PCL develops bespoke tyre inflation solution

Dennis Campion, ECFRS Reception Engineer (left), and Olly Shortland, from PCL, with the mobile inflation unit.

Pneumatic Components (PCL), a worldwide leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of pneumatic and tyre inflation systems, has developed a unique, mobile tyre inflation solution for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS).

ECFRS required a solution that would enable its fleet operators to inflate fire appliance tyres up to the required psi, often 130psi or above, quickly, safely and efficiently. Commercial fleets typically return to a single operating centre, which has fixed air compressors and piped outlets. Although these ‘fixed’ installations deliver the higher pressures and volumes required for commercial fleets, it is cost prohibitive to install such systems at numerous rural or urban fire stations.

ECFRS’s fleet team had already explored using a breathing apparatus (BA) cylinder as a pressure vessel so it approached PCL to see if its capabilities in digital tyre inflation could be utilised to develop a bespoke solution. PCL and ECFRS worked together to design and develop a prototype device, which features a fully charged BA cylinder connected to a pre-set digital gauge and inflation hose on a mobile unit for maximum manoeuvrability around the appliance bay. Small but stable, and with an internal rechargeable battery, the unit allows the operator to pre-set the tyre pressure and inflate the tyres automatically with an auto-shut off function to prevent over inflation.

The innovative unit has the potential to save considerable costs, being approximately a third of the price of a mobile hydrovane system and significantly cheaper than fixed installations. Training requirements are also minimal.

ECFRS has already taken delivery of 20 of the bespoke units with excellent feedback, pilot orders have also been received from Gloucestershire and Northern Ireland fire and rescue services. Several other fire and rescue services having also expressed an interest.

Olly Shortland, Business Development Manager at PCL, said, “This partnership with ECFRS underlines our commitment to innovation, which all takes place in our R&D centre in Sheffield, and our desire to bring to market robust, reliable, safe and accurate tyre inflation systems. ECFRS came to us with a specific request and we are very pleased we have been able to use our expertise to develop a bespoke solution that will save them time and money.”

Peter Warner, Engineering Manager at ECFRS Fleet Workshops, said, “Keeping the tyres on our appliances correctly inflated is essential for safety reasons but also because it minimises tyre wear and improves fuel economy. PCL worked closely with us to understand our requirements and we are all very proud of the end result. The mobile inflation solution they have cleverly designed will save considerable costs while enabling greater efficiency in keeping our appliances’ tyres in peak condition.”

The unit recently won the award for Innovation and Best Use of Technology at the Tyre Safe Awards and was shortlisted for the Innovation Award at the annual Excellence in Fire and Emergency Awards.

Founded in 1938, and celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, PCL maintains a firm commitment to its roots and still manufactures from its 12,000m² production facility in Sheffield.