I was recently directed to an article written by George Potter by a Chief in Chile, which compares North American Fire and Rescue vehicles and their European counterparts.
While interesting, it is important to note that the average front line European truck is designed to provide combined services; a minimum of 'pumper', 'rescue' and 'ladder', furthermore European Firefighters are not assigned to specific 'hose', 'ladder', 'rescue', 'driver' duties etc, they are trained to undertake any given task or role within their scope of responsibility and rotate daily.
A typical European 'pumper' is actually equipped with a much wider array of equipment than its North American counterpart; hazmat suits, shoring, animal rescue gear, hydraulic tools, cribbing, rappelling gear and even inflatable boats are regularly carried in addition to a typical 500 gallons of water, foam making equipment, SCBA, ladders and a crew of 4-6.
The concept for most European departments is to design a truck that can cope with the majority of routine emergencies and while specialist units do exist in Europe for exceptional events, running seperate pump, ladder, rescue, hazmat and EMT rigs is considered a luxury.
According to recent NFPA statistics, less than 4% of high rise fires and emergencies require external intervention by a fire department aerial, yet the percentage (and associated taxpayer cost) of aerial rigs in the US is substantially higher.
The typical European truck features a rear mount pump that results in a shorter wheelbase and more compartment space, the loss of GPM output is regarded as irrelevant when you consider that small diameter, high pressure technology and foam are the favored method of first attack for structural fires. Most European centrifugal pumps have a low or high pressure option and two firefighters will still have trouble controlling a 2.5" hose at 10 bar from a Rosenbauer or Godiva pump, even those Chiefs with a continuing obsession for volume and pressure would be satisfied.
I have worked with both US and European truck manufacturers on design and the trend is definitely shifting towards smaller rigs in the States.
In developing countries where neither finances, wide streets or hydrants are abundant, the European style multi- functional truck is the preferred choice, more economical, versatile and just as effective.