Firefighters face lorry training

ROOKIE fire drivers in Suffolk face having to learn in lorries rather than the red engines used for emergency missions, it has emerged.Suffolk Fire Service claims to have found a loophole in the Driving Standards Agency's new guidelines for light goods vehicle training, which is set to come into effect next summer.

ROOKIE fire drivers in Suffolk face having to learn in lorries rather than the red engines used for emergency missions, it has emerged.

Suffolk Fire Service claims to have found a loophole in the Driving Standards Agency's new guidelines for light goods vehicle training, which is set to come into effect next summer.

Under the new rules, firefighters training for the compulsory LGV tests will have to learn using a lorry which is at least seven metres long and ten tonnes in weight.

But, as Suffolk Fire Service pointed out, most of the county's fire engines do not meet the length requirement.


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It means that trainee fire drivers will have to learn using lorries rather than fire engines before getting their LGV certificate.

Joanna Spicer, chairman of Suffolk Fire Authority, said the service could have done without “bureaucratic legislation” but stressed the county's fire force was well prepared for the new rules on training.

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She said the entire fleet was currently under review and the new LGV training rules would be taken into consideration when the service buys new vehicles.

Mrs Spicer added: “We may have this bureaucratic legislation over the vehicles we can use to train but this has not caused panic and we have very experienced trainers and we value our safety record.

“Driving any blue light vehicle - especially a large fire engine - is something that requires extreme skill and ability and we would only give people the best training to ensure we keep the people of Suffolk safe.”

Peter Burton, spokesman for the Drivers Standards Agency, said he was aware of the fire appliance issue.

He added: “I can understand their concern. Fire service vehicles are often not the right length and often automatic. Some services are buying in new vehicles for this reason.

“What we are concerned about is making sure that somebody who passes the LGV test can drive a reasonably representative vehicle.”

At present would-be fire drivers have to complete a one-week LGV course before moving on to the more advanced emergency fire appliance driving course (EFAD).

Pat Dacey, Suffolk Fire Service's training manager, said great strides were being made in terms of fire engine driving and unveiled his plans to extend the EFAD course from three days to four or five days, depending on need.

Skills needed to drive fire engines are currently under review within the Suffolk service.

Last year the number of accidents involving emergency vehicles rose from 17 incidents in 2004/2005 to 27 in 2005/2006, though most of those involved broken wing mirrors and just one collision involving a fire engine was classed as “serious”.

The fire service has also brought in the private firm Driver Transport Training, to take on some of the service's LGV training needs.

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