1. #1
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    Default Aluminum vs. Steel Ladder

    We are in the first stages of desigining a new ladder truck. Currently the debate is Steel vs. Aluminum straight ladder. The two manufactuers we like (Pierce and ALF) only offer steel in the 100' model. I work for a 5 station department in the Rocky Mountains so climbing hills is a component to our decision. Has anyone else been faced with this issue? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to each? What type of Ladder truck does your department have and how does it perform?

    Any help would be great.

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    Red face metal vs metal

    This subject always brings out the diehards for and against one or the other. I have had both here. At this time we have only Pierce aerials and they are steel of course. No real problems with the ladder from a structural basis. Like anything it all depends on your use, tip load requirements, and how you maintain it. Good luck and keep it safe.

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    Why worry about the material that the ladder is made from. You should instead focus on the performance.

    You need to realize that if you specify an aluminum straight ladder than the only manufacturer that I am aware of that can meet the spec is E-One unless someone else came out with an aluminum ladder lately. Sutphen does aluminum, but I take it you're looking at straight sticks so that rules them out.

    The best bet is to specify the performance you want instead of the material. Spec the tip load you want, the rung treads you want, the speed you want the device to operate (i.e. to full extension and elevation in a certain period of time), whether the device can perform two movements at once (i.e. extend or retract while raising or lowering), whether or not it will have a waterway and if so if it's pinnable or not. Do you see what I'm getting at??? There is so much more to worry about other than the material the device is made of. What really counts is how it's constructed and if it meets your performance requirements.

    By the way, my department fell into the trap of specing an aluminum ladder for our trucks and that was the first thing our procurement director threw out at the pre-bid conference because only one manufacturer said that they could meet that requirement... E-One.
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    Default ladders

    Supthen does make a straight stick also but i believe only in a 75'. Dont think material of a ladder isnt a big deal. Look at Pierce, they have been saying for years that steel is the way to go and now they have an exact copy of E-One's 75' ALUMINUM ladder. In fact the same guy who helped design E-Ones 75' ladder did the Pierce. The biggest difference in steel vs. aluminum is obviously weight. You can get so much more on your truck with an aluminum ladder because you have less weight to be concerned about. Also the aluminum ladder is going to have thicker handrails, wider flysections, and higher handrails, and you can get all of these things with equal or greater tiploads then most steel ladders!! Just do a search and you will find a ton of people saying that E-One builds the best ladder truck in the industry. There are many reasons why people say that, look into them. Also remember that steel starts to rust before you even get the truck to you. When your 100' in the air would you rather be on a 1" thick handrail that you know is weakend by rust, or a solid 3" handrail that is made as one peice of extruded aluminum?

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    Default

    Sutphen builds a number of straight stick options. The "SA" series is a straight climbing ladder on the box boom structure in 50, 65 and 75 foot lengths. The SL 75 is a 75 foot straight stick of a more conventional look (not a box boom) with what looks to be pretty impressive load ratings, and they also build an 104 footer, which is also a more conventional looking ladder.

    Of course, with Sutphen you're looking at a mid-mount, not a rear-mount - so you have that debate to deal with if you want an aluminum stick.

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    I agree with IronsMan53. Spec the rig to do the job you need it to do, plain and simple. Nothing more, nothing less. Define what length aerial you want, what grades it will have to perform on, what your compartment space needs are, etc. make the engineers at the builders design it aroud your specs, not the other way around. Include perfromance criteria for accelaeration and braking on your most minimal, average and steepest grades. Make them develop the rig based upon how you need to use it.

    And by the way, I prefer aluminum. But thats a story I have written many times before on here. LOL. And others too. As for the 2 makers mentioned, I would take the former over the latter any day of the week. I wouldn't buy the latter maker mentioned on a bet and for 1/2 price. It's a name that is only an empty shell of what it once was.

    Good luck with the process and the new rig.
    Last edited by STATION2; 09-07-2005 at 01:40 AM.
    Stay low and move it in.

    Be safe.


    Larry

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    Default

    We have always had steel ladders. Why, probably because the first ladder truck we ever had (an old ALF) was steel and we didnt have any problems.

    I too have heard from a lot of folks here that E-One makes the best ladder. Could very well be the case.

    But the way I look at it, the problem with an E-One isnt the ladder, its the chassis. I guess the best would be an E-One ladder on a Pierce chassis. The "best of both worlds" so to speak. Maybe thats what you get with the new Pierce aluminum ladders
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    Default

    Well is sounds like you can take ALF off your list of potential bidders.

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    Default look at all the options and components

    I would like to add that Seagrave may also be an option. The new Concorde has the heaviest frame combination in the business and can take any extreme horsepower powerplant you would want. Steel sticks - I cannot comment on - our E-one has done us well without complaint. Don't write them off as being costly either....we bid our last engine and Seagrave got the bid - and came in the lowest. Just some food for thought....Stick with the established manufacturers and look closely and all the components - not just the ladder construction materials.

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    Default New Ladder

    Why don't you also look at SMEAL as they have a good dealer in Colorado and their aerials offer more horizontal outreach, higher vertical reach in some models and if you have the severe grades you should consider long stroke stabilizers to provide improved levelling capability. The Smeal is also very easy to use and operate and can be on a Spartan, HME or their own chassis.

    As to ALF might be a bit concerned about their future based on the press release from Freightliner stating that they are "divesting" of the ALF division.

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    Default aluminum vs. steel ladder

    aerialguy, spoken like a true smeal salesman.

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    my company also is looking to replace a straight stick and pierce does offer a aluminum stick 100' ft. we have had pierce and seagrave and alf demonstrate to us there 100' sticks all with pinnicle waterways and pierce was the only one that came to demonstrate using an aluminum ladder,my company has always sworn by steel and I have to admit that not only was their aluminum stick as superior but was far much easier at the controls. all the cos. mentioned offer about the same in their products and we're at the bidding stage, I personally like steel but i'm only 1 of a 5 man committee and I don't sign the checks, you should call the companys direct for valued answers to your questions. apparatus salesmen are no different then your local car salesman they'll sell you the moon if you bite into their crap. Good luck!

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    We also have gone through the process reviewing aerial units. It is best to come up with basic requirements that you want on the truck. Have each of the local reps meet with your committee and bring a demo truck with them that is close to your needs.
    Better yet, invite all manfactures that meet you needs to come at the same time. This way you can compare the trucks and not forget the design differences. Test drive each one with the same driver and crew in the same seats. Drivers skills differ and could effect your opinion of the truck. Handling and comfort matters.

    Please do not under power your truck, sometimes more is better.

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    Default

    I would go w/ a wooden device. You know what Im talking about, spring raised, hand crank jobs.

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    Smile smeal salesman??

    another bit about the smeal. put the alf & smeal side by side and you will see that the lti is somewhat technologically challenged. manual waterway adjust, no realtime tipload display, and the smeal has a overide as the flys come down together so you do not crush somebodys feet or your own. another thing i found is that alf is the only ladder with an open center hyd system. everyone else moved up to pressure compensated. as for the smeal chassis, the altair is made by ferrara, and the sirrus is made by spartan. take it for what it is worth. i have climbed all over and under them all cept pierce and that is only because they did not take our committe serious at a trade show. so, no po for them. they may be good trucks but that doesn't mean a dealer should fail to produce a demo or even at least return 3 phone calls. the alf was a good unit and it handled on the road the best of all. awesome body. huge compartments and the only one sportin' a 1500 gpm waterway on a 100 rm stick. they are all smooth to operate. we liked them both till alf was sold. i sure wish we could find out to whom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aerialguy1
    The Smeal is also very easy to use and operate and can be on a Spartan, HME or their own chassis.
    Edit: The post above says what I said.
    FTM - PTB

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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by pyreman1
    my company also is looking to replace a straight stick and pierce does offer a aluminum stick 100' ft. we have had pierce and seagrave and alf demonstrate to us there 100' sticks all with pinnicle waterways and pierce was the only one that came to demonstrate using an aluminum ladder!
    Better check your information, brother. The only aluminum aerial that Pierce offers is 75' in length. They've been out for about for just under two years. Any other length from Pierce is going to be steel.

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    Have a look at the Safety Factor. That should be one of the MOST important factors when drawing up specs. Aluminum and Steel should both have the same safety factor. Personally, i'd rather have steel. Steel doesn't deteriorate as fast as aluminum does under the same ammounts of heat, if the stick happens to have heat threaten it.
    Service is the rent you pay for having space on earth.

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    Default Snore

    Ah yet another uninformed steel ladder fan!! Aluminum dissipates heat at a far faster rate than steel. That means that if you had an aluminum stick and a steel stick over the same fire, the steel stick would fail first. Don't believe me? Take a piece of steel and a piece of aluminum and hold a blowtorch to them. Which one gets a hole first? The steel. ALL STEEL LADDERS RUST PERIOD! Aluminum is a lighter material and therefore you can use more mass on your ladder. Look at alot of the handrails on the steel ladders, they are very small. Look at the spacing between steps and the size of the K bracing. Steel ladders are Grandpas technology. Wake up and realize that aluminum is the way to go on a ladder, PERIOD!!

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    more mass = more area to store heat.
    Service is the rent you pay for having space on earth.

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