable,” he says, “but sometimes they want a massive amount of hose in it and that means the hose load is still as high as before.” And with certain types of apparatus, rescue-pumpers in particular, he adds, “It’s hard to get the hosebed low because of the compartmentation they want to carry.”

Watts says many urban departments that carry 500 to 750 gallons of water opt to use either an L-shaped tank or a standard vertical tank in front of the body to drop the hosebed floor. “The trade-off here is that the hosebed floor is usually low, but the dividers are tall,” Watts notes. “That makes for a more challenging reload and also can cause the top of the hose load to be only a few inches lower than on a more traditional T-tank or rectangular tank vehicle.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.

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