There are no universally applicable federal laws regarding commercial driver's license, or CDL, licensing standards for fire truck drivers -- so rules vary from state to state, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website. Some states waive the CDL requirement for drivers of emergency vehicles. It is often the case that aspiring drivers apply to the fire station training officer, who administers the driver training program, according to the Tricties website. Firefighters who wish to drive a fire truck -- or, in fire station parlance, "apparatus" -- need to show the training officer and the chief that they have driving skill, take safety seriously and can resist the temptation to speed, so that "everyone goes home."
Ask your fire chief or training officer about driver requirements in your state. You may need to complete CDL driver training and testing to qualify. If your station administers its own training, the state-certified training officer will test you himself. Tests include a written component that covers issues applicable to fire trucks, such as standard operating procedures; physical forces that affect driving, such as velocity, friction and momentum; and vehicle maintenance, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's "Emergency Vehicle Driver Training Program." You may also have to undergo a driving test and a medical examination.
Complete the required tests. If your station administers its own driver training, your chief and training officer will certify that you have passed the necessary tests, and this certification is accepted by the state in lieu of a CDL. A fire truck driver must know his district in order to choose direct routes to calls. He must also know where water sources are since drivers also set up the fire truck at the call location and operate the pump, according to the Los Angeles County Firefighters website.
Start slowly. Newly qualified fire truck drivers often begin under the supervision of a senior officer and start by driving the fire truck in non-emergency situations, such as returning to the station from a call, according to the CNN Living website article "Inside a Fire Truck Driver's Mind." Sometimes a new driver will be allowed to take the truck through an obstacle course in the station lot to get a feel for the way it drives. The truck's weight, shape and the fact that it has air brakes mean that it responds much differently than a car, and drivers must master new driving skills.
Take refresher courses often. Many firefighters complain that truck drivers tend to become lax after getting some experience. They say that drivers begin driving too fast or stop insisting that passengers wear safety belts. These lapses sometimes result in tragedy, notes Chris Daly of the Fire Rescue 1 website. Drivers who consistently observe safety rules help the fire crew do its job and return to work another day.
- Tri-Cities.com: Firefighter Crashes Tanker Truck; Nate Morabito; 2011
- LA County Firefighters: Responsibilities
- CNN.com: Inside a firetruck driver's mind; Craig Howie; 2009
- DHS.com: Federal Emergency Management Agency; US Fire Administration Emergency Vehicle Driver Training; L. Klein et. al
- Volunteer FD.org: The Boston Globe: Boston lagging in fire truck driver training; Donovan Slack
- U.S. DOT: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Safety Administration: Applicability
- Fire Rescue 1: Driving Fire Trucks...; Chris Daly
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images