Today’s Debate: Apparatus Driver/Operator Qualifications Results/Comments

Should all apparatus drivers/operators be required to hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) regardless of the laws of the State in which they serve?

Final Results:

YES: 34
NO: 30
Non-Committal: 2
“Yes they(we) should be required to hold a CDL. They should also be required to do drug and alcohol testing the same as the rest of us who drive trucks are. What is the difference if you plow snow for the city or drive fire apparatus, why are there two sets of rules?”

“Yes. I feel they should have a CDL.”

“Yes. You should have an in house driver’s training program that gives you the skills necessary to operate the larger apparatus. It is much different when driving these large rigs under normal conditions let alone during an emergency response. As far as a concern for drug testing -GIVE ME A BREAK. If you are concerned about a baseline test, or are more concerned about your individual rights rather than the overall safety of
our people while on duty, etc. you may want to have a talk with the person you shave in the morning. As a profession, we need to lead by example and be the best. There is NO room in our ranks for those that would compromise our Safety because they are personally concerned about passing a drug test. Yes there are false positives, but if you are involved in an accident you are going to donate a sample anyway. We need to rid ourselves of those that hide behind the cloak of individual rights being violated so they can satisfy their personal needs and vices. In our profession that will KILL!!!”

“Yes. In Michigan you must have a valid CDL that pertains to the apparatus you intend to operate, or have taken the Michigan Firefighters Training Council’s ‘Drivers Training’ course which is now 7 hours in length. This course is considered an equivalent and/or exemption.

I tend to see both sides of this issue because I have been employed as a transport driver hauling hazardous materials and have been in the fire service for 12 years. But I do not believe 7 hours of classroom training and then being certified after completing a practical session by your own department qualifies a person to operate a CDL type vehicle, especially in emergency driving situations.

Some people are just not meant to drive heavy apparatus and there shouldn’t be an easy alternative to get a person qualified to drive. I believe this is a liability issue. Look at the statistics, too many of our people are dying, and killing civilians on the way to and from incidents.”

“Yes. The drivers will have the same level of training.”

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No. Driving a tractor-trailer and driving a fire truck are two totally different things. When is the last time you saw an eighteen-wheeler going down the interstate, lights and sirens going, to an emergency. EVOC (Emergency Vechicle Operators Course) is a sixteen hour class devoted to the NEW driver of a piece of apparatus. It prepares the (I repeat) new driver in traffic laws, backing up, alleys, emergency driving. When a person completes this class, he/she is ready to go on driver training at their respective department. He/she is not ready to drive a HAZMAT tanker down the street, right? THEN HOW DOES A CDL EXAM PREPARE AN APPARATUS DRIVER FOR THE REAL WORLD!”

“No. My Department requires the engineers to have a CDL. I have a CDL and the test you take does not pertain to driving fire apparatus. I honestly don’t think it has made any difference in my abilities as a driver/engineer. I feel it’s just an undo additional expense. The only good I have seen from it is it gives you another credential for part time work.”

“No. This would put a hardship on small volunteer fire departments. There needs to be nationwide training standards, but not necessary CDL requirements.”

“No. Quality training programs should be enough. I believe a CDL license has no bearing on a drivers job.”

No. My volunteer department takes driving very serious.
Annual drivers training is required for all drivers; there is a process to be qualified as a driver; and strict rules are enforced regarding driving. The Chief does not allow driver training to be conducted by an in-house
instructor but rather from an outside agency – such as State Fire/Rescue Training due to liability and objectivity.”

“No. Ours is a small rural department. Though we have almost 40 active members, those available for daytime response are limited. Our SOP calls for members to respond to the firehouse until they hear that required units are responding. We require 2 firefighters to respond with each unit unless a chief officer specifically instructs to respond “driver only.”

Some members respond directly to the scene in personal vehicles. If our drivers were required to have a CDL, we simply would not have enough drivers to respond.”

“No. I have been told that current Michigan law requires
CDL holders to undergo drug testing once yearly. Throughout my department, this is felt to be an invasion of privacy. Currently, my department requires firefighters wishing to become engineers to have taken a fire pump operator course and have five years on. We have no definite driver’s training course, but we all recieve on the job training pertaining to vehicle operation. While I don’t think engineers should be required to hold a CDL, I would like to see some type of structured driver’s training course added to the requirements.

I am fortunate in having an excellent engineer- while
he’s no beauty pagent winner, he always get us to our
scenes safely, always has the needed equipment pulled
and set up, and always gets us water.”

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“That is a tough call for volunteer departments. Yes, you want qualified drivers, but even with a CDL if someone only drives a engine or tanker once or twice a month, does that make them a better driver because they have a CDL than someone else who may know the vehicle inside and out and drive it once a week but does not have a CDL. Also anyone who drives an engine or tanker should be a FULLY qualified operator. There is no point in driving if you can’t get water out of it or know where everything is on it. Another point is what does your insurance carrier say. You could be in a world of trouble if the driver is not covered because of not having a CDL.”

“I believe that they should be licensed to the requirements of the state in which they serve. In Connecticut you have to take a test for a “Q” exemption to the basic license which is patterned after class “B” license test.”
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