Should Fire Apparatus Have a Speed Limit?
F. G. Hitchcock
Paper read at National Firemen’s Association Convention, Chicago, Dec. 1-3, 1914.
The subject of the limitation of the speed of motor apparatus in responding to fire alarms is a hard one to discuss, as every one has his own ideas as to limit or no limit to the speed fire apparatus should be allowed to travel. I could quote a number of cities that have placed speed limits on their motor fire apparatus varying from 30 miles to 45 miles per hour. Also a number of cities that have no limit except to get to the fire as soon as possible with safety. In my own opinion I think that the captain of the company (if he be a levelheaded man, as he should be) can be the best judge as to the speed that it is safe for a fire apparatus to travel, as the conditions of the traffic on the streets should regulate the safety limit of the speed. There are times in the small hours of the morning that one can drive a motor apparatus through the streets at 60 miles per hour with greater safety than he can at 20 miles per hour in the busy part of the afternoon or evening. If one looks on this subject from the safety first side, the slower you make the speed limit of your motor apparatus, the nearer you get to safety first. But there is not much safety first in the life of a fireman, for he is always taking chances even with the horse-drawn apparatus. When an alarm is in from a congested and fire hazardous district and the streets are clear of traffic, I don’t think that with an experienced good man at the wheel, one should have to pay much attention to speed limits until coming to bad crossings or turning corners. Speaking of experienced men brings to mind the difference in experienced drivers in driving motor fire apparatus. We have had auto drivers that have had practically the same length of cxperience driving automobiles outside of the fire department, yet put the same men on the same motor apparatus and the firemen on that apparatus and the people on the streets are safer with one of them driving at 60 miles per hour than with the other man at 25 miles per hour. I speak from experience in this matter. It is a question of how fast the driver’s head works. As I stated before, the captain of the company, knowing the condition of the street, and the amount of traffic thereon, the local conditions from whence the alarm came, and knowing the man at the wheel of the apparatus is the one who shall regulate the speed limit that the motor fire apparatus should travel in responding to an alarm of fire.