Firehouse® Magazine recently asked a sampling of fire chiefs for their opinions about apparatus purchasing, especially in light of the current economic situation. We selected chiefs from various regions to gain a snapshot of what fire departments are doing to maintain and upgrade their...
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ESTER: We currently have about 30 heavy apparatus with 2007-compliant engines. Unfortunately, we have had major teething issues with a particular diesel engine installed in over 20 of these from 2007–2009. Our engine manufacturer's dealer has been very helpful working through all of these issues and we now seem to have a more dependable system. We have seen a great deal of out-of-service time and repairs required. Fortunately, we have had no significant issues with our light-duty diesels.
MCGRATH: We have had no problems at all.
REEVES: The EPA 2007 requirements largely concerned the introduction of ULSD (ultra-low-sulfur diesel) fuel in an attempt to reduce diesel engine emissions. We have not noticed any particular issues versus the older engines. We used Detroit Diesel engines almost exclusively in the past, from 8V71s through 8V92Ts to Series 60s. Our newest units use the Cummins ISM. Overall drivability is still good, response is still good and fuel mileage is slightly improved.
ROUTLEY: We transitioned to the 2007 engines about halfway through the five-year program. So far, the units with 2007 engines have performed well, with no major maintenance problems.
Q: Are you currently operating any apparatus with the EPA 2010 emissions engines and, if so, what has been your experience up to this time?
DICKERSON: We do not have any of these units in our fleet.
ESTER: We purposely arranged with our apparatus manufacturer to install 2009 engines in our 2010 apparatus order, just to not be at the "tip of the spear" on 2010-compliant issues. Our first 2010-compliant heavy apparatus will be here at the end of calendar 2011.
REEVES: Yes, we do have a few, so far. The EPA 2010 engines have to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's more stringent diesel emission standards regarding discharges of particulate matter (soot and ash) and nitrogen oxide (NOx), virtually eliminating these emissions from on-road diesel engines. These new "cleaner" engines do present some unique challenges for fire service use, including the "regeneration" mode for self-cleaning. The increased complexity of these engines has mainly meant more continuing education for my mechanics — something we have stressed during my tenure as superintendent of maintenance. The apparatus we currently have with the 2010-spec motors are, obviously, still relatively new, so we don't have a lot of history with them yet. I guess the jury is still out regarding their long-term reliability, but the over-the-road trucking industry will certainly uncover those problems long before we do.
ROUTLEY: The units that are being assembled at this time will be our first deliveries with 2010 engines.
We are cautiously optimistic.
Q: What is your department's procedure for handling engine regenerations and what training do you provide to the personnel in the field to conduct this process?
DICKERSON: Not applicable.
ESTER: Up until this point, all regens required a mechanic to use a laptop to initiate the regen. This was because we found the regen process often failed to complete due to some mechanical issue (low fuel pressure, low exhaust temps, etc.). Utilizing a laptop was the only way to monitor the cleaning process and know if a regen failed to complete.
Now that the dependability has been improved, we are going to roll out operations training via our Internet-based training program. Two presentations will be available, and one will serve as a complete overview of the diesel particulate filter systems and levels of regen. This will be required training for all personnel.
The second presentation will be a more direct how to do a regen. We currently have four regen systems from two custom chassis manufacturers and two different commercial chassis. We have created a single process that will work on all of our vehicles. This will be required training for all personnel with Class A or B licenses. We do not use the firefighter-restricted license.
There will also be a laminated card in the Engineers Manual on all DPF (diesel particulate filter)-equipped apparatus, and a tracking sheet to document regen frequency, date, mileage and hours.
MCGRATH: Not applicable.
REEVES: Regeneration has not yet presented any great inconvenience. It can be overridden or aborted if the circumstances demand it. Our mechanics are well-versed in the principles and operation of the system, and company personnel using apparatus equipped with regeneration are given a brief overview of what they can expect to see on the dashboard, what that means to them, and how to conduct or interrupt the procedure safely. We have had a few regenerations in the busier companies that accumulate mileage and engine hours more rapidly, and no serious issues have presented themselves so far.