The Round Table
What is the extent of the driver-training program in your department?
Are candidates screened as to habits, aptitudes and attitudes?
What are the physical, medical and psychophysical tests they are required to take?
E. L. Smith, Chief, Eugene, Ore.: In 1958 our city was growing at a very rapid rate and further annexations were facing us. The department was growing with added fire stations and personnel. The need for further training of our drivers was very evident and a pay differential of one step in salary for drivers was granted.
It was a staff decision that before any engineman could receive the higher salary he would have to qualify by examination.
We developed our own examining procedure based on recommendations from the trucking industry and the theory of pump operations recommended by the apparatus manufacturers and the pamphlet, “Fire Department Pumper Tests and Fire Stream Tables,” published by the American Insurance Association.
Help was given by the trucking industry. Pierce Motor Freight Inc. sent us John Castner, who had just won the National Truck Road-e-o championship, and Consolidated Freightways Inc. lent us Stacy Garrett, who was their driver-trainer for the Oregon Division, all without cost to the city.
Six of the senior drivers were selected to receive two weeks of instruction from Castner and Garrett, and were trained as instructors for department applicants.
Our training division, with the help of Earl Albright of the State Fire Training Division, conducted the classes on pumper operation and hydraulics, both on theory and field practices.
After some six weeks of training, we were ready for the applicants. We had established an examining procedure and standards.
To apply for the position, a member must have completed 12 months of probation (now three years of service) and pass a vision test given by the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles, without restrictions, and have a valid driver’s license.
An examining board was established consisting of the training officer and five captains, all of whom had been former drivers.
The examination consisted of several parts:
- Vision test and valid driver’s license without restrictions.
- Driving test through an obstacle course as used by the trucking industry.
- Driving test through highway and street traffic.
- Operational proficiency of engines and trucks as described in standard operating procedures.
- Written exam on pumper and ladder truck operations, including hydraulics and its applications.
- Oral interview before the examining board to determine emotional stability, aptitude and attitude for the position.
- Serve a 12-month probationary period before permanent appointment as an engineman.
Failure by the applicant of any segment of the examination is automatic disqualification. Appointments are made from the eligible list. The lists expire automatically after two years, and another exam is given.
Seniority is recognized and granted .25 points per year of service up to 5 points.
If in later years a classified engineman should require glasses to correct his vision, he is required to purchase and have available a pair of safety glasses ground to his prescription. Failure to comply is cause for reduction in grade.
Our methods of training and examination have met with excellent acceptance by the applicants and have created a high spirit of competition for the positions.
David B. Gratz, Chief, Silver Spring, Md.: The basic requirements for drivers are listed in our rules and regulations. These are designed to provide an opportunity to evaluate mental attitude, physical ability and operational proficiency. This evaluation is what you might call incremental until a driver reaches the top category of technician. After that, he continues to be evaluated as long as he is in a driver status. This continuing evaluation includes an annual recheck on the Porto-Clinic. In addition, we also make a periodic check of personal driving habits by obtaining a copy of all violations from the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles.
Our department driver’s license is required for everyone, including myself, and must be renewed annually after the Porto-Clinic check.
The individual program is a series of study materials which must be completed and approved by the training division. This is done on the man’s own time and supplements regular drills or special classes. All drivers were also required to take a course in defensive driving conducted by the state police.
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The Round Table
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We have seen significant results from this program. Like many other departments, we were plagued with too many little accidents. These have all but been eliminated. In addition, I believe the system overcomes two problems which appear evident in a great number of driver programs: First is that many programs assume that if a man is able to drive and operate a vehicle he is also psychologically suited. Our experience shows that some men do fine until the siren is turned on and then something clicks. By following an incremental approach, our officers have a chance to evaluate the driver’s mental attitude before he achieves full driver’s status.
The second advantage is that our program requires continuous evaluation and an annual recheck of the driver’s physical condition. In my opinion it is a mistake to assume that just because his eyes or reaction are satisfactory today, they will be satisfactory forever.
Drivers involved in accidents or with poor driving habits are subject to a variety of sanctions. These may include suspension from driving, loss of driver’s pay (our paid driver receives 5 percent extra), retraining, etc.
G. P. Wilson, Chief, Regina, Saskatchewan: Driver training in our department is carried out by our director and/ or assistant director of training. Prospective drivers are passed by this branch on the various pieces of apparatus.
The chief or deputy chief interviews each driver candidate and screens him as to habits, aptitudes and attitudes. A check was also made by the city’s personnel department before the applicant was hired.
A prospective applicant must pass a thorough medical examination by our medical health officer. No physical or psychophysical tests are required of driver candidates.
Robert M. Grimes, deputy chief, Anderson, Ind.: Chauffeurs and engineers in this department are rated men, and the driver-training program is conducted by the fire department instructor. Drivers practice on the street as well as in the training area and are recommended by their company officer and then must pass a written test.
The physical, medical and psychophysical tests are the same for drivers as for regular fire fighters.
We also conduct a monthly safety meeting, and all accidents are investigated. Reports are filed and driver’s actions evaluated.
E. S. Higman, Chief, Sioux City, Iowa: Due to decreased company manning, we are not able to fully implement the system which we long used in obtaining qualified drivers. This was as follows: After evaluation of a candidate’s driving habits by the master mechanic, he was allowed to drive apparatus returning from alarms. This gave the company officer an opportunity to observe and evaluate him over a considerable period of time.
Fireground operations of apparatus were primarily the duties of the training officer. Company officers were not required to accept a driver they felt was not qualified. The above procedure still applies, but often we are forced to use personnel as drivers who are less qualified than they should be.
All fire department recruits have been subjected to quite extensive physical and medical examinations, including a spinal X ray, but psychological testing is confined to the Guilford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey.
All drivers must have a driver’s or chauffeur’s license.
Stephen J. Kelly, Chief, New Britain, Conn.: We do not have a driver-training program. Company officers see to it that all members of the company are able to drive and operate pumpers and truck companies.
P. M. Larkin, Chief, Ottawa, Ontario: Each driver candidate must hold a valid driver’s license. He is examined during the drill training period on the experience he has gained during his probationary period on various vehicles. Driving practices and road regulations are stressed in the training program. All drivers were given a defensive driving course during 1968. Our own staff took the instructor’s course through the Canadian Safety Council, and this course is now part of our candidate training program.
A fire fighter has a medical examination upon entry into the department only. Anyone assigned driving responsibility is encouraged to report any reason why he should not drive and he would be immediately excused from this responsibility.
James R. Speer, Chief, Gadsden, Ala.: Since I became chief a few months ago, training programs have been set up and carried out systematically in a number of areas, including driver training. We hope to place increased emphasis on this subject in the future. As our training program progresses, I am sure we will establish standards for screening and testing.
Romeo D. Monast, Chief, Pawtucket, R. I.: All new men undergo a six months probationary period, during which they are also trained to drive both engines and ladder trucks, as well as to act as tillerman on the aerial ladder trucks.
Candidates undergo a 10-week training program, during which they are evaluated as to habits, aptitudes and attitudes.
All firemen are required to be at least 5 foot 8 inches and weigh 150 pounds and must be physically fit. They must pass a medical examination by two doctors appointed by the city and before their appointment must be tested by a psychologist.