I want to have opinions on Drivers having to carry a Commercial Drivers License.???
I want to have opinions on Drivers having to carry a Commercial Drivers License.???
What exactly is a commercial drivers liscence in your area? On my department, all firefighters must have at least class 3 and 4 or class 2 which covers both. Class 4 is a liscence for taxi and ambulance drivers. Class 3 is what you need to drive a large truck with tandem rear axles(I think?). Class 2 is a bus liscence. These are the same liscences that commercial drivers must get here and I think that if we are going to drive a large vehicle, we should be as diligent and competent as they are. I have seen a lot of firefighters come on the job with very little experience driving large trucks and they get their bus liscence because it is the easiest. The ones who have the prior experience make far safer drivers. It really does not look good when we are side swiping Joe Public because we don't feel we should have the same liscence as a commercial driver.
CT has what is called a "Q Restriction". It is an endorcement on your regular license. It is the same as a regular CDL except it doesn't go into hitches and trailers. If you are going to operate an apparatus that is a tiller, you need a CDL.
If fire apparatus were the size and weight of 20 yrs ago, I would lean toward saying no. However, with the size and weight of pumpers, heavy rescues, and particularly aerials today, I would have to say yes to the CDL. Even pumpers today are 40,000 lbs+. The CDL threshold is 26,000 lbs and we're looking at typical pumpers and rescues that are approaching 20,000 lbs beyond that threshold.
I watch some guys who have no truck driving experience and no CDL start driver training and a large percentage have a difficult time, a fair number decide that driving isn't for them.
It's not that the CDL itself makes the difference, but those with it typically have had some trucking driving experience and I think it makes a difference on the average.
No matter which way you go on the CDL issue, drivers should take part in a well-developed driver training and qualificaiton program. I think obtaining the CDL is a good 3rd party verification on that program and that helps in verifying skills/competence.
Motor vehicle operation is one area where the FD has no immunity from liability - our training and qualifications should be very comprehensive in this area.
From a liability stand point I don't think it's a bad idea. Realistically, I don't think it would make a differance.
I've seen too many "profesional" truck drivers that can't drive worth a you know what. Even it you limit driving to people with CDL's, I would still require in house training and qualifying on each vehicle.
I think CDL training should be mandatory. If but only to learn the basic fundamentals that are necessary to understand large vehicles. I certainly am not going to turn over the keys of a 30,000 lb + deadly weapon on wheels to someone who doesn't even know how an airbrake system works. And you may think I am being rediculous with that statement but if your unqualified driver wipes out a minivan on the way to an emergency...it's your behind as well as the driver. Not worth the risk. But under the same token, just because you have CDL training does not grant you the privelege of driving a fire apparatus. Our former chief was a professional truck driver with decades of experience. And I have yet to see anyone more destructive with a piece of equipment. Bottom line: Fundamentals, attittude and motivation are key things the chief officer needs to look at.
In my department we require all drivers to hold a valid CDL and pass annual dirvers quailification on all the appratus they wish to drive. I agree that the CDL testing gives a person some basic knowlege of a larger vehicle but its not the do all end all, it has to be combined with good in house training as others have already pointed out.
In Pennsylvania, there is a specific exemption for firefighters; we don't have to carry a CDL to drive fire apparatus. That said, there's two competing issues to consider. One, being in a small volunteer department, having to get a CDL to drive would effectively drive away (if you'll forgive the inadvertent pun) more people. On top of fire training, medical training (for those of us who are First Responders, EMT's, etc.) and vehicle rescue training, we have to have driver training too. Yes, I could probably study up and take the test next week, but there's no advantage to just taking the test but not having the professional training that goes with it.
Of course the next point is the need for the training getting a CDL should entail. We SHOULD take the driver training professional truck drivers take. But we SHOULD spend more time on fire ground training, we SHOULD spend more time practicing our medical skills, but we only have so much time. The truth of the matter is I don't think spending the time to get a piece of paper saying I have the CDL is going to make me a better driver. I hope I already have the mind set that makes me remember I'm driving a truck that weighs 40,000 pounds and is 102" wide. I'd rather spend my time refreshing my SCBA training, renewing my CPR card, or practicing vehicle rescue.
There is one more issue to consider... I believe the motor vehicle laws concerning some violations are much more strict when you have a CDL. An infraction that would only cost you some money with a "normal" licence could cost you your licence if you have a CDL. How many of your firefighters are willing to take that risk in addition to all the risks we take on the fireground?
Be safe out there; after all, that's what this whole thread is about!
CDLs in the U.S. (I believe across the board) fall into three catergories
A for Tractor-trailer
B for Straight-frame trucks over 26,000#
C for Straight-frame trucks under 26,000#
Then there's endorsements, such as air brakes, haz-mat, tandem trailers, school bus, etc.
My state requires a minimum of a "2Q" -- A "2" is a standard drivers license Joe Citizen gets. A "Q" consists of the same road test as a CDL driver gets, but not the physical requirements, written test, or stiffer penalties/thresholds (like lower BAC of a CDL). Of course with a "Q" you can only drive fire apparatus and farm trucks and a few other non-commercial, non-transit vehicles.
My department strongly encourages the CDL and works with the Town Highway Department to provide the training and use of a town dump truck for the CDL B test.
Oh, and unlike most other fire service training, you can actually make money with a CDL if you had too :p
What I would like to see is a special endorsement from the state for driving fire apparatus. While I think *some* of the information learned in a CDL class would be beneficial... I don't plan on driving an 18-wheeler EVER. I do plan on driving pumpers & ladders for much of my career. We need specific training for the specific job of driver.
New Hampshire, and perhaps all states, exempt emergency services drivers from the CDL requirement. Having said that our department requires that drivers of our (large) equipment have a valid CDL. Our feeling is that exempt or not if your drivers were not qualified the driver, Chief, and municipality may not fair well in court when there is an accident.
I'm sure we all agree that driving a 30,000 pound engine is not like driving a pickup. Add a touch of adrenal, and snowy roads, and the driver had better be well qualified.
If your department requires a CDL do you also put them in the random drug test pool with the rest of the CDL drivers (public works, etc.)?
Several good observations here...
CDL penalties. If I get 1 DUI/DWI I loose my CDL. If you have a normal (class C) license, you usually only get a fine and manditory rehab on a 1st offense. Not that I'm planning on getting a DWI, but it is one example of stiffer penalties for CDL's.
Drug testing, good question, I'm not sure what the answer is. I work for two different companies that I drive CDL for, both must keep me in a random drug testing pool (so I get tested often). My best guess would be since CDL's are not required for fire departments, you do not need drug testing. If CDL's became manditory, then there may also have to be drug testing.
CDL's in small dept's, I don't think that will drive people away. As has been pointed out, you can make money off your CDL (unlike most other FD training) and the process is not overly long. The problem is the small FD paying for it, a driver's training course is not cheap, and you need an experianced CDL driver to teach the others.
Air Brakes, not GVW, are my biggest concern (although, weight does worry me as well, just not as much). I feel that many of us do not understand enough about how they work and what the implications are for us when the brakes start acting funky. One of my Lt's asked me why there were two needles on the air pressure gauge. Do you know? Do you know what it means if one or both starts going down? I like the idea of requiring the written CDL test (there is a whole chapter on air brakes) with a waiver for the road test, leave that to the FD's.
For the record, out newest pumper tilts the scales at 53,000lbs (single rear axle), and the tower is 73,000!(tandem rear). By comparison, my 3000gal oil tanker truck is about 31,000 with a full tank.
Greetings and Happy New Year
Take any commercial highway rig, add code 3 lights and siren, throw in an air horn. Make it fully loaded 100% of the time that it is on the highway. Add extra loading so that 25% of these units exceed GVWR and the legal weight limits of the local commercial fleets. Expand the need for driving expertise while driving code 3 that far exceeds the requirements of a standard CDL.
I would expect that any fire department would demand a minimum of a CDL while driving a code 3 equipped apparatus. Why then is it suggested that the fire department then reduce the requirement to that of driving mom's Honda?
In California, the State practices the National standard for CDL issuance. Class A = Tractor Trailer rigs; Class B = two and three axle straight trucks of 26,000 GVWR and above; Class C = all autos and trucks below 26K GVWR. They also have a Class B Passenger vehicle endorsement and a Class B FF which is a Firefighter endorsement which is a permit to drive FireDepartment vehicles only (non commercial)in the CDL training format and less costly in license expense. Class B FF covers TDA's, as the trailer does not detatch and is considered as a single vehicle.
The reason for the need for CDL has many answers. All in favor of CDL. Item: Professional training required = professional drivers; Item: Daily inspections required (pre-trip or post-trip)(In a volunteer system where the unit might sit for a period, inspection is required at least weekly. If the unit is inspected after a call, that post-trip serves as the pre-trip for an arriving driver on an immediate need call); Item: Local agency exemption from CDL requirements is in force only while responding to and returning from an emergency. Travel to the store to pick up ingredients for lunch, inspections, and training operations are NOT covered in the exemption. At the times of non emergencies, the apparatus fall under the laws of commercial vehicles even though they technically are not for hire.
My arguement is: ***If a driver is driving a code 3 equipped fire apparatus, s/he MUST be properly trained to do so. ***If the driver is properly trained, then that same driver has been trained to the minimum standards of a CDL licensed driver. ***If the driver has been trained to meet the minimum CDL standards, then it follows that the driver can easily pass the CDL test and attain the CDL. (Why the worry or hesitation?) ***Try this: Notify your insurance carrier and advise them that you have no drivers with a CDL and get their opinion on your insurance status. ***Tell the same insurance carrier that you have taken steps to license every driver to CDL standards and expect a drop in rates (or maybe the insurance carrier is already led to believe that the drivers are in possession of the CDL for your State). ********If the driver cannot pass the minimum standards of a CDL, should they be behind the wheel of your code 3 apparatus?********
My belief is: ***All fire departments already train to Minimum CDL requirements and that the only real thing missing is paperwork. File the paperwork and get every driver licensed. Be able to show the public that we serve that we are professionals and are permitted to drive these apparatus.
If you are on this medium, you are among those of us that read, regularly, about what is occurring with apparatus drivers that are involved in accidents (major or minor) and are found to be carrying a license that does not match the job that s/he is perfoming at the time of the accident. Apparatus drivers are paying the price. Not the agency they drive for. Some have even gone to jail.
Oh, yes, that little item on our license plate that says "Exempt" simply means that the vehicle is exempt from highway taxes and regularly is a government vehicle. The exempt has nothing to do with exemption from the laws of the highway.
The easy solution: If we already perform to the minimum standards of the CDL, do the paperwork and get the CDL. Applause for those that have already seen the simplicity and reason of it.
I have been reading with interest all the coments that have been made to this. I do have a CDL and have had for 22 yrs. I think that all Fire Departments should reqiure it. We are no better then anyone else who drives large trucks in fact we may even be worse. Why well most of us only drive every three days, and put on what 50 miles each day maybe a little more. If you can not pass this test you should not be driving it is not that hard. As far as Drug and Alcohol testing this should be getting done also, most cities do cause there public works employes have to have CDLs. If you get a DUI and loose your job you should have thought about that before you drove. I know mistakes happen and most places are not going to can you the first time this happens. Also most of the states if you read the law they have about this it is for emergency's only, its just that it has not been challenged by anyone. I think someday a good Lawyer will so lets be prepared before hand. As of this time my department does not require it I am pushing for it and some other reqirements.
If I'm catching the general drift of this thread, it seems that most states aren't requireing a CDL to drive fire fighting apparatus, but some departments are. I don't think I've seen any of the posts mention if they are career or volunteer members. Can (or should) that make a difference? As a volunteer, I just don't have the time (at least a few weeks, if I understand correctly) to take a CDL course. As it was, I had to take vacation from my real, paying job to take the Emergency Vehicle Operations course, and that's just a 16 hour course. I don't think simply memorizing a few facts from the licence manual and taking the written test makes anyone a better driver. While I don't buy into the "Career vs. Volunteer" argument much, I can at least acknowledge the difference your status might make. A career FF is getting paid to drive, and if his/her department requires a CDL, the department should pay for it and provide training time.
I am concerned that making to much noise about this will cause lawyers ears to perk up, and what is now a department by department decision (and what works for one department won't work for another) might become a mandated law. And I've got to tell you, if Pennsylvania comes up with a law that says FF have to have CDL's, there's going to be a lot of idle fire trucks in our area.
Our department requires the Emergency Vehicle Operations course, which includes things like air brakes, breaking, traffic movement, (you all probably have it too) and we have to demonstrate to the Chief our ability to safely operate any deparment vehicle before we're allowed to drive solo. I'm confident that in our situation, at our department, that is the correct way to go.
Having a CDL license does not nessicarily qualify you as a good driver. There is no experiance requirment to get your CDL. I know a kid who got his CDL with virtually zero hours behind the wheel of a big truck, if he were a firefighter he might rack up a total of 10 hour per year driving. Is he really better off as a CD? I have a Master's license to operate as a ship's captain, a program with a minimum apprenticship before you are even allowed to take the test. It typlically takes most people 3 years to get their "smallest" license. I know people who've had their license for years yet still cannot drive a boat. Point? Having a certification does not nessicarily make you a better driver.
That said, I think they should have to get a CDL, if for no other reason than the above stated test, and along with the basic class B all fire drivers should have to get a tanker and airbrakes endorsement.
The CDL is a federal program, and they have one exception to the requirments, that is firefighters. Anyone else who operates a Class B or larger vehicle on public roads must get a CDL. Some states (appearently CA is one) may require CDL's for FD's.
Requiring a CDL would hamstring a lot of departments around here. 1st off, the department would have to pay for it. Some FD's can't afford to buy turnouts for all their guys. 2nd, a truck would have to go to the DMV for the day for testing (you are required to test in a vehicle simular to the one you will drive as part of the job), unless you could borrow one from an FD near the DMV. For some departments, that may mean driving 100miles to get there! 3rd, not everyone wants to be a CDL, as I mentioned in an earlier post, punishments for driving infractions are more severe for CDLs, even if you are in your POV when the infraction occured.
Bravo to your state for instituing the Class B FF, but what what is the advantage of that? Is it an easier test? If I get my Class B, then I want to be able to use it to make money, having the FF endorsement would prevent me from doing that.
You say your plates have "exempt" on them, our apparatus don't have plates at all, not required (yearly inspections are however).
I know I might sound like I'm sending a mixed message so let me clairify it.
Should the Fed require CDL's for all FDs? No, I don't think so, not unless they are willing to pay for it.
Should FD's try to get CDL drivers? I think that would be a very wise move, although one with mixed results.
Great responses. No offence taken. I can see that this can go either way. If no action is taken, it remains as is. If you go for the CDL, you take a step up in the eyes of the public you serve. It can be a PR coup.
In CA the FF B license is paid for by the Fire department and costs about $50 less than a standard class A or B. The fire department will not pay for a standard class A or B so that you can go out and make money on their dime. However, and FF that wants to acquire a standard class A or B for use in his/her business is welcome to do so and that personal Class A or B is good for use as a Class B FF. Some smaller agencies have their personnel acquire their own license, and usually fully volunteer agencies. Not all agencies follow the standard practice.
And, you are so correct about simply having a CDL does not make for a better drive. In the FD's in CA, there is a litany of other things that go into a full FF B licensing format, usually mandated by the insurance carrier AND the CA Department of Motor Vehicles AND the CA Highway Patrol. Vehicle inspections, daily pre-trip inspections, Code 3 driving skills, etc. It is the full 'package' of what goes into a professional code 3 driver. Our personnel are not permitted to drive for the first year, during driver/engineer training. Classroom, in the field, daytime, nighttime, rush hour traffic. The full range of situations are covered.
CA may be a little more restrictive on who is permitted to drive code 3 vehicles. Our department is partially paid and partially volunteer.
And, we actually get the job done with all these enhancements in place. Why does any particular State not require a CDL? Does everyone in the State have heavy truck driving skills, negating the need for the CDL to set them apart? Believe me, if you have acquired the skills to drive code 3, you can easily pass the test. In this state, it is common practice to have to meet the in-house proficiency test for code 3 driving before you are ever permitted to take the department paid Class B FF test down at the local DMV. The State will not issue the test without a written authorization from a recognized agent of the Dept.
I still think it makes for a more professional driver if ALL the steps are completed. And, usually, ALL the steps are already in place, with the exception of the paperwork and the fee. Good luck convincing your agency on the desire for a CDL.
For me it is no issue. If I choose to be employed in this profession, I will be able to acquire and hold a Class B (FF) CDL.
As a volunteer, I just don't have the time (at least a few weeks, if I understand correctly) to take a CDL course.
If you're going to tractor-trailer school, maybe...
At least in my state (CT) the road test is the same whether you're going for a CDL-B or 2Q, so you need the same skills. The CDL-B adds the written tests, which for most people can be self-study.
2nd, a truck would have to go to the DMV for the day for testing (you are required to test in a vehicle simular to the one you will drive as part of the job), unless you could borrow one from an FD near the DMV.
CT's take on it changed a few years ago.
They figure a CDL allows you drive any commercial vehicle (of the appropriate license class) and a Fire Truck isn't representative of that.
If you go for a 2Q (Fire apparatus only), you take it in a fire truck.
If you go for a CDL-B, you have to take it in a more typical straight truck like a delivery truck or dump truck. Our members going for CDL train on & borrow for the test one of the Town Highway Department's dump trucks.