Apparatus Engineers Roundtable 2005

Firehouse Magazine conducts a Q&A with the chief engineers of apparatus manufacturers and discusses apparatus safety.


Firehouse Magazine recently asked fire apparatus manufacturers to join a roundtable to discuss the all-important issue of vehicle safety. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that vehicle crashes represent the second-leading cause, or about 25%, of firefighter line-of-duty deaths. The USFA...


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One other consideration to reduce the rollover potential is to pay very careful attention to the load distribution and truck configuration. As everyone knows, there is movement in some circles toward trucks being able to have it all – deep storage compartments, big water tanks and lots of hose. This all goes to push the truck upward. Again, this is not a magic bullet, but the lower the center-of-gravity, the lower the risk of rollover, so cutting back may be in order. This should be considered when the truck is being specified and loaded.

Despite these improvements, however, running off the right side of the road is still one of the most dangerous scenarios for the vehicle. When I was in the Navy, we used to have a saying, “Don’t test the interlocks.†That meant that we weren’t to rely exclusively on the built-in safety devices to keep us out of trouble. In this scenario, there’s no substitute for experienced and timely operator action, but hopefully these systems will provide some level of backup.


DARLEY
Michael C. Ruthy
Vice President – Engineering
W.S. Darley & Co.
Michael C. Ruthy, vice president – engineering for W.S. Darley, graduated from Lafayette College in 1985 with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. He was employed at Hale Inc. (now Hale Products) from 1985 to 1989, and has been with Darley since 1989.

Firehouse: It takes years for new technology to be tested and added to fire apparatus. Please describe any new safety, driving or ergonomic features that we can expect to see in new fire apparatus.

Ruthy: The latest electronic integration is quite innovative. New vehicles will use multiplexing and will have touch screens or similar displays to control all aspects of the fire truck’s operation, including pressure regulation, foam mixing, traffic guidance and tank water level regulation. All engine and pump parameters will be displayed and recorded. These values will be recorded during road operation as well, providing the ground equivalent of a flight data recorder. After an accident, investigators will have better information about truck operations during that accident, information that may lead to a better understanding of the accident’s causes, which in turn will lead to better and safer designs in the future.

Firehouse: What can be done to reduce the rollover potential of apparatus, such as wider tires or suspensions, when drivers steer apparatus near the edge of road surfaces?

Ruthy: Wider tires can help, providing the driver an earlier warning of the imminent danger and staying in contact with the road surface a little longer, allowing a better chance of recovering control of a vehicle that is edging off the road surface. As trucks become more sophisticated, equipped with more sensors and greater computing power, other innovative solutions also arise. Vehicles that can change their suspension’s handling characteristics in milliseconds can react to minimize dangerous conditions in real time as they occur. These types of improvements will reduce the danger of rollovers, but the need for good, established procedures, properly followed by trained and qualified drivers, will never be eliminated.


E-ONE
Brian Cardinal
Vice President of Product Development/Engineering
E-ONE
Brian Cardinal is vice president of product development/engineering at E-ONE, responsible for developing new products and holding a lead function with product engineering. He earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and a master of science degree in industrial engineering from University of Central Florida as a Martin Marietta Fellow. Cardinal has been with E-ONE since 1999. Prior to E-ONE, he spent 18 years with Lockheed Martin Electronics and Missiles Systems involved in the design, development and manufacture of defense systems used by U.S. and foreign militaries.

Firehouse: It takes years for new technology to be tested and added to fire apparatus. Please describe any new safety, driving or ergonomic features that we can expect to see in new fire apparatus.