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Pierce: More interior space is a primary design element of a comfortable cab. At Pierce, we scrutinize all dimensional areas of the cab carefully to accomplish that. For example, we taper the engine tunnel to provide more upper body and elbow room. Basically we try to shrinkwrap the engine tunnel over the engine to give us as much room as possible in the cab, but still allow room for the engine and its peripheral components. The Pierce Quantum has the smallest engine tunnel of any custom fire chassis available. In the Quantum, Pierce revolutionized custom fire chassis design by raising the cab, positioning wire harnesses at the front exterior of the cab, and designing fold-down steps to provide the largest cab interior space available to the fire service. Beyond that, we ensure the air intake tunnel and air filter are the correct size to optimize legroom, such as 27 inches in the Quantum.
Control and switch positioning is also vitally important to driver and passenger comfort. Wrap-around, cockpit-style dashes are becoming the norm to put controls within easy reach.
Temperature is the other crucial element of a comfortable cab environment. At Pierce, air conditioning systems are customized to the regional climate. Our hot-weather package, adds a third evaporator to the standard system which features a large 19.1-cubic-inch compressor.
Crash Rescue: I think you will see improvements in seats, instrument panels, visibility and the use of more camera systems. Cabs will be quieter with increased passenger room and better climate control. Some ARFF vehicles have a driver-forward position in the center with passengers riding off-set on either side in a slightly raised position for visibility.
American LaFrance: We utilize ergonomics and human factors to provide the basis for the development and design of vehicle interior seating, controls and HVAC systems. In addition, we make every attempt to utilize the advances made by Freightliner in the design of vehicle interior components. Testing to known standards and mandated regulations is used to validate new product designs and components. During the course of our development, the use of full-scale interior packaging "bucks" are used to allow real people to evaluate product development and provide input into the final design configuration.
KME: New materials are being developed to better insulate the cab along with more efficient climate control systems.
E-One: This area of the apparatus is always in a "continuous improvement" mode. We currently provide automotive-level air conditioning and state-of-the-art, ergonomically designed seats. This will always remain a focus of improvement.
Saulsbury: Saulsbury does not manufacture chassis and cabs, but we are working with our suppliers to influence design. The use of the chassis as a rehabilitation center for firefighters is increasing, mostly in the area of climate control, i.e., heat for colder climates and air conditioning for the warmer climates.
Ferrara: The industry has been already moving towards comfort in the cab, with major changes in ergonomics, sound level and location of the controls and instrumentation so as to allow the driver more time keeping his eyes straight ahead and on the road.
Where is the industry going in regards to safety and crashworthiness of apparatus?
KME: Enhancements in lighting and signaling systems will continue to assist in increasing safety, especially with some of the new LED technology available today. In regard to crashworthiness, I am sure that the apparatus industry will follow the lead of the over-the-road market to increase personnel safety.
E-One: E-One is in agreement that ultimately there will be (and is needed) an industrywide testing standard. We have taken the approach of ensuring that our cabs maintain superior structural integrity. Decades of field performance, in all areas of crash worthiness, has proven E-One to be the leader in this regard.
Ferrara: I think regulations will continue to change where the safety of the fire apparatus passengers will become more of a priority. Plus the need for less down time after an incident, out of service, will be what the industry will look to in the future purchases.
American LaFrance: American LaFrance is the only U.S. fire truck manufacturer to develop and certify its cabs to an established standard for occupant protection for heavy truck, the United Nations/European Commission on Economics Regulation #29 (UN/ECE R-29). The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) is currently developing recommended practices for the testing of occupant protection in heavy truck cabs. Once these recommended practices have been approved, they may become part of federally mandated legislation, which would require compliance. At the very least, they will become a recognized U.S. design practice, which will be difficult for manufacturers to ignore in the future.