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Advice from a Fire Service Officer
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( Reproduced by kind permission of the Author )
Firstly, I should explain that I am a qualified Fire Appliance Driver and thought I could possibly clear a few things up (at least from my perspective). Some of the following is law, while other is Service policy (I'll try to differentiate which is which as we go).
Firstly, EFAD (Emergency Fire Appliance Driver) no longer exists. The course is now ERD (Emergency Response Driver) and as such incorporates both cars and LGVs as part of the course. It is my understanding that this, in part, is due to the much higher numbers of private / light goods type of vehicles now in use by Fire And Rescue Services and as such the course can be tailored to the particular drivers requirement. I, for example, spent the first day in a car followed by four in an LGV (obviously, I already held my LGV license).
Regarding legal exemptions, I have just four:
1 I may use a red light as a give way, and pass through it if the way ahead is clear
2 I may pass on the wrong side of a keep left bollard
3 I may drive on the hard shoulder of a motorway and
4 I may ignore speed limits (more on this shortly)
The key understanding is that I have no right of way over any other road user. If they choose to continue to drive as if I wasn't there, then I have no cause for complaint (other than a moral one).
With regard to using red lights as a give way, I may only cross the line at the lights if the way ahead is clear and if all other traffic has stopped. If traffic continues to crawl forwards towards me, I may not pass the red light as traffic has not stopped. The same is true of all other junctions, I have no right of way unless other road users are stationary, giving up their right of way. I must still stop at stop signs.
The legal exemption to cross a red light applies only to me and so I would not expect any other road user to pass through a red light for me. There have been documented cases of road users being fined for doing so, despite the fact that they only passed through to allow the passage of an emergency vehicle. Moral pressure / panic means that drivers often do, but there's nothing I can do about that.
We are not permitted to cross a solid white centre line, other than in circumstances where any other road user can. If road users ahead of me slow down to let me pass, then I cannot. However, if they stop, they become stationary, and I am legally entitled to cross the white line to overtake them (personally, I would prefer you to carry on at normal road speed through the white line section and find a more appropriate place to let me pass). If I am stuck behind someone and cannot overtake due to solid white lines, I will knock off sirens so as not to fluster the road user ahead and force them into making a bad decision.
While traveling on clear roads I will travel on lights only. Where there is the chance that I may encounter other traffic (vehicular or pedestrian) I will travel on lights and wail (wail travels further ahead alerting others who may be looking to pull out of side roads etc). As I slow to navigate junctions or traffic, I will switch to yelp, as it penetrates sideways much better than wail. If I am filtering through traffic, I will travel on lights and yelp (with a blast of bull horn should it be necessary) while I feel that I can make progress. As soon as I can no longer make progress due to volume of traffic etc. I will knock off all sirens and sit there on blue lights only. As soon as traffic begins to move again, back on go the yelps. Leaving sirens on in stationary traffic simply leads to other road users feeling bullied and flustered.
In a similar vein, if I come to a closed level crossing I will travel up the empty lane on the right on blues and yelp up to the barrier, then knock off sirens. Once the barriers raise, sirens on, nip in front of traffic on my left and make progress.
I would never expect a road user to mount the kerb to clear a path, as I would never expect anyone to damage their property to allow me to pass.
I'm big and heavy. I'll overtake you if I need to, but if you're travelling faster than I am on a single carriageway road, please continue to accelerate away from me and leave my roadway clear. You'd be amazed how many people slow down just to let me past when they could easily leave me standing!
DO NOT TAILGATE ME! I am not a free pass through a traffic jam and I've got enough to think about without worrying about whether you're about to slam into the back of me.
As regards speed limits, I am legally entitled to ignore them. However, my Service's policy is that we may only exceed speed limits by 20 mph where a speed limit is posted and may travel at a maximum speed of 100 mph.
Therefore in a 30 mph I'll be doing a max of 50 mph, 60 in a 40, 60 in a fifty (as my LGV would be limited to 40 mph unless it's a dual carriageway), 60 in a posted 60 area (for the same reason) and as fast as is practical in a national speed limited area (I've passed a black circle and white bar sign). Obviously, these limits are subject to road and traffic conditions. To give you an idea, my Scania, fully loaded with a crew of six will max out at approx 85mph.
On a motorway, I am happy for you to overtake me on the right. If I'm looking for an incident on the motorway, I'll be in lane 1or 2 anyway.
Finally, I say thank you. It is only with the help and cooperation of the general public, that I can make good progress. A well timed wave of appreciation to a driver who has pulled over to let me pass, or to the pedestrian who stepped back from a crossing to allow me to progress, is not just good manners, but also let's them know that I appreciate their help in getting to an incident as quickly and safely as possible. It also let's them know that they have done the right thing and acts as a reinforcement for the next time that they are in the situation.
I hope that helps,