Driver’s Competency Course
Practical Driving. After learning the theoretical characteristics and dynamics in a classroom environment, the candidate will advance through the practical of their driver’s qualification process. The practical driving portion of the program should be progressive in nature. That is, the drivers will begin with basic vehicle familiarization tasks. The next step might then be completing simple tasks or maneuvers at slow speeds in a very controlled atmosphere. After we have mastered the simpler skills, then and only then will we then progress to more complicated procedures and over-the-road driving. By using this approach, the candidates will become increasingly familiar and comfortable with the handling characteristics of the vehicle before they will be expected to operate it in a more challenging environment. It is very important that the vehicles used during the training program be the same as that the driver will be expected to operate when he or she completes training and is released into the field. This is particularly true when preparing drivers to drive fire department tankers because of their large size and unique handling characteristics.
Why? Simply stated, a driver who completes a training and driving program while operating a standard fire department pumper will not be safely prepared to drive a tanker or vice versa once he or she is in the field. If the drivers will be expected to drive Tanker 31 in the field, they should complete all portions of the practical training program using Tanker 31 and no other apparatus.
Training safety. Every effort must be made to ensure that the practical training program is conducted in as safe a manner as possible. Making the transition to Tanker 31 or Engine 32 from Brush Truck 3 will be a dramatic one for most candidates. By following basic safety procedures and common sense, we can ensure that the learning experience is a safe and effective one. Some of the basic safety procedures that should be followed during practical driver training include:
• Training Officer and designated safety officers must review the training program and agenda to ensure that they comply with departmental policies and safety procedures.
• Training Officer and designated safety officers should inspect the training course prior to the commencement of training exercises to make sure that the training area is in proper repair and all appropriate safety equipment is in place.
• A safety officer should be designated during training exercises, and he or she must have the authority to stop all activities and apparatus movement when he or she notices a condition or event that poses the imminent threat of crash or injury.
• All candidates should be under the direct supervision at all times when operating vehicles on the training ground.
• Designated areas should be cordoned off for conducting driving exercises. No other vehicular traffic should be allowed in the training area while candidates are operating vehicles.
• If multiple vehicles are being used for training at the same time, the training agency should have procedures in place to ensure that the vehicles stay a safe distance apart during the exercise.
• All evaluators and safety officers shall be coordinating actions via handheld radio and instructed in hand and radio signals, as appropriate, that may be used during the training exercise and the actions that should be taken when particular signals are given.
Driving course exercises. The driver’s initial opportunities to get behind the wheel of the apparatus and drive it should be limited to exercises that are conducted in a strictly controlled environment. The common term for this controlled environment is a driving course. Three Star Driving Course will be coordinated and conducted in Austin Peay Elementary School parking lot.
If conducting driving exercises on a facility other than the elementary school, the training officer shall ensure that the condition and composition of the driving surface is substantial enough to support the weight of heavy fire apparatus. Some parking lots and driveways are not constructed to the same specifications as public thorough-fares. If the driving surface is not substantial enough to handle the weight of a maneuvering tanker, significant damage could be done to the property. The potential for this danger is magnified on asphalt surfaces during periods of extremely hot weather. The asphalt will become soft and the tires of the apparatus will create ruts in the driving surface.
The practical driving exercises may start with a variety of simple procedures. Drivers are encouraged and allowed to drive around the course at a slow speed so that they can begin to build confidence in their ability to handle the vehicle. Making the driver stop at various intervals will allow them to begin becoming familiar with the braking characteristics of the vehicle. Over time they may be allowed to operate the vehicle at increasingly higher speeds so that they begin to develop vehicle handling skills at the speeds that they will be expected to operate when they are in the public.
In addition to simply driving the vehicle around the training area, there are a variety of obstacle and training courses that may be laid out using traffic cones that will increase the drivers’ ability to maneuver the vehicle skillfully. These exercises are designed to simulate conditions that the drivers will commonly encounter in the performance of their duties. There are literally dozens of different courses that can be set up. Many are based on specific conditions that are found within our response district or mutual aid responsibility. However, at a minimum, it is Three Star policy that the driver successfully masters the exercises that are required for certification under NFPA 1002. These exercises are:
· The Alley Dock Exercise: This exercise measures the driver’s ability to pull past a simulated dock or stall, back into the space provided, and stop smoothly. Real-life situations that this exercise simulates include backing the apparatus down an alley or backing the apparatus into its fire station bay.
· The Serpentine Exercise: This exercise measures a driver’s ability to steer the apparatus forward and backward around fixed objects, within close limits, without stopping. It simulates moving around parked vehicles or other objects at a fire scene.
· The Confined Space Turnaround Exercise: This exercise measures the driver’s ability to turn the vehicle around in a confined space without striking any objects. This maneuver is often required when the apparatus approaches a congested fire scene and then is ordered to reverse lay a supply line from a pumper on the scene to a water supply source.
· The Diminishing Clearance Exercise: This exercise measures the driver’s ability to steer the apparatus in a straight line, to judge distances from the vehicle’s wheels to fixed objects, and to stop at a finish line. For tanker drivers, this exercise is particularly useful in preparing to approach a water shuttle dump site and prepare to off load water through a side-mounted discharge chute.
· Basic Handling Exercise: In this exercise you will drive the apparatus forward for a distance of 200 feet, immediately followed by maneuvering the apparatus the same distance in reverse while staying within the width outlined. This exercise simulates a scenario where the apparatus has no way in or out a situation but in a narrow and straight line. It can also be used to practice entering/leaving a situation where the apparatus is being used for pumper relay operations.
The Off-Set Alley/Parallel
Parking: In these exercises you
will maneuver the apparatus as if aligning up for pump relay or dump tank
operations in a tight situation. This demonstrates driver’s ability to
handle the apparatus in tight situations, and showing the apparatus turning
ability. It also allows the driver to demonstrate the ability of depth
perception in relationship to the apparatus.