Fire Fighters Association of Missouri

Truck Checks: A New Perspective

Truck checks are a basic function of every fire department. They’re an appropriate task for all members, especially new volunteers. Safety, reliability and equipment familiarity are all improved when trucks are checked on a regular basis.

It’s a great feeling when engines start and run, and folks know where tools and equipment are located. This is especially important during times of stress, like during a working structure fire or auto entrapment.

Difficult situations are made worse when your members can’t find tools, or are unfamiliar with how to start engines on ventilation fans or extrication pumps. Unfortunately, members of your community will see this confusion, which isn’t a good look.

This article is written to address the need for truck checks in all types and sizes of fire department, and how they can be a simple and effective training opportunity for both new and experienced members.

Checking trucks confirms the following

  • The truck chassis is safe for driving on streets and highways.
  • Small and large engines will start and run with reliability.
  • Battery-powered equipment, like flashlights and portable radios are charged and ready.
  • Coolant, fuel, air, oil and water are at adequate levels.

Have you discovered these conditions in the fire station, on your trucks, or on the scene?

  • Important tools or components to kits are missing or lost.
  • Batteries are dead, or have corroded and damaged internal components.
  • After a fire, tools and equipment are re-stocked wet, dirty or in need of cleaning and repair.
  • Folks scramble around the truck because they can’t remember where an important tool is stored.
  • Tools like hydrant wrenches, hose adapters or bolt cutters are rusted and inoperable.
  • Gas or diesel engines won’t start, or won’t run smoothly due to a dead battery or stale fuel.
  • Lights are burned out, SCBA bottles are found empty, or tank water is low.
  • Tires, engine oil or fuel levels are left low.

Make truck checks a part of your departmental routine

  • Truck checks are absolutely necessary to ensure operational readiness.
  • They’re a great teaching tool, and shouldn’t be turned into a demeaning task for rookies.
  • Truck checks are a teaching and learning opportunity. New members will learn about equipment locations, kit components, proper maintenance, safety rules and engine starting procedures.
  • Pair a new member with an experienced volunteer to perform truck checks. Experienced members can share stories, teach about tactics, and demonstrate the proper way to start and run equipment.
  • Many equipment manufacturers require weekly checks. The National Safety Council’s Coaching the Emergency Vehicle Operator 3 curriculum recommends that trucks in volunteer operations be checked weekly, and daily for operations with full-time personnel. The owner’s manual for Hale “Muscle” pumps also require a weekly test. The NFPA recommends weekly checks of emergency use SCBA, including cylinder pressure.
  • Keep equipment owner / operator manuals handy. Always refer to the official manufacturer recommendations when performing equipment checks.
  • Start a documentation file. Completed truck check forms should be retained. When needed, board members, city council, insurance and governmental agencies will see that your equipment is regularly checked and is safe and operationally ready.

Thanks for reading! I hope you found this article helpful! Contact me at mwoodwar@mem-ins.com for sample truck check forms. I’ll gladly send you some editable examples of “quick truck check” and “detailed truck check” forms by e-mail.