As already mentioned in the last blog post about the electronic braking system EBS and the electronic directional stabilization program ESC, safety awareness is becoming more and more important for the fire department. One of the reasons why the focus is on the response personnel at an airport is because of the strict regulations regarding response times.
Why the demand for more safety in ARFF vehicles?
The past shows that accidents with ARFF vehicles occur time and again around the globe. A mixture of many factors ensures that the most common types of accident are roll-over scenarios, i.e., overturning around the longitudinal axis. Global air traffic is increasing, which in turn means that “ground operations” at an airport are becoming more concentrated. Different road surfaces, rapid response times, and heavy emergency vehicles – these are the challenging conditions for drivers of ARFF vehicles.
What ensures the safety of ARFF vehicles?
During the development of the new PANTHER, great attention was paid to driving stability, handling, and safety. In order to achieve these development goals, care has been taken, among other things, to consistently lower the center of gravity of the entire vehicle to ensure greater safety at cornering speeds.
The low center of gravity of the PANTHER is due, on the one hand, to optimum coordination between chassis and body. And on the other hand, the center of gravity in conjunction with a chassis perfectly matched to the requirements is crucial for good controllability at high speeds. The so-called chassis setup guarantees the interaction of axle, suspension, stabilizer, damping, and tires and is therefore an essential factor for safe handling.
The handling of off-road and on-road conditions must be adapted to the requirements of an airport rescue and firefighting vehicle. To meet these requirements, the PANTHER has been using a proven rigid axle for many generations. It offers an enormous advantage in off-road conditions due to a constant ground clearance when deflecting the vehicle and an even distribution of the contact pressure of the wheels. The even distribution of the contact pressure results in improved traction of the vehicle and thus continuous propulsion off-road. The rigid axle in combination with a low center of gravity also produces an extremely track stable vehicle with less tendency to roll. The imaginary distance (h) between the center of gravity of the vehicle and the center of rolling (roll center) is much smaller than in other suspension systems.
The combination of a low center of gravity paired with a low rolling moment, thanks to the rigid axle and an optimized chassis setup, forms the basis for the safe concept of the PANTHER. The safety area for the driver has therefore been increased and the critical driving situation reduced.
In practice, chassis tuning during development is initially carried out using multi-body simulations, but fine tuning only takes place after an extensive test phase with various prototype vehicles. In addition to a prototype test, the vehicle must also pass various standardized and comparable driving dynamics testing and inspection scenarios. These tests showed that the development goals were met and that the PANTHER far exceeds the standard and legal requirements in terms of driving dynamics and safety.
In addition, the driver can be actively supported by modern control systems such as ABS, ALB, and Electronic Stability Control (ESC). Information systems such as a tire pressure warning device offer passive support. The TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) provides continuous monitoring of tire pressure and temperature and warns the driver in critical conditions. For easy handling, the system is directly integrated into the operating concept of the PANTHER.
I would be interested to hear your opinions about the safety of ARFF vehicles and the PANTHER solutions.
In Part 2, we consider the issue of safety in relation to the structure and cabin of an ARFF vehicle.