Apparatus Manufacturers Show Latest Technology: Apparatus Innovations

Apparatus Manufacturers Show Latest Technology

After 13 years of writing apparatus-related articles for FireRescue, I can tell you that just when you think you’ve seen all the new gadgets and gizmos possible, the apparatus manufacturers come up with some pretty amazing new technology.

As for this year, while much of the apparatus technology seems somewhat status quo, I have seen a few new ideas on display at the fire service shows around the country. And in terms of trends, from what I can tell, the following are here to stay: touch-screen technology, lower hosebeds, expanded use of LED lighting, “green” idle-reduction technology, multi-purpose apparatus, additional air bag locations, and refurbishing apparatus. But, of course, there are some advanced technologies added to the mix, too.

Touch-Screen Technology
Rosenbauer America displayed a touch-screen pump panel at FDIC 2013. The touch screen opens and closes valves, increases pressure and engine speed, and interacts with the other controls you’d find on a conventional pump panel. Touch-screen technology provides for a smaller pump panel and also makes the process simpler in some cases. As our modern lives become increasing “touch-screen-focused” (smartphones, tablets, computers and even some autos), it seems only natural for fire truck technology to go this way. But despite the advanced nature of this technology, I’ve also noticed many departments—large and small, paid and volunteer—going back to the old standard of manually-operated pump controls. Why? Some folks say they work better and break down less. Like I always say, “To each their own.” Check out the touch-screen options out there to determine if you think they would benefit your department.

Lower Hosebeds
Lower hosebeds are becoming the norm in the industry. More and more fire departments are speccing these types of arrangements, whether they are going for lower crosslays, or a lower, big hosebed in the rear of an engine. We’ve also seen slide-out hosebed trays in the rear of apparatus and even fold-down hose storage compartments on the side of aerial ladders. The older practice of climbing on top of hosebeds to pack hose is more and more becoming a thing of the past. Firefighter safety is the name of the game here, as preventing firefighter falls is an important goal for everyone.

Total LED Lighting
Total LED lighting is a big trend these days. We saw the first-generation LEDs come on the market several years ago. Some departments opted to go with a combination of LED, strobe and standard lighting on their apparatus. But more and more now, we’re seeing total LED light packages, sometimes including NFPA-compliant emergency warning lights, as well as flood, spot and interior compartment lighting. The newer-generation LEDs are brighter, account for less power draw, and are virtually maintenance-free. For the apparatus lighting buffs out there, even the Buckeye Roto-Ray has gone LED.

Idle-Reduction Technology
Idle-reduction technology is becoming more prevalent in fire apparatus thanks to the efforts of several manufacturers. And why not?  We all want to have some sort of fuel reduction, which ultimately saves money, not to mention wear and tear on the apparatus. Of course, let’s also not forget about the EPA 2010 engine requirements, which are still a work in progress with the new exemptions.

Multi-Purpose Vehicles
The purchase of rescue pumpers (aka multi-purpose vehicles) is on the rise across the country. Doing more with less seems to be the common mantra in the fire service. Some fire departments have opted to replace multiple units with one apparatus because of diminishing staffing and the total cost of replacing multiple units simultaneously. Whether it be a rescue pumper replacing an engine and a heavy-rescue, or a 75–79' quint replacing a pumper and aerial, the multi-purpose vehicle is certainly gaining popularity.

And speaking of multi-purpose, Spartan ERV also introduced a multi-functional pumper-aerial that encompasses all the features of a quint. The MPA 65' pumper, which is equipped for suppression, allows trucks to be configured with a 1,250–1,500-gpm pump and a 1,000-gpm telescopic aerial waterway, and can carry up to 500 gallons of water. The MPA 65' aerial, which is equipped for elevated operation, features a three-section, 65' lightweight, aluminum ladder on a single axle; multi-axis aerial controls and an automatic ladder-leveling system; and envelope controls to simplify set-up and enhance safety. The MPA 65' rescue, which is equipped for the field, features a proprietary body system that reduces weight and offers easy storage, with 400 cubic feet of compartment space.

Cab Safety
In regards to cab safety, E-ONE has introduced the new ProTech system. E-ONE’s cab design offers a safety technology package that includes driver front air bags, side and knee air bags, officer knee and side air bags, rear passenger side air bags, a collision mitigation system, a 360-degree camera system, back-up sensors, G4 electronic stability control, the CrewGuard occupant detection system and E-ONE’s structural roll-cage cab.

Further, Spartan ERV has introduced the Spartan Advanced Protection System (APS), which is an occupant restraint system developed specifically for Emergency Response vehicles. APS includes additional air bag positions, supersized side-curtain airbags, advanced seatbelts and outboard sensors that enable an intelligent restraint control module. APS is designed to protect against frontal impact, rollover, side impact and occupant ejection.

While we have seen airbags in the front of the cab before, additional air bags for the knees and total encapsulation of the rear of the cab with air bags are new goals for some manufacturers, giving an added degree of protection in all areas of the cab. Now if everyone would just wear their seatbelts!

Refurbs on the Rise
Back when the economy was on a big climb, only a few departments chose to refurb their vehicles. But as the economy slowed, more and more departments opted to forego purchasing new apparatus and instead opted for a refurb—and sometimes that called for refurbing multiple vehicles at the same time! The cost savings can be significant. If the body is in good condition or only needs minor work to bring the rig up to snuff, many departments are now opting to save money by replacing individual parts—engines, transmissions, wiring, hydraulics, pumps and aerials. I highly recommend this option if your department can make it happen.

In Sum
If you travel around like I do, or can only make one or two fire industry shows during the year, you can see what the common themes or trends are in the fire apparatus industry. If you are in the process of buying and specing a new piece of apparatus, look around and see what other departments around the country are doing to save money. There are options out there for all departments, regardless of your specific situation.


Get with the Group
Group purchasing organizations help departments acquire apparatus at lower costs

It’s easy to understand why many in the fire service would find the apparatus speccing and bidding process to be a bit overwhelming. The process is long and complex, and involves community needs assessments, hunting for funding sources, writing grant proposals, researching NFPA standards, writing specifications, and obtaining RFPs and bids. Of course, this is all compounded by the pressure to spec an apparatus at the lowest possible cost.

Fortunately, there is an apparatus-purchasing option that many firefighters are not familiar with, but that could save departments thousands of dollars: group purchasing organizations (GPOs). Specifically, a GPO is a cost-savings channel that functions as a “third-party aggregator” of contracts for goods and services. A GPO’s purpose is to leverage purchasing strength through membership in order to acquire goods (like apparatus) at lower prices. The GPO neither buys nor sells anything, but rather assists with the purchasing process and provides access to special contract pricing. In addition to negotiating discounts for its members, a GPO can help with product research, obtaining quotes and writing RFPs.

FireRescue reached out to two experts in this arena—Crosby Grindle, executive director at FireRescue-GPO, and Bruce Beardsley, manager of marketing and constituent relations at COSTARS. FireRescue-GPO is a division of National Purchasing Partners, and the organization that works in partnership with the IAFC. COSTARS is Pennsylvania’s cooperative purchasing program administered by the Department of General Services’ (DGS) Bureau of Procurement. Through a simple Q&A, Grindle and Beardsley introduce firefighters to the concept of group/cooperative purchasing and offer tips on how to get your department started. To read the interview, visit

ICYMI: A selection of useful online apparatus articles

Quick Tips for Apparatus Speccing
Simple ideas that you may want to incorporate into your next apparatus

What Color Should a Fire Truck Be?
A look at the variety of apparatus colors throughout the country

Planning Apparatus Compartment Space
Considerations for speccing compartment space that doesn’t waste money

Where to Begin with Your Apparatus Refurb
Need-to-know information for refurb-related decision-making

Mounting Ladders on Pumpers & Aerials
Design considerations for speccing ladder placement on pumpers and aerials

Big Guns
Master stream device design, placement and operations

Simple Steps to Avoid Apparatus Rollovers
NIOSH offers rules to help cut down on the number of tragic apparatus rollover incidents

Homer Robertson Offers Tips for Safe Apparatus Backing
•    If possible, avoid positioning the apparatus in locations that will require you to back up at the close of the incident, including alleys, dead-end streets and small parking lots.
•    As you enter the block on which the incident is located, slow down to avoid passing the incident address and having to back up.
•    Plan. Before backing the apparatus, the entire crew should take the time to discuss how the backing operation should proceed.
•    Never go backward when you can go forward.
•    Light the area. Most apparatus have some means of lighting the rear of the apparatus during nighttime operations.
•    Use backers to assist the apparatus operator at all times unless their use would cause undue risk by putting them out in high-speed traffic.
•    Don’t allow backers to ride the tailboard. Ever.
•    Never back with the truck windows up.
•    Use warning lights and mirrors.
•    Use the horn. A short sounding of the truck’s normal horn will indicate to backers and other personnel that you’re starting the backing process.
•    When positioning, leave ample space in front of the apparatus so that when you’re pulling out for the next call, you don’t have to back up or cut too close to other apparatus or an ambulance in front of you.

To read the full article, visit

Facebook Poll: When was the last time your department purchased a new apparatus?
•    Within the last year: 44%
•    Within the last five years: 33%
•    Within the last 10 years: 15%
•    More than 10 years go: 6%

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