1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Exclamation To Drive or not to drive?

    We have a debate in our fire department. Our station does not respond that often to fires in the county (we have just been lucky in our district). As a result, we have taken to once a week taking the engine out and practicing driver training and just letting the truck be run. The captain of our department disagrees with this, saying that the truck does not need to go out ever unless there is a fire call, and that starting it up and letting it sit and run at idle during our meetings is enough. If anyone has factual data supporting either side, or an opinion, it is greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Getting out and driving around is the best way to learn streets. Neighborhoods lood a lot different in real life than they do on a map. It is also an excellent time to pre-plan any hazards on roads, parking lots, etc. I think your Captain is overlooking a great training opportunity.

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I am definitely for taking out the equipment and putting it through it's paces. Not only does it exercise the equipment but it also keeps members familiar with the equipment and it's operation. I agree with ffhammer, proper training requires that the apparatus be trained on, and there is no better training than hands on, after all, it is one of your primary tools.

    David Brooks,
    FFII, Driver/Op, NRFR
    Newmarket Fire & Rescue
    Newmarket, New Hampshire
    (All opinions are my own)

  4. #4
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Letting a diesel idle shortens it's overall life. The engine actually runs cool at low idle. Our apparatus reps suggest that if we want to idle them for a period of time for what ever reason that we should throttle it up to keep it warm. Driving it will also bring any potential mechanical problems to light that idling may not. I agree that everyone needs to get out and do building and city familiarization to stay sharp.

  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Sounds like you have a bone-head captain or the dept. is over fuel budget because of high fuel prices.

    Just allowing the apparatus to sit and idle, especially for long periods of time, isn't doing it any favors. A good long trip will get it up to operating temperature, allow you to check that everything is operating properly, all while accomplishing operator training. It makes perfect sense to get it out of the station and train with it.

  6. #6
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs down

    For the following reasons, your and all departments especially the departments who dont get alot of runs (at least 1 per week) should get the units out and excercise them not just letting them sit and idle during a drill.

    1. By letting them idle at long periods of time the engine temperature will most likely not get high enough to operate the thermestat properly and actually causing hot spots in vital parts of the engine. So if your Captain must have the truck at an idle at least throtle the engine up a couple of hundred RPM's.
    2. By letting the unit sit and idle, how does the lubricants in the transmission, transfer case (midship pumps and 4X4), axle hubs, and rear ends get circulated, all of these components have grease/oil seals in them that rely on the lubricants to keep them from drying out and cracking causing leaks.

    The old theory of "don't ride them around you will wear them out" went out with the dinosours (the Chief that I replaced was like that). The newer the unit the more you espily take it out and ride it. As DfwScotty said it does the operators as much good as it does the unit as far as familiarization with the unit and streets.

    Keep it safe...

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Count me in among the "Take 'em for a shake down ride" crowd.

    Everyone else has made some very good & very valid points thus far, however I would like to take one of Davids points and elaborate further.

    How many of your drivers/operators are acustom to driving a large truck on a daily/weekly basis ?? This is especialy true of a vollie department. If you have persons who (like myself) do not drive a large truck very often - then these weekly runs are a great time to refamilarize yourself with just how different a BRT (Big Red Truck) is to operate, manuver and STOP than your average Pick-Up,SUV, or family sedan that we are most acustom to driving.

    Try taking that approach with your Cpt. and see what he has to say about that.

    Take Care - Stay Safe

    Disclaimer :
    My remark on Career vs Volunteer was not meant to stir the career vs. vollie debate so do not interpet it as such.

  8. #8
    Bob Snyder
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Wow - no offense, but this seems kind of bizarre to me. We've noted that some of our drivers probably don't spend enough time just driving around to smoothly operate each of our rigs all of the time, but we never thought about curtailing driving time. I don't know what you have, but I know that I get rusty on some of ours occasionally, even though I live only 3 doors down the street from the station. Without realizing it, I sometimes end up driving 2 of our 3 rigs 4 or 5 times in a month, and not touching the third for 2 or 3 months at a time. It's really annoying and embarrasing to get on the road with a rig and find yourself grinding gears, and generally sucking at simply driving down the road, because you haven't driven the thing in a while. It's probably not dangerous for a generally experienced apparatus operator who has the capability to compensate for some roughness in their technique pretty quickly, but a less experienced one could potentially do some serious damage with a fire truck that they haven't driven in months.

  9. #9
    Firehouse.com Guest


    About the mechanical factor, the absolute worse thing you can do to a diesel engine is idle it for long periods of time. The engine will not build up enough heat to completely burn the fuel, and the leftover fuel will actually produce acids in the motor oil. So basically, you should be taking them out a FEW times a week, not just once. As previously noted, you also need to circulate all the other fluids and lubricants, and that won't happen with the truck sitting around. And also as already said, wouldn't you rather find a mechanical problem while training or just running around town than while operating at a fire?

    As far as the human factor goes, if you guys aren't getting many fires, you're missing out on fireground experience training. You've gotta make up for it somehow, so drilling is the only other way. This includes driving and pumping the apparatus.

    I would suggest that you have a qualified truck mechanic put in writing the harm that can be done to your truck by NOT taking it out frequently. Then, if your Captain still disagrees, bring the statement to your Chief. First let the Captain know that you feel his position is harmful and it's your intention to bring the matter to a higher authority for clarification. I would even suggest to him that you both go together to bring the matter to the Chief, so you both get a fair audience with the Chief.

    Hillcrest FD

    LEGAL INFO: Any and all views I've expressed above and on this site are not representative of my department. They are my personal opinions and views.

  10. #10
    J Almon
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I guess if it idles at the station one can be assured it will make that run if needed. How does one know about driveline problems unless it moves. Diesels love to be run, just make sure they're brought up to temperature under a load every time. You can't beat drving them around for an engine load. I also suppose your station has an exhaust removal system since they are idling during a meeting. Better built fire apparatus is built to run, not sit.

  11. #11
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Drive 'em, especially if they have automatic transmissions. You are supposed to check transmission fluids when it's at operating temperature, and it's not going to get there idling on the pad. Also along those lines how can you tell of a potential problem with the transmission or clutch or steering if you don't use them?

  12. #12
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Any shift that I ever worked, I had to get out and take 'er for a spin! It's an ethical imperiative to be familiar with how your equipment handles. The guys always got POd at me 'cause I was always taking the truck out in the rain and snow, but I wanted to know how she would react! Nothing worse to me than not knowing in advance if she was going to pull or not, or not knowing if she would lock down on wet pavement. I always had to know the little quirks of the vehicles that I drive. Drives my better half crazy, me acting like a kid. But, hey. I know what to expect out of my equipment and how to overcome any obstacles. Better knowing beforehand how to react, that way, tunnelvision won't gitya!!

  13. #13
    Neptune 33
    Firehouse.com Guest


    All of these are valid points, but don't forget PR! Good old public relations never hurt! Having the people in your community seeing the Units driving gives them a sense of security, I know for a fact that during the summer when we open our front doors and enjoy the cool summer nights, the townspeople love it, it shows them we are here.

  14. #14
    Firehouse.com Guest


    In an extreme case of not running your rig enough, a number of years ago I worked for a Rural Fire District and we were doing pump testing. We were testing the engine out of the slowest stationi in the district, and could not get it to pass. A pump repairman could not find anything wrong.
    After hours of trying we had nearly run out of fuel. After refueling, it passed the pump test easily.
    Evidently, the fuel had started to go bad from sitting for so long, and no longer had the octane to spin the pump fast enough.


  15. #15
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We are required to utilize a driver's training program by our department's SOG. The specifics of our program is implemented by the individual company captains and driver's training officers. At our station, we require all of our apparatus drivers to operate the apparatus and its individual equipment a minimum of 30 minutes a month. Each operator's actual incident driving and operating time is included in the minumum requirements. We felt that this allows all of our operators to remain familiar with each vehicles driving and operating characteristics. It also provides them with a greater confidence in the vehicles' operating abilties when they have to drive and operate in an emergency situation.

  16. #16
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Red face

    Up until recently we had a Chief that thought along the same lines, he's gone now so we deal with a more up to date thought process.

  17. #17
    Firehouse.com Guest


    All of the points brought up are valid ones. I think that any Engineer should take the engine out for a drive just to keep themselves familiar wtih the Engine. And don' just take your all response engine.. try taking out your ladder or rescue unit once and a while. And what about that reserve engine that has permanent indentations in the cement it sits on because it hasn't moved in months? Yeah, take that one out too. I also agree with the PR point. Let the people of your city/town know that you are there to protect them.. They pay for it, don't they?

  18. #18
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs up

    I agree with all of you about taking the vehicles out. Since before I joined the Hall, there had been much discussion about running the trucks out to idle vs out on the road. 3 out of 4 are gas, but our tanker is diesel and having grown up on a tractor/trailer, I understand well the need to give a vehicle a good work out once in a while. Due to a lack of qualified Cl 3 drivers, it doesn't happen as often as it should, but we do what we can. We here on the Malahat live at the top of a fairly tall mountain. On at least a monthly basis, we see trucks from other halls going up and down just to exercise them. Good idea! Also from a Hall point of view, its good for PR as well as district famil too! Ya'all play safe now.

  19. #19
    Firehouse.com Guest


    All the posts in here seem to support the facts: Letting a Diesel idle is bad news. It doesnt get the compression that it needs and it runs cool. The oil will get diluted from blow by of the unburned fuel. This unburned fuel will also wash soot from the combustion chamber into the oil as well. This soot is what causes sulfuric acid to build up in the oil. BAD THING. You should have a good multi viscosity oil with a high TBN to fight this effect. "When in doubt, take 'em out" and drive em.

  20. #20
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Is a car not made for driving? A truck is the same thing. I think that driver training, or retraining is the best thing especially if you don't respond a lot. As well as problems being found while out "praticing" is a lot better than fiding them at fire grounds!


    If you sent us to HELL, WE'D PUT IT OUT!!

    **And of course these are only my opinion and only mine. Don't take it out on anyone else but me.**

  21. #21
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Yeah drive it. It's good for the truck and good for the crew.

  22. #22
    Firehouse.com Guest


    A run avoids the square tyre syndrome caused by truck sitting with a load on it. Drys the exhaust out to and it will last longer.
    Apart from all the other obvious benefits to the motor and transmission.
    Most importantly of all checks the diesel fuel filter is not clogged and going to give you trouble at the first hill you meet when going to a call.

  23. #23
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Drive the trucks. 95% of the problems with the trucks and with the drivers will be found during training. Idling the trucks besides the damage done to the engines does nothing to train drivers. At a recent training I instructed my Captains and crews to switch trucks with the other stations. It shocked everybody. They had to look for switches took additional time to locate certain valves etc.(our trucks are not identical) The reasoning for this training was the possibility of this happening for real. The point is if you don't pump the truck or drive the truck in training, how can you be expected to know how to use it at the "real deal" Each truck minimum 30 minutes each week driving not idling.

  24. #24
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Diesels are born to run, not idle they carbon up. Take them out and put them through the paces, whether it be driving hard or pumping them, they love it, they respond better, I learned this from 15 years of driving diesels, and from mechanics. Drive them hard they will respond in kind.

  25. #25
    Junior Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Pine Beach NJ


    Everybody that posted all have valid points about taking the truck out and driving it. It familiarizes the engineer and also builds confidence. The one thing I noticed reading all the replies is that nobody mentioned the importance of engaging the pump and flowing water. This also brings up the RPM'S and lubricates the seals. You will also find out if there are any problems with the pump, ie: primer,valves etc. When you take the truck out for a run also stop and engage pump and flow water out of various discharges you dont need to do every discharge at once alternate weekly or when ever you drive the apparatus. It makes for good practice and knowing that every thing is in good working order.

    stay safe

    [ 07-12-2001: Message edited by: Jay Sonnenfeld ]

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