The Future Of Apparatus - Part 1

Firehouse® moderates a roundtable discussion with key executives of fire and emergency vehicle manufacturers.


Firehouse® Magazine has asked key executives of fire and emergency apparatus manufacturers where they see the industry heading as we enter the new millennium. With "their fingers on the pulse" of the apparatus industry, these industry leaders discuss engine size, radiators, braking, design, and the...


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Firehouse® Magazine has asked key executives of fire and emergency apparatus manufacturers where they see the industry heading as we enter the new millennium. With "their fingers on the pulse" of the apparatus industry, these industry leaders discuss engine size, radiators, braking, design, and the inclusion of automobile technology in the design and manufacturing of fire and rescue apparatus. Technological advancements never before imaginable are now being tested for possible inclusion in future designs.

This is an interesting - and frank - discussion about where the apparatus industry plans to be in the years ahead. The questions were posed by Firehouse Editor-in Chief Harvey Eisner. Some responses have been edited for length; not all companies chose to answer every question. Participants are:

  • American LaFrance Corp. - John Chadwick, chief engineer.
  • Crash Rescue Equipment Service - Grady North, operations manager.
  • Emergency One Inc. - Jeff Aiken, chassis engineering manager, and Bill McCombs, vice president of research and development.
  • Ferrara Fire Apparatus Inc. - Larry Romaine, production engineer.
  • Hackney Emergency Vehicles - Ed Smith, director of sales and marketing.
  • KME Fire Apparatus - Mark A. Kopunek, product manager of the Pumper Group. (Aerial ladder questions are answered by Peter Hoherchak, product manager of the Aerial Group.)
  • Pierce Manufacturing Inc. - Mike Schoenberger, vice president of product development, marketing and sales.
  • Saulsbury Fire Rescue Inc. - Edwin A. McManus, regional sales manager.
  • Smeal Fire Apparatus Co. - Delwin Smeal, company president and chief of engineering. (Additional information provided by the Research & Development Group, which includes sales and engineering executives.)

Will future apparatus continueto grow in size and length?

Pierce: Driven by the desire to carry more equipment for the increased number of EMS calls, both volunteer and career departments are purchasing trucks that perform more functions. While this trend toward multifunctional vehicles is currently driving an increase in vehicle size, there is a growing interest in compact, multipurpose apparatus for departments in congested urban areas.

American LaFrance: Current apparatus designs, especially aerial apparatus, have already grown to match the current federal weight limits. At times, special emergency vehicle permitting has been required when weight limits have been exceeded as one vehicle is configured to perform all missions.

In my discussions with many departments, the emphasis is shifting back to shorter, lighter vehicles which are more maneuverable. This is true in larger metropolitan areas, especially in the more congested municipalities along the East Coast. Weight is especially important where there are older fire stations that are listed as historical sites. These stations have floors that cannot support heavier vehicles and department budgets do not allow for new facilities to be constructed.

In addition, the arrival of more stringent diesel engine emission regulations will cause vehicle weight to be more closely reviewed. These new standards, effective with vehicles manufactured in October 2002, require the engine manufacturer to revise their product design. New designs will cause a 15-23% greater heat load to the engine cooling water. This may lead to vehicles having lower horsepower ratings that work with today's cooling packages or require revised cab/crew configurations to allow for larger cooling packages.

With just these issues in mind, I believe the future of the mega-truck, the one truck that does it all, does not seem bright.

Saulsbury: Size and length of apparatus have varied from city to rural departments. The trend we see is the city department specifying apparatus that will give them the most capabilities in a smaller more maneuverable unit. The rural department with limited manpower is specifying a larger apparatus with multiple purposes.

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