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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Our unique ALL STEER electronic all-wheel steering system falls into this category. It's a great example of an unbelievable technology that's available today. This system can reduce a vehicle's turning radius by up to one third. And, it features three separate steering modes to help maneuver more quickly and safely through congested traffic. Departments who use the ALL STEER system swear by it. In off-road situations, for wildland and urban interface fire fighting, central tire inflation systems is technology that may be explored for safer, better performance in rough terrain. This technology is used extensively by Oshkosh in its defense and ARFF vehicles.

Another interesting safety technology is forward-looking infrared systems that allow the operator to "see" through thick smoke. The technology exists to integrate this type of system into Pierce fire apparatus.

E-One: Technology advancement, especially in electronic monitoring, will drive the introductions in this area. These will deliver better warning systems for the driver, such as FLIR , vehicle driver stability systems and air bags. The ability to monitor and be warned of potential problems before they occur will aid the driver tremendously.

Will pump controls/aerial controls change in the future?

American LaFrance: Yes. Today's reliance on mechanical linkage will gradually give way to electronic controls and gauges that have been tried and proven. The pump panel controls will see the greatest use of electronic advancements. The aerial controls will most certainly see advancements as well. They will become more influenced by on-board operating envelope and load moment indicating systems. They will continuously monitor elevation, extension and payload. Based on that information, the on-board systems will restrict the operator from operating the aerial into an unsafe condition. Greater integration of the aerial controls, pump controls and chassis information/diagnostic systems will also be present in the future.

Vehicle designs will continue to evolve toward a single integrated electronic network where all devices will have the capability to communicate and exchange data once a single universal machine language is mandated for use. Currently most of the efforts underway are being developed to standardize on SAE J1939 as a common method for communicating diagnostic/fault data between devices. As the development of vehicle data networks continue to evolve, devices for the control of aerial and water pump valving systems will find a broader appeal. The smaller size will lend themselves to more compact and ergonomic control panels, allowing vehicles to become smaller and lighter. The ability to display control and diagnostic data, as well as the capability to store faults, will be beneficial to maintenance personnel. The key to their acceptance and broader use will have to be that they are designed to be durable and dependable, with a volume which will prevent their use from being cost prohibitive.

Smeal: Yes, the pump panels and operation of the pump and related components will continue to become more computerized. This will help maximize efficiency of the machine, while helping to minimize operator error and make the unit more user friendly.

KME: Yes. Technology is leading the way in this area to assist in reducing operator error and provide more accurate control of these systems. Some examples of this would be some of the new pressure governor systems which interface directly with the engine computer systems and auto-leveling systems for aerial device setup.

E-One: Absolutely. The controls will continue to become more intelligent. Electronic monitoring will allow load sensing, etc. The trend is to electric controls with small remote operating panels.

Pierce: Today, pump panel controls are becoming more organized and user friendly. With the added fire suppression systems, such as foam proportioners and CAFS, the number of fire system functions has increased. Simplicity is the trend in pump panel design. Relocating large discharges, color-coded labels and T-handles - with handles aligned with the corresponding gauge all help make the pump panel easier and more efficient for the operator to use. And, standardization and commonality in pump panel control layout also help departments in training.