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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Included in the training should be what to do when things go wrong. Some drivers may panic and quickly turn the steering wheel to bring the vehicle back onto the road. This can cause problems with a car, imagine what can happen in a truck. Speed can also be a problem. You may have taken the same curve in your car or pickup hundreds of times at a higher speed then a fire truck can safely take the same corner. We all want to get to the call as quickly as possible, but please use good judgment and make adjustments to the vehicle you are driving.

Lateral G force warning systems can give a driver an early warning of excessive forces that cause rollover accidents. These systems can be used as a training tool to help a driver recognize safe operating limits. Stability control systems which are tied into the brakes and throttle are being developed.

A way to reduce the tendency to roll over is loading equipment and water as low as possible to lower the center of gravity. This is where cooperation between the manufactures and the customers is needed. In order to lower the center of gravity, the trucks may end up longer or some equipment may not fit on the truck.


SPARTAN
Matt Creech
Fire Truck Inside Sales Manager
Spartan Chassis

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.

Creech: While the men and women in the fire-rescue field work to keep their communities safe, Spartan Chassis is hard at work finding new ways to keep firefighters safe in their cabs. For instance, Spartan’s new Low-Profile 4x4 supersedes the high-profile design of a typical four-wheel-drive vehicle by offering a cab and chassis that is lower to the ground, providing a safer ride in a more accessible cab. The vehicle has a lowered center of gravity, which improves control, balance and maneuverability. The traction that comes from the four-wheel-drive operation provides optimal performance in both rural and urban terrains and in all weather conditions.

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?

Creech: New safety features that are now offered on Spartan’s cabs and chassis includes the Roll Stability Control system, the Full Air Spring Suspension system, the Seatbelt Warning Sensor system and the All-Belts-To-Seat integrated safety system.

Heavy rescue vehicles turning at a speed of 30 miles per hour can potentially roll over because the truck’s center of gravity is thrown off balance. The roll stability control system automatically slows and stabilizes a vehicle when it becomes unbalanced. The system aids in the reduction of firefighter deaths due to vehicle rollovers.

Spartan’s full air suspension system adapts to uneven road conditions and offers exceptional ride and handling. The 55-degree wheel cut is the highest turning radius on an IFS-equipped vehicle available in the industry today. The Spartan IFS-equipped vehicle not only provides safe steering control and an extremely smooth ride, but also decreases stopping distance with 17-inch disc brakes that come standard with the IFS system.

According to the NFPA, the number of firefighters killed in vehicular accidents nationwide increased in 2003 and more died enroute to fires than were killed in blazes. In 2003, 33 firefighters died in on-duty crashes, while 29 firefighters died battling fires. Spartan has created a seatbelt warning sensor system that can aid in reducing the number of firefighter deaths due to on-duty crashes. Spartan’s seatbelt warning sensor system is standard in all of Spartan’s cabs and assists in the safe travel of rescue workers to and from emergencies. It signals the driver and officer if a crewmember does not have their seatbelt buckled when the vehicle starts and aids in decreasing the number of injuries that occur while the vehicle is in transit. The All-Belts-To-Seat (ABTS) three-point integral seatbelt system in Spartan’s cabs is one of the safest, most durable seating systems on the market, with bright-red belts for simple identification.