There was a time when parade apparatus was king in fire stations, but that’s not the case any longer. Today, function over form is far more trendy as the economy makes it hard to justify bells and whistles.
Multi-function do-it-all apparatus is trendsetting as is apparatus that is high quality that will last longer than a normal budget cycle as departments are now forced to consider keeping vehicles longer than normal.
A quick survey of several apparatus builders shows that departments today are looking for small apparatus that can handle more than one mission.
Representatives from Darley, E-ONE, KME, Pierce, Rosenbauer, Smeal and Spartan ERV were asked to see what fire departments want when they’re in the market for apparatus.
For W.S. Darley & Company, trends are often set by the company rather then followed.
In fact, Peter Darley, the executive vice president for apparatus for Darley, said his company is "a niche builder."
"The way I look at it, whatever we go out and promote is what we are successful in," Darley said.
For Darley, the company, that means copolymer bodies for the fire and emergency vehicle industry through its PolyBilt division and compressed air foam systems through its Odin Foam division.
The continuous mantra of doing-more-with-less so many departments seems to be chanting these days, Darley said he’s noticed increases in the number of units being sold with CAFS.
Along those same lines, Darley said there’s been an uptick in the number of mini pumpers being sold recently. He attributed that to the increased gross vehicle weights now being offered by Ford on its F-550 cabs and chassis, a popular platform for apparatus
"With the increased GVWRs, we can put a lot more on them," Darley said, noting it is possible to spec a smaller apparatus and still meeting the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) requirements for firefighting.
"Departments are saying; ‘We have to economize on some things." Darley said, noting that a PolyBilt body on an F-550 makes for an inherently lighter vehicle upon which more firefighting equipment can be installed or carried. The small apparatus can still have sufficient pumps and tanks to provide firefighting capabilities, especially when CAF systems are added.
Mini-pumpers can also carry extrication equipment and SCBAs, Darley said, making them truly versatile apparatus, Darley said.
Darley said, like other builders, his company has seen requests for more pumper/tankers as well as quints, proving departments are looking to consolidate vehicles and reduce fleets.
He cautioned, however, trying to stuff too many functions into one vehicle might make it too big and cumbersome.
"Operating an apparatus as all three may not be the best answer," Darley said. "It could really make the apparatus too big.
Alan Hollister, E-ONE’s northeast regional sales director, see a trend of downsizing, particularly with rural and volunteer fire departments that are having challenges staffing apparatus, particularly during the day time.
To meet that challenge, Hollister said fire departments are looking to combine apparatus to do more than one thing, like rescue/pumpers, pumper/tankers and quints.
"They want to combine more activities into one apparatus," Hollister said, noting that it’s not unusual to have a pumper with an 1,800-gallon tank with "a fairly significant hose bed" giving the department more options.
When it comes to aerials Hollister said the vast majority are quints, whether they’re 75-foot, 100-foot ladders or 100-foot platforms, he said.
In Northeast cities, Hollister said he’s seeing a slightly different trend in that departments are not going the route of rescue pumpers. Rather, they’re not carrying rescue tools at all he said. Cities now want lower hose beds, a bit of water and some compartment space for hydrant kits, rapid intervention team equipment, hi-rise packs and that’s about it. "They’re strictly city trucks," Hollister said.