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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Crash Rescue: I believe a larger percentage of vehicles will be multipurpose. However, there will still be a need for specialized vehicles.

American LaFrance: I believe there will be growth in the area of smaller, lighter vehicles designed to cope with several incidents instead of today's trend to specify a single aerial/pumper/rescue mega-truck. While smaller and lighter vehicles will eventually form the bulk of a municipality's force, the aerial and heavy rescue vehicles will continue in their current forms, primarily because of their design and unique functions.

Aerial units need mass for stability and to counter-balance the forces of the aerial and its load. Since heavy rescue units must be versatile to face a variety of mission requirements, they normally must "carry it all" to the emergency. Rescue units may benefit from becoming specialized to the mission, but I envision that this will occur more for fire and EMS first responder units.

What type of safety systems from the automobile and heavy truck industry are slated to be incorporated in future apparatus design?

Saulsbury: Many of the safety features of the heavy truck industry are incorporated or available with the chassis, such as antilock brakes and restraining belts. Transport of personnel to and from the scene is done in the chassis portion of the apparatus. Saulsbury is primarily a body manufacturer and relies on the chassis manufacturer for these safety requirements.

Crash Rescue: More use of antilock brakes. Automatic restraint systems (airbags, automatic seatbelt tensioners, etc.). Front and rear crumple zones in sheet metal and guards to prevent overriding cars or cars under riding the rear. Backup sensors and sensors all around the vehicle to detect objects. FLIR (forward looking infra-red) heads-up vision for the driver. Stronger cab materials and rollbar design.

American LaFrance: That is a particular area of emphasis for American LaFrance and our parent company, Freightliner Corp. We commissioned an extensive study of accidents, injuries and fatalities in fire trucks with the University of Michigan's Institute for Transportation Research which told us much about fatalities on the way to and from calls. It also helped show exactly where we should be focusing our company's tremendous engineering and safety technology resources to protect crews with active and passive safety measures. Improving the safety of fire apparatus is American LaFrance's top priority job. That means engineering and design advances, but just as important, pushing for more stringent and uniform safety standards for apparatus. For example, Freightliner pioneered the use of ABS brakes as standard equipment on heavy trucks and the school bus chassis well before they were mandated by federal regulations.

We envision the fire and emergency service industry will see mandated occupant protection testing once the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has approved and released the draft procedures now under committee review. In addition, Freightliner has already incorporated a host of advanced safety technology in its heavy trucks that can be transferred to fire apparatus. These include:

  • Rollover advisor and control systems
  • Electronic braking systems (EBS)
  • Electronic stability systems that work in conjunction with EBS, ABS/ASR and electronic engine systems
  • Collision avoidance systems
  • Supplemental occupant restrain systems, such as front and side airbags
  • Apparatus data logging units - the so-called "black box" data recorders

KME: Multiplexing will be utilized more frequently for vehicle electrical systems and I have seen some interest in central tire inflation systems for apparatus that respond in on- or off-road areas.

Pierce: Heads-up displays, airbags and even electronic crash avoidance systems are all features and concepts we're exploring. Other technologies involve ways to make vehicles more maneuverable and easier to handle.