12-19-2000, 12:35 PM #1Chris309Firehouse.com Guest
Steel vs. Aluminum Aerial Device?
Our dept is currently specing the replacement for our 1977 65' Snorkel. We also own a 1990 75' Pierce rear-mount stick.
We are mainly considering 2 trucks: Pierce's 95' Midmount and Sutphen's 95' Midmount. The major difference is the construction of the aerial device itself.
The Pierce is a steel ladder.
The Sutphen is an aluminum ladder.
It's my thought that the steel ladder will hold up better to stress and heat. The aluminum isn't all that impressive looking. It looks like they have to compensate for the weakness of aluminum by adding all sorts of bracing. The Pierce, however, is almost 5' wide at the base section and looks not too different than our 75' stick. No extra bracing required.
So, do we have a legit concern with buying an aluminum ladder? Obviously the aluminum is safe, or they wouldn't be building them. But is the steel actually better?
Also, another factor is that Sutphen won't build that truck with an aluminum body because the truck would be too light. Pierce builds theirs with an aluminum body. I think the aluminum body holds up better to corrosion than the stainless steel, any thoughts on that?
Thanks in advance for any replies!
PS-I also posted this in the Engineer section, then realized that this was probably a better section. Won't let it happen again...LOL
12-19-2000, 01:02 PM #2TCFD12Firehouse.com Guest
Why do you assume that a steel ladder will hold up better? I think you need to look at the pro's and con's in your case. My department had a Sutphen for 30 years and when it came time to replace it, we went right back Sutphen.
Why, The ladder design on the Sutphen is very light when compared to other designs. It is also very strong with that amount of cross-bracing. Sutphen can afford to do this because they use aluminum.
My experience has been good with the actual design of the "ladder" section on the Sutphen it needs little maintenence and is very durable. We have never experienced any cracks, loose bolts, etc.
Plus the biggest reason is that our truck is about 10,000 - 12,000 lbs lighter that a comparable truck from the competition.
As far as the body construction, you being in the Northeast, I would think that you would want to go stainless steel. We have both in our department, and will probalby always go with stainless in the future. Remember, aluminum can oxidize, but stainless will never rust (supposedly). The stainless has just held up better for us.
You need to look at your departments needs and spec a truck based on those needs.
Finally, we went with Sutphen because we felt that we would end up with more capabilties. Our truck is a 1999 Sutphen 95' platform, 2000 gpm pump, 400 gal.water tank, 1000' 5" LDH, 8-man cab. For more info and pictures go to WWW.TCFD.COM.
This is just my opinion and I'm sure you will get many more. I hope this helps and feel free to contact me if you want to.
Capt. J. Kurtz
Trumbull Center Fire Dept.
12-19-2000, 01:22 PM #3Chris309Firehouse.com Guest
Thanks for the thoughts Capt...nice truck, also.
12-19-2000, 01:55 PM #4daysleeper47Firehouse.com Guest
hey, if you thought his Sutphen was nice...check out my cities. http://members.tripod.com/daysleeper47/id19.htm
Can't tell you about the steel or aluminium, because frankly, I don't know. Good luck with the truck hunt though.
"When the bell goes ding-ding, its time to get on the woo-woo."
"Dusting desire - starting to learn. Walking through fire with out a burn..."
12-19-2000, 03:55 PM #5Resq14Firehouse.com Guest
E-One's discussion on aerials constructed from aluminum. Take it for what it's worth.
A quote from it:
"An E-One aluminum aerial as compared to an equivalent rated steel aerial conducts heat from hot spots to cooler areas 6.6 to 9.9 times faster, absorbs 92% to 94% less incident radiant energy, and increases it's metal temperature 21% less for every unit of heat energy absorbed. To the fire fighter, this means that if an E-One aluminum ladder and a comparable steel ladder were placed side by side and exposed to the same thermal environment, the hot region on the steel ladder would be raised to a higher temperature in less time than on the aluminum ladder. The high conductivity, high heat capacity, and low absorptivity protect the aluminum from the negative effects of exposure to normal, high heat fire ground environments."
Plus, you don't have to paint an aluminum ladder, which makes it easier to inspect for cracks/weld failures. Yeah, I know Sutphen uses aircraft style huck-bolt fasteners. Also, if the rungs are integrally grooved on the aluminum ladder, you don't need the rubber rung covers.
Another selection from E-One's site:
E-One has over 1,200 aerials currently in service worldwide. No E-One aerial has ever tipped over or structurally failed while operating
Finally, I think it's far more interesting to see who has the widest fly section. From my experiences, I think you'll find that E-One's aluminum ladders will be wider at the tip than the rest of the competition.
Manufacturers aside, what are the cons to aluminum ladders? I've aksed this before, and haven't really gotten any good answers.
[This message has been edited by Resq14 (edited 12-19-2000).]
12-19-2000, 04:33 PM #6391HDFirehouse.com Guest
Whoever you choose for your aerial device, you are dealing with two fine fire apparatus manufacturers.
Sutphen has been building their aerial devices for 30+ years, THEMSELVES, and depts. that have them in service, seem to keep them a long time. Obviously they stand up to fire service punishment. I believe that it is actually cast aluminum which they are constructed of, and are "Huck" bolt fastened, rather than being welded. The design of the ladder is box truss. The other U.S. manufacturer that uses aluminum, welds their aerials, and UL will not certify them, so this company must use a different certifying agency. Sutphen is one of the smaller "single source" manufacturers that has not succombed to being swallowed up to one of the big boys.
Pierce is one of the big boys, and got there by producing a high quality, durable product.
It is only in the past few years that Pierce is manufacturing their own aerial devices, having used other company's such as LTI and Smeal. The midmount market seems to be something new for them, probably to compete with Sutphen.
If investing $600,000+ in a new aerial, I think it would be worth the trip to check out both manufacturers before making a final decision. That would be a good time to compare construction methods and actually see the product.
12-21-2000, 09:46 PM #7S. CookFirehouse.com Guest
"...it would be worth the trip to check out both manufacturers before making a final decision."
Second that. Not only will you get an idea on what your're going to get, you'll get more ideas on what you want. You may find a place for a small compartmen that you didn't know existed, or a whole new design for a future rig.
12-23-2000, 06:57 PM #8STATION2Firehouse.com Guest
Chris, for whats its worth, here is my take on the issue. Go with the aluminum. You said it yourself that aluminum is going to fare better than steel when it comes down to it. The aluminum aerial is also going to weigh considerably less than steel. This translates in to more tool and equipment weight allowances, increased booster tank size (If you want) and a vehicle that is more balanced in terms of weight (Not as top heavy). Steel WILL rust and corrode. It is not a case of if, but when. Avoid the problem altogether and buy aluminum. With aluminum you can also get a wider ladder for the same or less weight as well as the same performance. After all if its good enough for your body (As you said you prefer), then why not your aerial? Just my thoughts. Be safe.
P.S.: If your going to buy ANY aerial, you really should look at E-One. They build the BEST aerials in my opinion. No one else touches them in terms of safety factors, distributed load performance, tip load, GPM, reliability and a PROVEN track record. The two companies you have mentioned can't say the same.
[This message has been edited by STATION2 (edited 12-23-2000).]
12-25-2000, 11:31 AM #9Chris309Firehouse.com Guest
All the replies are very helpful. Thanks. Also, for what it's worth, American LaFrance/LTI also makes a midmount, wondering if anyone has experience with that truck.
12-25-2000, 12:35 PM #10Halligan84Firehouse.com Guest
Chris, If your thinking of buying an LTI midmount, do a head to head with the KME midmount. Check both of em out for strength and stability especially while flowing water, then make your decision.
12-25-2000, 01:55 PM #11JohnMFirehouse.com Guest
I don't have any experience with aluminum ladders. I do get involved with aluminum aircraft structures however. Aluminum is a good metal, but does have it's problems. Aluminum DOES corrode and cracks like other metals do. It is not a maintenance free material. Of course steel is not without faults also. I guess my point is that both have limitations. In my experience with 3 different steel ladders, (Maxim, ALF, and Pierce) none have had any corrosion problems what so ever. I think the steel used in aerial ladders is a good strong high strength material, and doesn't seem to corrode easily.
I was wondering about the rear overhang on these two makes of trucks. I would give the truck with the shortest rear overhang an advantage. Less swing of the aerial device during sharp turns. Maybe less chance of hitting the bucket on something. Yes I am biased for Pierce, we have a 1993 rear mount platform that has been an excellent rig. On the other hand, Sutphen has been making their platforms for a long time, and seems to sell quite a few of them. However Pierce is making a huge amout of aerials, and I think that when somebody makes a lot of aerials, they will find and correct design problems quite rapidly. And in my opinion, Pierce's claim to fame is making quality apparatus. I was at the Pierce plant this fall, and I think they told me that they produced around 180 aerials last year. They plan to make more this year. That is a lot of ladder trucks! I saw several mid mounts under construction and I was impressed. One plus for Pierce again is that I think they put a good chassis under your ladder.
I like LTI mid mounts also. I am not a big ALF chassis guy however. We have a Spartan/LTI tiller on order and we have been told this is the LAST Spartan LTI will produce, all ALF chassis from here on out. As much as I like Pierce ladders, I was in favor of LTI. Pierce only makes a few tillers per year, and the LTI plant is only 100 miles from our city. On the other hand, LTI makes quite a few tillers each year, they seem to have that part of the market.
And to add to the confusion, have you thought about an Aerial Scope? I think they make a great aerial device.
Good luck, and what the other guys said about visiting the respective plants was a good idea. When you find out who will making your truck, let us know!
12-28-2000, 04:08 PM #12Chris309Firehouse.com Guest
I certainly will keep you guys updated with any progress. The Pierce Midmount is coming to us in about 2-3 weeks, so we get to play with that (looking forward to seeing it, heard great things, plus we're a Pierce house anyway.) We've already seen the Sutphen, and our 2nd closest mutual aid company has one, so we're pretty familiar with them. Would like to see the ALF/LTI demo, looks interesting. Not much interest in KME or the AerialScope, but we're keeping all options open.
I can't stress enough how much we're waiting to see the Pierce, it looks like a really great truck. Tons of high-tech features, also. I'll take a bunch of pictures and post them when it comes (I notice there's a lack of decent pics of the Pierce on the web.)
12-28-2000, 11:52 PM #13firenurseFirehouse.com Guest
Two things that impressed my when my department visited Sutphen was the stability of the box construction with the aluminum ladder and the heat dispersal. They had a mock up of a steel and aluminum box ladder for you to play with. With the steel, there was considerably more twisting than with the steel. The other thing they did was to heat up a section steel and aluminum with a torch. You couldn't touch the steel but you could with the aluminum straight out of the fire.
12-29-2000, 09:06 AM #14FIREKRAUTFirehouse.com Guest
IT'S NOT WHAT YOU SEE ON THE OUTSIDE THAT MATTERS. ALL STEEL LADDERS AND SOME ALUMINUM LADDERS ARE MADE WITH HOLLOW TUBULAR PIECES. OVER TIME THE INSIDE, WHICH CANNOT BE PAINTED, PROTECTED OR INSPECTED WILL CORRODE. THE SUTPHEN LADDER IS MADE OF SOLID ALUMINUM PIECES THAT WILL NOT CORRODE FROM THE INSIDE. ANOTHER BIG PROBLEM IS CRACKED WELDS, AS MENTIONED BEFORE SUTPHEN HAS NO WELDS TO CRACK.
PRIOR TO PURCHASING 3 AERIAL DEVICES FROM SUTPHEN I CONTACTED SEVERAL OF THE LADDER TESTING COMPANIES TO GET THIER OPINION, ALTHOUGH THEY WOULD NOT SPECIFY WHICH MANUFACTUER, THEY DID SAY THAT THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS THEY RAN INTO WERE CRACKED WELDS AND CORROSION FROM THE INSIDE.
JUST THOUGHT I WOULD THROW IN MY 2 CENTS WORTH. BE SAFE
12-30-2000, 01:25 AM #1586RescuetechFirehouse.com Guest
In regards to weight of the vehicle, it depends what your intetions are to do with it. Do alot of research with tip loads, restriced and un-restricted. I was a Sales Rep for KME. In my opinion, they have built one of the strongest ladders in the business. Remeber what ladder was the biggest and badest years back. The Grumman! They still use some of their technology. I have never had any interaction with Sutphen. I was on a committee to replace a 75 ALF 100' midmount. We opted for the Spartan LTI 75" rear mount. We needed a quint and we were budgeted that much. We did see the LTI, KME and Mack Baker Scope. Pierce was out of our$$$. Sucks to be poor. Well now my new company is looking for a 100' quint. Remember, do alot of research and define your goals for the truck. All you have to do is ask someone who has used a truck from a particular manufacturer and they will be honest. Don't always trust a sales rep. Be safe.
01-04-2001, 01:47 PM #16hooks1216Firehouse.com Guest
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