ASK ERNIE ”The Apparatus Maintenance Expert”

CarolinaFireJournal -

01/10/2013 -

What was the new EPA ruling with emergency apparatus for emmision systems?

The Federal EPA, at the request of FAMA and emergency services agencies across North America, have listened to the complaints and issues related to the current 2007 and newer EPA certified compression ignition (diesel) engines. The simple explanation is that the emissions controls on “Emergency Vehicles” are going to allow some exemptions from those of “Over the Road” (OTR) vehicle engines, which are the core of our emergency vehicles.

The changes are incorporated in the Federal Register of June 8, 2012 ( and EPA Regulatory Announcement of May 2012 ( Those changes will be a combination of software emissions changes/upgrades, ability to perform a “regen” on demand and on a planned cycle, and may go so far as to allow a device to relieve excessive DPF backpressure in certain emergency situation like high altitude operations. Any such device will only be allowed in rare instances and with documentation of fact that without the device, the unit will not be able to properly respond.

The final rule also now includes all compression ignition engines in emergency service starting at the 14,000# GVWR. The actual documents spell out my explanation to greater detail. The most responsive approach by the engine manufacturers is to update the software to allow for an on-demand activation of the DPF regeneration system without the DPF plugging to a high much reduced exhaust flow. Caterpillar has already initiated such software and manual switching to accomplish the on-demand DPF regen.


What is the correct manual pump shift procedure?

I will assume a stationary pumping scenario.

  • Bring the vehicle to a complete stop.
  • Move the transmission selector to the “N” Neutral position or shift the manual transmission to neutral gear.
  • Set the parking brake
  • Move the selector from ‘Road Mode’ to “Pump Mode.”

If the pump is shifted manually, change modes manually. If the shift is performed electrically, move the selector switch as required. In the event that a “failed shift” light illuminates, move the transmission shifter from “N” to “R” to “N” in quick fashion the movement of the drive gear will ensure gear change.

If the shift is performed through the use of air pressure, move the selector from the “Road Mode” to the “Pump Mode,” stopping in the middle position — if so equipped — to exhaust the air holding the shift piston in the road mode. Once air is depleted, move the selector to the pump mode. This procedure provides for a rapid action to defeat a gear tooth-to-tooth interruption to gear movement. In all situations, insure that first the “OK to Pump” lights are activated. Place the main transmission in the proper gear for pump mode. In modern electronic engine apparatus, once the shift has been made, throttle control should be transferred to the pump panel.

Next, the foot throttle should be deactivated. Last, if the speedometer is active during pump mode, the speedometer will show road speed at idle and above. These are three fail-safe tindications that “Road Mode” is deactivated and “Pump Mode” is active.

As always, refer to manufacturer’s operations manuals for the exacting descriptions of operations. You may now exit the apparatus using the Safety Mandated 3-in-4 rule in a back and down method. Chock the wheels

The 3-in-4 rule indicates that of the two hands and two feet, at least three of those four body parts are in contact with the vehicle at all times. This is true of ANY ingress, egress, or climbing situation on the apparatus. Sorry, y’all, some times I stray from the subject.

Explain what ISO compliance means with apparatus manufacturers.

First, I am going to go with this question as reference to the Insurance Services Office (ISO). ISO evaluates municipal fire-protection efforts in communities throughout the United States. A community’s investment in fire mitigation is a proven and reliable predictor of future fire losses. So insurance companies use PPC information to help establish fair premiums for fire insurance — generally offering lower premiums in communities with better fire protection and services.

Many communities use the ISO evaluation reports as a benchmark for measuring the effectiveness of their fire-protection services. The ISO evaluation program is also a tool that helps communities plan for, budget, and justify improvements. Through the evaluations of the fire service area, recommendations are developed to provide the fire department with critical information to assist in providing a level of service to maintain or lower insurance rates for its’ citizens. ISO recommendations are used by the fire service to specify proper apparatus to meet the needs as indicated by the ISO evaluations. The ISO evaluations lend to what apparatus are built by the apparatus builder.

Second, I am going with this question as reference to The International Organization for Standardization widely known as ISO, is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations. Founded on Feb. 23, 1947, the organization promulgates worldwide proprietary, industrial and commercial standards. It has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. For an apparatus builder to attain ISO certification requires substantial expenditures and efforts to meet the expectations and requirements of ISO. You will find that fire apparatus manufacturers that have acquired ISO certification are usually manufacturer’s who produce apparatus for the world market. Others who do not sell worldwide, may also wish to show the fire community that they, too, are professionals and meet the very stringent requirements of ISO.

Some will argue that those who have attained ISO certification exist on a higher level. Others believe that some manufacturers simply go through the process to attain ISO certification as an indicator of their professionalism. I’m neutral on the issue.

What is the thermal expansion for hydraulic fluid when aerial testing is performed?

It is encouraged that when performing hydraulic drift and function testing on any hydraulic component, the fluid should be brought to operating temperature. This may and may not be possible in your situation. You must consider that as fluid heats, it expands in volume. As fluid cools, it contracts in volume. As such, when setting up dial indicators for drift testing with warm fluid and then shutting the apparatus off for an extended period, fluid may cool and diminish in volume and give a false indication of drift when the only issue is the cooled volume of fluid. The inverse can occur.

Consider setup performed very early in the morning and as the sun crests the buildings next door or the topography and sun beats directly onto the chassis, fluid can thermally expand and actually show that there is an increase of the cylinder rod. The conclusion might be that there is fluid bypassing the cylinder control valve, causing the extension of the rod, when in fact the fluid increased in volume.

What is NDT testing?

Through the mandates of NFPA 1901 during the manufacturing process, and in NFPA 1911 during the testing procedure definitions, Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) is required to be performed. As indicated, NDT is required throughout the aerial structure, torque box system, and stabilizer system to insure zero defects in production process. Every weld and fastener is inspected to assure 100 percent compliance with the Standard. Following the in-service use of the aerial, NFPA 1911 requires NDT testing of the aerial device at a maximum of a five year interval. Any NDT tester arriving at your door is required to possess, and show on demand, current and up-to-date certification in each and every process/testing method to which the inspector is to perform.

The NDT tester must at least be a level two or three ASNT or state certified equivalent. A level one ASNT can perform the testing procedure, but only when in “DIRECT SUPERVISION” of a Level two or three ASNT. See the current standards for NDT Testing in NFPA 1911, 2012 Edition.

What is the speed, weight, length requirements in NFPA 1901 for apparatus?

Per NFPA 1901, 2009 Edition: 4.15.2 is the maximum top speed of fire apparatus with a GVWR over 26,000 lb or 11,800 kg shall not exceed either 68 mph (105 km/hr) or the manufacturer’s maximum fire service speed rating for the tires installed on the apparatus, whichever is lower.

Per the same standards, 4.15.3 if the combined water tank and foam agent tank capacities on the fire apparatus exceed 1250 gal (4732L), or the GVWR of the vehicle is over 50,000 lb (22680 kg), the maximum top speed of the apparatus shall not exceed either 60 mph (85 km/hr) or the manufacturer’s maximum fire service speed rating for the tires installed on the apparatus, whichever is lower.

The Standard is a formulation of accident studies, apparatus high center of gravity, mass in motion studies and other input. It is recommended that any electronically controlled motor be programmed to limit speeds to the Standard.

How often should I drain my air tanks?

As always, refer to manufacturer’s severe service maintenance standards, local SOP’s and local/state commercial vehicle driver pre-trip inspection mandates, whichever is more restrictive. It is critical that air tanks be inspected for moisture. With today’s air dryer systems, no moisture should reach the air tanks. The first tank downstream from the air dryer — the supply tank, aka wet tank — should have no moisture. Once any volume of moisture is found in the supply tank, it is a good indicator that the air dryer is in need of service.

What is the advantage to having an onboard battery maintaining system?

With the ever increasing installation of individual on-board component chargers, parasitic electrical load is placed on the vehicle battery system. A parasitic load that the primary vehicle battery system cannot sustain for any length of time, without help from a supplemental charging system to maintain fully charged vehicle batteries. The disadvantage of not having the on-board charger/battery maintainer system is to repetitively have discharged vehicle batteries and a potential “no start” situation which could prevent an emergency response.

How do Onspot chains work?

Onspot is a brand name for one of the manufacturers of an automatically deployed on-board tire chain traction enhansing system. A air activated mechanism is attached at each drive wheel that flail’s a number of chains that are mounted on a drive disc, under the drive wheel — single or inner dual — tire. The systems are designed for your specific apparatus/vehicle.To function properly, it is critical that the system be installed to the manufacturer’s mandates.

How much equipment can I install to charge off of my truck batteries?

Ahah!! A loaded question. How often does the truck operate? How many pieces of accessories requiring charge are on the truck? How long does the truck sit without movement? Consider that the modern chassis itself may have six to 10 on-board computer systems that require battery voltage to stay alive in a sleep mode. Those on-board computers, along with any accessory attached to the vehicle create what is known as parasitic load. The answer is a complex compilation of at least factors of time, load, supply battery pack capacity and other issues. The easy answer is: IF the parasitic load has depleted the chassis batteries to a point that you have had a single “dead battery” situation, you have answered your own question. It is time to outfit the truck with an on-board battery maintainer system.

On a lighter note, I wish you all good things for the new year. Remember why we celebrate. Be well, stay safe.

Uncle Ernie

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  2/6/2013 4:06:22 AM


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