2018 Spartan Fire Truck Training Conference

By Bill Peters

For the 24th consecutive year, Spartan Emergency Response Vehicles held its fire truck training conference at the Lansing Center in Lansing, Michigan. According to Bill Foster, founder of Spartan Trucks, 331 technicians from the United States, Canada, and some foreign countries attended the many classes. Seven firefighter cadets from the Jackson County College were also in attendance.

Spartan wholeheartedly supports the Emergency Vehicle Technician (EVT) Certification Commission. In addition to many of the classes being test-prep courses, Spartan provided classroom space for the numerous EVT exams on both Sunday and Friday. A record 53 technicians took EVT exams on Sunday and 184 on Friday.

Classes were held in two large banquet halls, nine classrooms, and three smaller banquet halls and ranged from 90 minutes to 12 hours, depending on the subject matter. Classes were divided into three tracs:

  • Trac-1 Designed for individuals such as operators, engineers, or equipment officers who want to learn basic operations and maintenance at an introductory level.
  • Trac-2 Designed for maintenance technicians or people at the service and repair level, including some hands-on classes.
  • Trac-3 Designed for heavy repair technicians who are interested in receiving hands-on technical training.

Bill Foster pointed out that the importance of this annual conference is to train all EVTs and not just Spartan customers. The classes were not “brand-specific” but open to all brands and types of apparatus. The classes were as follows:


  • Belts, Hoses, and Cooling System
  • Cab Safety Inspections
  • Class 1 Pressure Governors
  • Cooling Systems
  • Cummins Engine Maintenace
  • Driver Operator Inspections
  • Electrolysis and Corrosion
  • FRC Pressure Governors
  • Introduction to IDEX FSG Multiplexing
  • Lubricants for Emergency Vehicles
  • Management Level 1, Supervisor
  • Safety Lighting
  • Starting, Charging Diagnostics and Battery Technology
  • Test Prep


  • Aerial Fire Apparatus
  • Air Bag Protection
  • Air Conditioning Maintenance
  • Air System/Brakes
  • Allison Automatic Transmissions
  • Transmission Maintenance
  • Ambulance & Fire Apparatus Electrical Systems
  • Ambulance Design & Performance
  • Apparatus Electrical Theory
  • Battery Conditioners and Air Pumps
  • Brakes Disc/Drum and Inspections
  • Data Link Diagnostics
  • Elkhart Valves and Nozzles Rebuild
  • Fire Apparatus Design and Performance
  • Fire Pumps and Accessories
  • Foam and CAFS
  • Hydraulic Systems
  • Maintenance, Inspection and Testing
  • Onan Hydraulic Generators
  • Roll-up Doors
  • SKF Lubrication Systems/Onspot Chains
  • Steering and Suspension


  • Cummins Electronics Troubleshooting
  • Command Light Troubleshooting
  • Drive Train
  • Multiplexing system Troubleshooting
  • Tires and Handling
  • U.L. Fire Pump Test
  • Hale Pump Rebuilding
  • Wheel End Maintenance

Each evening after dinner, additional programs were provided. On Sunday, Attorney Jim Juneau presented a program: “Staying on the Legal Side” for the technicians. One of the comments that I heard about the program was that it was a real “eye-opener” about the liability associated with being a fire apparatus mechanic.

Monday evening was the official welcome ceremony. Tom Ninneman, chief operating officer of Spartan Motors, welcomed participants representing more than 200 fire departments.  Ninneman pointed out that Spartan considers the maintenance personnel as the unsung heroes who keep the apparatus running.

The keynote speaker was Corey Lane, a mechanic with of the City of Loveland, Colorado, who is also the 2017 EVT technician of the year. He pointed out that the key to proper maintenance is keeping the lines of communication open both with the firefighters who use the apparatus and the administration. He also pointed out that it is a wise decision to have personnel from the maintenance division on apparatus purchasing committees.

Bill Foster presented two awards Monday night. The third annual William F. Foster Outstanding Service Award was presented to Grady Jones, a technician with Metro Fire Repair of Mansfield, Texas. The Fire Service Achievement Retirement Award was given to Buddy Caldwell of the Charlotte (NC) Fire Department.

The program finished with an address by Kevin Roberts, president of the EVT Commission. He pointed out how the modern technician must be a detective and must play “to tell the truth” with operators to get to the bottom of problems.

On Tuesday evening, the participants were bussed to the Spartan facility in Charlotte, Michigan, and treated to a guided factory tour of the facility followed by a great Barbecue dinner!

On Wednesday a roundtable was held between the technicians and Spartan staff who fielded many questions about apparatus maintenance.

The best tribute to the conference was when several technicians commented that there were so many quality and important offerings they didn’t know which ones to choose! Bill Foster reminded attendees to mark their calendars for next year, the 25th training conference September 29 to October 4, 2019.

WILLIAM C. PETERS retired after 28 years with the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department, having served the past 17 years as battalion chief/supervisor of apparatus. He served as a voting member of the NFPA 1901 apparatus committee for several years and is the author of Fire Apparatus Purchasing Handbook, the apparatus chapters in The Fire Chief’s Handbook, and numerous apparatus-related articles. He is a member of the Fire Engineering and Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory boards and the FDIC International executive board.

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