If you have ever dreamed about becoming a firefighter, one of the reasons why may be so you can drive a fire truck.
After all, who doesn’t want to drive a fire truck? It’s one of the most iconic symbols associated with firefighters and is easily recognisable out on the road.
They are huge and they look cool - so it’s pretty clear to see why a lot of kids love fire trucks and make it their dream to drive one someday.
Even when firefighters begin their training, a lot of them want to drive the fire truck - but to be able to drive one, you are going to need more than just your usual drivers license.
The average fire truck weighs between 36,000 and 60,000 pounds, making it a heavy vehicle to drive and so, the driver needs to be well skilled and trained to operate such a huge vehicle. A fire truck also costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to operate and equip.
For these reasons, fire departments do not want to trust their most vital and expensive piece of equipment into the hands of someone without the proper credentials to drive it.
If the driver is not properly trained, they could end up causing way more damage when on route to an emergency.
And so, there are a few requirements needed first before you can get into the driver’s seat of a fire truck.
If you have ever started to research the requirements needed to be able to drive a fire truck, you may have come across something called a firefighter endorsement. The term itself makes you think you just need a firefighter’s permission - but it’s not that simple.
In fact, a lot of training goes into earning one. Without it, you could be posing a potential danger to a lot of people, including yourself.
But what exactly is a firefighter endorsement?
To learn what a firefighter endorsement is, if you need one, and what the requirements are to get it, then here is all the information you will need.
What Is A Firefighter Endorsement?
A firefighter endorsement is a specialised driving license endorsement issued by some states in the US that allows firefighters to drive fire trucks without the need of a Class A or Class B drivers license.
It is issued by the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to both career and volunteer firefighters, allowing them to drive a fire truck.
Before firefighter endorsements were introduced, firefighters were required to meet commercial driver licensing standards.
CDLs (Commercial Driver’s License) are split into three types: A, B, and C. A Class C driver’s license allows you to drive vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GCWR) of less than 26,000 lbs - like small buses.
A Class B allows you to operate a single vehicle with a GCWR of over 26,000 lbs, while a Class A license allows you to operate any kind of vehicle with a GCWR over 26,000 lbs.
As the average fire truck has a GCWR of between 36,000 lbs and 60,000 lbs, a firefighter would have had to have a Class A or B drivers license on top of a Class C driving license just to drive a fire truck.
This meant that firefighters had to undertake additional training, written tests, and medical exams before even getting to the driving tests.
This obviously took up a lot of time and effort, and so firefighters were taking longer and longer to train up. Not only that but in more rural areas, the local DMV for a lot of firefighters did not have the equipment available to run these tests.
So, firefighters had to travel far and sometimes into another state just to take a test. In rural areas where firefighting is done by volunteers rather than by career firefighters, this was becoming an issue.
In states like California especially, fires were on the rise. The demand for firefighters was increasing but the long training process was making it difficult to train up new firefighters.
Some fire departments were able to hire fire engineers - individuals whose job was specifically to drive the fire truck alone - but in more rural areas where most firefighters are volunteers, they did not have the numbers necessary to fight the increasing amount of fires.
Eventually, the law around firefighters’ license requirements changed.
In 2011, firefighters in some states could now get a firefighter endorsement - a license which meant that they could now drive a fire truck without all the necessary training to drive an even larger vehicle just to get a class A or B driving license.
This in turn has made training firefighters a quicker process and has allowed the number of firefighters available to keep up with the demand.
Without this change, a lot of rural areas would be left with too few firefighters to deal with the number of fires sufficiently or be stuck without someone to drive the fire truck safely and legally.
However, some states do not have this advantage and still require firefighters to have a class A or B driving license. These are more usually the larger states with a lower frequency of fires who have enough firefighters to keep up with the demand.
To sum it all up simply, a firefighter endorsement is a special driving license firefighters have so they can drive a fire truck without undergoing the long training process it takes to get a Class A or B drivers license.
Do You Need A Firefighter Endorsement?
If you want to drive the fire truck, then yes - you need a firefighter endorsement.
Fire trucks are large vehicles and are very heavy to drive. Driving in an emergency also requires special handling so a firefighter needs to know how to drive a fire truck appropriately before they get in the driver's seat.
The only time you do not need a firefighter endorsement to drive a fire truck is if you live, work, or volunteer as a firefighter in a state that does not have firefighter endorsements.
Instead, you will need to get a Class A or B drivers license on top of your Class C driver's license before you will be allowed to drive the fire truck.
However, you do not need a firefighter endorsement to become a firefighter. Not all firefighters drive the fire truck (some departments even hire fire engineers specifically to drive the truck) and so, you can still train to be a firefighter without needing a firefighter endorsement.
You will still need to meet all the other requirements to become a firefighter (like good physical fitness, pass the training programs, etc) but a firefighter endorsement is not mandatory.
If you do have a Class C driver’s license, then you can always train up. Knowing how to drive the fire truck will be a handy skill for you to have, especially if your fire department is based in a very rural area.
You can then be called on to drive the fire truck to emergencies and help save precious time.
The more firefighters a department has that are qualified to drive the fire truck, the better - and if you already have the cool head needed to be a firefighter, then learning to drive the fire truck will be no extra stress.
So needing a firefighter endorsement all depends on your role and where your fire department is based. In certain states, you cannot get one and will need to apply for a different license to drive a fire truck.
However, if you do belong to one of these states that do allow firefighter endorsements, then having one is mandatory if you want to drive the fire truck. Without it, you cannot drive the fire truck safely and legally in these states.
How Do You Get A Firefighter Endorsement?
So how do you get your hands on a firefighter endorsement?
Well, you will have to go through a bunch of steps to prove you are able to drive a fire truck safely - but first, you need to know to drive.
It goes without saying that you will need a Class C driver’s license first. You will need to know how to drive a basic car before you can move on up to larger vehicles like a fire truck.
Without proof that you can drive a car and have a legal Class C driver’s license, then you will not be put forward for a firefighter’s endorsement.
Once you have a Class C license, you will then need to prove to the DMV that you are indeed a trained firefighter. After all, they can’t just go handing these out to anyone!
So to prove that you are a firefighter, you will need to provide proof of employment. You can do this through a certification of employment. If you are a volunteer, you will need to provide proof of your registration as a volunteer firefighter with a fire department.
Both career and volunteer firefighters will also need a certificate to show that you have completed the fire equipment training programme and the signature of the official fire chief. Without these things, you cannot progress to the driving training program.
Once you have all these documents available, you can begin the driving training program. The course will be following either one of two standards: the NFPA 1002, Chapter 4 or the Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator 1A course.
Which one you will be completing depends on the Fire Marshal’s decision.
You will need to meet or exceed the standards set by either course to pass. The courses will prepare you to safely and correctly operate the fire department’s equipment through at least 16 hours of classroom learning, and at least 14 hours of supervised driving.
Your supervisor will be someone who has at least five years of fire service experience as an emergency vehicle operator, so you will be taught by the very best to drive a fire truck appropriately.
Once all that training is done and you have all the documents you need, you will have to take everything to the DMV and take a written test. Once you pass this final written test, you will have achieved your firefighter endorsement and it will be added to your drivers license.
Once the endorsement is added to your license, you are now legally allowed to drive the fire truck unaided and unsupervised.
So - that’s everything you need to know about firefighter endorsements.
Firefighter endorsements are a special driving license available in some states and are part of the requirements needed for a firefighter to be able to drive a fire truck.
They are not mandatory to become a firefighter, but they are if you want to drive a fire truck unless you live in a state where firefighter endorsements are not available. Instead, you will need a Class A or B drivers license on top of your Class C driver's license.
To get your hands on a firefighter endorsement, you will need to first obtain a Class C driver’s license and prove to the DMV that you are a trained firefighter.
Once that is completed, you can start your training with an experienced firefighter who has driven the fire truck for at least five years. After finishing that and passing a written test, you have then obtained a firefighter endorsement.
And with that firefighter endorsement, you can confidently sit in the driver’s seat of a fire truck and take the vehicle to any emergency it is called to.
A firefighter endorsement is so important to have, because without it, fire departments would be struggling to find fire engineers to drive the fire trucks and many firefighters would be stuck in months worth of training before they are capable of driving the fire truck safely and legally.
A firefighter endorsement condenses the training time and makes it easier for firefighters to train up others to drive the fire trucks - saving lives and previous time.