Before I even set foot on the FDIC exhibit floor last week, I had heard the buzz about changes in the fire truck industry.
The poor economy certainly has taken its toll on apparatus manufacturers, but some have turned the corner. While there were no earth-shaking innovations introduced in Indy, I kept hearing “multi-functional rig” and “range of price points” being tossed around.
The news creating the biggest buzz was Spartan decision to transform Crimson Fire into Spartan ERV (Emergency Response Vehicles). The disappearance of the Crimson name — along with Spartan’s recent decision to stop selling its chassis to fire-truck manufacturers that made their own chassis — made many people in the industry shake their heads in wonder. Spartan also announced a relationship with Gimaex, a French company with a global presence in emergency response, but several false starts at the American market. Do they hope that the third time is the charm?
Just in time for industry changes to chassis production, Pierce Mfg. is celebrating 30 yearsof building custom chassis. The company displayed nine apparatus in the Lucas Oil Stadium and six unique custom chassis.
“We have over 27,000 custom chassis out in the market today,” National Sales Manager Tim Smits said. “We have more custom chassis out in the industry than any other manufacturer.”
Just down the aisle from HME/Ahrens-Fox. There I spoke with company president Ken Lenz, who proudly showed me the new HME Scorpion, a104-foot platform with tandem front-steer axles and rear dual drive axles.was
“The tandem steer axle provides additional safety in the case of front tire failure,” Lenz said. “Even in the event of a blowout, the Scorpion still has enough rubber on the road to control the vehicle and bring it to a safe stop.”
Lenz also demonstrated the industry’s first fully automatic touchscreen pump and valve controls. Tucked away in Wyoming, Mich., I think HME will be one of the top-five apparatus manufacturers to watch in the next five years.
KME Fire Apparatus attracted a lot of attention with the 123-foot AerialCat rear-mount ladder it built for the Westfield (Ind.) Fire Department. The rig has an unrestricted 500-pound wet/dry tip load and a 1,500-gpm waterway. It also brings all of the features found in KME’s 79- and 109-foot ladders introduced last year. A competing dealer even described the new rig as “one of the best aerials ever built.”
Rosenbauer dominated the apparatus displays at FDIC in the Convention Center. There’s no question they are becoming a powerhouse in the industry, yet in the most common way. CEO Harold Boer takes great pride in the vehicles they build, and you get the impression that he is still hands-on with each one.
Another apparatus manufacturer regaining traction is. I had a lengthy conversation with Peter Guile, president and CEO of E-ONE, and there is no question that company we once knew and loved as an innovator and caretaker of customers is back on track. Guile said that with an emphasis on engineering and empowering individuals throughout the facility to be quality control inspectors, has allowed over 70% of the vehicles to be “0% gigs” — which means no changes to the truck on final inspection.
We live in interesting times for apparatus.