There are a number of key areas which should be considered when purchasing a new aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) vehicle to ensure that it is best suited for your particular fire and rescue situations. In this article, we take a look at five of the most important things to consider or research when your department decides to purchase a new ARFF truck.
1. Integrated Design
While all of the major ARFF vehicle manufacturers tend to use the same drivetrain components—engines, transmissions, axles, and suspensions—it is the “complete” design of the truck and “how” the vehicle’s component parts function as an integral unit that sets a manufacturer above the others. Look for a manufacturer that engineers and assembles the entire vehicle from the frame rails up toward a single purpose. The frame, which is the backbone of any vehicle, is the most important component because designing where things are located on the frame such as the drivetrain assembly, cab, body, pump housing, and extinguishing media tanks, determines critical characteristics such as weight distribution, center of gravity, and side slope stability.
The manufacturer should configure a “purpose” built vehicle chassis, cab, and body, integrating the major components into the design in order to function together systematically, not at cross purposes, and certify that the vehicle will meet or exceed the stringent requirements of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the FAA, and ICAO and perform more readily when called into action.
2. Cab Safety
The design and safety of the vehicle’s cab is another major factor to consider when purchasing an ARFF. With the speeds achieved by an ARFF en route to an incident, and the sometimes sharp handling required to negotiate obstacles, the ideal cab should meet SAE and ECE-R29 crash test standards and have a roll cage designed to protect occupants in case of a rollover. Such a cab often has an all-welded design of aluminum extrusions and 3/16-inch plate to achieve a very strong, rigid structure to protect its occupants. Taking this into consideration means added protection and safety for vehicle occupants in all scenarios that the ARFF vehicle will encounter.
3. Vehicle Performance
Vehicle performance is another key element to consider when looking at purchasing an ARFF unit. An ARFF rig operates in an environment where it has to accelerate quickly, have a high top speed, often approaching 70 miles per hour (mph), and be able to travel off road at safe, stable speeds with a smooth ride. The mission makes top speeds and acceleration critical in an ARFF vehicle. NFPA 414, Standard for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Vehicles, states a 4×4 ARFF vehicle must accelerate from zero to 50 mph in 25 seconds, and a 6×6 in 35 seconds.
Another performance issue revolves around the pumping capacity of the vehicle. The minimum pump size on an ARFF truck typically is either a 1,500-gallon-per-minute (gpm) or a 2,000-gpm pump, but some manufacturers, such as E-ONE exceed those pump sizes with a 3,000-gpm pump.
Water and foam tank sizes can be critical when handling an incident. Fluid capacities of more than 400 gallons of foam and more than 3,000 gallons of water are desirable on a 6×6, while a typical 4×4 vehicle might carry more than 1,500 gallons of water and approximately 225 gallons of foam. Having these capabilities means that firefighters will have more assets on the scene to handle multiple rescue situations.
4. Usable Storage Space
A fourth element to consider when buying an ARFF vehicle is the “usable” storage space. Look for compartments that are free of piping or other obstacles. In some ARFF rigs, the lower compartments are laden with plumbing or other obstructions, which may mean that large extrication tools or other necessary equipment may not fit on the vehicle or might have to be carried in a higher compartment. Make sure the ARFF truck has large, unobstructed, open compartments down low on the body with more than 350 square feet of compartment space. You want to be able to carry all the equipment you might need for various fire suppression and rescue scenarios, and you want that equipment to be easily and safely accessible for fast deployment.
5. Reliability and Service Support
The fifth factor to consider if you are purchasing a new ARFF vehicle is vehicle reliability and service support. Every time a firefighter steps into an ARFF truck it has to perform—no exceptions—and must be completely reliable. The vehicle cannot be out of service because if it is, lives may be lost.
Look at the strength of a manufacturer’s testing capabilities. Be cautious of those that perform all testing in-house instead of sending the vehicle out for third-party certifications. Some tests require special facilities or proving grounds to meet industry requirements.
ARFF manufacturer E-ONE tests its ARFF vehicles to a top speed of 70 mph, a tilt of 30 degrees, and must perform a J-turn and a circle turn test plus a high-speed NATO lane change exercise, all in compliance with NFPA 414. These tests many times require special facilities.
Matthew J. Reda, E-ONE’s International ARFF Product Manager, points out that E-ONE’s TITAN™ ARFF trucks perform exceptionally well in acceleration performance, scoring, well within NFPA requirements, and generally in the 20- to 23-second range for its TITAN™ 4×4, and 30 to 33 seconds for the TITAN™ 6×6. Reda adds that E-ONE’s ARFF cabs also far exceed the static load testing required, with E-ONE loading the cab with up to 62,000 pounds “because it’s designed to survive a worst-case scenario.”
Finding a manufacturer like E-ONE, which has dedicated field service teams, as well as millions of dollars of parts available to keep its ARFF trucks in service, provides the best value for a department looking at a new ARFF purchase. Reda says, “When evaluating manufacturers, look at a truck’s service history performance because you want a credible supplier to support you in your time of need and get you back in service to support your airfield.”
For more information, visit http://www.e-one.com/product/titan-4×4/.