The no frills crash tender that doesn’t compromise on safety

Published:  28 May, 2013

Steve Banner visited the Plastisol factory in The Netherlands, where he saw the newly launched Kronenburg MAC CT012 crash tender, which offers a no frills firefighting proposition, especially popular with emerging markets.

Tough economic times and severe restraints on public expenditure in many economies globally are affecting airports in the same way that they are affecting other public services. Regulatory requirements mandate that a certain level of equipment has to be provided, especially when it comes to combating fires:but frills that do not compromise safety can be cut out if necessary says Gary Smith, UK managing director of Plastisol.

With its headquarters and main plant, which it is planning to expand, at Wanroij in the Netherlands and a subsidiary in the USA as well as in Britain, Plastisol celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year.

It is best-known for making durable bodies and water tanks for firefighting vehicles from its own vacuum-formed glass-reinforced polyester sandwich panels – it developed the process it uses itself – produced with a foam core. Almost any shape can be created and painted in any colour and the panels are cured in such a way that the result is remarkably strong.

The range includes cabins and crew-cab extensions too, all of which comply with ECE 29, NEN-EN 1846 and the DIN standard. Plastisol has the ability to carry out its own frontal impact, roof load and rear wall load tests among others in line with ECE and SAE regulations.

Up to 95% of its output is exported and it is certificated to ISO 9001 and AQAP 2110.

Some three years ago it acquired the rights to the Kronenburg name and is now marketing crash tenders under the Kronenburg banner to airports worldwide.

‘We’re selling around 50 annually and exporting to countries as far apart as Nigeria, Russia and Malaysia. We’re doing pretty well in a sector where the demand is high at present.’

One of the most recently introduced Kronenburg products is the MAC CT012. Unlike the stylish MAC. CT009, many of whose features it shares including the chassis and running gear, it has a somewhat boxy, traditionally-styled, no-frills body.

‘As a consequence it is around 10% cheaper than the CT009, is easier to repair, and its styling means that it has a bigger cab too,’ Smith says. It can transport up to seven crew members, with space available to store special equipment if a smaller crew is carried.

‘Nor does the lack of aerodynamics have any discernible impact on its fuel consumption or 0-60mph performance. It’s a truck that should appeal to emerging markets,’ he comments.

Aside from its looks, the capabilities it offers when compared to those available with CT009 are much the same.

It comes as a 26.32-tonne gross weight 4x4 or a 39.48-tonne 6x6. The former features a water tank that can hold up to 6,000 litres and a foam tank with a capacity of around 720 litres while the latter boasts an-up-to-12,000-litre water tank and a foam tank that can contain up to 1,440 litres.

Both trucks offer a pump capacity of 6,000 litres a minute with a range of 80m to 90m and carry 250kg of dry powder. They have the ability to extinguish small fires on the ground caused by blazing debris falling from a descending aircraft as the tender accelerates towards the likely crash site.

Options available include a pilot rescue platform and a decontamination system.

Power is delivered courtesy of a 700hp 18.1-litre Caterpillar engine married to a Twin Disc automatic gearbox. It has a split-torque facility that enables CTO12 to pump and roll at the same time.

A smaller engine may be offered in future and Plastisol is receiving more requests to provide one that meets the Euro 5 exhaust emissions regulations that apply to new trucks operating on the public highway within the European Union. They impose tight limits on harmful emissions of NOx and particulates, with tougher Euro 6 limits set to come into force in January 2014.

‘We haven’t built an 8x8 as yet but we use US-built KME chassis that are specially made for us so that won’t be a problem,’ Smith adds. Such a vehicle would be able to carry up to 20,000 litres of water, some 1,800 litres of foam, pump at a rate of either 6,000 or 10,000 litres a minute and tip the scales at over 52 tonnes.

Like its stable-mates, it too would carry 250kg of powder but would be powered by not one, but two of the 700hp Caterpillar diesels.

Calculated to appeal to emerging markets, and complying with ICAO and all other relevant regulatory requirements, CT012 has been positively received says Smith. ‘We’ve sold ten since it was launched 18 months ago,’ he reports.

Despite its more-competitive price, CT012 is unlikely to affect sales of the CT009 Smith contends. ‘Competing directly with models from Oshkosh and Rosenbauer, the latter has a more-futuristic styling which has a particular appeal to certain customers,’ he observes.

Smith adds that the use of Plastisol body panels, which are easy to repair, gives Kronenburg’s products a major advantage when it comes to lightness

Typically they weigh 15% less than aluminium panels and 30 per cent less than panels made from stainless steel which has given Kronenburg a particular advantage when it comes to building an air-transportable crash-tender. Furthermore, their strength and rigidity thanks to a typical 37% glass content allows them to be self-supporting.

Carrying a ten-year warranty and flame-retarding, they do not have to be hung on a steel or alloy frame and if the vehicle employing them catches fire they will not produce toxic fumes or blazing droplets. Their shock-absorbing properties reduce the risk of injury to the crew in a collision as well as the risk of costly structural damage to the truck.

Nor do Plastisol’s panels corrode which makes vehicles that use them highly durable: an important consideration when it comes to calculating likely future refurbishment costs.

The company offers a customised mid-life refurbishment service for crash tenders.

Having assessed the state of the truck when it arrives, specialist engineers draw up an individually-tailored rejuvenation programme. It typically involves dismantling the tender completely and giving the engine, transmission, chassis, steering and brakes a complete overhaul, replacing the fire-fighting equipment and either upgrading all the onboard systems or exchanging them for new ones that have been introduced since the vehicle was first commissioned.

Once the truck has been rebuilt and repainted it is put through a rigorous testing programme before being returned to the customer.

And the price? Approximately 40% 60% of the cost of buying a new tender:and if the work is done once it is 10 to 15 years old its life can be extended for a further 10 to 15 years.

Kronenburg also produces specialised firefighting vehicles for industrial use in, for example, oil refineries and chemical plants and was doing so as far back as 1950. One consequence is that it is has developed particular expertise when it comes to dry chemical powder fire-fighting systems.

Plastisol’s panels are relatively expensive. As a consequence it is finding it difficult to compete in a UK domestic market for fire appliances that is more price-conscious now that it has ever been.

‘We’re happy to do deals, but on our terms,’ Smith says. ‘We will not sell at a loss.

As a consequence we’re increasingly concentrating on specialist conversion work. For example, we’ve recently built a vehicle for one brigade that is used to demonstrate to the general public how easily domestic fires can spread.’

With a compartmentalised interior rather like that of a large doll’s house, it includes a working kitchen that is used to illustrate how easily fires caused by unattended pots and pans can get out of hand. Less-exciting work than constructing an airport fire-tender, admittedly – but still vitally important.

  • Operation Florian

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