Fire Fighting in Canada

Cover story: Apparatus innovations

You’re buying a new truck. What details are important to you? Do the features and creature comforts that concern you matter to the manufacturers? Are the manufacturers listening to their clients?

You be the judge.

In April, at FDIC in Indianapolis, Spartan Chassis unveiled its new, roomier truck body. Why the extra space? So firefighters wearing bunker gear have more room to move and are more comfortable – and safer – when they’re seated and responding to calls.

The specifics were kept secret until the FDIC trade show, when Spartan’s re-engineered chassis with quiet-cab technology – and what it calls next-generation seats – was revealed.

Essentially, without increasing the 251-centimetre (99-inch) width of the Gladiator cab, Spartan’s engineers made more hip room for firefighters wearing their gear.

In addition, the seat cushions are better – the foam is a higher quality – the lumbar support has been improved, the weight distribution is more even, vibration has been reduced by 50 per cent, the shoulder harness is more easily accessible, there’s an E-Z Release SCBA system, the seat fabric reduces blood-born pathogen exposure, and the cab is less noisy (a 45-per-cent reduction in sound at 72 kilometres an hour – 45 miles per hour – with the windows up), which makes communication easier.

The particulars?

  • The cab volume has been increased by 5,827 cubic inches – which Spartan cleverly put into perspective at FDIC by piling up 118 12-ounce cans of beer, which, of course, take up 5,827 cubic inches of space, or fill about 95 litres;
  • a 10-per-cent increase in hip room on the driver’s side of the engine tunnel;
  • increase in hip room between the captain’s side door and the side of the engine tunnel;
  • a 6.6-per-cent reduction in the height of the engine tunnel;
  • a 3.8-per-cent increase in leg room for the two centre forward-facing crew members;
  • a 55-centimetre (22-inch) base seat cushion and back cushion.
Spartan’s dealers in Canada are Dependable, in Brampton, Ont., and Vimar in Alberta.

* * *

Safetek’s GreenPower technology is catching on with larger Canadian departments that respond often to medical calls and idle the engine. The auxiliary power unit runs the truck, saving on fuel and reducing emissions. Photo courtesy Safetek
Like Spartan, Pierce kept its truck news guarded until FDIC, where the Appleton, Wis., manufacturer displayed its new Saber and Enforcer custom chassis.

Pierce, too, has made more room in the cab – the smaller engine tunnel is lower and more contoured, which increases elbow and hip room for drivers and officers and improves visibility in the cab.

A cool new feature: the patent-pending adjustable rear wall allows firefighters in the forward-facing seats to move the seats in three-inch increments.

“As your department’s needs change,” the company says on its website, “now you have the ability to adjust the seating to match.”

Ergonomics are better; there are fewer trip hazards (streamlined, lower steps, for example) and a single, bonded windshield with no centre post for better visibility.

Pierce had originally planned to release only the Saber but at FDIC surprised even those (reporters – included!) who had an early heads up on the Saber and also unveiled the Enforcer – a retired but popular cab and chassis.

Pierce representatives said the Enforcer provides more options than the base Saber.

Pierce has four dealers in Canada: Darch in Ontario; WFR in western Canada and the territories; L’Arsenal in Quebec and MicMac Safety Source in Halifax.

* * *

Safetek is approaching its truck-buying customers differently – confident that its GreenPower idle-reduction technology appeals to municipalities with an environmental conscience.

Revisions to Spartan’s Gladiator chassis includes more width in the cab and more creature comforts including more leg room for forward-facing crew members and better seat cushions. Photo courtesy Spartan ERV
“There was a common thought,” said Safetek vice-president Wayne Stevens, “that there’s nothing you can do on the fire side to support your community’s green initiatives.”

Fire trucks, after all, idle while the pump runs, producing environmentally unfriendly emissions.

That thinking, Stevens said, is dated.

Indeed, Rosenbauer introduced its Green Star idle-reduction technology in 2009 and many other manufacturers, including Spartan, offer auxiliary power units that run the trucks when they’re parked on scene but not pumping water.

The Kelowna Fire Department in British Columbia uses Rosenbauer’s Green Star trucks, as does the Quatsino First Nation; Accede Energy Services and Oilfield Paramedics Inc., both in Alberta, also have Green Star apparatuses.

Rosenbauer’s trucks are sold in Canada through Rocky Mountain Phoenix, Res Q Tech and Aero Feu. The company says green technology is catching on.

“More municipalities are requesting green products and that has some impact on the increase in popularity,” said Scott Oyen, Rosenbauer’s vice-president of sales.

“Green Star has seen a consistent and steady rise in popularity since the introduction. Many departments will wait to incorporate new technology for a few years to allow time for the technology to prove itself and they are now purchasing.”

This year, Rosenbauer incorporated a colour display with its APU so users can monitor battery condition, an Hourmetre for the diesel APU and a timer to let the deriver know when the truck’s main engine will shut down.

In 2015, the company said, it will start building a 7.9 kW diesel APU using the same 1,800 r.p.m. Kubota diesel engine that will occupy less space than the current 7.9 kW diesel APU.

Safetek’s GreenPower technology is similarly gaining market traction now that metro departments such as Toronto are ordering multiple trucks, Stevens said.

The system is similar to that used by airlines and some commercial trucking companies; when an aircraft sits on the runway, the auxiliary power unit – or APU – engages, so there’s no need to run the engines.

“The thought was that in the majority of larger fire departments, where most of the calls are medical, they’re not engaging the fire pump so the main engine doesn’t need to be running.

“So what if there was similar technology so that when the trucks get to the call, the main engine shuts down and the auxiliary engages, and that eliminates the need to run the main chassis engine?”

The main engine, Stevens said, will burn almost four liters (one gallon) of fuel per hour of idle time, versus less than one litre (one quart) of fuel per hour to run the auxiliary power unit.

“So fuel consumption is way down and we’re seeing customers who are seeing significant savings on their fuel bills – up to 20 per cent.”

In addition, there is less wear and tear on the large engine, which means less maintenance and therefore lower operational costs.

“So we’re seeing customers who are saving tens of thousands of dollars a year.”

Safetek, which has offices in Abbotsford, B.C., and Mississauga, Ont., and is the Canadian dealer for Smeal Fire Apparatus, has sold six GreenPower truck to Toronto and the city has three more on order; Markham, Ont., has ordered two. Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., has one GreenPower truck; Vaughan, Ont., has two on order; Surrey, B.C., has ordered three; and Port Moody, B.C., has had one truck for two years.

“Now, the technology is becoming known because we’ve got those early adopters,” Steven said, “and now the departments are calling us.”

The system is all automatic, Stevens said.

“The driver doesn’t even have to shut down the main engine. When the department gets to a call and the driver puts the park brake on, if he does not engage the fire pump, then the system will automatically shut down the main chassis engine and start the auxiliary engines. So the engineer can get out and do what he would normally do.”

But is GreenPower practical given the cost?

“It’s an option,” Stevens said. “In the larger, busier fire departments that’s where you start to see the savings; the busier you are running medial calls the more you will save because the truck is idling more often. If a department already has a generator speced out on a truck, the cost increase from the generator to our APU – which will also act as the generator – is about $15,000 to $20,000.

“So when we look at $15,000 and you’re saving on fuel – the return on investment can be achieved in as few as five or six years – and you add the improved maintenance costs on top of that, and if the department keeps the trucks for 10 to 15 years, they’re realizing significant savings over the life of that apparatus, in addition the green initiative.”

The technology can be used in any truck. Toronto’s GreenPower trucks are aerials; Markham has a pumper, and Safetek has quoted and specified GreenPower for its rescue trucks.

Smeal developed the technology and sold its first trucks to the fire department in Charlotte, N.C., which helped to improve the idle-reduction system.

“Canada,” Stevens said, “is very receptive to this technology – even more so than in the United States.”

For most fire departments, the technology is still new. But Stevens said Safetek believes municipalities will embrace GreenPower once there’s more evidence of the cost savings.

“All firefighters are from Missouri – the show-me state,” Stevens said. “Your nice glossy brochure is great, but they want to talk to someone who’s running this technology. We’ve got the early adopters – Toronto, for example – so if departments don’t believe what we say, they can call our customers and talk to them. That’s the biggest validation of any technology, those early adopters who continue to order the trucks.”
* * *

Midwest Fire introduced its multiplexing system at FDIC in Indianapolis in April. Midwest offers the diagnostics system
on all its tankers and pumper-tankers.
Photo courtesy Midwest Fire
Midwest Fire showed off its multiplexing system at FDIC in Indianapolis. Multiplexing is not new to fire trucks – many manufactures have offered it for a while, some since 2002 – but Midwest now installs the system in all its tankers and pumper-tankers; and, it says, multiplexing adds more options with little expense.

Mutliplexing is basically a durable wiring system that allows the truck driver to controls lights; the system also performs diagnostics.

“Not only will multiplexing add a layer of customization, but it also adds a greater level of serviceability,” the company says.

“The beauty of the multiplexing capabilities on the service side is the ease of computer interface. We can have a customer plug in their apparatus to a computer and we can remotely diagnose any lighting issues and reprogram features that will help customers without the expense or delay of bringing a technician to the apparatus or bringing the apparatus to us.”

Midwest is based in Luverne, Minn.

* * *

Florida-based E-One was, you might say, on a bit of a quest. After months of what it calls in-the-field customer research, E-One debuted its redesigned custom cab at FDIC.

The new Quest cab has better ergonomics, visibility, storage, lighting and more available options.

Lower and wider cab steps – a change that many manufacturers are implementing – allow for easier, smoother egress.

There’s more viewing area; E-One has lowered the centre console and raised the overhead console to improve sightlines on the already large, 3,728-square-inch, two-piece windshield.

There’s also more legroom, extra storage under the rear-facing crew seats and space for USB ports and a 12-volt outlet.

Options include power or manual windows, locks and pedals, customizable buttons on the steering wheel, cab-corner or west-coast style mirror placement, and two front grill designs.

In addition, E-One says its red ambient lighting throughout the cab improves visibility for the crew without distracting the driver.

E-One trucks are distributed in Canada by Carrier Centres in Ontario, Keewatin Truck Service in Winnipeg, Techno Feu in Quebec.

November 3, 2014 
By Laura King

Pierce’s new Sabre and Enforcer chassis and cabs offer more hip room for the driver and officer due to a reduction in the size of the engine tunnel. You’re buying a new truck. What details are important to you? Do the features and creature comforts that concern you matter to the manufacturers? Are the manufacturers listening to their clients?

Print this page


Stories continue below