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Two types of aerial fire trucks are pictured with raised ladders in front of a large office complex.

There are 3 types of aerial devices as defined by the NFPA each with it its own unique configuration, functionality and design characteristics.

What type of aerial device is the right choice for your fire department?

Use this blog to help you understand the types of aerial devices and compare their features side-by-side.

Aerial Ladder Device

An aerial ladder device is a mechanically-operated extendable ladder mounted on a fire truck with either a mid-mount, rear-mount configuration or tractor-drawn configuration. It's designed to maximize vertical reach for rapid response, ventilation, extinguishment and rescue operations.

Aerial Ladders

A red aerial ladder fire truck is parked on an asphalt road in front of a marina with a blue cloud-filled sky.

Aerial ladders are compact, making them ideal if limited space and overhead obstacles are a concern. The tip of the ladder allows for easy and agile access amongst trees, electric lines, balcony railings and closely spaced buildings. Aerial ladder trucks are typically lower in overall height than platform fire trucks and are a great option for older infrastructure and in communities and cities with narrow streets and lower overhead doors.

Tractor Drawn Aerials

A red and black tractor drawn aerial with a raised ladder is parked next to blue glistening lake, green grass and snow-peaked mountain in the background.

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A tractor drawn aerial fire truck consists of a tractor, a trailer and a tiller cab. Despite being much longer than a straight-frame aerial, a tractor drawn aerial is the most maneuverable aerial apparatus available. With its unique design, it can navigate obstacles and easily steer into narrow and tight locations making it ideal for suburban communities with cul-de-sacs and busy urban areas.

The length of Pierce tractor drawn aerials can range between 57 to 63 feet with a typical height of approximately 11'2''.

Elevating Platform Device 

An elevating platform device features an aerial ladder equipped with a platform or basket at the tip, also known as a tower. The platform is an enclosed space and allows for safe up and down passenger transportation. A platform fire truck is ideal for communities or cities with many people working and living in elevated locations.

Elevating platforms also have a high tip load capacity and can support both firefighters and firefighting equipment. They are equipped with single or dual mounted deck guns, making them a great choice for fire departments that require higher water flow for larger buildings and industrial facilities.

Mid-Mount Aerial Tower

A red and white mid-mount aerial tower fire truck is parked in a large parking lot.

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A mid-mount aerial tower features an aerial device that is mounted in the middle of the truck and consists up to five telescoping ladder sections. The placement of the ladder allows lower travel height and greater below grade operation, along with shorter setbacks due to the multiple ladder sections. 

Mid-mount aerial ladder trucks are ideal for departments looking for the ability to operate the ladder in confined space areas and are designed to maximize driver visibility.

A mid-mounted aerial configuration will provide the lowest vehicle overall height.

Rear-Mount Aerial Tower

A black and grey rear-mount aerial tower is parked in front of a two-story office complex.

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A rear-mounted aerial tower features an aerial device that is mounted at the back of the truck. Rear-mount towers are a reliable option for fire departments, offering simple design and functionality for on-scene operations.

Rear mount aerials are often touted for their ample storage space and room for additional ground ladders and equipment.

Learn more about how to choose the right aerial for your department.

Water Tower

A red, white and grey water tower fire truck is pictured in front of flags and a green tree-filled background.

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A Pierce water tower is a fire truck equipped with an extendable telescopic boom featuring a permanent waterway capable of delivering water flows up to 1250 gpm. An extendable ladder with optional folding handrails to minimize overall height is attached to the top side of the boom. 

Pierce water tower fire trucks offer operating heights that range from 55 to 61 feet. Water tower's are commonly found in industrial fire service or departments looking for elevated master stream capabilities.


Why Choose Pierce Aerial Fire Trucks?

A red 75-foot aerial ladder fire truck is positioned in the background with an extended aerial device in the foreground highlighting the Pierce logo and truck name. No matter what type of aerial device your fire department is looking to purchase, you can rely on Pierce Manufacturing, offering customers more than 100 years of manufacturing experience and innovative success, along with the sustainability of Oshkosh Corporation.

When you select a Pierce aerial apparatus, you can count on an investment designed to serve your community’s unique needs with industry-leading reliability and quality backed by a robust dealer network, an experienced workforce and aftermarket support services with coverage in all 50 states and Canada. 

If your fire department is interested in learning more about types of aerial devices, take a look at these additional resources:

If you have any additional aerial device questions, please reach out to your local dealer or post them in the comments below!

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About Pierce Manufacturing
Pierce Manufacturing Inc., an Oshkosh Corporation [NYSE: OSK] business, is the leading North American manufacturer of custom fire apparatus. Products include custom and commercial pumpers, aerials, rescue trucks, wildland trucks, mini pumpers, and homeland security apparatus. In addition, Pierce designs its own foam systems and was the first company to introduce frontal airbags and the Side Roll Protection system to fire apparatus. To learn more about Pierce, visit

About Oshkosh Corporation

At Oshkosh (NYSE: OSK), we make innovative, mission-critical equipment to help everyday heroes advance communities around the world. Headquartered in Wisconsin, Oshkosh Corporation employs approximately 17,000 team members worldwide, all united behind a common purpose: to make a difference in people’s lives. Oshkosh products can be found in more than 150 countries under the brands of JLG®, Hinowa, Power Towers, Pierce®, MAXIMETAL, Oshkosh® Defense, McNeilus®, IMT®, Jerr-Dan®, Frontline™ Communications, Oshkosh® Airport Products, Oshkosh AeroTech™ and Pratt Miller. For more information, visit

®, ™ All brand names referred to in this news release are trademarks of Oshkosh Corporation or its subsidiary companies.

Forward Looking Statements

This news release contains statements that the Company believes to be “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements other than statements of historical fact, including, without limitation, statements regarding the Company’s future financial position, business strategy, targets, projected sales, costs, earnings, capital expenditures, debt levels and cash flows, and plans and objectives of management for future operations, are forward-looking statements. When used in this news release, words such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “intend,” “estimate,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “should,” “project” or “plan” or the negative thereof or variations thereon or similar terminology are generally intended to identify forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other factors, some of which are beyond the Company’s control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. These factors include the Company's ability to successfully integrate the AeroTech acquisition and to realize the anticipated benefits associated with the same; the risks associated with international operations and sales, including compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act;  the Company’s ability to comply with complex laws and regulations applicable to U.S. government contractors; cybersecurity risks and costs of defending against, mitigating and responding to data security threats and breaches impacting the Company; the Company’s ability to successfully identify, complete and integrate other acquisitions and to realize the anticipated benefits associated with the same; and risks related to the Company’s ability to successfully execute on its strategic road map and meet its long-term financial goals. Additional information concerning these and other factors is contained in the Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. All forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this news release. The Company assumes no obligation, and disclaims any obligation, to update information contained in this news release. Investors should be aware that the Company may not update such information until the Company’s next quarterly earnings conference call, if at all.

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