Who Will Make the Next Move?

By Richard Young
Founder
Performance Advantage Company

The January issue of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment contained the Editor’s Opinion, “Apparatus Crashes Are Plain Unacceptable,” which was very good but did not emphasize the personal responsibility of the driver and officer. How many firefighters recognize the extent of their own personal responsibility if they drive recklessly? The facts of what it costs to drive stupid have to be hammered home.

Spartan Motors provided to the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA) Apparatus Symposium its compliance leader, Wesley D. Chestnut, to talk about emergency vehicles and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I was in awe of the complexity of emissions controls on fire trucks. He further commented on what must be done to meet guidelines set up by others who think they know what is best for fire trucks. Frankly, I feel nauseous looking at the complexity of firefighting tools, which is exactly what a fire truck is.

Richard Marinucci’s January 2013 Chief Concerns column, “The Fire Engine’s Expanding Mission,” hit the nail on the head. The first concern of fire apparatus design is to have available the multitude of tools and equipment they must carry. Guess what? The space lost from accommodating emission control equipment is priceless. The ever expanding mission, as Marinucci calls it, is growing daily. As it becomes more of a challenge for short-staffed volunteers to properly respond to all kinds of emergencies, the fire apparatus they need must have “everything but the kitchen sink” on them. Where do you put all these essential tools?

Precedent

When I was president of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association (FAMA) more than 45 years ago, there was a major change coming to the fire service that no one in the industry could foresee. All of a sudden, the Department of Transportation (DOT) insisted on clearance lights on fire trucks along with reflectors. None of the truck builders could even imagine such a thing happening. Even FAMA, which was a singular association then, decided we should join the truck body and equipment association, which had information desperately needed by FAMA members.

Back in about 1966, I was asked, as president of FAMA, to make a presentation to the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) in Wentworth by the Sea, Maine. I advised the group that new regulations were forcing truck manufacturers to add clearance lights and reflectors to all fire trucks. It was shocking to have the president of the IAFC accuse all fire truck manufacturers of joining together so we could charge them more money for a fire truck. The main point of this story is that no one in the fire service, including the IAFC, saw this somewhat foolish requirement coming. What’s more, there was no input from the fire industry. Everyone was caught flatfooted.

Oppose Where Proper

Speed up to the present runaway emission standards. The imposition of this very debatable requirement seems to have been accepted by the fire service-without opposition. With no opposition from the fire service itself, the fire apparatus manufacturers have no choice but to do whatever is required. The added costs are burdensome to manufacturers as well as buyers of apparatus. I may be wrong, but I will bet that meeting emission standards for fire trucks has not cost millions of dollars but that the cost is in the billions.

Can anyone regulate emissions from a junk yard fire? How about a tire storage facility? How about a 2,000-acre wildfire? Why burden fire trucks so much that a great mechanic cannot keep them running without a computer? Why should the fire service accept mechanical complexity that is pure nonsense and in many ways exceptionally expensive?

Maybe I don’t know what is going on, but I see a need for a technical committee from the fire service working with not only FAMA but also proper government agencies to oppose, where proper, the imposition of regulations that cause a dramatic impact on apparatus.

If these emission controls cause huge problems, then let’s organize and fight them. There is no such thing as ignoring the political potential of the million firefighters in this country. The best defense for the fire service is to have a well-educated offense. It takes the best we have to handle the “expanding mission” without being buried in emission control nonsense.

Who is going to make the next move?

RICHARD YOUNG joined his family company in 1953 building fire trucks. He designed trucks and was president of Young Fire Equipment from 1968 until labor difficulties forced it to close in 1991. He founded Performance Advantage Company in 1993 and has designed all of its products. He is a past president of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association (FAMA).

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