Sutphen Corporation of Amlin, OH, was founded in 1890 by the same family that runs it today. Employees include third, fourth and fifth generation members of the company's founders. If there is such a thing as a handcrafted, American-made vehicle anymore, the Sutphen Corporation is making them.
The Amlin plant produces less than 30 fire trucks a year, each one built to the exact specifications of the buyers. No two are exactly alike, particularly when it comes to tower ladders used by industry, said David Rider, Sutphen's inside sales manager.
Industrial Fire World's David White asked Rider about Sutphen's latest industrial tower ladder. When it comes to towers, Sutphen has two basic models.
RIDER: We've adapted our 110-footer. The first version of that was to just take the bucket off and put an Akron Renegade 5,500 gpm gun on the tip of the aerial. And we built two of those, both of them with National Foam Servo Command foam system and a Hale A8FG 3,000 gpm pump.
DAVID: Do they flow 5,500 gpm?
RIDER: Well, we've got documentation from Conoco's Wood River refinery for 4,100 gpm. And that's what we're seeing - 4,000 gpm from a pressurized water source. From draft, we rate them at a maximum 2,500 gpm flow at an aerial elevation of 100 feet. We're just not seeing the engine horsepower anymore to get the water up any higher.
DAVID: Welcome to the new world.
RIDER: Exactly. And in 2010 it might even get worse than that. From a pressurized water source we can do 3,000 to 4,000 gpm real easy.
DAVID: You're using an Akron monitor, right?
RIDER: Yes. The other stuff is just too heavy. It was kind of a partnership between us and Akron. We asked if they could do something for us.
DAVID: You have a foam system on this truck too, right?
RIDER: Right, we have National Foam and we are starting to look at AccuMax now.
DAVID: So this truck will have a National Foam servo command system?
RIDER: Correct. Now that's the stick version. We're building one of them for Marathon in Robinson, IL. So we are building them a National. The other thing we can do which is a little different than the other guys is, depending on whether you want pre-connects, we can put 800 to 1,000 gallons of concentrate on the back of that. And 1,200 feet of six-inch hose. We've got it down. We're the new mouse trap when it comes to high flow aerials. With Schwing now out of that business, we are really hoping to grow. As it stands right now we have two aerials in production and we may see a few more this year as well.
DAVID: What's unique is that everybody looks at a big flow nozzle at 4,000 gpm saying, "Well, that's wonderful." Well, 4,000 gpm brings you something more than large flows - it brings you range. Couple horizontal range with 100 feet in the air elevation range and you've got a phenomenal machine that I bet will flow over 500 feet. That's probably as important as gpm. Because now I can reach the fire.
RIDER: I just talked to Task Force Tips and they are going to give us one of their big giant nozzles. We're going to test it on the Conoco truck to see what it is going to throw. Unfortunately some nozzles are too heavy. What happens is we put those on and the motors can't hold it. The gun tends to drift. Akron is beefing up the motors on their guns.
DAVID: How big is your turntable swivel?
RIDER: We come off the pump with an eight-inch RC and we reduce that down to six to get through the swivel. Then we go back to seven and a half. We take that all the way to the top. We have a box bellows so we can put this big ginormous waterway inside the box. The other thing we do is we flip it upside down so the bigger water-way is at the top.
DAVID: Well, you've always done that with your waterways.
RIDER: Yes, it made more sense to us to have the bigger waterway at the top because that is where all the friction loss is.
DAVID: Sutphen has a tremendously strong boom.
RIDER: That is exactly right. We don't normally see our boom move. If you've ever flowed a little Telesquirt as soon as you crank the throttle it will walk back a little bit. You never see that in a Sutphen. When you're flowing 4,600 gpm you start to see just a little bow in the back. We're reusing the 110 but we de-stroke it to 100 because that makes for a safer machine.
DAVID: I'm not sure Sutphen wasn't the first one with a square boom.
RIDER: We were, in 1960. There was this new metal - aluminum. Nobody knew much about it. So Tom Sutphen says, "I think we'll build them out of aluminum." So he goes to Alcoa and says, "I want to build an aerial out of aluminum but I don't know anything about it." They said, "Well, this is what you need to do but don't weld it -- use aircraft grade Huckbolts." Then Sutphen visited this company in Columbus, OH, called North American Aviation. We adopted the same engineering practices they used to handle wing spars. Back then you could get all the machinists you needed. He kept getting these guys that were working at night at North American. It has really worked out well. Our boom is the strongest one out there without a doubt. I'm very proud that we've stuck to our guns.
DAVID: Is it true you've never had a failure on a boom?
RIDER: That is true. We never have.
DAVID: I don't know that anybody else could say that.
RIDER: I don't know that anybody else could. We're seeing booms that were built in the 1970s that people are bringing back to us and asking, "Can you mount this on a new truck?" We remount these booms, then put them under 20-year warranty. Who offers a 50-year warranty on an aerial boom?
DAVID: You used to build a lot of rigs on GMC chassis. Then a lot of them were taken off those, refurbished and put back on brand new chassis.
RIDER: That's right. We started building our own chassis and using Cincinnati cabs.
DAVID: Is your flow restricted by your plumbing?
RIDER: What we don't use a lot of swivels at the bottom of the aerial, at the waterway. We use a box bellows, a stream expansion joint. It's actually stainless steel piping, not a piece of hose. It's bigger on the industrial trucks, about seven inches. We reworked the whole upper platform water system so it is all six-inch to four-inch guns. So we do two-by-two on the industrial platforms.
DAVID: Do you still have two guns up there?
RIDER: Correct. That's on the platform, on the bucket.
DAVID: On the one without the platform it's only one gun.
RIDER: One gun, yeah. One Renegade.
DAVID: How about the engine selection issue?
RIDER: Right now, we'll deal with Cummins but we're saying you should probably do a Detroit Diesel Series 60. That's our recommended engine but it's going away next year. Of course the other engine is the ISM. We are not being offered Caterpillar engines any more. So next year it's Cummins. Obviously, for the industrial guys, it would be ideal if somebody could figure out how to do the ISX, the big one, the 15 liter. That's a 600 horsepower engine. But in fire trucks it is really hard to do that because there's no room. We've already redone the cab and put this ginormous cooling system on. There is going to be a smaller version of the ISX, that's going to take the place of the ISM.
DAVID: What is the horsepower of that going to be?
RIDER: I think it's going to be comparable to where the ISM is now, in the 500s. But it's going to have urea injection and all that stuff. Urea is animal urine. They are injecting ammonia in there using the urea to carry the ammonia. It's injected into the exhaust stream because the ammonia will break down the nitrous oxide emission. That's how the engine manufacturers like Cummins are going to skin that cat.
DAVID: But this is also going to create a nightmare for the maintenance people.
RIDER: It is. The other thing they are telling us about urea is it has to be climate controlled. You've got this rig sitting on a truck down there pumping like crazy for days on end. It's a challenge. Cummins is going to give everybody engine specs, probably in mid summer.
DAVID: As I understand it, there is certain maintenance that has to be done on this pollution control system. And it's not going to be something that your local maintenance guy is going to do.
RIDER: That's like the diesel particulate filters. They have to be taken off occasionally and cleaned. That has to go to a dealer. We don't really know what all is involved with urea. We know that it has a shelf life. After a while you have to trade it out.
DAVID: Our problem in industry is going to be that we just don't use this equipment that often.
RIDER: That's the problem. You have to get on a schedule for redoing this urea. Nobody really has a clear answer yet.
DAVID: Isn't Cummins handling regeneration differently?
RIDER: In Detroit, their circuitry allows a truck to regen when it's in pump mode. Cummins doesn't. That's something we're going to have to work around because we don't want it to regen when it's in pump mode, obviously.
DAVID: One of the problems is that you drive it five minutes, park it at a fire and let it sit there. This thing is not designed to do that.
RIDER: Right. You have to add regen inhibit switches and regen inhibiting circuitry to it.
DAVID: And you can't inhibit it except so many times.
RIDER: Right. If you get fault lights you have to take it out and drive it.
DAVID: What about roll stability control or ABS braking?
RIDER: We do it. That's the standard now. Instead of just saying over and over, "Well, it will flip over," maybe it's better for us just to put a system on the truck to keep you from getting in trouble in the first place.
DAVID: Your ladder does stick up there but it's aluminum and it's a lot lighter than other ladders.
RIDER: Our trucks are usually 10 to 20 tons lighter than the competition. If you look at where our aerial turn table is in comparison to even anyone else's, it's about a foot and a half lower.
DAVID: I may be wrong, but I can't think of any Sutphens that have turned over.
RIDER: I think one of the things that sets us apart when it comes to that is our core focus. Our entire focus has been on aerial platforms. Like I tell people occasionally, we built one without a boom and we call that a pumper.