Louisiana Fire Truck Maker Applies Rigorous European Test Standards
Vol 21 No 5
To prove undeniably that Ferrara Fire Apparatus trucks can take the worst when it comes to emergency response, the company built what amounts to a torture chamber for fire trucks. Only Ferrara's torture chamber is outdoors where everyone can see.
"We test the cabs that we manufacture to a European design test -- ECE-R29 -- that is one of the most rigorous in the world," said Chris Ferrara, president and CEO of Ferrara. "It tests whether the interior will collapse when a fireman is in a rollover or any type of collapse situation."
However, the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) Structural Standards (R29), the European benchmark for crash testing and safety in the commercial trucking industry, is only a baseline for Ferrara. When it came to testing the roof strength of the cab, Ferrara went further.
"We actually tripled the load required by the test," Ferrara said. "We're the only manufacturer that has done that. Not only did we apply the test to the cab, but we test the body as well."
Visitors who toured the Ferrara plant in Holden, LA, during the Industrial Fire World Conference & Exposition in March got to see the crash test project first hand. Sitting beside the Ferrara crash test project is a Ford Aerostar van subjected to the same test standards as Ferrara fire trucks. The van looks as though it passed through a giant trash compactor.
To measure frontal impact, Ferrara built a huge pendulum device designed to slam 3,736 pounds from more than 11 feet for a 5,746 kg-m impact into the front of the cab. This produces an impact velocity of 18.2 mph. To pass, the cab must not crush beyond the point where the crew survival space is compromised. The cab must also remain attached to the frame.
"The pivotal weight is swung up to maximum height and then crashed into the front," said Robin Hurst of Ferrara, formerly fire chief for Baton Rouge. "You have to shackle the truck so that it won't roll backward and deflect the impact."
After testing of Ferrara's Inferno/Igniter chassis all doors on the cab remained closed during the impact but were easily opened afterward. There was no passenger compartment intrusion nor were there any failed structural components in the cab.
To test roof strength, engineers placed 10 metric tons on the apparatus cab, plus an additional 4,400-pound weight on the roof of the cab. The structural integrity of the roof supported the load with no damage to the Inferno/Igniter? crew cab area.
"You have to block the truck so that when you load the top the tires don't deflect the weight," Hurst said.
After the initial round of roof strength and frontal impact testing, more roof strength testing follows. The Ferrara Inferno/Igniter? cab was loaded for this test to 33 metric tons (65,979 pounds which is 300 percent of the vertical load criteria). This is a full 17 percent more than any other fire apparatus manufacturer has ever attempted to place on the roof of their cab. The cab roof successfully supported 33 metric tons, more than three times the required amount as dictated by ECE-R29 Standard. There was no failure of the Ferrara Fire Apparatus Inferno/Igniter? cab structure or mountings, no intrusion of occupant survival space, or any other structural failure.
"Then we went one step further," Hurst said. "We're all convinced that we build the strongest body in the business. So we convinced Chris to load the body as well as the cab."
To complete the testing, Ferrara successfully placed all 65,979 pounds on the apparatus body (which is not required in the ECE-R29 Standard). Placing the weight on the body showed that the entire apparatus can withstand such a load and is something that no other fire apparatus manufacturer has ever attempted.
"If your truck rolls over it's not just the cab that's going to support you," Hurst said. "The body is also going to support you. If it doesn't it puts that much more impact on the cab."
All testing took place at Ferrara Fire Apparatus, Inc. in Holden, Louisiana. Mr. A.K. Rosenhan of Mississippi State University in Mississippi State, Mississippi supervised the testing. Mr. Rosenhan is an internationally recognized fire expert, professional engineer and chartered engineer (a European designation).
A complete photographic, video and dimensional record of these tests has been accomplished and is on file. You can view the entire test by logging on to Ferrara's website at www.ferrarafire.com then go to the "Company" page and click on "Company Videos".
Ferrara Fire Apparatus, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of fire and rescue apparatus. Located in Holden, Louisiana and founded by Chris Ferrara in 1982, Ferrara builds a complete line of fire apparatus including pumpers, aerials, rescues, haz-mat and quick attack vehicles as well as Ferrara's own custom fire chassis, the Inferno? and the Igniter?. o