Apparatus Manufacturers Discuss Multi-Purpose Units

Editor's Note: Firehouse Staff Writer Ed Ballam covered this article in the November issue of Firehouse Magazine and for the November edition of the Firehouse Limited Edition Tablet app. There was a time when parade apparatus was king in fire...

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

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."

Hose beds 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 hose beds, they’re making a system called Lock and Load hose bed where the hose bed slides out on a tray then 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, something NFPA has been trying to have happen for a long time.

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


Pierce Manufacturing has tried to meet the market’s demands with versatile apparatus, said Tim Smit, Pierce’s 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 PUC configuration to create a small apparatus overall with a pump that’s under the cab and a small pump control panel. The result, according to Smit is a very maneuverable apparatus with an increased amount of compartment space made available by the relocation of 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 cab and 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 are more and more frequently asking 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 problem with soot build up 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 popularity with rescue/pumper apparatus as well as quints which are the most popular aerial these days, Smit said.

"There are not as many niche apparatus as there once was," Smit said. "We see a lot more function in apparatus."

Choices in financing have become a shopping point for apparatus purchasers too, Smit said, noting that departments want to consider financing and leasing as they make apparatus purchasing decisions.

"People are looking for more function and less frills," Smith said.


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

The company also says customers continue to be interested in rear-mount pumpers.  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 the "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 and they have come to expect it.