We have 2 side mounts and 1 top mount. I've loved the top mount from the start. It gives you a clear 180 degree view from side to side, as well as keeps you out of the road. A few have suggested the rear mounts, but we have a good bit of highways and a 10 mile stretch of interstate in our response area, and personally behind the truck is somewhere I don't feel comfortable being on the highway.
This is just my opinion but rear mount is definatly a no-no! For the obvious reasons, as was said by others. Top mount is the best way to go, unfortunatly ours had to go midship because of a low clearance garage door.
With top mount you have better view of the "big picture" rather than just a small section of the scene, and like others have said, you're not tripping over hoses. Two other reasons top mount are better are, you aren't in the way of crew members getting equipment from cabinets, and they aren't in your way when making adjustments on the panel. And maybe even more important, if a suction hose coupling fails you are SAFELY away from them!!!
We have side mounts. Our new truck will be a rear mount pump, but the panel is on the side toward the rear of the truck. Top mounts sound good, but I hear that in Michigan it's hard because the steps and standing area get very slippery in the winter.
Top mounts also increase the length of a vehicle which is a problem for some municipalities with narrow streets and hilly conditions (angles of departure and approach issues). And here in NH it can get icy up there. All in all i'd rather go side mount as we have 2 man engines and the extra time to keep climing up and down is a waste along with a slip//fall hazard at times.
We have one midship (side) panel and one rear panel. When we went with the rear mount, we gave it a lot of consideration before deciding. We did not like having the pump operator out in harms way of vehicles going by while we are on accidents. We considered a top mount but the ice and slippery conditions certainly come into play in Vermont. We settled on rear mount because of the way our terrain is and the type of roadways we are usually responding on. We are pretty good about doing appropriate blocking so that the pump operator is not immediately in the line of traffic.
I love the rear mount for the ability to see what is going on. Easier to move from side to side and get a picture from the rear than from the side!
I think that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. When a department is ordering apparatus it is important that the individual department's operations are considered and the best decision for that department is made. What works great for my department might not work so well for yours...
The engine at my station has a good old traditional side mount. Nothing wrong with it until you're trying to grab a hoseline and the pump operator is like right there and you're tripping over each other. I do like the top mounts though. They do give a better view of what going on around you. (And lets face it if you set it up so your attack lines are a little lower since the pump isn't in the way on the side it gives those of us who are a little shorter a little bit of a break!) It also gives the entire engine/truck a completely different look. I do have to say the station goes to buy a new engine and I'm around for it (being that we had a brand new one that's only a year old) I'll be pushing for a top mount.