Apparatus Low Hosebed Design—Pros and Cons

Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. The Fire Apparatus Manufacturers’ Association (FAMA) has been promoting firefighter ergonomics for decades through its own firefighter survey and in cooperation with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). One application of ergonomics in apparatus design involves the configuration of hose storage areas, the subject of this article.

The options for hose loads have never been more abundant than today with all the new and varying applications of apparatus by various jurisdictions. But that said, the fire department needs to determine its operational requirements first! Hosebed designs are as varied as apparatus designs even though fire departments perform the same functions, but that’s the nature of the fire service.

Today, many fire departments are concerned with the ease of hose deployment for prompt use and to eliminate injury to personnel by having a lower easy to reach main hosebed. Crosslays, speedlays, and transverse hosebeds allow deployment from each side of the apparatus. The apparatus pump control location (side mount, top mount, rear mount) also impacts the desired hose load and overall apparatus size.

That said, there are trade-offs to be considered by the purchaser such as:

  • Water/foam tank capacity.
  • Compartmentation.
  • Main hosebed, type of hose, desired capacity and storage method (flat/side Load etc.).
  • Crosslay, speedlay or transverse hosebed(s).


Determine your operational requirements and hydrant spacing for the tank sizes as these may vary and impact the optimum design. What is your hydrant spacing? I had a customer that required all its apparatus to carry 2,000 feet of five-inch large-diameter hose (LDH) in 100-foot lengths and a 300-gallon water tank. When hydrant spacing was considered, we were able to reduce the hose to 1,000 feet, which allowed for a lower hose load, saved the department money, and increased the water tank size to 500 gallons.


A traditional T-shaped tank design creates a higher hosebed floor height in comparison to an L-shaped tank (New York style). The trend is an L-shaped tank, which lowers the main hosebed load height. Also, the design of the bed and hose load desired may impact the center of gravity, another factor for consideration.


A lower hosebed design impacts your equipment storage capabilities. The tailboard compartment will be reduced as well as the side compartment depths.


Make sure the builder is apprised of the brand, type of hose, lengths, couplings, etc. as well as if it’s new or existing hose because that all impacts the volume/height of the hosebeds. Don’t just say 1,000 feet of five-inch hose. Specify the brand in 50- or 100-foot lengths and the type of coupling, i.e. Storz or threaded. Be aware that the hosebed dividers may be taller depending on the hose load specified, so this may also impact ease of reloading. Consideration should be given to having a walkway and or access ladder for ease of reloading.

When specing a new apparatus, fire departments need to be clear as to the location, placement, and quantity of rear preconnect discharge outlets. There is a trend to have a rear inlet for the LDH supply hose as it is easier than connecting to the side and reduces the trip hazard for personnel accessing the compartments. Again, the quantity of inlets and outlets will impact the hosebed height because of the extra plumbing required.


These designs are much easier to lower for ease of deployment and reloading “depending” on the size, type, quantity, and “load” style, i.e. minuteman, flat, triple layer, etc.

Another consideration is whether to have a Chiksan swivel or bulkhead fitting for the hose as some fire departments have lines only deploying out one side vs. both sides as a matter of preference.

Bear in mind the hose load quantity and consider having a nozzle cup or mount for each discharge easily accessible by a firefighter from the ground.

One thing to remember: it’s the “height from the ground” NOT the tailboard/running Board that determines the ideal main and crosslay, speedlay, and transverse bed heights.

For easier deployment and reloading of LDH hose, there are hose deployment designs in both the center rear of the torque box and on the curb side, commonly called a Side Stacker.

Fire department apparatus committees need to work closely with their apparatus sales professional and FAMA member manufacturer to understand what hosebed configurations are available and which will work best for their particular needs.


FAMA is committed to the manufacture and sale of safe, efficient emergency response vehicles and equipment. FAMA urges fire departments to evaluate the full range of safety features offered by member companies.