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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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.

Klein: There are several things being done on Rosenbauer apparatus that make it not only a safer vehicle to operate, but a more effective firefighting vehicle. NFPA is making a major push to keep firefighters from climbing on apparatus; keeping this in mind we have produced several developments on our apparatus bodies:

1. Small things like taking the discharges off of the operator’s panel and moving them to other more accessible areas of the truck. This allows the pump operator to move about freely and not be encumbered by hoses or other things that may take his or her attention away from the task at hand.

2. Hot dip galvanized aerials and platform devices extend the life of ladders. They can significantly reduce time spent cleaning and lubricating while also preventing hidden corrosion because, with the dipping process they are galvanized inside and out. We can hot dip everything from the outriggers and torque tube to the very tip of the ladder.

3. We offer cross lays or speed lays positioned in the front and rear bumpers for easier deployment and it also lets firefighters reload hose from the ground.

4. You can get color-coded discharges and diagrammatic pump panels to make the job of the pump operator easier.

5. Remote-controlled devices such as deck guns, light towers and aerial ladders also keep operators’ feet planted firmly on the ground.

6. LED lighting consumes less power with the same overall effect on traffic and bystanders.

7. Reflective striping in the rub rails and chevron patterns on the rear of apparatus make it much more visible during low-light operations. It can really make a truck “light up†on the side of the road.

8. In cab controls for bumper monitors and other pump functions allow safer pump and roll operation. Everything from joystick controls to electric valves is at the fingertips of anyone in the front of the cab.

9. The Rosenbauer Safe Step flip- down door panel makes reaching upper compartment areas safer and easier. These steps support up to 1,000 pounds and are easy to extend and retract.

10. Rear and side cameras let drivers and passengers see what is behind them as well as approaching them before opening their doors. It makes the job of backing an apparatus easier as the driver can not only see, but hear what is going on behind him before he starts any maneuver.

11. Low-profile four-wheel-drive on custom chassis provides the advantages of added traction while keeping step height at a more reasonable level.

12. Rosenbauer also offers a couple of unique features to its pump, the Rosenbauer Auto Prime system and the Fix Mix foam system. This Auto Prime automatically keeps the pump primed for operation without any action by the pump operator. The Fix Mix foam system provides CAFS like foam without the complicated operating procedure and added expense by using higher water pressures.

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?

Klein: The first and most effective place to start is with proper and complete training of the driver. The fire trucks of today generally ride and handle very well, maybe too well. The rollover problem is very similar to the roll- over potential of SUVs that has been in the news for a few years. SUV’s drive and ride just like a lower profile car until things go wrong. When a quick maneuver is needed, the higher center of gravity becomes very evident and the driver can loose control. We are driving fire trucks, they are not the sports car or the pickup we drove to the station and the driver has to make allowances for the differences.