Review of CAN/ULC- S515-12 Standard for Automobile Fire Fighting Apparatus

By Jeff Aiken
Pierce Manufacturing

It is probably safe to say that just about everyone active in the North American firefighting and emergency services community is aware of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards and revisions that are published on a regular basis. What are not yet on everyone’s radars are the parallel standards and revision processes that occur within the Canadian firefighting and emergency services community.

The last major ULC-S515 revision was published in 2004 and was written to align closely with NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Apparatus (2003 ed.). ULC-S515 has been undergoing a revision cycle to bring it in alignment with the NFPA 1901 (2009 ed.). ULC-S515-12 has been through the public comment period, the French translation work is complete, and it should be published shortly.


In looking at NFPA 1901 and ULC-S515-12, there are a number of differences to note. The lists of referenced documents and standards and their respective revisions are not identical. Canada has established the metric SI system as the primary system of measurement. This is significant in that the metric SI unit is the requirement-any units in brackets are considered approximate. Gallons and gallons per minute (gpm) refer to imperial gallons. Any references to United States gallons are noted as “US-gal” or “USgpm.”

By law, all Canadian standards must be published in both French and English. So, when a fire department in French-speaking Quebec reads the standard differently than a fire department in British Columbia, it can, quite literally, be a matter of interpretation.


There are a number of changes and new chapter additions for this latest edition of ULCS515. The chapter for Industrial Supply Pumps and Associated Equipment of the 2004 edition of CAN/ULC-S515 has been incorporated into Chapter 15-Fire Pumps and Associated Equipment of the 2012 edition. There is no longer a separate chapter for Industrial Supply Pumps.

Other chapter changes include Chapter 18-Foam Proportioning Systems, aligned closely with NFPA 1901 (2009 ed.) Chapter 20; Chapter 19-Compressed Air Foam Systems, aligned closely with NFPA 1901 (2009 ed.) Chapter 21; Chapter 20-Line Voltage Electrical Systems, aligned closely with NFPA 1901 (2009 ed.) Chapter 22 but note the primary reference to the Canadian Electrical Code, not the National Electrical Code; Chapter 21-Command and Communications, aligned closely with NFPA 1901 (2009 ed.) Chapter 23; Chapter 22-Air Systems, aligned closely with NFPA 1901 (2009 ed.) Chapter 24; Chapter 23-Winches, aligned closely with NFPA 1901 (2009 ed.) Chapter 25; and Chapter 24-Trailers, aligned closely with NFPA (2009 ed.) Chapter 26.

Data tables for friction loss, miscellaneous equipment, suction and discharge sizes, and flow rates are all located at the back of ULC-S515 instead of in their respective chapters, as in NFPA 1901.

There are no informational annexes, as in NFPA 1901. These resources for firefighters will be developed in the future by ULC Standards but have not been included in this edition. ULC-S515-12 does have an Appendix A on Limiting Design Stresses. This appendix provides direction and equations to be used in aerial device structural design. The safety factor equation used by ULC-S515-12 is not identical to that used by NFPA 1901, so aerial manufacturers need to be aware of this difference.

Aerial Stability Testing

This latest edition of ULC-S515-12 introduces new language covering stability testing requirements for aerial devices with envelope control, or “Limited Reach Operating Envelope Aerials” as they are referred to in the standard. This new language is contained in Chapter 17-Aerial Devices in Section 17.13-Tests. Manufacturers, testing and certification companies, and end users need to review this section carefully and know what is being required of them.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand in this area is that envelope control aerials make it possible for the aerial device to be at its maximum rated overturning moment at high elevation angles, as opposed to aerial devices complying with NFPA 1901, which are rated so that the maximum overturning moment is reached at low elevation angles. In other words, the aerial device can now be at a point of minimum stability at high elevation angles. This significantly enlarges the operating envelope in which an aerial device, and anyone working at the tip, is in a minimum stability condition. The stability safety factor of 1.5:1 based on live load is still in force.

The aerial apparatus manufacturer has additional load definition requirements placed on it in this new standard. ULC-S515-12, paragraph states that, “The aerial manufacturer shall define the operating envelope for the aerial. The boundary of the operating envelope is defined as the set of points determined by the maximum allowable horizontal reach at any given angle of elevation. This will establish the full range of positions and loading conditions for the aerial device.”

Furthermore, paragraph states, “Prior to stability testing, the manufacturer shall define the positions of minimum stability of the aerial device, based on the operating envelope defined by the manufacturer.” As such, the stability test will need to be performed at each of these positions of minimum stability.

A brief article like this cannot adequately cover all the similarities and differences between these two standards. All parties who intend to do business in Canada need to purchase the new ULC-S515-12 Standard for Automobile Fire Fighting Apparatus when it is published and do their own thorough review. Although differences do exist between the two standards, they are much more similar than different. This close alignment is thanks to the excellent cooperation between ULC Standards, the NFPA, the Canadian firefighting community, and manufacturers serving this community.

JEFF AIKEN has been active in the fire apparatus industry for more than 25 years. His career has spanned design, testing, sales, research and development, and engineering management. He has been active on NFPA and ULC subcommittees and has given presentations at various forums. He is currently the director of engineering for aerials, pumpers, and rescues at Pierce Manufacturing.

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