The “Chauffeur”, or "FADO" (Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator) position in any fire department is without a doubt, one of the most critical jobs in the fire service. In department’s all across the country, Chauffeur’s are assigned or tested positions, increasing the company’s operations and situational awareness. A good Chauffeur has qualities of adaptability, not only on the fire ground, but one that can perform in several positions at any given time. One must understand that career or volunteer, a Chauffeur has many responsibilities which include the personnel you are transporting. It is up to you to take your job seriously no matter what the circumstances are!
The most important aspect of the “Chauffeur's“ position is preventative maintenance and the importance of the rig being ready at all times. The Chauffeur must take a proactive role in inspecting their rig each and every day at shift change.
It is very important to have a proactive preventative maintenance program, but not every department can afford to have certified Emergency Vehicle Technicians (EVTs). The first line of defense for any "FADO" is to have a well documented maintenance checklist. If you are a volunteer organization, it is most likely you have a line officer that is responsible for assuring the daily/weekly inspections are completed. A simple daily checklist will not only spell out discrepancies, but can be used as an official document, in the case you're involved in an accident. This document will provide insight as to when the apparatus was checked and serve as a running maintenance log.
An effective PM program is only as strong as the leadership of your organization. Your department’s leadership must be proactive to “establish” and follow through with a PM program. When the Chauffeur approaches the officer in charge about a problem, it is his/her job to get it repaired in a timely manner.
It is your duty to know every inch of your apparatus and the equipment it carries along with the capabilities of your rig. Remember, this is not the officer’s job! You should treat this position as if your life depends on it! Let's take a look at a few key factors for the Chauffeur. They are as follows, but not limited to:
A few key elements to know are:
• Height – Will my rig fit under that bridge?
• Weight/Length – Will that bridge hold my rig?
• Fuel Tank Capacity – How long can I operate on a scene before I need a fuel truck?
• Water Tank Capacity – How many minutes does my crew have for initial attack?
• Pump Size and Max Capacity – How much water can I flow at one time?
• Amount of Hose – Will I make the lay?
• Ladder Sizes !!!!!! – Yes, as a Chauffeur; you need to throw ladders!!!!
Be your own mechanic! While you may not be a certified EVT, you may learn firsthand the operational components that keep you in service, ready to serve at all hours of the day. Nobody wants to be out of service, especially when it can be prevented.
It is important for the “Chauffeur” to have a working relationship with the mechanic who services your apparatus on a regular basis. If a good relationship is formed, you can learn the inns’ and outs of your rig; and you just might be able to acquire that part you need in a pinch.
If you are a “Chauffeur”, ensure that your rig is clean, maintained, and ready for the next run. If you are a volunteer, make the apparatus floor your first stop when you arrive at the station. Make sure that after a run is over, you take the extra 10 minutes to go over all the equipment by yourself to ensure everything is put back correctly. You do not want to go on another run missing a valuable tool. Take every incident and learn from it! There are always ways to make you better!