Apparatus Roundtable: Manufacturers Roundtable

It should be no surprise the soft economy is affecting the fire apparatus market. Manufacturers say fire departments are looking for apparatus that can do more with less, lower maintenance costs and high-quality rigs that will last longer than a budget...


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Another trend, particularly in rural communities, is for mini-trucks based on Ford F550 cabs and chassis, he said, adding the mini-apparatus can be fitted with up to 300-gallon tanks, 1,250-gpm pumps and even CAFS. The small trucks have the advantage of being able to get into tight spaces with serious fire power, Hollister said, noting that even the smaller-capacity cab can be an advantage when departments are having difficulty staffing larger apparatus.

On the other end of the spectrum are custom E-ONE 80-inch extended cabs that are popular with some departments that have large volunteer staffs and large budgets to afford “no-expense-spared” apparatus. There are far fewer of those kinds of customers, but they do still exist.

Most departments are looking for short-wheelbase apparatus of which E-ONE’s eMAX apparatus is particularly suited. “Customers want apparatus that’s as short as you can get,” Hollister said, noting that the eMAX apparatus has a smaller pump house and more compartments than traditional apparatus.

Even rescue apparatus have undergone a transformation to have the combination of walk-around access and walk-in capabilities for command centers, Hollister said, noting that some rescues even have pull-out sections to provide more space without increasing the wheel base.

Larry Daniels, E-ONE’s Southeast regional sales director, said departments need compartment space more than ever before. He said E-ONE answered that request with the eMAX apparatus.

Ironically, in his region, Daniels said he sees an uptick in the number of custom cabs and chassis being sold, compared to commercial cabs and chassis. “It may be a bit of a strategy,” Daniels said. “Many departments are running a longer replacement cycle, say from a 12-year cycle to a 20-year cycle.” With a custom cab and chassis, they get closer to what they want and something that is better quality because they must live with it longer.

Fire departments are also shopping for financing options and ways to save money, Daniels said. Customers who save money with tax-exempt loans often put the savings back into the purchase price so they can “buy more features,” he said. And lately, those extras mean more “no-nonsense” features, like LED 12-volt scene lighting and other essential equipment. Safety concerns are being addressed as departments move to apparatus with airbags, lower hosebeds and options to keep firefighters firmly on the ground, including technology that can control the deck gun remotely.

Heading into the future, Daniels said, he believes the apparatus market will be flat for the next couple of years, but there will be some continued growth for E-ONE because of aggressive marketing and good products. “We’re looking at some nice growth into the future,” Daniels said.

KME

When it comes to combining functionality of apparatus, Phil Gerace, KME’s director of sales and marketing, says KME has a number of products that offer unique versatility. For example, to meet a trend in the market, KME combined Type I and Type III apparatus to give customers true urban interface, as well as the ability to respond to wildland fires as well as some structure fires with the same apparatus.

“We have seen an increased demand for multi-function units,” Gerace said. “Departments are trying to combine apparatus, particularly rescues and pumpers.” To meet that demand, KME developed its PRO series apparatus, something the company is calling a better multi-purpose response vehicle.

Hand in hand with the need for multi-purpose vehicles is the need to make better use of storage space on apparatus, Gerace said. “There’s a trend toward using every available square inch of space for equipment,” he said, noting that dunnage areas are now far more organized and used and even backboards are given space on apparatus where available.

Gerace said there has been a trend to make apparatus shorter overall with smaller pump panels and mitered corners to provide more clearance. To go along with shortened apparatus, KME has been working on cramp angles to make apparatus – even aerials – easier to maneuver.

Safety never goes out of style and Gerace said truck committees are looking at all aspects of safety. “When you look at it, people are getting hurt getting in and out of cabs,” Gerace said, “so we’re making lower steps to get in and out of the cab.”