Switching from aluminum to steel translates into better safety and performance

By: Jim Tabor

Jim Tabor

Occasionally, even our regular customers come to us with unusual requests or especially challenging problems to solve.

A particular case was when the City of Rochester approached us about switching from aluminum aerials to steel aerials for their fleet. This wasn’t simply a matter of preference. Indeed, they had become very concerned with a number of deficiencies with their current apparatus and as a result: with the safety and performance of their personnel.

In particular, the City of Rochester was looking to replace two of their ladders with new, custom fire apparatus: Truck 3 Company, headed by Captain Compton, and Truck 2, headed by Captain Rogan. Both were rear mount straight 110 foot ladders and, with Rochester being an older department, that meant that in addition to the typical considerations of ladder compliment, jack spread, and the material of the aerial device, we also needed to consider the low overall door heights that are typical of older fire stations. Moreover, with steel being susceptible to the ravages of Upstate New York winters (and the road salt that goes with them), we were keen to demonstrate how custom fire trucks by Rosenbauer outmatched competing ladder truck manufacturers.

Now, we’d already done a lot of work for Rochester. In fact, at the same time discussions for the new apparatus began, we were at Rosenbauer’s South Dakota production facility (along with RFD’s Captain Lonthair) to inspect a new piece of apparatus for Rochester’s Special Operations Division, when the opportunity to show off a little of Rosenbauer’s advanced technology presented itself.

Unlike its competitors, Rosenbauer uses a hot-dip process to coat the steel aerial torque box, outriggers, and aerial ladder sections in a vat of molten zinc heated to around 840°F (449°C). The zinc then alloys with the surface of the base metal to form a virtually impermeable surface barrier against rust, which is backed by Rosenbauer’s 25 year corrosion/25 year structural warranty. This makes a Rosenbauer truck ideal for departments who must fight fires in winter 6 months out of the year.

The captain was very favorably impressed! This experience in turn gave rise to discussions about Rosenbauer’s SMART Aerial Technology and how it would benefit the City of Rochester fire personnel.  We also went into detail about the benefits of Soft Touch Controls, Body Collision Avoidance, Ramping Technology, Remote Control Operations, Auto Leveling and Auto Bedding.  All of which are important features that yield extraordinary safety benefits to firefighters using the equipment.

And then there was Empire’s role as Western New York’s experts in emergency vehicle upfitting and in particular, custom fire truck manufacturing. Because like police cars, fire apparatus are built from the chassis up.  Each component is chosen and specified for the unique functionality and environmental requirements of both the department, it’s firefighters, command officers. In fact, we’re proud to say to all of our customers, that if you can conceive of a vehicle capability and it’s street-legal, we can build it – making Rosenbauer by Empire Emergency a complete custom apparatus manufacturer.

This was exactly what RFD needed to hear. So with that in mind, we developed, manufactured, and delivered two custom ladder trucks with special innovations that operated in the smallest possible footprint, featuring variable jacking on the front outriggers and straight down on the rear outriggers, yielding a quick set up in a small footprint with the maximum amount of rotation available (even at low angles). We also switched from rear-mount to mid-mount for lower travel height, and designed a low hosebed that allowed for storage of 800 feet of 3.0-inch double jacketed hose, 400.0-feet of 2.5” hose and 250.0-feet of 1¾” hose. This translates into both less stress and lower fatigue on the part of the firefighters when it comes to deploying and stowing the hose, resulting in greater safety and lower risk of injury.

Another critical component to the safety of the personnel was the Tip Load Weight Rating at the tip of the aerial device. The original apparatus, was a much lower rating and could accommodate only a single firefighter at the tip of the ladder. By switching from aluminum to steel, the maximum tip load was more than doubled in the same footprint, meaning that instead of a single firefighter on the ladder, they were now able to have multiple additional first responders ready to enter a burning building and affect a rescue of the occupants.

We demonstrated how this innovation made Rosenbauer’s rating is more than double that of their current apparatus, and when Captains Rogan and Compton introduced very specific requirements for ground ladder storage, the engineering staff at Rosenbauer met those requirements as well, providing them with over 200 feet of ground ladder storage.

From emergency vehicle upfitting to custom fire apparatus manufacturing, Empire Emergency has been innovating along with its customers and suppliers every single day that we’ve been operating since 2006. By thinking creatively and then applying our expertise to meeting our customer’s unique needs with safety, comfort, and functionality as the paramount concerns, we are able to deliver Solutions that Matter on every single project.

Details for City of Rochester Aerial Apparatus, Truck No. 2

  • Overall Travel height: 11’ 3”
  • Overall Length: 45’ 3”
  • Cummins ISX 505 Hp Engine
  • FRC Evolution Scene Lights
  • Max Force Steel Bumper
  • Tapered Rear Body Corners
  • Lifetime Extruded Aluminum Body
  • Galvanized Ladder, Torque Box, and Outriggers
  • Galvanized Frame Rails
  • Weldon Multiplexed Electrical System
  • Federal Signal LED Warning Lights
  • Customer Cab Storage Provisions
  • Smart Aerial Technology
  • Hale 1500 GPM Water Pump
  • 300 Gallon Poly Water Tank
  • Aerial Performance Capabilities of 1250 Gallons per Minute from -10/+75 degrees

Empire Emergency is your trusted provider of highly-customized emergency vehicle installations that ensure the effectiveness and safety of the men and women who protect and serve our communities. Empire’s emergency vehicle upfit solutions enable fire, police, and rescue teams of all sizes to perform quickly, efficiently, safely, and secure in the knowledge that their equipment is both expertly installed and inspected with meticulous attention to detail.

These are the Solutions That Matter.

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