Time for Change
Having been fortunate enough to have spent quite a few hours talking with Mike Wilbur over the past few years, it's hard to not feel and share his passion for firefighter safety in general, but specifically as it relates to operating apparatus. Our dept. has had Lt. Wilbur teach formally on four occasions, each of which was multiple days of driver training and aerial operations. We have seen the light and have implemented many suggestions to hopefully reduce our chances of having an apparatus accident. This being said, I think it is time we try to make some greater changes. The link below gives information regarding a LODD from a rural water delivery vehicle (tanker up here). There are some distinct similarities between this LODD and others we've suffered as a Fire Service.
I beleive the next step is for us to craft and support legislation that would make it illegal to operate lights and sirens on a fire department vehicle that doesn't meet NFPA standards for when it was modified or built. Basically no more oil tankers switched to fire tankers driving with lights and sirens. This won't take these vehicles off the road, but will slow them down, and ensure the drivers is following the general rules of the road. There is no reason that an overloaded, under braked, top heavy truck needs to exceed the speed limit, or proceed past red lights or stop signs. The public should be outraged that we'd put them nevermind ourselves at this kind of risk!!
Now this might make take away the ability to use the "firefighters license" exemption in some states which would require a commercial vehicle license to operate the tanker. So be it. Even better in my eyes. If the truck can't meet some standard (sorry NFPA is all we have on this one) then why should the operator be able drive an otherwise commercial sized vehicle?
If the dept. can't afford newer compliant trucks, it's OK. They can drive their tankers/tenders with the flow of traffic at safe speeds, without the siren and lights spiking their adrenaline.
I know this will get some howls of indignation:
Limit engines to 350 hp or a formula of so much horespower per pound of weight. Take away some of the testostarone factor! 215 and 250 hp cat 3208 engines worked fine for 20 years. Now you ain't s**t if you don't have 500+ horespower.
Limit top speed to 65 mph for engines and 55 mph for tankers and aerials.
Equip each seat with an electric cattle prod that fires if the member is in the seat without the seat belt on. While kidding on this one, some people need this type of re-inforcement.
I agree !!
What we really need is the passenger side brakes they use in the driver ed cars! HA HA
Seriously, govern the engines to limit the speed. Keep the warning systems on the trucks. They don't need to be used everytime the tanker goes out the door for every bells and smells call. Just get the vehicle rolling. It can always be upgraded if the need warrants so. The water on that truck could save a life, even one of our own. But, if a tanker has to go balls to the wall to make a water shuttle work you need more tankers. As stated many times, it does no good if it doesn't get there either.
Unfornuately, most of the time the adrenaline rush has already started before the driver gets in the seat. How many push the envelope in there POV's. Why would it be any different in a big red truck. It all boils down to training, polices (guidelines) and enforcing the polices. In todays world, it is ok to break the rules (law) as long as we don't get caught. This has to be modified in the fire service, obviously it is killing us and destroying our equipment.
I hear with what you're saying about limiting engines, but I don't think it is a realisitic goal. Most states will not want to adopt full legislation to mandate how fire trucks are built. If they did, they could just adopt the NFPA apparatus standards as law.
I know in our state to use lights and sirens your vehicle must be on the "authorized list". Basically all FD owned vehicles, PD owned vehicles, chief fire officers vehicle, licensed EMS vehicles, etc...
It would be fairly simple to amend the authorized FD vehicles to only allow NFPA complaint ones to be "authorized emergency vehicles". Better yet would be to lift the commercial vehicle license waiver for non-compliant trucks. Thus requiring a commercial vehicle license to operate a modified oil truck converted tanker.
If your tanker was designed and built as just that by NFPA standards, then there would be no change.
Seriously, we cannot use the lack of funding as an excuse to allow unsafe vehicle to be driven by underqualified persons. It's time to change some things, even if it's just a small change. You've got to start somewhere.
I do agree with your premise, in that something needs to be done about unsafe driver's and unsafe vehicles. There are too many of these incidents. And who knows how many near misses there are that are never reported. There was a thread on here, not too long ago, about outlawing homemade/modified tankers on the road. It had some good discussion, and then went down the now normal forum path.
No tankers where I am at now, but did deal with 2 when I was in college. 1 was a converted oil truck, 1 was built as a fire department water tanker. Amazing the different handling characteristics of the 2 vehicles.
We share similar experience in this regard. The Vol. FD I started with had two converted tankers and one was fairly decent as it was only 750 gallons and failry low, but the other was a 2200 gal. oil truck converted over with a split shift tranny and air brakes. When I was put ncharge of the station housing that truck I told the Chief and my firefighters that I would not drive it and wouldn't ask anyone too. We had many close calls with the thing that made it clear taht it was unsafe. We ended up replacing it with an 1800 gal. single axle tanker designed and built by a fire apparatus builder. Huge difference in driving and handling.
Originally Posted by Bones42
Like I said earlier, while I think we should get rid of all the home made jobs, I know it isn't realistic. So we need to do what we can to improve the safet of these trucks.
Just a small opinion... our new rig will have 1500 gallons of water and a 425 horse Cummins ISL power plant (still a medium block). Plenty of power for now and the future. I agree with many of you saying that a small short wheelbase 500-750 gal. pumper doesn't need a big block 500 horse motor. It's the torque that gets you going not all horse power. We played around with the idea of the Cummins ISM 425 (big block) for the higher torque rating. By doing so limits us to spending well over $20,000 more for not only the big block, but as well as bigger and more expensive cabs. The only rigs that need motors with 525 horse big blocks are large heavy tandem axle ladders carrying water. Take a look at Houston FD their 500 gallon pumpers have 500 Horse Detroit Series 60's!!! Overkill, but to each their own. Why can't we hav back the old Detroit 8V92 2 stroke??? LOL :-P
You can't just blame things on horsepower. I've said it before that in our business we need all the horsepower we can get. You can drive a truck with more horsepower more like the car most of you normally drive. Going down a hill like a bat out of hell to make time going up the other side is crazy but most people drive that way. The smaller engines that squueze out the torque are also coupled to a lighter duty transmission. Yes, the engine will be good for the future but I'll bet the tranny doesn't make it and it probably costs more than the engine and more than the initial upgrade charge. The nicest feature on the big block engines is the control you get when slowing or stopping the vehicle and using the preselect and the Jake. We must remember that the engine and trans are only a small part of a good piece of equipment. The biggest thing we can do is make sure there is not a loose nut behind the steering wheel. If a guy can't drive don't complain about him, remove him.
I truly agree the biggest issue is training the drivers and taking them off the road if they don't display proper skills or attitude. The problem is that history has proven that we the F.S. as a whole do not do this well enough to leave everyone to their own devices.
The 2008 edition of NFPA 1901 calls for:
Originally Posted by donethat
- Egines to have a top speed of 68MPH, and...
- Any vehicle with a water or water/foam capacity of 1250 gallons or more OR any vehicle with a GVW of 50,000 pounds or more would be limited to 60MPH speed.
I think most of us will agree that this is a stop in the right direction for safety...
The 68 mph limitation mirrors the American Trucking Associations' (ATA) call for the same thing, and their petition for rulemaking to DOT for just that. Canada appears to be going the same route.
Many (not all) of us with experience in trucking have spent years arguing against split speed limits. We believe when segments of traffic are forced to move at different speeds, crashes are caused rather than reduced. This isn't a forum for ATA's real logic except to say that while ATA is a highly safety conscious organization, in my opinion, safety isn't the motivator here.
I don't think that it will work in trucking, nor will it help anything in fire apparatus. I don't have any statistics, but I'm not aware of a large number of apparatus crashes at highway speed. Most seem to occur at much lower speeds, in traffic or on roads that don't allow for anything close to highway speeds.
Fire Departments that do cover portions of interstate and other high speed roadways will be put at greater risk by not being able to keep up with traffic as they respond. The short week that I recently spent in Pearlington, Miss. driving on I-10 for the West Hancock Fire Department convinced me of that.
The decision of what the top speed of an apparatus should be left to those who will use it. Forcing arbitrary speed limitations isn't going to work in trucking, and it won't provide any safety benefit to us, either.
Stay safe out there, everyone goes home!
Freudian slip? A stop in the right direction? :rolleyes:
Originally Posted by BoxAlarm187
It does have to be a start, but I agree with ChiefEngineer top speed is rarely the issue, it's going to fast for the conditions, failure to keep the vehicle under control, poor training (1st), high center of gravity, improperly baffled tanks, etc.
Ha, nice catch! Perhaps it was a Freudian slip. :D
On the German autobahn's, trucks have to run at 50 mph in the right lane while cars are zipping by in the left lane at well over 100 mph. The autobahns have good safety records. So the argument of different speeds does not seem to be an issue in that part of the world. Of course the German drivers are much more disciplined than the yahoo's we have driving around.
I have a good friend who is ein Berufsfeuerwehrmann (career firefighter; Tony, I hope I got that right) in Kassel, Germany. He would probably like to debate that point with you.
Originally Posted by donethat
Stay safe out there, everyone goes home!
Ahhh, the Autobahn, the last true vestige of real freedom of the road. DONETHAT must have been there. The Autostrada in Italy is good also but nothing like the Autobahn. It has nothing to do with driving skills, it is all discipline. Trucks in the right lane with any green person who thinks they will save the world by driving 50, the next lane for people who want to kick it up a notch and the far left for real automobiles. I had the pleasure of riding in a 7 series BMW at 170mph (legally) and it is unreal how they handle. One thing you wont see on the Autobahn are these idiots who insist on driving in the passing lanes and taking two miles to pass another car. German trucks are speed restricted by weight and tire size, our 100' aerials in Germany run about 62mph tops with about 600 revs left on the tach.
NFPA compliance is not the reason many of these unfortunate apparatus crashes happen, certainly in some cases it is a factor, but I have seen countless reports of newer engines, ladders, rescues, ambulances etc...in wrecks - These were all NFPA compliant apparatus.
I wonder if anyone has any idea how many non-NFPA compliant (and I don't mean current NFPA standard, I mean the NFPA standard at the time of manufacture) apparatus are in service in the US. I would very much like to see that number. I'm having a hard time counting 10 NFPA compliant appartus in this county and the neighbooring 5 counties. Our department has seven that are not and never have been NFPA compliant? I can't imagine how many departments / apparatus this type of legislation would affect. Rural america has nothing but non-compliant apparatus. Would I rather they were all compliant, absolutely, it just isn't possible, there are not enough people here to generate the type of revenue it would take to replace the rural america fire fleet.
I don't however have any problem with requiring drives to possess a valid CDL, I agree, if the general pulblic needs a CDL to drive a similar truck, why shouldn't we?
The problem with saying that compliant apparatus incidents happen too, is that on a proportion of runs to NFPA compliance, the compliant apparatus across the country make most of the runs, so when non-complian truck crash they do it with more "per run" frequency. My idea to legislate the no lights and sirens incoroporates the theory that in runs less than 5 miles the time savings is negligeable, the adrenaline factor of using the siren is reduced, and the drivers are not CDL holders. As far as I'm concerned a driver that holds a CDL driving a DOT approved (much different than NFPA) truck is safer to drive using lights and sirens. Yes, there are bad CDL drivers too, but in all they generally drive more, understand truck/road/braking dynamics better (in a stret sense manner) and are more experienced drivers.
I won't argue your numbers or frequency of runs stats, they are more than likely true. Stats are funny that way, you can just about always come up with some stat that is provable to support any side of any issue. I can tell you for certain though that the majority of runs here in this entire state are made by NON-COMPLIANT apparatus. You quote number of runs, I'd like to see that stats on miles driven responding to and from incidents and look at those numbers, I'd almost be willing to bet that I can make that statistic play the other way.
As far as your comment about a 5 mile run...I would ask you to come ride with us for a season. I hardly remember the last time a run was less than 5 miles. We are first due for an area of over 450 square miles. It is not at all uncommon for us to drive 30 miles one way to arrive at an incident. It's not uncommon to see 60-100 miles between fire suppression agencies, even more for EMS. I don't think your going to find much public support from the heartland when folks find out that the entire emeregency service fleet serving their area is non-compliat and thus must run non-emergent to emergent incidents. It would certainly be nice if we all responded with NFPA compliant apparatus, but in this area its a dream at best, it very simply cannot be done, the money does not exist.
Another thing that must be remembered (although fortunately its not a problem that we experience) is there is very often a serious shortage of folks willing to serve the community and provide emergency services. If you make having a CDL a requirement (and I don't disagree with that being a good idea) there are many departments who will loose good people, or simply will not have enough CDL holders to drive apparatus. There have been several departments in this state that have folded up recently, simply because of a lack of people, this will only worsen the issue. I think having a CDL is a good idea, you may as well. If so why not have YOUR department make it a requirement. If it works, great. But I know that there are departments in existence where this idea absolutely will not work.
I do not believe that this issue can be broad-stroked to include the entire nation. Your demographics, economics and emergency service delivery systems are absolutely and entirely different than mine. You want that legislation and think its appropriate for your area; fine...get it enacted on a state level. If it works, and works well other states will pick up on it and try it at home...
SDFF: The problem is, that we all can come up with excuses for not doing the right thing. I'm not slamming you directly at all, I understand your prospective. I really want to apark the debate so I'll know what I'm up against as we try to move this thing in my state.
So how much faster can/should you drive with lights and sirens ina truck carrying more than it was designed too and subsequently top heavy and under-braked? I think the speed limit is generally the safe speed to set as the high limit for all fire apparatus. So the real difference is made up at intersection and in traffic.
If you're travelling 30 miles for first or second due coverage the most dangerous part of the incident is most likely the ride there! In 30 miles of rural road how many lighted or busy intersections do you encounter? Is the loss of red lights and sirens really a large factor? If you're travelling the posted speed limit how often is it that a blue-hair pulls out and putts along? Hell I'd argue that if you're first due and 30 miles out, it probably isn't even a life or limb emergency by the time you arrrive. I think it would be hard to argue you in fact exceed the speed limit using a truck that conforms to no industry standard or is in fact specifically in violation of one. Sure it might pass a DOT inspection (might!), but now you're going to use this overloaded, non-engineered peice to travel the road exceeding the speed limit set for passenger cars which brake in much shorter distances, and all this with a driver exempted from the requisite license due to the size of said vehicle?
What is the gain from running emergency to calls in the rural areas?
Similarly those folks who choose to live 30 miles from a town proper should know full well that their peace and quiet, and low taxes come at the price of reduced emergency services. The police can't patrol routinely and are likely not a block away when there's a funny noise outside, the EMS service will not be there in time to save them from an acute coronary event, and the fire dept. will not be there in time to rescue them from burning building or even save the building at all.
I realize I might sound harsh but it's time to try and do what we can to protect ourselves from ourselves. While there are some depts that do a good job there are obviously those that don't. LODD's are not something we should ignore because money's too tight. As far as I'm concerne the Fire Act Grants could go to those depts who lack very basic necessities: safe PPE, SCBA, basic training and safe apparatus. Those of us who sit around and try to think "what can we go for this year?" don't have the real need. Of course the oppsite has proabaly happen with Grant Funds and NIMS compliance. All the rural depts in our area can't even begin to spend enough time on NIMS compliance and therefore will forfeit there shot at any grant funds!Nice job DHS! Those that need the money most are the least like to comply with the prerequisites!
OK, enough ranting tonight. Sorry SDFF, I know your intentions were good but some of your pooints were worth attempting to rebuff. Thanks Bro!