Pierce Debuts Velocity Cab And Chassis

Pierce Manufacturing unveiled a brand new cab and chassis, called the Velocity.
Pierce Manufacturing unveiled a brand new cab and chassis, called the Velocity, at Fire Rescue International. The truck is based on feedback from firefighters and dealers nationwide. Features include a new rear-view mirror system, a one-piece windshield, and a front hood providing access to the engine compartment for routine maintenance. The interior has also been redesigned for improved ergonomics, clutter control and occupant safety. (Pierce Photo)
Checking fluids and conducting routine maintenance on the Pierce Velocity easy with a pop-up hood on the front of the cab.
Checking fluids and conducting routine maintenance on the new Pierce Velocity is made easy with a pop-up hood on the front of the cab, eliminating the need to tilt the cab for routine maintenance. (Pierce Photo)
Pierce Mfg. also introduced the Impel, a sister cab to the Velocity, with many of the same features.
Pierce Mfg. also introduced the Impel, a sister cab to the Velocity, with many of the same features, but at a lower cost. Like the Velocity, the Impel has a one-piece mirror, wide doors and a redesigned interior. (Pierce Photo)
Built-in bins help reduce clutter in the cab.
Built-in bins help reduce clutter in the cab providing places for maps, books, radios and equipment.
Pierce has redesigned seats adding a SCBA bracket and air bags for the head.
Pierce has redesigned its seats adding a new style SCBA bracket and air bag protection for the head.

With all the fanfare of a 1950s new auto unveiling in Detroit, Pierce Manufacturing showed its two newest cabs and chassis, the Velocity and the Impel, in Dallas, Texas, at the Fire Rescue International show.

To the beat of thunderous rock music, under multicolor flashing lights and a bank of rolling fog, more than 1,300 guests in the Pierce booth on the show floor and another 5,000 people watching on a simulcast broadcast on the web, witnessed the event.

“We took what the firefighters told us, sat down with our engineering, product management and manufacturing teams, and told them to go ahead and build it, and they did,” said John Randjelovic, president of Pierce Manufacturing, headquartered in Appleton, Wis. “Here it is, the best idea you ever had.”

Randjelovic said that Pierce has been dedicated to leading the way in the fields of safety and innovations for the past 10 years, pointing to features like side roll occupant protection, TAK 4 independent suspension and Command Zone electrical systems, as a few of Pierce’s latest improvements.

“When we undertook the project of building a new chassis, we wanted to ensure that what we built is exactly what those who use the apparatus wanted,” he said. “So, we talked to thousands of firefighters all around the county and we asked them if they could build their ideal fire truck, what would they include. And they never did fail to tell us exactly what they wanted.”

Randjelovic said that design and development learned firefighters wanted improvements in five key areas, including more interior space, storage and clutter management in the cab, safety and visibility, better seating and belts, and easy maintenance.

“Pierce has had a tradition of building products that best serve those in the fire service,” the company president said. “Pierce builds custom trucks using the latest technologies and advancements so you are safe on the way to and from the scene and while you are on the scene. We are proud to lead the industry.”

Respect For Firefighters

Robert G. Bohn, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Oshkosh Truck Corporation, parent company of Pierce Manufacturing, said at the unveiling that Oshkosh “loves the fire business” and has a great deal of respect and appreciation for firefighters.

“We continue to be committed to bringing the safest, best performing fire and rescue equipment in the world [to market],” Bohn said. “We like to say we deliver the steak and the sizzle, and we do that by bringing more new products to this industry every year than the rest of the folks combined.”

Bohn said that Oshkosh acquired Pierce Manufacturing about 10 years ago, and he continued to believe that it was “the best acquisition we have ever made.”

‘Passion’ For Industry

“We love firefighters because they have a passion for this industry,” Bohn said. “They keep challenging us to keep getting better and better, which is what we try to do.”

Bohn said the changes to Pierce’s product line up in the past 10 years include the addition of an aluminum ladder, the development of the Contender fire truck line and the addition of independent front suspension for custom fire apparatus.

“What that means is we continue to develop and stretch the envelope and give our customers what they want,” Bohn said. “We hear a lot of talk nowadays from some of the bigger fire truck companies that customization of the fire trucks isn’t the way forward. They are moving to a more standardized truck in the industry because that’s what they think the customer wants. I can only comment for Pierce, but we are going to build custom fire trucks until we die. It’s what we do. We give the customers what they want and when they want it. It’s a point of pride for the people at Pierce and at Oshkosh trucks.”

Standing next to the new, jet-black Velocity, raised on a platform under the bright spotlights, Mark A. Meaders, Pierce Manufacturing Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, said the journey to bring the new cab and chassis market started three years prior to the unveiling.

“Pierce is clearly the leader in innovation and in new product development, but we do what we do not for the sake of leading, but serving and protecting the firefighters who operate our equipment,” Meaders said. “They are the ones who rise to the occasion every day, performing acts of heroism all in a day’s work. The new Velocity and the Impel, they are your trucks. They are your ideas. I personally want to thank all the firefighters in this room for allowing Pierce Manufacturing and Oshkosh Trucks to serve you.”

Mike Dufrane, Pierce’s sales and engineering director, pointed out to the crowd some of the new Velocity chassis’ most important features including a pillar-less front windshield.

Increased Visibility

“We’ve eliminated the center post because we wanted to increase visibility,” Dufrane said. He mentioned the five “game changers” that Randjelovic spoke of in his remarks, and said by removing the post, Pierce has a large, one-piece, flat windshield that offers a panoramic front view for the driver and officer. The design also permitted the installation of three wiper blades that clean over 86 percent of the windshield surface.

While on the topic of visibility, Dufrane said the Velocity and its sister cab, the Impel, have forward mounted FMVSS-111 mirrors mounted to the cab in place of the traditional “West Coast” mirrors.

“We thought, ‘what can we do to increase the visibility around the truck,'” Dufrane said. “We thought why shouldn’t a fire truck be as safe as a bus. These are mirrors found on buses. They provide enhanced visibility; not only across the front, but when you sit in the driver’s seat you can look in the mirrors and actually see the front bumper.”

According to literature provided by Pierce, the forward-mounted mirrors are a first for the fire industry, adding to maneuverability by narrowing the vehicle’s width by as much as 8 inches while providing a view of the passenger’s side, often block by the officer.

“These mirrors also improve the visibility along the sides,” Dufrane said pointing to the chromed devices perched high on the cab.

While still focused on the front of the cab, Dufrane demonstrated a feature that drew cheers from the crowd. Reaching behind the Pierce logo on the front grill, he released the pop-up front hood.

“We wanted to improve, and encourage, routine maintenance,” he said. “That’s why we’ve incorporated a lift-up hood. It requires no tilting of the cab to get to routine maintenance items, ones that are serviced every single day. Things like the power steering reservoir is up here, the coolant reservoir, the washer reservoir, just about everything for everyday maintenance.”

Wide Doors

Moving along down the driver’s side of the vehicle, Dufrane said that Pierce wanted to provide ample room to get in and out of the cab, particularly for firefighters in full bunker gear.

According to Pierce, the doors on its new cab are the widest in the industry, the front measuring 43 inches wide and the rear at 38 inches. All four doors have extra large interior and exterior door handles that can be easily gripped by gloved hands making the vehicle easier to enter and exit quickly.

Dufrane also pointed out the lower rear cab floor, which covered the entire rear occupant area.

“The floors run all the way to the doors,” he explained. “There are no step wheels. That may not seem important, unless you are riding the back and you have no place to put your feet except in the stairwell. We wanted to provide solid footing for the rear occupants.”

The new design also permitted a two-step entry to get in the cab. Many manufacturers need three steps to provide access, he said.

“It’s our philosophy that two steps are easier to traverse than three,” he said. “That’s one less step you have to climb if you are in bunker gear or turnout gear to get up into the cab.”

Additional Features

Climbing into the driver’s seat, Dufrane pointed out some additional features such as the door panels, which are made of roto-molded dura-panels, a material that carries through the dash and console. Pierce says the material can stand up to whatever firefighters can dish out, including blows from hammers, boots, gear and equipment. It’s tough enough for firefighters to stand on it without causing damage.

To manage clutter, Pierce built in storage bins for maps, binders, radios, cell phones and various other items. The additional storage increases safety by minimizing unsecured items that can shift during sudden stops. Large, flat work surfaces are also provided for reviewing maps and writing reports.

Dufrane said the controls are ergonomically designed and grouped according to tasks making it easier for the driver to operate the vehicle.

For instance, he said that the parking brake, pump shift lever and the transmission gear selector are grouped together to improve the process of putting the apparatus in pump mode.

“We grouped things together to make it easier and intuitive to use,” he said. “We paid attention to all the little things.”

And the big things are covered as well, including equipping the Velocity and the Impel with total crash protection in the front.

Built-In Safety

“We are doing it in two ways,” he said. “We have heavy-walled construction with a firewall that is made out of quarter-inch steel and a half-inch engine tunnel. Then, we have air bags out of the steering wheel for the driver and bags out of the dash for the officer.”

The seats themselves are a vast improvement over others available on the market, according to Dufrane. He said they’re six-way power, with air suspension and enhanced cushioning.

Pierce has trademarked the name of the seats, PS6, and says it is obvious that people who have “first-hand, front line experience in the fire service designed them.”

“We have included longer seatbelts, so no longer will seat belt length be an issue for getting it around turnout gear,” Dufrane said. “We’ve also incorporated two retractors, one on the wall and one on the seat base. That places the buckle at the waist. We want to encourage seatbelt use.”

New SCBA Seats

He added that Pierce also designed a new self-contained breathing air (SCBA) holder.

“We call it a hands-free SCBA holder,” he explained. “It slips in and there’s no fumbling with lifts, handles or straps to get the SCBAs out.”

The bracket uses inertia and gravity to activate a claw-like device that grips the SCBA harder as braking action increases.

“It’s been tested to 30gs, three times the recommended National Fire Protection Association standard,” he said.

On the mechanical side of the apparatus, the Velocity features include a big block engine, up to 525 hp, a 147.8-inch flat cab with seating for up to 10 occupants, TAK-4 independent front suspension and side roll protection and Command Zone electronics.

The Impel, Velocity’s sister, is available with a medium block, up to 425 hp, a 137.8-inch flat cab with seating for up to eight.

“Our objective is the safety and comfort of America’s firefighters and [these] new chassis take it to the next level,” said Randelovic.

For more information call 920-832-3231 or go to www.piercemfg.com.

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