Special Delivery: Rosenbauer T-rex Proves Itself a Very Smart Truck

Craig's Rosenbauer T-Rex, built on a Spartan Gladiator cab and chassis, carries a 102-foot articulating platform and a Hale 8FG 2,000-gpm pump.
Craig’s Rosenbauer T-Rex, built on a Spartan Gladiator cab and chassis, carries a 102-foot articulating platform and a Hale 8FG 2,000-gpm pump.
The T-Rex platform has electronic sensor stops to prevent it from hitting immovable objects. The sensors are visible as white dots along the lower edge of the platform.
The T-Rex platform has electronic sensor stops to prevent it from hitting immovable objects. The sensors are visible as white dots along the lower edge of the platform.
A view from the top of the T-Rex platform shows no jack extension on the left side of the apparatus.
A view from the top of the T-Rex platform shows no jack extension on the left side of the apparatus.

The Craig Rural Fire Protection District covers the city of Craig, Colo., and a sizeable portion of Moffat County, the second largest in the state, including the largest coal-fed power plant in Colorado. So when it came time to replace an aging aerial, a 1976 American LaFrance TeleSQURT 50-foot straight stick, the department went with the latest technology it could find – Rosenbauer’s T-Rex.

The district runs a paid-on-call department with 29 active firefighters covering a 180 square miles from a single station.

Treacherous Weather

Besides requiring an articulating platform to reach areas of the 1,200-acre power plant that a straight aerial couldn’t access, the fire department was dealing with the growing city of Craig with larger and taller structures. Firefighter safety, said Chief Bill Johnston, was another reason for looking for a new aerial.

“In Craig, we have a lot of metal roofs, and we are normally fighting fires in treacherous weather conditions,” the chief said. “In most cases, the T-Rex allows our firefighters to safely perform their jobs without leaving the platform.”

The T-Rex carries a 102-foot articulating platform with a rescue deck, a Hale 8FG 2,000-gpm pump and a 300-gallon water tank. It is powered by a Caterpillar C-13 485-hp engine.

The cost of the T-Rex was $926,034, nearly half of which came from a state grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.


Battalion Chief K.C. Hume headed up a work group of three firefighters and two chief officers that used an unorthodox method for choosing an aerial.

“We had done our homework to ballpark what an aerial device would cost based on apparatus that was being delivered elsewhere,” Hume said. “And the consensus of the group was that an articulating platform was the Cadillac of aerial devices currently being produced. The chief tasked us with exploring manufacturers of articulating platforms and trying to prove why one would not be the best application for us.”

The technique, he said, worked well. The group researched the makers of articulating platforms, visited fire departments in surrounding states that used the apparatus, talked with the firefighters who used it on a daily basis and assembled feedback as to what those firefighters liked and didn’t like about the apparatus.

“Ultimately, we concluded an articulating platform was the right choice for our fire department,” Hume said.

At first, he noted, the Craig Fire Department only had two choices available to it – an E-ONE telescoping boom platform and a Pierce traditional ladder with articulating platform. But late in December 2006, Rosenbauer advised that it would make the T-Rex available in the United States, and the work group included it in its assessment.

In April 2007, the work group traveled to the Campbell County Fire Department in Gillette, Wyo., to look at its Pierce truck and then to the Aurora Fire Department in Aurora, Colo., to inspect its E-ONE platform. Later that month the group traveled to Karlsruhe, Germany, to the Metz Aerials factory where they had an opportunity to operate a European version of the T-Rex. The cost of that trip was covered by Rosenbauer and its associated companies.

In the end, the T-Rex won out among the work group members.

“The T-Rex doesn’t rely on mechanical switches to manage the control surfaces of the truck,” Hume said. “It has a programmable logic controller that controls the utilization of the load cells in the outriggers so the truck can be operated short jacked in any configuration.”

Hume pointed out that the load cells in the control surfaces of the truck allow an envelope of operation that is shown on a visual display for the vehicle operator. Each outrigger has a load cell at its base that senses pressure and gives the weight of any given point where it’s located, he noted, continuously monitoring the load on each outrigger relative to the platform.

“With the T-Rex, we can roll up and set the airbrakes, run the outriggers straight down and lift the truck, with no extension, and then unbed the aerial and operate the ladder at 360 degrees,” Hume said. “But to utilize the full reach of the aerial device, you need to fully extend the outriggers.”

The T-Rex also features a collision avoidance system with ultrasonic monitors placed around the platform to prevent it from running into any solid object. When the platform is moving, the sensors will stop the platform when it gets within 2 1/2 feet of something solid. The operator has to manually override the system and ease into the object if he wants to get closer.

In addition, Hume pointed out, the T-Rex has a target control system.

A Truck With Memory

“If you had multiple rescues from a balcony or a swollen river, the truck records the trip the first time and memorizes the route,” Hume noted. “Then you simply push a button and the truck goes back to the place you made the rescue. You don’t even need to use the joysticks.”

Another particularly important feature, he said, is the operational recording the truck automatically makes.

“When the aerial is in operation, the truck uses cellular technology to contact the Metz factory in Germany and records the entire operation, monitoring several data points,” Hume said. “Later we can use an Internet connection to access the truck’s records of when it was in operation, for how long and the temperatures it operated in. It’s really helpful in terms of maintenance, and the system in Metz will e-mail us if it finds something outside of normal parameters.”

Steve Reedy, general manager of Rosenbauer’s Wyoming, Minn. plant, said the T-Rex’s Smart aerial technology makes it the safest in the industry because of auto stabilizer leveling, auto aerial bedding, soft touch controls, short jacked stabilizer safety, platform capacity and the angle and extension of the aerial device.

“The fact that the aerial is telescopic and with an articulating boom is what makes it special,” Reedy said. “Once the platform is up and in position, it will rotate 15 degrees from side to side.”

The platform load capacity is 1,250 pounds, Reedy noted, “easily room for five people.” The TFT monitor on top of the waterway will flow 1,500 gpm, and a 2 1/2-inch discharge on the platform allows hand line capability.

“The platform is designed to accommodate a special stretcher or Stokes mount,” Reedy pointed out. “The doors fold open and a section of the platform folds down to where the mount is built into the platform.”

John Felten, a 17-year veteran with the Craig Fire Department, said the work group investigating a new aerial determined that the department’s “straight stick was old school,” especially after visits to the departments in Colorado and Wyoming.

“With the T-Rex articulating platform, we can get into tighter spots and not jeopardize the safety of our firefighters,” Felten said. “We can maneuver that platform so that firefighters can perform a ventilation task and still be harnessed in and on the platform. And we can extract firefighters from a building with the operator either at the main seat at the base of the truck or from the platform.”

Felten said he’s operated the T-Rex on three calls thus far, all dispatched as structure fires.

“They turned out not to be structure fires, but the truck performed beautifully,” he said. “We were able to put firefighters on parts of the roof that would have had to be ventilated, but they could have done the venting from the platform.”

With the T-Rex in service, he said the department changed its standard operating procedures to vent a roof from the platform, whenever possible, instead of having firefighters on the roof.

Felten pointed out that on each of the three structure fire calls with the T-Rex, the truck had to be short-jacked because of the tight locations, yet still performed well.

“When we can fully extend the jacks, we get full-extension, 360-degree operation,” Felten said. “But sometimes we short jack in limited space, like on those three calls, or when we might not want to take up the whole street.”

The truck’s width, along with 6 feet of full jacks on each side, generally takes up the entire width of a residential street, he noted.

“The vehicle handles well and pumps great,” Felten said. “We carry 800 feet of 5-inch hose on the T-Rex, and when we pump, we have to chase it with a hydrant. When the aerial is fully extended, the 300 gallons of water in the truck’s tank would fill the platform waterway and give us about a minute and a half of flow, so we have to hit a hydrant.”

Felten said the firefighters have taken to calling the T-Rex their “10-wheeled computer” because everything on it is electronic.

“If you want to do something that it doesn’t want you to do, it won’t let you,” he said. “And with the electronic valves and other technology, it’s all push button instead of having to manhandle manual valves. It’s a very user-friendly, very smart truck.”

Rosenbauer 2009 T-Rex Aerial Chassis

  • 102-foot articulating platform with rescue deck
  • Spartan Gladiator cab and chassis
  • 10-foot raised roof
  • Caterpillar C-13 485-hp engine
  • Engine brake
  • Allison 4000 EVS transmission with retarder
  • Anti-lock braking, roll stability control
  • 17-inch disc brakes
  • 300-gallon water tank
  • Hale 8FG 2,000-gpm pump


  • Whelan LED lighting
  • Elkhart electric discharges
  • 10,000-watt Onan hydraulic generator
  • Hannay cord reel with 200 feet of cord and 4-outlet junction box
  • FRC scene lighting
  • Platform breathing air system
  • Rappelling jib on platform
  • Three extension ladders, one 35-foot, one 24-foot and one 14-foot
  • Two 16-foot roof ladders and one 10-foot folding ladder
  • Two 6-foot, two 8-foot and two 10-foot pike poles

Price: $926,034

Craig Rural Fire Protection District, Craig, Colo.

Strength: 29 paid-on-call firefighters; one station; provides fire and rescue coverage and emergency medical response on approximately 340 calls annually, including structure, vehicle and wildland fires; vehicle extrication; medical; hazardous materials; confined space; swift water, trench, industrial accident, and high/low angle rope rescue.

Service area: Mostly rural area encompassing 180 square miles. Chain of command includes two battalions, each led by a lieutenant and captain, all overseen by a fire chief.

Other apparatus: 1995 Freightliner 4×4 structure engine with a 1,000-gpm pump, 750-gallon tank and a compressed air foam system; 1991 Spartan structure engine with a 1,500-gpm pump and 1,000-gallon tank; two 2008 Rosenbauer Timberwolf 4×4 urban interface engines with 1,000-gpm pumps and 600-gallon tanks; 2000 American LaFrance multi-application rescue apparatus; 1996 International 4×4 wildland engine with a 1,500-gpm pump and 1,000-gallon tank; 1989 Ford one-ton 4×4 wildland/utility vehicle with a 350-gallon tank; 1995 Freightliner 3,500-gallon water tender; 2006 Sterling 3,500-gallon water tender; 2001 Ford 4×4 hazmat response vehicle; 2005 Ford Excursion hazmat/CBRNE response vehicle; 2001 Chevrolet Suburban command vehicle.

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