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by Robert Avsec

Know this before buying fire truck rearview cameras

A rearview camera on a fire truck is one tool to keep firefighters and the rig from getting hurt in backing maneuvers

By Robert Avsec

No amount of forward-driving experience can help a driver with backing a truck or other vehicles. All drivers need to practice in safe surroundings until they become familiar with the way the vehicle backs up compared to the direction the steering wheel is turned.

Rear-vision camera systems in vehicles eliminate rear blind spots. They can put drivers in full visual control of the rear of a vehicle. Yet, it is only one a tool for your vehicle's collision-avoidance system.

It is important to create and support a company-wide training program. The program should include a driver's course to teach and review backing techniques, as well as covering equipment use, hand signals, dangers to avoid, and other risk-lowering topics.

Any product that you install on an apparatus should be part of the total package that includes these three items.

  • A good driver training process that places great emphasis on knowing the physical dimensions the vehicle along with its mechanical capabilities.
  • A good driving policy that includes the required procedure for backing an apparatus.
  • The required use of at least one ground guide during any backward movement of the apparatus.

Before you buy
Now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, let's take a look at some of the products that are on the market. When looking to include a back up camera system for a new unit, or for aftermarket installation, here are four evaluation factors to consider.

  • The quality of monitor images, particularly when used in total darkness. Screens generally range from 7 to 9 inches and are available in black and white or color displays.
  • The International Protection rating for the camera housing is represented by two numbers. The first digit is the rating against solid objects; the second represents protection against water. 
  • The impact resistance for the camera housing (measured in G-forces).
  • The night-vision capabilities. Most systems use LED technology to illuminate the camera's field of vision and express its capabilities in feet.

Consumers have the option of purchasing the camera and monitor separate or as a packaged system. Backing camera systems come in both wireless and hard-wired configurations.

Cameras
The STSC101 color backup camera from Rosco Vision comes with a built-in microphone for a live audio feed and 18 infrared LEDs that provide up to a 30-foot view during the night or other low-visibility times.

The camera has an IP67 rating, an impact rating of 100G and a vibration rating of 15G. It sells for $159.

The Rear View Night Vision backup camera from Rear View Safety is a color CCD camera with 130-degree angle, 250,000 pixels and a built-in microphone. The unit has 18 automatic infrared lights that provide 50 feet of night vision. Its impact rating is 10G, and it sells for $129.

Safety Vision's SV-830 Series Wedge is a day-and-night, compact camera that rotates at least plus or minus 15 degree for off-angle mounting flexibility. It rotates 90 degrees to support side or top mounting and has an IP68 rating.

Monitors
The rearview combination mirror and monitor with high-resolution color display from Rosco is a replacement for the vehicle's original equipment mirror. The 4.3-inch LCD screen displays in full color. The monitor has an impact rating of 100G and mechanical rating of 15G. It sells for $228.

The Waterproof Quad Monitor for blind spots camera from Real Work Trucks has a 7-inch digital LCD monitor that features a quad function, which enables the driver to view as many as four cameras at once on the screen. It has an IP69 rating and sells for $395.

The SV-LED70WP4 quad-view monitor from Safety Vision has a 7-inch color display that supports as many as four cameras. The high-contrast screen includes an integrated control box with multiple display options, auto day/night switching and parking distance markers. It has an IP68 rating.

Wireless systems
Wireless systems offer the advantage of easier and less-costly aftermarket installation. Interference from outside wireless networks is one negative factor that can affect these systems, so look for products that specifically address this issue.

The digital wireless backup camera system (Model RVS-091407) from Rear View Safety guarantees no interference up to 70 feet and comes with a color 4.3-inch TFT-LCD mirror monitor that attaches to the existing in-cab rear view mirror.

The camera is a 130-degree MTV136 high-definition camera with nine infrared night-vision lights for good viewing in total darkness. The unit has an IP68 rating and a 10G impact rating. It sells for $250.

TadiBrothers has a 7-inch wireless system with a LCD split screen monitor that gives the driver the option of viewing one camera or all four in a split screen. The system comes with one rearview camera and includes three additional video inputs for connecting up to four cameras for side and front views. It sells for $620.

Hard-wired systems
Hard-wired systems offer a reliable connection between the camera and monitor without interference from outside sources. One downside to hard-wired systems, especially as an aftermarket installation, is the additional cost of routing the wiring from the rear of the vehicle to the cab.

The Rear View Safety's Model RVS-770613 comes with a 7-inch digital TFT LCD color monitor with distance grid lines and mirror image capability and a 130-degree Sharp CCD backup camera with 50 feet infrared night vision. The unit has an IP68 rating, a 20G vibration and 100G shock rating.

Fire Safety USA carries a line of backing camera systems that includes a black and white camera system that uses a 5-inch monitor and camera that sells for $475. The company also has a color camera system with 7-inch color flat screen; it sells for $750.

The EC-7001K from eCam Rearview Systems has a digital 7-inch LCD color monitor with an aluminum housing, 16 LEDs that provide 50 feet of night vision range and two camera inputs. It sells for $249.

This is a small sampling of the backup camera systems, or collision-avoidance technology, on the market. It is another tool to keep your personnel and rigs out of harm's way.

About the author

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (Ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Va.) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an active instructor for fire, EMS, and hazardous materials courses at the local, state, and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor of science degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master of science degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program. Since his retirement in 2007, he has continued to be a life-long learner working in both the private and public sectors to further develop his "management sciences mechanic" credentials. He makes his home near Charleston, W.Va. Contact Robert at Robert.Avsec@FireRescue1.com


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