The new Dash CF Pumper: Pierce steals the spotlight again at FDICBy Shannon Pieper
I remember last year when Pierce didn’t announce any major new products at FDIC (sure, they had the Striker, but how many departments are buying one of those?). There was surprise, then disappointment, as the weeks before the show went by without Pierce’s usual ads enticing you to imagine what they’d dreamed up next.
Pierce unveiled the Dash CF at FDIC, featuring a cab-forward design that leverages many of the features of the PUC. Photo courtesy Pierce
Perhaps the most striking feature of the Dash CF is the improved cab space. Increased openness allows the officer to more easily communicate with the crewmembers sitting in back. Photos courtesy Pierce
The engine block no longer separates driver and officer. Photo courtesy Pierce
The batteries are easily accessible from the officer’s side. Photo Shannon Pieper
The filters are all located in one panel that hangs off the side of the engine, which will drastically cut maintenance time. Photo Shannon Pieper
The Dash CF features the PUC’s tilt-cab design, which allows for easy access to most of the engine components. Photo Shannon Pieper
Pierce believes the features of the Dash CF will enhance the crew’s situational readiness by improving visibility and communications en route to the incident. Photo Shannon Pieper
The Dash CF features a two-step entrance; the first step is only 20 inches off the ground. Getting into the cab is noticeably easier. Photo Shannon Pieper
But 2011 is one of the “wow” years. Today at FDIC, Pierce introduced the all-new Dash CF custom apparatus. This is a cab-forward design that leverages many of the features of the PUC (reduced wheelbase, increased compartment space) into a new, tilt-cab design where the officer and driver are positioned in front of the engine. Although this is in many ways a throwback to apparatus designed in the 70s, Pierce has used it to provide modern-day safety and technology.
I had an advance look at this rig earlier in the month, so I didn’t have to fight the throngs that crowded the Pierce booth for the official unveiling. Here are some initial impressions and details; the June issue of FireRescue
will have more info as well. Cab Space
Pierce has long prided itself on incorporating customer feedback into their designs, and the Dash CF is reflective of that. “We have our big ears on when talking to fire departments,” said Michael Moore, vice president of business development for Pierce. “And what we hear is that they want more room and space in the cab for the officer and the driver.”
They’ll get it with the Dash CF. Pierce lowered the cab on the chassis, moving the engine rearward and down into the crew cab area. This creates a flat floor from driver to officer; no engine tunnel separates them. It also allows the driver and officer seats to be moved inward, providing more hip and elbow room. “When I first saw the concept cab, I was surprised,” said Chief Mark Outlaw of the Suffolk (Va.) Department of Fire & Rescue, who was a member of the focus group that helped design the apparatus and was present for the media unveiling. “It was old school, harkening back to the 70s and 80s, when the engine was in the rear of the cab. But this rig gives a lot of room in the front of the vehicle for the operator and officer without creating space issues in the rear. Vehicles have changed a lot over 30 years; there’s a lot of extra equipment creating clutter [in most fire apparatus]. The Dash CF provides lots of space and is like sitting in an SUV.”
The effect is dramatic and has to do with more than just space: It creates an openness not seen in most apparatus, which in turn improves in-cab communications.
At the same time, Pierce moved the raised-roof transition line forward, which creates more head room and space within the cab while maintaining the standard 96” cab width. Visibility
The Dash CF features a large, wrap-around windshield without a center post. Due to the fact that the cab is lower on the chassis, the windshield itself is 10 inches lower to the ground than on other apparatus, significantly expanding the driver and officer’s view. And the windows in the cab are lower for the driver and operator and larger for all the occupants.
“Anywhere an operator looks, he can see—there are no restrictions in vision,” Chief Outlaw said. Indeed, on our test drive, the operator pulled into a driveway flanked by trees that would have made backing out treacherous in most apparatus. Because the back cab windows are lowered, however, he had a straight line of sight to the road to back out and turn around. Ease-of-Maintenance
As with the PUC, Pierce has provided excellent accessibility to the Dash CF’s pump panel, and the tilt-cab design provides from-the-ground access to the engine for servicing and daily checks. The batteries are located up front, accessible from the officer’s side, and all filters are remote-mounted in a panel on the driver’s side. Chief Outlaw mentioned that this feature alone could reduce oil change time “from two days to two hours.”
The belts are also much easier to get to, and the coolant trays can be easily pulled out and serviced. The Dash CF uses a hydraulic fan for cooling, similar to those used in mining and forestry vehicles (think Caterpillar or John Deere), which cools on demand. This means the fan doesn’t have to run constantly, and, combined with the position of the cooling system mounted above and behind the cab, creates a much quieter in-cab area. When we test-rode the new rig, my “crewmembers” and I were able to talk at just slightly above normal conversational levels. Several Pierce reps mentioned that headsets might no longer be necessary in this new rig.
Other maintenance features: Wire raceways throughout the cab and channels running along the floor provide easy access to wires and cables for servicing. Panels on the dash can be removed for servicing the defroster, chargers and power distribution areas. Lower Step Heights
This may seem like a minor detail, but when you’re climbing in and out of a cab repeatedly for years on end, anything that can make doing so easier is also safer. The step height on the Dash CF is only 20 inches from the ground, and there’s a two-step entry with the second step only 16 inches from the first step. The result: It’s significantly easier to climb into this cab, something that Pierce hopes will help decrease repetitive stress injuries. Heavy-Duty Construction
It almost doesn’t even need to be said, but the Dash CF is designed for the long haul. It features a heavy-duty chassis with 13” frame rails. The dash is all metal. As Chief Outlaw noted, this is a rig that’s going to be around for a while. “My focus is on the value, not just the money,” he said. “As an administrator, I have a responsibility to give my people a superior product. Pierce has made a commitment [to safety and value], and they back it up.”A Final Word
Maybe it’s a bit odd to think about the design of an apparatus improving a crew’s situational awareness. Pierce is clearly banking on the concept; they believe that easier communication, better visibility and a quieter cab will help the crew prepare for action on their way to a call. My impression: Crews riding in the Dash CF might not be thinking about situational awareness, but the way the rig is designed uniquely around their needs will impress them. When he participated in the focus group, Chief Outlaw had in mind a checklist of things he wanted to see in the new design. “I can’t find anything we asked for that they didn’t do,” he said. “Fire apparatus design is a give and take process. To give more space in one location, you take space from another. I kept thinking, ‘Something’s gotta be missing,’ but [with the Dash CF] so far I haven’t found what.” Shannon Pieper is senior deputy editor for