Drill of the Week: Driver Proficiency

Different states have different rules for emergency vehicle drivers-some require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) while others do not. Despite the laws of your state or your municipality, a review of your drivers’ proficiency should be done at the very least yearly. In Volunteer Training Drills-A Year of Weekly Drills, author Howard A. Chatterton recommends that a driver proficiency drill be completed every quarter.

Many companies already have everything in place for a yearly driver proficiency drill, even if they do not conduct such drills on a quarterly or yearly basis. Some of the steps each driver in you company or department goes through to become a qualified driver can be completed in the yearly drill. Every first due has its own tight turns, difficult backups, etc.

The objective of Chatterton’s drill is to develop skills in maneuvering vehicles in close quarters. Keep a list of those who participate. If one of them is involved in an accident later, you can produce the log of driver training. Setup time for this drill is two hours the first time you run it with 30-minute setup times once everyone is acclimated. Materials required include:

  • Authorization letter to use the property you’ve chosen for the drill;
  • 75 road cones (minimum 18 inches tall; 24 inches preferred);
  • 50- or 100-foot tape measure;
  • Pavement marking paint;
  • Two portable radios on the same frequency as apparatus radios;
  • Reflective clothing for the course workers if training at night;
  • Wand-type traffic control flashlights if training at night.

Drill Preparation
The first step to prepare for this drill is to find a suitable location to conduct it. According to Chatterton, your best bet is a school parking lot, preferably one with lights for potential night use. Be sure to contact the property owners to obtain permission to use the property. TIPAlso, get permission to put small spots of paint on the pavement so you can set up the course again quickly. Use the 75 road cones mentioned above to lay out the course. If your department does not have a large supply, you can usually borrow some from your highway department or a local contractor. Lay out the course using the 50- or 100-tape tape measure. Once laid out, mark the area underneath each cone carefully with some paint to aid in setting up the drill next time. Chatterton includes a diagram of a drill layout. If you create your own, get it on paper to hand out to the drivers. They’ll need some idea of the layout before they start, since the parking lot will be a confusing array of cones until they get an idea of the proper route.

Designate one person as the officer in charge (OIC) of the course. This person assigns drivers to apparatus and starts the apparatus on the course. Assign a different person to be the safety officer. The SO observes apparatus movement and monitors the course area for unauthorized persons. Both officers should have a portable radio operating on the same frequency as the apparatus. Either officer can order all apparatus movement to stop at any time. Two or three members should be familiar with the course, and one of those members should ride in the officer’s seat of each vehicle. These members will keep the driver on the assigned course and monitor radio traffic. The OIC, SO, and other members operating on the course at night should have reflective clothing and traffic wands.

Ensure that crew members of the apparatus know what to tell the public. This type of drill will draw attention. Crew members should be prepared to keep spectators off the course and out of the line of motion of the training vehicles.

The last step in drill preparation is to read reference material on apparatus operation. Chatterton lists several references as suggestions for such material.

Running the Drill
Set up the course prior to the drill, and then brief the drivers and crews. Post a guard on the course once the cones have been set up so no cones are stolen. Leave someone on guard on the course if your company is called to respond during the drill.

You can record the time it takes for each driver to complete the course, but the focus should be on completing the drill hitting no cones. If a driver needs 15 minutes to complete the course, then he needs practice.

Keep a log of driver training to document your training program. Use caution when making notes on driver performance in the log since it can be called into court as evidence in the case of an accident.

At the conclusion of the drill, hold a debriefing. Find out what maneuvers were most difficult for the drivers. Find out what comments were made by the spectators. Take notes on what went right, what went wrong, and what to do differently next time.

Visit http://fe.pennnet.com/Articles/Article_Display.cfm?Section=OnlineArticles&SubSection=HOME&PUBLICATION_ID=25&ARTICLE_ID=202453 to review training officer and safety officer considerations.

For more information on this drill, visit http://store.yahoo.com/pennwell/voltraindril.html to purchase Volunteer Training Drills-A Year of Weekly Drills.

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