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Truck check troubles: Tips to avoid apparatus rollaway during this essential task

Using the right wheel chocks on a flat surface goes a long way to reducing risk


A basic function of the fire service is to check the trucks on a regular basis. Whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly, we perform these truck checks to ensure they are in good working condition. These checks help ensure the safety of crews using the trucks – and checks those legal requirement boxes, too.

In the grand scope of firefighting, we usually do not attribute too much risk to conducting a truck check. It would be regarded as a low-risk event, in part due to the frequency of checks creating that “muscle memory” effect. But accidents have occurred during truck checks, like when an aerial ladder device comes in contact with overhead power lines.

We recently witnessed one such event where an engine undergoing a truck check rolled away, resulting in one firefighter being injured. It turns out that the spring brakes (parking brake) failed during the truck check, allowing the truck to roll forward.


A Charleston Fire Department fire truck crashed, injuring a firefighter, when the spring brakes (parking brake) failed during the truck check, allowing the truck to roll forward.

Photo courtesy

This situation is not the fault of the firefighters conducting the truck check. This was a mechanical failure of a piece of equipment. But even as such, what can firefighters do to help prevent a recurrence of the same or a similar situation?

Reduce rollaway

A great place to start: Use wheel chocks. Every fire apparatus is outfitted with a set of wheel chocks, as it is required by law in most states – and it is also industry best practice.

There are different variations of wheel chocks, and it’s important to use the right one – and the right size. Fire apparatus are so heavy that when one starts to roll forward under its own momentum, it can roll right over a wheel chock. If the wheel chock is too small for the apparatus, it will not hold the truck when it moves. The larger the wheel chock, the greater the stopping power.

The position of where the wheel chocks is another factor. Two wheel chocks are usually used on one tire, with one in front of the tire and the other behind the tire. This helps ensure that no matter what direction the truck starts to roll, it can hopefully be stopped. If only one wheel chock is placed on the tire, it’s only doing half its job.

Lastly, a level surface will also be a help. Parking the truck on a level surface lessens the likelihood of the truck getting that momentum to start rolling away. This factor is also dependent upon the grading of the front pad of the station. Of course, in many areas, it’s simply not possible to find a flat area, which is where the chocks are so vital.

Training time

After reading this news story, take the following steps with your crew:

  • Review your operational procedure for their truck checks.
  • Survey the front pad of the station to see what level of grade it is – or seek out a spot where there is a level grade for doing the truck check.
  • Ensure that there are the proper wheel chocks on each truck – and that they are the appropriate size.

Being aware of your surroundings is always important in the fire service, including during a truck check. Should there be any type of failure of safety systems of any kind, the firefighter will hopefully be able to avoid and escape any type of injury.


Wheel chocks are a key tool to prevent rollaway.


Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1998, currently serving as a firefighter with the Fort Gratiot Fire Department in Michigan. He is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He graduated from Seneca College of Applied and Technologies as a fire protection engineering technologist, and received his bachelor’s degree in fire and life safety studies from the Justice Institute of British Columbia and his master’s degree in safety, security and emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University. van der Feyst is the lead author of the book “Residential Fire Rescue” and “The Tactical Firefighter.” Connect with van der Feyst via email.