Selecting Emergency Vehicle Drivers

This column is a component of VFIS' "Operation Safe Arrival" initiative, aimed at heightening safety awareness and reducing the frequency and severity of accidents involving emergency vehicles.

Emergency vehicles are among your organization's most important assets. The safe operation of these vehicles, particularly during emergency response, depends greatly on the ability and skills of the driver. Clearly, it's in your best interest to use only good, safe drivers - but selecting, training and maintaining them shouldn't be left to chance. Your organization can minimize any negative attributes and maximize the good attributes of a driver by using the following operations and methods.

Motor Vehicle Reports (MVRs)

It's important to know your drivers' on- and off-duty driving habits and records. Routine administrative reviews of each driver's MVR is the most effective way to do this. VFIS recommends that all MVRs be reviewed annually - at minimum every three years - and a copy should be kept in each member's personnel file. If your department chooses to review MVRs on less than an annual basis, you should, at minimum, require every driver to produce a valid drivers license and financial responsibility card (proof of insurance) every year, and you should retain a photo copy in the member's file. Equally important is how you evaluate these MVRs. You will need to establish evaluation criteria that will be used for every driver so that everyone's records are evaluated equally.

Here are examples of evaluation requirements you might set up for Class A and B violations:

Class A Violations

These are the most serious violations. They include driving while intoxicated or while under the influence of drugs, negligent homicide arising out of the use of a motor vehicle, operating during a period of suspension or revocation, or using a motor vehicle for the commission of a felony.

If any individual in your organization has had a Class A violation within the past three years, he or she probably received some type of license suspension from the Department of Motor Vehicles that issued the license. We suggest your evaluation criteria call for suspension of that person's driving privileges for a period of 18 months from the time they committed the violation. In addition, he or she should be required to attend an approved driver-improvement program or equivalent training and be re-certified to operate emergency vehicles.

Class B Violations

These include all moving violations not listed as Type A violations - for example, exceeding the posted speed limit.

Any person who has a combination of two Class B moving violation convictions and/or chargeable accidents in a three-year period should be issued a warning letter from the chief or administrative officer of your organization. Anyone who has a combination of three Class B convictions and/or chargeable accidents in a three-year period should be suspended from driving your emergency vehicles for a period of 90 days by the chief or administrative officer. Any individual who has more than three moving Class B violations or chargeable accidents -- or any combination thereof -- in a three-year period should have his or her emergency vehicle driving privileges suspended for a period of one year. That same individual should be required to complete an approved driver improvement program and be re-certified to operate emergency vehicles.

Of course, individual cases with unusual circumstances should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.