Inside the Apparatus Industry
Story & Photos by Bob Vaccaro
By now, just about all of us have heard about how manufacturers in various industries are making strides in producing and delivering hybrid, electric diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses and trucks.
I never thought the fire apparatus industry would succumb to the idea of an eco-friendly fire truck. I thought for sure that our massive fire trucks would always run on diesel fuel. And my opinions are usually right—at least that’s what I occasionally remind my wife.
HME has produced a fire truck that can run on CNG. It was unveiled at FDIC 2010 on its Ahrens Fox line.
But many manufacturers are starting to think outside the box when it comes to producing new models, and I think those that aren’t should jump on this bandwagon in order to survive the next several years.
One such manufacturer that’s already started thinking outside the box is HME Fire Apparatus. It has produced a fire truck that can run on CNG. It was unveiled at FDIC 2010 on its Ahrens Fox line.
At first glance, you can’t tell the difference (other than the green paint scheme and all the signage around the vehicle!). But when the cab was in the tilt configuration, you could see the CNG storage tanks.
The truck is powered by a Cummins/Westport engine, and it’s built around the HME SFO chassis with a rescue body configuration, a 750-gpm pump and tank and a CNG-powered generator and foam system. I’m sure other options will be made available at a later date.
The vehicle also has an auxiliary power unit (APU) that will allow its electrical system to operate, even as the truck is shut down. The engine is also so efficient that it meets the current 2010 EPA engine requirements (it doesn’t need the filters and urea tanks on current diesel engines).
Most folks using these types of vehicles are reporting less oil usage, less idling time, longer time intervals between service and maintenance and lower operating costs.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see if the fire service benefits from such an innovation. It certainly can’t hurt, especially if it saves operating costs and money in the long run—especially in this economy!
Bob Vaccaro has more than 30 years of fire-service experience. He is a former chief of the Deer Park (N.Y.) Fire Department. Vaccaro has also worked for the Insurance Services Office, the New York Fire Patrol and several major commercial insurance companies as a senior loss-control consultant. Vaccaro is a life member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
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