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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Hosebeds are also lower than ever with firefighters wanting to make sure they avoid injuries, especially to the back. Gerace said not only is KME making lower hosebeds, it makes the Lock-N-Load, where the hosebed slides out on a tray and then is reloaded and placed back in the apparatus. KME is also making apparatus with discharges and intakes only on the officer’s side of the rig, keeping all the hoses away from the pump operator completely.

As for the future, Gerace said, he is certain safety and versatility will be trends for the long run.


Pierce Manufacturing has tried to meet market demands with versatile apparatus, said Tim Smit, national sales manager.

“The new big is little,” Smit said, of the trend to compact apparatus that can perform a number of tasks. “Customers are looking for more versatility with apparatus. They want one piece of apparatus that can do it all.”

Pierce developed its Pierce Ultimate Configuration (PUC) to create a small apparatus with a pump under the cab and a small pump-control panel. The result, according to Smit, is a maneuverable apparatus with an increase in compartment space made available by relocating the pump.

Gone are the days of 10-person cabs, Smit said. “They just don’t need them,” he said. Departments do, however, need comfortable room for those occupants who do ride in the rigs and departments need room for EMS equipment, he added. Pierce’s Dash CF chassis meets that need and provides plenty of room for the new norm of three to four firefighter crews, plus some EMS equipment as needed.

Smit said departments frequently ask for idle-management technology, not only for green initiatives, but for maintenance reasons. Whenever the main apparatus engine can be shut off, emissions are reduced as is the problem with soot buildup in the apparatus’ expensive exhaust systems, he said. Pierce has developed a system using lithium-ion batteries that can power most all the critical functions of an apparatus, like lights and cab air handling. The batteries will last five to six hours with a 150-amp load – plenty to run warning lights and LED scene lights.

Like many other manufacturers, Pierce has seen a rise in the popularity of rescue/pumpers and quints, Smit said. “There are not as many niche apparatus as there once was,” Smit said. “We see a lot more function in apparatus.”


Rosenbauer Vice President of Sales Scott Oyen said fire departments are looking at mid-range apparatus and are content with slightly smaller engines, with a few less horsepower, to save money while still ensuring adequate performance.

The company says customers are also asking for electronic controls and multiplex apparatus. Electronic over hydraulic controls and valves have gained popularity as well. The company has seen an evolution into more technologically advanced vehicles as “Nintendo”-generation firefighters come up through the ranks.

Mike Harstad, Rosenbauer’s aerial product manager, said “the joystick” generation has come to expect that mechanical devices must work with lots of technology.

“Technology is available in industry and agricultural equipment and it’s being adopted for the fire industry,” Harstad said. He added that “envelope” technology monitors all aerial functions and helps keep the operator within safe operation parameters.

Oyen said combination pumper tankers are very popular, particularly in rural communities. “They find themselves having to do more with less,” Oyen said, adding that departments everywhere find themselves in the same boat.

Fire departments are also asking for more green technology, according to Rosenbauer, which has met the challenge with Green Star, an idle-reduction system that shuts down the engine and runs electrical systems with a backup generator system.

Ergonomics are also important with customers and, Harstad said, there is a lot of interest in Rosenbauer’s Aerial Command Seat. That provides a place for the aerial operator to sit adjacent to the aerial device and to swivel and pivot with the turntable and the aerial device for better comfort and visibility. There is also more thought about steps and grab rails as fire departments recognize the need to keep firefighters safe as they operate on apparatus, said Oyen.

Donley Frederickson, the company’s national sales manager, said departments find themselves weighing what they want with what they can afford. “We still do custom pumpers, but most of them are more realistic for the mission,” he said.