Airport operations managers are often faced with a myriad of challenges associated with maintaining and keeping aging Aircraft Rescue & Fire-Fighting (ARFF) trucks up to standard and in service. Whether your existing ARFF fleet is getting a bit “tired”, your reserve units are not up to standard, or you need to extend the useful life of your frontline trucks while waiting on FAA funding or new truck deliveries, there’s no need to despair. Among alternatives, one option includes a service life extension program that may well add another potential 10 years to the duty cycle of your rig.
If your ARFF vehicle has relatively low miles and hours, and is generally in okay to good condition, you may have a solid candidate for a refurbishment investment that could extend the useful life of your unit by 8 to 10 years for significantly less cost than a completely new ARFF unit. The basic translation is that the year of original manufacture doesn’t have to be a limiting factor as much as the current condition of the ARFF truck. Once again, age is just a number!
What can be done? To start, there may be some basic aesthetic measures such as a cab and body repaint combined with new graphics. If the weather has taken a toll on the exterior finish, this is certainly manageable. Repeated use over many years may also include potential cab seating upgrades to replace those that may have seen better days. New seating materials and systems not only enhance the appearance but also improve overall ergonomics. Additional new cab and body handrails and steps for improved access may be another consideration.
Another reasonably straightforward opportunity is to replace existing conventional warning, scene, and even DOT lights with modern LED lighting technologies. The LED lights not only make the ARFF vehicle more contemporary but also reduce the overall amp draw or load on the truck’s electrical system. To add, with new LED scene lighting, it’s conceivable that you may be able to eliminate an out-of-date diesel generator that is on the ARFF vehicle for scene lighting. You’re on the way to making it “greener” even if it is already a lime-yellow exterior paint color!
Beyond some of these basics, other core chassis powertrain and driveline items should be addressed through remanufacturing and replacement of wearable items. This may include rebuilding a power divider and/or transfer case and while doing so, also dyno testing the existing engine and transmission. If they are in need of service, it’s best to assess and know that while other work is being done. In addition, tires, brakes, and shock absorbers should be replaced or serviced as key operational elements.
In terms of the fire fighting systems on the ARFF vehicle, a refurbishment project is an opportune time to update the cab roof turret with the latest technology (including cab interior controls) as well as do the same with the bumper turret. Since these are mission-critical components to an ARFF unit’s life-saving performance and the turret manufacturers have new innovations typically integrated with new ARFF vehicles, it is logical to take the same path with extending the service life of an existing truck. If the primary water pump and/or valves need to be rebuilt this can be done and if any gauges (in the cab and/or at the water pump controls) are showing signs of age, they also can be replaced at the same time. It is also recommended to install a foam proportion testing system that will allow the capability of being able test the foam system in the future without the need to discharge any foam solution from the truck.
Beyond repairing and replacing, if desired, this entire process is also a path to having modern technologies such as FLIR and cab air purification systems added to an existing ARFF unit. These can be selected purely based on preference and available financial resources with budget constraints.
Every refurbishment project is unique with a variety of possibilities that can be considered and executed depending on resources. While there is an investment, it can be scaled to what is essential and potentially have relative overall cost savings. Even if the rig is moving from front-line to reserve status, you can help make sure that the truck is in the best possible condition for deployment when needed.
Who can help do this type of work? There are multiple choices that include:
- Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus in Alabama: https://www.firetruckmall.com/
- Firetrucks Unlimited in Nevada: https://www.firetrucksunlimited.com/
- Company Two in South Carolina: https://www.companytwofire.com/
So, explore today your options to revitalize your existing ARFF vehicle. It may be a viable means of getting more useful life from an existing ARFF asset combined with favorable economics and value to leverage constrained budget resources. By the way, if you have a large airport operation with adjacent hotels, multiple hangers for aircraft servicing, parking garages, etc., and you have structural fire apparatus as part of your fleet, these too can be refurbished to extend their useful service life.