Chassis Update

An update of the latest advancements in the chassis industry from manufacturers of fire apparatus chassis.


Firehouse® Magazine asked manufacturers of fire apparatus chassis to describe for our readers the latest developments in the industry. The following reports were provided by the manufacturers. American LaFrance Freightliner Photo by Firehouse Staff American LaFrance...


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By using lighter-weight frame rails, and through removal of extra-heavy-duty suspension components, HME engineers were able to create a chassis that is adaptable and efficient. Yet they retained engineering specifications, design and componentry that the fire and emergency service demands of rapid response vehicles that get repeated use.

Power for the SFO Lite comes from the all new, fire and emergency service specific Cummins ISB 275 engine. This new engine packs power for emergency vehicles like none before it.

The ISB 275 delivers optimum vehicle acceleration for emergency vehicles which are geared for maximum required road speed. This HME and Cummins combination makes the SFO Lite a virtual hot rod among emergency vehicles.

The ISB 275 uses a new engine design platform called the Interact System. It combines sophisticated electronic engine controls with high-pressure fuel injection and high-strength componentry to make the turbo-charged engine a total performance package.

The Cummins power plant is coupled with the Allison MD3060(P) five-speed transmission with electronic controls and PTO option. All this drives the SPICER J-190S rear axle with a 5:11 to 1 ratio.

Although top speed is electronically limited to 66 mph, this ground-pounding performer produces exceptional acceleration.

A four-wheel driver version of the SFO Lite is rumored to be testing at this time. The 4 x 4 version should be ready for introduction later this year.

In the world of emergency service vehicles intent on gaining the attention of those around them is the norm. The SFO Lite is certain to set new standards for multiple use vehicle chassis as it gains the attention of those around. That attention will become especially intense when an SFO Lite dusts the others enroute to the emergency scene.

KME Fire Apparatus

The challenges facing an individual or spec committee in choosing a chassis are more complex and technical than ever before. This is due to new NFPA requirements and the ever increasing variety of technological advances that have occurred in custom fire truck chassis.

Some issues that need to be decided before buying a fire truck include:

  • Number of passengers.
  • Expected longevity of the unit.
  • Anticipated tasks of the unit.

Debates about horsepower requirements are as old as fire truck committees and engines themselves. "How much is enough" can become a volatile issue during the chassis procurement process, as this is something that the fire department will generally have to live with for the life of the vehicle and can also substantially affect the price of the vehicle.

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Photo by Firehouse Staff
KME Fire Apparatus

"There are more options for horsepower and models than ever before," states Bruce A. Nalesnik, chassis sales engineer at KME Fire Apparatus.

He states further, "The trend toward electronically controlled engines has all but been completed, with only one frequently used engine still remaining as a mechanically controlled engine. The majority of our transmission installations are now done with electronically controlled transmissions also." KME offers a full range of diesel engines approved for fire truck application, from 250 hp to 525 hp.

Once all of the needs and requirements of the chassis have been determined, an analysis of the manufacturers under consideration should be done.

Does the manufacturer produce their own cabs? Do they have their own upholstery shop, driveline assembling and balancing department? Do they completely assemble the entire chassis at one location? Are they producing a 100% NFPA compliant chassis and provide documentation to prove this? When I need warranty and service questions, will I know exactly who is responsible?

If you want "yes" to all of these questions, then KME should be your fire apparatus manufacturer. They pride themselves on being a total manufacturer, producing many items that other manufacturers have to source out, which can cause delays in the production process and present problems with warranty and service issues.

KME is a producer of custom chassis for pumpers, rescues, tankers, aerials and now with the introduction of their tiller, tractor chassis have been added to the lineup.

Safety requirements have made anti-lock braking system (ABS) standard, along with a secondary braking system such as engine brakes, driveline retarders, or transmission retarders. KME has expertise in all these installations.