And of those apparatus with foam systems, as many as 50 percent of those have some sort of automated refilling system designed to keep firefighters off the tops of apparatus, especially to hoist heavy foam pails.
Carrying on with the theme of keeping firefighters safe, Smeal has seen an uptick in interest in its EZLoad hose bed that simplifies hose loading and keeps firefighters with both feet on the ground.
Moving to the future, like other builders, Wegner anticipates a wider acceptance of electronic and technology to control apparatus. There was a time when the electronic pressure governor was a novelty, but it’s widely accepted now, Wegner said noting it’s virtually impossible to order mechanical throttles today from just about any builder.
Wegner said he believes technology will continue to gain influence in the fire apparatus market and predicts even more moving into the future.
Departments want lower cost apparatus and that’s a fact driven by the economy, said Bill Doebler, vice president of sales for SpartanERV.
"They want more cross functionality," Doebler said. "They want to be able to do more for less."
At trade shows this year SpartanERV was displaying a new wildland concept vehicle based on a Renault Gimaex 4x4 off-road vehicle. It was a very different vehicle and Doebler said it was interesting to take in the "wide range of reception" the vehicle got from firefighters.
"They were saying if you gave me a little more water, or a little more wheelbase or something, they said they would use it for a rapid intervention vehicle or for structural fires," Doebler said. From that he figured a trend in the market place is toward all-wheel drive vehicles that were small, yet could deliver a punch if necessary.
"A Gimaex apparatus with CAFS would be a big help, especially since there’s such a restriction on manpower we see today.
Doebler said he thinks fire departments are taking a hard look at what they have and what they need and then deciding what they can afford before they go to market.
In some cases, he said apparatus manufacturers that have units available for immediate delivery are often getting the order, Doebler said, noting that some departments are so far behind schedule on apparatus replacement, they are forced to move into the market because their engine collapsed and they need something now.
Fire departments are also looking seriously at green technology and SpartanERV is looking an idle reduction product to catch that trend. Doebler said it will be based on a Kubota diesel engine power plant that would shut down the apparatus’s engine after 90 seconds of idling to take over the electrical systems.
Doebler said safety is always in vogue and that’s a trend he sees continuing. Departments are now accepting electronic stability control devices for improved handling and safety.
Departments are also looking at the real costs of ownership and considering maintenance issues and quality, trends he predicts will continue into 2013.