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Truck Company Operations- The Keyboard Drill

Truck Company Operations- Keyboard Drill

By: Thomas D. Kuglin Jr.


            As much time that is involved in creating a musical masterpiece it is critical to have the knowledge and skill set to operate your equipment effectively.  Learning a new instrument takes time and practice.  Mistakes will be made and the end result is an unfinished, raw product.  However, over time and with more practice, you’ll be well on your way to creating a masterpiece.  The same holds true for truck company operations. Specifically, the art and finesse of turntable control operations.  Whether you are a new aerial apparatus operator or a seasoned operator who has the drive to constantly improve and sharpen skills time must be taken to practice these control operations.

            Early in my fire service career assigned to Memphis Fire Department (TN) Truck 26, I learned how important these operations would be.  I have also been, for the last 8 years as a Training Officer, witness to students or aerial operators who may need some practice when it comes to the technique involved in operating the aerial device from the controls perspective.  I have developed a simple drill that allows a systematic and effective approach to learning and sharpening these skills.  The drill is in correlation with learning a how to play a musical keyboard.  It is important to build the foundational skills in conjunction with taking the time, effort, and practice to produce a masterpiece.  The drill consists of three easy steps to help you achieve becoming an aerial device wizard. 

            Step One is simply crafting the fundamental basics consisting of hand placement and movements, remembering control lever locations, and developing rhythm.  As the drill card indicates, read the lines as if you were reading a music note.  Each line will have a series of commands that direct you to perform a function or movement.  The basis behind this component is to become one with the control levers, where they are located, and eventually performing aerial device maneuvers without looking at the console.  This step should be performed as a simulation only as a building block.

            Step Two should be conducted after you become more proficient with the objectives in Step One.  This component should be performed during live aerial operation evolutions.  Practice using consistent hand placement to perform the functions or movements.  From this, you should practice being smooth, coordinated, and rhythmic which leads to a strong technique and the ability to operate with finesse.

            Step Three should also be conducted under live aerial applications.  This component adds more advanced elements to sharpen your maneuvering skill set.  Add the addition of traffic cones or a filled water bucket to assist with providing a measurable objective to identify progess and areas of improvement.  Being able to place a cone on top of a cone or moving a filled water bucket without losing an abundance of water will tell you which areas of improvement you will need and which foundational skill needs adjusting.

            The key to this drill is to eliminate the sudden starting and stopping of the aerial device operation that would cause the device to excessively sway back and forth, therefore, increasing the potential for missed targets and other hazards to include device and control lever damage, limited spacing of apparatus in which sway could cause damage, and wear and tear on cables and hydraulic components.  Becoming proficient in the techniques and skills of this drill will ensure smooth operations when making multiple, simultaneous aerial device maneuvers which decreases the time required to get the device where it needs to be when time is of the essence.

            Remember, this drill can be tailored to fits the needs of your organization’s aerial operations program and recommended to be included into a regular regimen for aerial apparatus operators.



  • When performing single or multiple maneuvers gradually decrease the control lever motion as opposed to a sudden let off to ensure smooth, consistent operation.

  • Know your equipment!  Identify the whether your operating controls are electric-hydraulic in which the control lever sends a signal to a solenoid that actuates the hydraulic valve whereas the hydraulic-hydraulic control directly opens the valve.  Be mindful of the delay potential.

  • Always use a spotter despite advanced technique and proficiencies.

  • Incorporate into your aerial operations training program and as an impromptu drill on-the-go.

  •  Truck%20Company%20Operations-Keyboard%20Drill.docx



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