Trending Topics

Firefighter truckies: Making the perfect fire truck

Like beauty, perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and when it comes to ladder trucks, truckies have a keener sense than most of what makes a perfect truck


Those who know me know that I am firm believer that the engine company is the backbone of the American fire service. Nothing against truckies —honestly — but I always liked having my own firepower when confronted by fire.

So to learn about the perfect truck, I knew I better go to the experts for wisdom and insights. I posted several times on my social media pages asking for input from my friends and colleagues with LOVERS experience.

For the uninitiated, LOVERS is an acronym for truck company functions: Laddering, Overhaul, Ventilation, Entry, Rescue, and Salvage.

I asked this question: If you could design the perfect truck (aerial apparatus), what would it look like? The responses were huge — and very diplomatic for truckies who are never short of opinions. This is what they told me.

Low rider
The truck has to be a tractor-drawn aerial (TDA). The TDA is the hands-down favorite for many reasons including its superior maneuverability necessary to gain the proper access to work from the truck, especially when the aerial device (ladder, platform, or scope) must be placed into operation.

“Sure it has to bend in the middle and takes two to drive it,” one responder commented. “I say that not because I am dinosaur, but because they [TDAs] are more maneuverable.”

Also favored is the trailer’s low profile that makes it easier and safer to access the wide range of equipment that a truck must carry.

“The worth of the new all-wheel steer truck remains to be seen, but it does have promise,” another responder wrote. “My plight with all of them now is the height. I don’t see how Dillon [a very tall firefighter in that department] can reach anything, much less a normal person. That is the second most important feature of the TDA in my opinion after maneuverability.”

Room with a view
Another benefit is the TDA’s capacity to carry a larger selection of ground ladders. Most of the respondents cited this as one of their top reasons for their preference of the TDA because deploying ground ladders in a variety of situations is one of the most common fireground tasks that they do. They can house more compartment space for equipment.

“The ground ladders are more important to me than the aerial,” one firefighter wrote. “Especially as an engine man most of my time, I want to be able to get on and get out.”

One improvement they would like to see in a TDA is a sunroof over the driver and officer section of the cab to enable them to easily spot overhead obstructions like wires and trees.

The truck should not have a pump, or water tank, and should only carry the complement of hose necessary operating the master stream appliance on the aerial device. The overwhelming opinion was that specifying a truck as a quint detracts from the key tactical functions (LOVERS) of a truck.

Who’s on board
The respondents felt strongly that the truck should be staffed by a minimum of four personnel (officer and three firefighters), preferably five (officer and four firefighters).

“Three is just not enough for all of the responsibilities of a first-in truck company,” one firefighter wrote. “You have to make choices on what can wait with three personnel. Four or more allows for better support of engine crews.”

Staffing of a truck with less than four personnel does not provide an adequate number of firefighters to safely, effectively and efficiently carry out the necessary truck company functions, while at the same time enabling the truck officer to lead, guide and direct those operations. The officer is forced to become a doer.

In addition, the respondents want to have the following equipment on their perfect truck.

  • A minimum of a 25-kw generator with mounted cord reels on all four sides of the truck.
  • Two hydraulic-powered rescue power plants, each with a full complement of hose and tools.
  • One electric power plant that’s wired into the on-board generator with 100 feet of reel-mounted power cord on the front of the truck.
  • One with a portable gasoline-fueled power plant.
  • A power winch with 100 feet of cable and able to be used on all four sides of the truck.
  • A minimum of a 5-kw portable generator with wheel kit.
  • Portable battery-powered LED scene lights with tripod kits.

Not seeing your most wished for truck components here? Jump into the debate by adding to, or subtracting from, the list in the comment section below.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.