Early custom cab apparatus were equipped with chrome plated steel bumpers that afforded little protection for the cab or the crew. Front bumper extensions were limited to about sixteen inches which provided room for front suction piping and a center mounted hose well. Beginning around the late 1960’s several progressive departments began to specify a 1.50 inch front discharge equipped with 100 feet of hose for use in extinguishing car and dumpster fires. Heavy rescue trucks were built with front mounted winches and small tool boxes which would have to be reinforced to provide sufficient strength to the bumper assembly.
Buy this point several apparatus builders migrated to using stainless steel bumpers that were more durable but still provided little protection for the cab as they were bolted to the front frame extensions with little support on the sides where the bumper would radius back to the cab. When involved in the typical intersection accident the bumper would bend inward damaging the siren and whatever components were mounted on the deck in addition to collapsing into the front of the cab resulting in extensive damage.
Current apparatus design enables multiple hose wells, tool compartments, electric and hydraulic hose reels along with bumper mounted extrication tools. Bumper extensions are commonly twenty to twenty four inches with larger ones designed to accommodate rescue tools. Depending upon what the department desires to have located on the bumper extension there can be upwards of twenty thousand dollars’ worth of equipment mounted in this area. Beyond protecting the bumper mounted components the front bumper should be designed to protect the crew and prevent intrusion into the cab seating area.
Apparatus specifications should detail a reinforced steel bumper to protect the crew and front of the apparatus in the event of an accident. The specification verbiage would read like this example:
“The front bumper extension shall be constructed of 80,000 PSI high tensile steel channel a minimum of 10.00 inches high x 3.00 inches wide x .25 inches thick. The bumper shall be backed full width with a .25 inch thick steel reinforcement channel supported on each side outboard of the main chassis frame rails. The bumper design shall be bolted with grade 8 hardware and angled on each end.
The bumper shall be painted job color red with the top flange of the bumper protected with black color Linex material. The bumper assembly shall be a minimum of 18.00 inches and a maximum of 22.00 inches from the front face of the cab. The final design of the front bumper assembly shall be reviewed and approved by the fire department at the pre-construction conference.”
Apparatus has evolved over the years, however the bumper and forward portion of the cab continue to be some of the most valuable areas to consider when designing the front bumper layout to meet the operational needs of the department.
Photo captions for Front Bumper article: All images taken by Tom W. Shand
Photo #1: This reinforced steel bumper protects the front suction piping, discharge and hose well. Note how the mechanical siren is recessed into the bumper with several points where the bumper is bolted to the front extension.
Photo #2: The steel front bumper provides a smooth mounting surface for additional warning lights and with angled sides enables skilled drivers to maneuver in tight locations as shown on Engine 481 from West Lanham Hills, Maryland.
Photo #3: This pumper for the U.S. Navy was designed with raised hose wells to increase the angle of approach with a full width reinforcement channel behind the bumper. Note the Linex covering on the top flange of the bumper.
Photo #4: Shorter bumper extensions can be utilized to mount long handle hooks and tools on ladder company apparatus such as on Truck 812 from College Park, Maryland.
Photo #5: This heavy rescue from Smithfield, Virginia was designed with a front discharge, electric winch and rope tie offs with a steel bumper.