Q&A: What's hot in fire apparatus

Industry expert Jim Lyons shares new features, safety advances and buying trends in the fire apparatus market

Jim Lyons has not only been a part of the sales, marketing and management side of fire apparatus for more than 25 years, he’s also a company lieutenant/associate member with the Brookhaven (N.Y.) Volunteer Fire Department, where he’s served for 34 years.

Lyons is also a nationally recognized expert in fire apparatus specification, design, quality assurance and training. In addition, he’s a nationally certified fire service instructor-I focusing on apparatus training, fire ground hydraulics and pumps.

I recently asked Lyons for his thoughts on what he’s seen lately as trends in the fire service apparatus marketplace. Here’s what he had to share.

Here's what one expert has seen lately as trends in the fire service apparatus marketplace.
Here's what one expert has seen lately as trends in the fire service apparatus marketplace. (Photo/Pixabay)

FireRescue1: What would be your snapshot of trends in fire apparatus design and specifications?

Lyons: Over the last few years, I’ve seen a few items becoming more prevalent in the fire apparatus specification process. Some of these are not the latest and greatest but they are items that have been around for some time and seem to be becoming more requested and common items to be included on new apparatus.

I would have to say frontal and side impact air bags are the first thing that come to mind. Air bags became required for cars and light duty trucks in the United States on Sept. 1,1998, yet there is no mandatory standard for over the road trucks, commercial vehicles and fire apparatus.

In the past few years, several apparatus manufacturers have started offering, as an option, front impact, side impact and side rollover air bag systems in their custom cabs. To my knowledge, all manufacturers are offering side rollover air bag systems, but not all are offering front and side impact air bag systems.

Whether a fire apparatus manufacture feels this is necessary or not, due to their cab design, material component, etc., the request for these safety features is now being customer driven. More fire departments, districts and municipal agencies are requiring the successful vendor to include frontal, side impact and side rollover air bag systems.

Most customers I have spoken with feel air bag systems provide an added measure of safety, and in all the purchases I have been involved with, all feel it is worth the additional cost.

What else do you see regarding improving safety items on fire apparatus?

Fire departments are asking for more basic safety items:

  • Wider stepping surfaces (e.g., fold-down steps, bolt-on steps).
  • Extra handrails beyond the minimum requirements.
  • Additional emergency lighting, above and beyond the minimal standard, on all sides of the vehicle.
  • More reflective striping, specifically on the edges of all pull-out trays, tool boards and drawers in the body compartments, so when the body compartment doors are in the open position, the vehicle still has reflectability.

Some customers are even going as far as stating, “no folding or bolt-on steps,” in their specifications. Instead, they are requiring permanently mounted ladders on the back of apparatus as a safer means of accessing the hose bed or upper storage compartment areas.

What is the biggest market trend you see in fire apparatus today?

I think the biggest apparatus change in the last few years has been the rise in popularity of the multipurpose apparatus. Many manufactures have come out with their design for a vehicle to fit this classification. Some of the more common offerings include: The Multi Vocational Pumper (MVP) by Ferrara, Toyne’s Priority Response Vehicle (PRV), the PRO from KME, the eMAX from E-One and Spartan’s Transformer.

While the overall economy of the country seems to be rebounding and apparatus orders seem to be on the uptick, municipally-funded fire agencies are still faced with tight economic situations. Delayed adoption of state budgets, along with taxpayer watchdog committees reviewing budgets and equipment purchases, have forced many fire agencies to sell two or more pieces of apparatus and buy a new single multipurpose vehicle.

Career fire agencies are concerned with reduced operation expenses and attempting to reduce their overall fleet size. Volunteer fire agencies are dealing with reduced available staffing during the daytime hours and career departments have seen their operational staffing reduced as well. So, having one multipurpose vehicle that’s able to respond to different types of alarms has become a driving factor for many departments when specifying new fire apparatus.

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