Rear-Mount Pumpers Show Strength as Multiuse Vehicles

Marion Body Works built this rear-mount pumper for the Delmar (NY) Fire Department
(1) Marion Body Works built this rear-mount pumper for the Delmar (NY) Fire Department. Intakes and discharges are off the rear of the vehicle while the pump panel is located behind a roll-up door in the farthest rear compartment on the officer’s side. (Photo courtesy of Marion Body Works.)
KME Fire Apparatus built this rear-mount pumper for the Taos County (NM) Fire Department
2) KME Fire Apparatus built this rear-mount pumper for the Taos County (NM) Fire Department with a Hale RSD-125, 1,250-gpm pump; a 1,000-gallon water tank; a 25-gallon foam tank; and a pump panel located on the driver’s side rear. (Photo courtesy of KME Fire Apparatus.)
This rear-mount pumper for the Hannibal (MO) Fire Department was built by Alexis Fire Equipment Company
(3) This rear-mount pumper for the Hannibal (MO) Fire Department was built by Alexis Fire Equipment Company. The pump panel is located at the rear of the vehicle. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Fire Equipment Company.)
A Fort Garry rear-mount pumper uses its Darley high-pressure pump to supply a bumper-mounted turret
(4) A Fort Garry rear-mount pumper uses its Darley high-pressure pump to supply a bumper-mounted turret. (Photo courtesy of Fort Garry Fire Trucks.)

Fire apparatus makers report that sales of rear-mount pumpers appear to be growing, relative to the overall number of pumpers sold by manufacturers annually. Manufacturers attribute this increase to three things—multiusability, staffing limitations, and size.

In general, apparatus manufacturers who make rear-mount pumpers say the ability to make rear-mount pumpers into combination units, their ability to be staffed by firefighters performing multipurpose functions, and the possibility of shortening the wheelbase to make the rigs more maneuverable are reasons fire departments give for choosing a rear-mount pumper.

Addressing Storage and Staffing

Dan Reese, general manager of Alexis Fire Equipment Company, says many fire departments choose rear-mount units to get better storage capabilities on their vehicles. “Moving the pump to the rear of the vehicle creates a lot of transverse storage,” Reese says. “That lends itself to transforming the vehicle into a combination unit—for instance, a rescue-pumper.”

Reese says that rear-mount pumpers seem to satisfy staffing issues facing fire departments in these days of a sagging economy and tight municipal budgets. “We’re seeing mid-sized and smaller paid and volunteer departments buying rear-mounts instead of traditional midship-mounted pumpers because they can do more with the same crew, whether it’s for fire or rescue,” he points out. “We’re also seeing more rear-mounts going into rural settings as well, where departments are also dealing with limited manpower. [They] also might be doing more rescues because of the proximity to highways yet where they still want the fire suppression capability.”

Reese notes that Alexis has been able to make rear-mount pumpers very narrow for rural operations. “When you don’t have hydrants and are using a portable tank, the rear-mount pumper can have a portable tank located directly behind it, which allows another vehicle to pass it by on the road side,” he says. “With a midship pumper, you might tie up the whole roadway.”

Addressing the Multipurpose Trend

Shane Krueger, sales manager for Marion Body Works, says that while the rear-mount pumper market hasn’t taken off as fast as some people have projected, it is still one of interest to fire departments. “There’s a lot of symmetry between rear-mount pumpers and rescue pumpers in terms of large compartmentation and the multipurpose use of the vehicles,” Krueger says.

With rear-mount pumpers, there are no compartments lost because of engine components, Krueger notes, because a rear-mount has the pump behind the vehicle’s rear axle. So, emission controls aren’t pushed outboard of the vehicle’s frame. “While every vehicle is different, we’re seeing a 175-inch wheelbase range for the typical rear-mount pumper, instead of the 190 inches that is typical for a midmount pumper,” Krueger says. “So we shave two feet off of a traditional pumper by using a rear-mount—four feet shaved from a traditional top-mount pumper.”

Krueger adds that the typical rear-mount pumper ends up being in the 31-foot range for overall length, which he characterizes as especially attractive to rural fire departments because the shorter vehicle can make entry into tighter, more rural settings. “There’s a lot of flexibility with a rear-mount pump,” he observes. “There’s one large outlet that needs a manifolding system to be built, but it still requires less space for plumbing to achieve the same number of discharges. That single-suction end-mount pump takes up less space than a full- bodied pump.”

Size and Location Advantages

Andy Yenser, rescue products manager for KME Fire Apparatus, says that for the past few years interest in rear-mount pumpers has been fairly steady, with interest picking up noticeably in the volunteer fire service. “Many of the departments who operate on highways want their pump operator out of traffic, so they put the controls at the rear on the passenger side of the apparatus,” Yenser says. “While we’re able to put the controls on the driver’s side, passenger side, or at the rear, the most popular location still is on the driver’s side, probably because that’s the traditional spot.”

In terms of visibility, though, Yenser says controls at the rear of the pumper are ideal. “The pump operator is only two steps away from seeing both sides of the vehicle,” he observes.

Yenser thinks the popularity of rear-mount pumpers is more a function of fire departments having their roles expanded with existing apparatus—not only putting out fires but having vehicle extrication and other types of rescue become more of their typical responsibility.

Additionally, he says most departments are asking for mid-sized pumps on their rear-mounts. “The 1,500-gallon-per-minute (gpm) pump is the most popular pump requested,” he notes, “although we also get requests for either higher- or lower-volume pumps.” Water tanks on the rigs vary from 500 to 1,000 gallons, depending on the department’s needs. But if the department is putting Class A foam on the rear-mount, Yenser points out, the vehicle usually will have a 1,000-gallon water tank.

Donley Frederickson, national sales manager for Rosenbauer, says his company has been building “tons of rear-mount pumpers, from our Timberwolf models to rear-mounts in 1,250- to 2,000-gpm versions.”

Frederickson says most departments tell him the advantage of a rear-mount is the increased compartment and storage space and the option of having the pump controls on the left, on the right, or at the rear of the vehicle. “A rear-mount pump balances the vehicle nicely,” he observes. “And we can improve the vehicle’s handling and maneuverability because, with a rear-mount, we can make the wheelbase shorter.”

Frederickson thinks the plumbing for a rear-mount pumper also is more efficient than for a midmount pump. “With a rear-mount, the intake to the impeller is straight in, which makes the pump more efficient,” he says. “You don’t have to go through any 90-degree turns in the plumbing.”

Wildland Applications

Rick Penner, customer service manager for Fort Garry Fire Trucks, says his firm has built a number of multipurpose wildland and urban interface rear-mount pumpers, recently delivering a half dozen to various customers who regularly take the vehicles down rugged roads and occasionally off-road. “We use 5083 saltwater marine-grade aluminum for our body that’s strong and has high corrosion resistance,” Penner says. “We’ve always had a full frame design for our body and it’s an integral part of the rear-mount pumpers we build that live off the road and go cross country.”

Penner says Fort Garry’s typical rear-mount design takes a 1,250-gpm W.S. Darley & Co. pump and marries it with two gearboxes, one for the standard pump and the other for the PSRH 100-gpm high-pressure pump. “It has all the capabilities of a regular fire pump, along with a high-pressure pump, which seems to have caught on of late,” Penner points out. “There’s a definite advantage to high-pressure in terms of what it does to the water stream.” He also notes that Fort Garry also is beginning to offer custom rear-mount pumpers using Waterous pumps without the high-pressure option.

The Outlook

Regarding the overall health of the rear-mount pumper market, Yenser of KME offers a positive assessment. “Sales of rear-mounts are growing, so I think it’s a trend that’s coming back around again,” he says. “The rescue side of combination pumpers has high popularity right now, which should help the rear-mount pumper market grow even more.”


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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