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American vs. European Ladder Trucks

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  • American vs. European Ladder Trucks

    Question of the day. How did American ladder trucks get so big, while European ladder trucks have stayed comparatively so small? Overseas, they're single-purpose units, with an aerial device and little else.

    On our side of the pond, we add ground ladders, loads of equipment, and often pump/water/hose. Guess you could call 'em rolling fire departments. These differences seem to date back by decades, and even to the beginnings of motorized apparatus.

    How'd that happen? And could you adopt the European style over here, with a rolling aerial device that doesn't have all that other stuff? Would you want to?

    I have always been curious, and perhaps some world travelers can explain the various apples to orange differences.

    Photo #1, from Google.
    Photo #2, from Raleigh, North Carolina, courtesy Lee Wilson.
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  • #2
    There are huge differences because in most Euorpean cities, the streets are very narrow. In addition, the buildings in most European cities are masonry construction and fires tend to be more compartmentalized.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    • #3
      In addition to what Gonzo said, in Europe, aerial devices are exactly that- a device that may or may not be used by the Incident Commander.

      In the US, (for the most part, with some exceptions) aerials are referred to as "Ladder" or "Truck" Companies, with (hopefully) a good complement of people (4 to 6) assigned to it. The Ladder Company has several tactical objectives assigned to it. These tactical objectives require tools and equipment to perform the task at hand.

      Most European cities were around for hundreds of years before Leif Erickson discovered North America, hence their small sizes.
      "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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      • #4
        Originally posted by DeputyChiefGonzo View Post
        There are huge differences because in most Euorpean cities, the streets are very narrow. In addition, the buildings in most European cities are masonry construction and fires tend to be more compartmentalized.
        Agreed.

        That explains why their trucks are smaller (mostly).

        Good question, btw. The rest of the OP's question would be why are American Ladder trucks so large? Is it simply because we can make them bigger?

        Great question.... and I don't have an answer or even a really good guess. I would say that we have slowly added more responsibilities to those companies and then more equipment.
        I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

        "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

        "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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        • #5
          I'm going to say the American ladder truck will win.
          Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.

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          • #6
            Have you seen how fat truck apes get? With the exception of their right arm from pulling the recliner handle and hefting large utensils full of pasta and bacon to their mouths. That's why trucks have to be built bigger, as well as bunks.
            IAFF

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            • #7
              Originally posted by snowball View Post
              Have you seen how fat truck apes get? With the exception of their right arm from pulling the recliner handle and hefting large utensils full of pasta and bacon to their mouths. That's why trucks have to be built bigger, as well as bunks.
              Jealousy will get you no where. Besides, we have to be big, as we have to do twice the work- when you Engine Girls clog the hallways and wont move in any further, we grab the line and go to town.......
              "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ChiefKN View Post
                Good question, btw. The rest of the OP's question would be why are American Ladder trucks so large? Is it simply because we can make them bigger?
                I think that is a good part of the reason. On the other hand, some departments have gone to tillered aerials because they found out their straight sticks were too big to fit in some newer developments, and some departments keep tillers around because they do have places too confined for a straight stick (or tower).

                As FWDBuff points out, aerials are often multi-function companies which may include such tasks as extrication in their duties. So they have to carry all their "stuff."

                For that matter, compare an engine from 50 years ago to an engine today. The "rescue pumper" seems to be becoming the norm, and even "normal" pumpers have more compartment space than their ancestors.

                IIRC, CA had problems with some apparatus exceeding legal GVW's, to the extent that they could legally be driven to the scene in emergency mode, but were illegal to drive back to the station...
                Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

                Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by snowball View Post
                  Have you seen how fat truck apes get? With the exception of their right arm from pulling the recliner handle and hefting large utensils full of pasta and bacon to their mouths. That's why trucks have to be built bigger, as well as bunks.
                  Who the HELL uses utensils for bacon?
                  Career Firefighter
                  Volunteer Captain

                  -Professional in Either Role-

                  Originally posted by Rescue101
                  I don't mind fire rolling over my head. I just don't like it rolling UNDER my a**.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by GTRider245 View Post
                    Who the HELL uses utensils for bacon?
                    Sorry, I should have clarified. I meant salad tongs.
                    IAFF

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by FWDbuff View Post
                      we grab the line and go to town.......
                      Shoulda known it would be the truckies that are freelancing!

                      Anyhoo, not turning this into a shopping cart debate, but we demo'd a Metz aerial at home last year. We really liked it, and it would be a nice fit for our rural county (although it would be completely inappropriate for my career department). The county chief though, said no, because it "wasn't big enough." So now he has us shopping for an aerial that won't fit most places that we need it to go. Cest la vie...
                      Career Fire Captain
                      Volunteer Chief Officer


                      Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by FWDbuff View Post
                        Jealousy will get you no where. Besides, we have to be big, as we have to do twice the work- when you Engine Girls clog the hallways and wont move in any further, we grab the line and go to town.......
                        Truck guys don't use the line.... that would be to much like work.
                        Get the first line into operation.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          How did American ladder trucks get so big, while European ladder trucks have stayed comparatively so small?
                          ------------------------------------

                          I think it has something to do with the metric system......

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                          • #14
                            Royalle with cheese.
                            IAFF

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                            • #15
                              Check out the big brain on snowball!
                              Logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead.

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