Special Commercial vehicles find favour with special applications that make the fire brigades, airports, armed forces function smoothly and efficiently.

Mumbai Fire Brigade has added a 90 m fire ladder to its fleet of special application trucks, which include fire tenders and crane trucks among others. The new fire ladder, procured from Finland-based Bronto Skylift Oy Ab, has six-axles out of which two are powered and four are steered. Based on a Mercedes-Benz (6260) truck chassis, the fire ladder (watch out for an exclusive story in October 2015 anniversary issue of CV) weighs well over the 49.2-tonne limit prescribed in the Motor Vehicle Act. Special permission was therefore sought from the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to operate it. The 90 m platform ladder includes electric and diesel operated pumps. A battery operated pump acts as a back-up. Capable of reaching up to 30 floors of a high rise, the 90 m fire ladder was procured at a price of Rs 15 crore. Ironically, this fire ladder is not the first to make it to India. Two similar fire ladders were procured by DLF at Delhi, and have been pressed into service at the DLF properties in the NCR region.

Fire tenders

Playing an important role as special application CVs are fire tenders too. According to Dinesh Waghmare of Pune-based Hi-Tech Services, which specialises in the manufacture of special application trucks, fire tenders have to adhere to high standards of protection and reliable performance. Only if the vehicle subscribes to the guidelines laid down by the government organisation will they be approved by the regional transport authorities. While an important part of Waghmare’s work involves understanding the client’s requirements, fire-tenders, he adds, are based upon operational risk profiling, interoperability and specific user needs across fire and rescue authorities. “Each product has to conform to the National Fire Protection Association safety standards. Water and foam tenders, water bowsers, dry chemical powder tenders and emergency rescue tenders are some of the fire tender types,” he states.
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Airport CVsOver the fire tenders found at various fire stations in the country, the ones at the airport look far different. These include the Rosenbauer Panther 6×6 airport fire tender. Manufactured by Rosenbauer International AG of Austria, it is a common site at the Delhi and Bangalore airports. Powered by a 705hp engine, it can quickly access any part of the airfield while responding to emergencies. The one at Delhi, to combat the winter conditions, is fitted with a ‘Low Visibility Enhanced Vision’ system, guided by a Forward Looking Infra-red (FLIR) camera mounted on the cabin roof. The camera provides vision even in a smoky, foggy, or a dark environment up to a distance of 450 m. Built using advanced composite materials, the vehicle has a water capacity of 12,500 litres apart from 1,500 litres of fire retardant foam and 500kg of dry chemicals to fight fire. The vehicle is equipped with a remote controlled roof mounted nozzle which can discharge 6,000 litres per minute in just over two minutes. Industry sources claim that in August 2015, two Panther 6×6 airfield crash fire tenders, built fully on RBI chassis and fitted with Volvo TAD-1662VE six-cylinder engine, were procured. They also claim that in March 2015, an Iveco Magirus turntable ladder for township frame was also procured. Both make typical special application commercial vehicles for use under specific conditions.Special_DOther application areas

Apart from the various special application areas mentioned above, commercial vehicles also find use as refuse trucks with various governing bodies and municipalities. Special application vehicles on bus or van platforms also include ambulances as special application vehicles. Built for the purpose by companies like Force Motors among others in India, ambulances are often fitted with an array of specialised equipment to transport the critically ill or injured to the hospital safely and securely. When it comes to money, special application vehicles on LCV platforms like the Tata 407, Tata 207 and Tata Xenon are specially built to facilitate the carriage of cash to banks and ATMs apart from accommodating armed personnel. Some of these are also partially armoured or fitted with bullet-proof glass apart from highly secure safes. Also built on LCV chassis are police vehicles that include those that transport prisoners and police officials. Riot control vehicles used by the Police are built on truck chassis (16-tonne to 25-tonne) with an amount of armour. They are also fitted with water cannons. Delhi-based Shri Ganesh Fire Equipments (P) Limited, Vijay Fire Vehicles & Pumps Limited and Brijbasi Hi-Tech Udyog Ltd. are known to build water cannons based on truck chassis of various commercial vehicle manufacturers. Ludhiana-based Pyara Singh & Sons specialises in the building of sweeper machines. It has built sweepers on a truck chassis. Such vehicles find application with municipal bodies as well.

Special_ELast but not the least, special application vehicles also include refrigerated containerised trucks catering to the cold chain industry – Pharma, Dairy, Meat, QSRs (Quick service restaurants), etc. Many companies like Randhawa and HLM India specialise in the manufacture of such vehicles. These companies build refrigerated bodies on truck chassis as diverse as a Tata Ace platform to a 49-tonne tractor trailer. Each area involving special application vehicles is estimated to be worth Rs 6 to Rs 8 crore according to an industry expert. Application areas are numerous, and it is therefore tough to estimate the total special application industry worth. Industry sources are of the opinion that special application vehicle industry is worth a few thousand crores but highly fragmented. It is a mix of locally sourced and imported solutions, which makes it hard to estimate in terms of the overall value. Especially when some applications are repetitive in nature, and some are highly customised. Like the 90 m fire ladder the Mumbai Fire Brigade has just procured.
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