By Christian P. Koop
EVTCC Announces New Driver/Operator Inspection Certification Exam
Sometime around the beginning of June this year, the Emergency Vehicle Technician Certification Commission (EVTCC) will be offering certification exams for drivers and operators of emergency response vehicles (ERVs).
This exam will test the knowledge drivers and operators need to properly inspect their ERVs for safety and roadworthiness in accordance with the latest industry standards. This will be a level 1 exam, and it has been created mainly because of a request from the industry and from the growing concern of many who feel there is a vital need for it. The Driver Operator Inspections exam was successfully beta tested last year in Tempe, Arizona, and was very well received. Having drivers and operators certified to properly inspect their rigs in accordance with standards will also have the added benefit of enhancing preventive maintenance programs, which generally results in cost savings for the department’s maintenance budget – not to mention the reduction in liability exposure.
The drivers of intercity and over-the-road commercial vehicles are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which has very stringent requirements in place for the driver to inspect the vehicle daily – not only for pretrip but posttrip also. These CDL requirements do not apply to most fire-rescue departments. Part of the issue is there are no laws in place in most states to ensure ERV drivers and operators are fully qualified and have the required knowledge to perform an adequate visual and operational inspection. Let’s face it: Everyone knows a lot of accidents happen because the operator was not familiar with the limitations of the ERV he was driving. This new certification will not address this but is a big step in the right direction.
The need for this exam reminds me of when the industry decided that automotive mechanics (technicians today) needed a way to test their knowledge through certification. That was in 1972, and the organization that created those first exams was the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (NIASE), known today as Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). ASE’s main goal, in a nutshell, was to improve the quality of repairs and service in the automotive service and repair industry, which was suffering from the widespread public perception that the industry was corrupt with fraud when, in reality, most of the problems it was experiencing had more to do with incompetence than fraud. Another organization with a similar goal as the ASE is the EVTCC, commonly referred to as the EVT. It was created with support from the International Association of Fire Chiefs around 1988. The EVTCC’s main goal was to improve the quality of service and repair of fire apparatus and rescue equipment in North America through certification exams. Both of these nonprofit independent testing organizations have done a great job working toward their goals and have successfully added new exams as automobiles, trucks, and ERVs have become increasingly complex with the introduction of new technologies.
Reference materials for review to prepare for this exam include National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus (2016 ed.), and NFPA 1911, Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Emergency Vehicles (2017 ed.). Also good to review is any fire apparatus operator’s manual that covers the chassis, pump, and aerial device and “Cummins Drivers Tips for Fire & Emergency Vehicles and Selective Catalytic Reduction.” There will also be a need to review three areas of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) under 49 CFR, which addresses federal regulations for trucks. These three areas include lamps and reflective devices, minimum periodic inspection standards, and vehicle in-use inspection. These materials should be readily available in any firehouse and, if not, three are available for free online. The EVTCC will publish all the information needed about how to obtain these references along with the related Web sites at www.evtcc.org.
NFPA 1911 has included a chapter dedicated to the driver and operator daily and weekly inspections by expanding and listing many more items under both the visual and operational checks over and above the 2012 edition. Many people involved in this industry are well aware that most driver courses today mainly consist of training to actually drive the vehicle in obstacle courses backing up and high-speed maneuvering using cones and wet pads. Some of these courses are called emergency vehicle operators courses (EVOCs). What are glossed over, and sometimes almost left out entirely, are the vital details and instruction for how to properly inspect the rig for safety items. These inspections are broken down into two main categories: visual and operational. These include brakes, steering, suspension, driveline, electrical systems, engine, transmission, hydraulic systems, fire pump, aerial device, power generator, and fluid levels. Requirements for these inspections are all well-defined in NFPA 1911. The latest edition of this standard is due out in print this year.
Drivers and operators will gain very useful knowledge during the preparation phase for this new exam. I can relate this to my personal experience during my years as a technician. Even though I knew a great deal about the subject because of past experience and training, whenever I prepared to take a certification or recertification exam, I always seemed to learn something new in the process. I think, by and large, this will be the case here. For example, one area I have seen many drivers and operators struggle with over the years is being able to properly identify fluid leaks by classification. This may seem trivial to some; however, making a mistake here can mean the difference between a vehicle breakdown, catastrophic damage to an engine or transmission, and a fire. Correctly identifying fluid leaks can mean the difference of putting an in-service ERV out of service until repairs are made or being able to keep the unit operational until repairs are scheduled. Inspecting an ERV and being able to correctly access out-of-service criteria are extremely important and critical functions of an ERV driver and operator.
Keep in mind that although the driver and operator are responsible for the daily, weekly, and monthly vehicle inspections required by the NFPA, it is ultimately the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) that verifies these visual inspections and operational checks are being carried out by qualified individuals. Additionally, the AHJ is also responsible for implementing the procedures required to carry out the visual and operational checks. If an item found during an inspection meets out-of-service criteria, a procedure must be in place to take the unit out of service. Documentation of all inspections must be kept on file.
These new certification exams will go a long way in helping the AHJ ensure that its drivers and operators have the necessary knowledge required to properly carry out these vital operational and visual inspections. Those who decide to take the driver and operator exam and are successful will be directly reflecting their knowledge and dedication to their work and profession. Additionally, it will go a long way to help ensure their ERVs are safe and roadworthy. This alone will greatly improve these ERVs’ safe response to emergency scenes and, at the same time, will reduce the liability exposure the department is faced with when units break down en route to an emergency.
CHRISTIAN P. KOOP retired as the fleet manager for the Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Department after 35 years with Miami-Dade County and four years in the military. He has been involved in the repair and maintenance of autos, military track and wheeled vehicles, heavy equipment, and emergency response vehicles for the past 40 years. He is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board. He has an associate degree from Central Texas College and a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Barry University and has taken course work in basic and digital electronics. He is an ASE-certified master auto/medium/heavy truck technician and master EVT apparatus and ambulance technician. He is a member of the board of directors of the EVTCC and FAEVT and a technical committee member for NFPA 1071, Standard for the Emergency Vehicle Technician Professional Qualifications.