At the time, Hino was not offering a factory-fitted automatic option in its GT model. However, the conversion and performance of the trucks was so impressive that the truck maker began offering an Allison Automatic as an option on the production line.
According to Smith, the original concept of fitting an automatic to 4x4 trucks was pursued as a means of increasing top speed, as well as to deliver better acceleration both on-road and off-road, making it easier for fire fighters to drive.
“By any measure, the conversion to automatics on the three trucks was a success, so much so that it led other Australian firefighting organizations to be interested in the idea,” said Smith. “We lobbied the Japanese manufacturers, and now Hino, Isuzu and Fuso all offer factory-fitted Allison Automatics on 4x4 trucks.”
The Tasmanian Fire Service has a long, successful history with Allison transmissions, using them in a variety of urban firefighting trucks from OEMs including Freightliner, Scania and Iveco. The successful conversion to automatic off-road fire trucks means the fleet now only specifies Allison Automatics.
“The Allison Automatics have other benefits apart from the operational advantages of better acceleration and top-end speed,” said Smith. “The automatic means it is safer for a wider range of drivers to operate because fire fighters are not full-time truck drivers and the automatics allow them to concentrate on steering, rather than changing gears.”
The switch to automatics has also resulted in a dramatic decrease in driveline damage and repair costs, again because of ease of operation for drivers.
According to Smith, switching to Allison Automatics has engineered out a major cost because of significant reductions in driveline damage.
“The guy who overhauls our transmissions, clutches and differentials was constantly telling me to remind the drivers that the gearshift was not a crowbar because many did not have the expertise to understand the subtleties of using a manual. With an automatic those problems have been eliminated, thankfully,” he said.
The reduction in repair and overhaul costs has eased the burden on engineering services’ budgets and enabled more investment in developing and evolving new technologies. Of the 500 fire trucks on the Tasmanian Fire Service fleet, 96 percent are four-wheel-drives because the island state has so much bushland close to urban areas.
Since moving to Allison-equipped 4x4s, the Tasmanian Fires Service has added a total of 28 integrated Hino GT automatics and now has more than 50 automatic 4x4s on the fleet.
“We won’t be buying any more manual fire trucks,” said Smith. The automatics have proven to be a much better proposition, and really, the only way to go.”
The Fire Service builds around 14 new trucks annually, usually during the winter when the risk of bushfire is much lower, and the engineering operation can concentrate on construction.
Apart from helping to pioneer the automatics in Japanese 4x4 trucks, the Tasmanian Fire Service is a technology leader in other areas. It is now the only state-controlled fire service in Australia that still manufactures truck bodies and firefighting machines in its own engineering operation. Recently it developed a Hino FM 2630 using the Allison 3000SeriesTM automatic for use as an advanced Compressed Air Foam (CAF) firefighting truck. The Fire Service uses Allison’s live Power Take-Off (PTO) provision to fuel a large compressor, which increases the foam’s fire-fighting effectiveness by a factor of eight.
Smith said the combination of the live engine PTO with the automatic is the perfect spec for this truck. “It proved its worth when seconded across Bass Strait by the Victorian state fire authorities and was able to extinguish the infamous and long-burning Morwell Coal mine fire in early 2014.”
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