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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Hackney: Hackney is seeing a growing concern for maneuverability, especially in urban areas and western mountain zones. In respect to this, fire departments are either reducing the overall length of the body or opting for the increased cost of a custom fire apparatus, which affords a shorter wheelbase. Eighty percent of the rescue apparatus we manufacture require a four-door cab, primarily as a means of providing on-scene rehab facilities.

Transportation of four or more personnel comes in a close second. When specifying a conventional cab/chassis, the four-door dramatically increases the wheelbase requirements, forcing many departments to take a more serious look at how to better configure the compartments to utilize the available storage space. This has led to much more practical rescue-type vehicles.

Crash Rescue: I think we have reached about maximum in overall size and length. Roads, bridges, streets and weight laws restrict maximum size. However, I think that components will be packaged more efficiently to gain more usable space within current vehicles size.

Ferrara: I think they will always try to grow in size. As equipment gets more compact, they need to carry more and units are used in more dual roles.

E-One: The long-term trend will be to be smaller vehicles due to the number of calls that are not fire related. For the short term, small fire departments still need their apparatus to perform a variety of functions, due to both personnel and financial restraints.

Smeal: No. Maneuverability of an apparatus is one of the most important aspects of a truck. A "do-all" truck that is too big and bulky to be driven safely and efficiently in a fire district is of little value. Trucks in general are about as big as they are going to get.

KME: I do not believe so. I feel fire departments will attempt to design apparatus to provide the maximum amount of usable space on an apparatus and utilize new technology to reduce the overall size of space consuming components on the unit.

Do you envision new apparatus will be built for multipurpose use or for specialized use?

E-One: Both. The trend is to multipurpose for some of the same reasons discussed under size and length of vehicles. The smaller departments will need multipurpose vehicles, whereas the larger departments will be able to specialize, especially with hazmat or incident command equipment.

KME: Multipurpose use. Staffing concerns in both city and volunteer departments will require apparatus and fire departments to maximize their capabilities.

Ferrara: Multipurpose. Budgets are getting tighter, so the fire industry is forced to make their apparatus units do more for less.

Saulsbury: New apparatus is being designed for multiple purposes. The best example of this is the pumper/rescue units, combining the capabilities of a pumper with a larger capacity for storage of equipment of a rescue. Some of these units are also being specified with generators, lighting and/or breathing air cascade systems that are normally carried on a rescue unit.

Hackney: Our experience over the past two years has shown that departments are attempting to purchase multipurpose vehicles. With the fire service evolving into a multitasked emergency response agency, they are forced to find better ways to transport the vast array of technical support equipment. Upwards of 70% of all emergency support vehicles built by Hackney are designed to accommodate not only extrication and medical equipment, but breathing air refill stations and/or a larger number of spare SCBA bottles, confined space rescue equipment, salvage equipment, environmental monitoring equipment, assorted ladders, plus minimum 25-kilowatt generators for light towers and portable lighting. Twenty-five percent of that 70% will even incorporate some type of command center facility.

Pierce: Both, but multipurpose will be more common. The role of fire departments in providing non-fire-related emergency services will drive this evolution. There is growing interest in combination fire/patient-transport apparatus. In addition, staff shortages and reductions will drive expanded use of quint aerial apparatus.

Smeal: Most definitely toward a more multipurpose use, which is occurring in the marketplace today. Economics and budget restraints are the driving forces. An example is the EMS compartments, with locking doors for drugs, which is almost a standard feature on all types of apparatus being built today.