The Irving Fire Department is adding two new tractor drawn, aerial trucks, most commonly known as Tiller trucks, to its firefighting arsenal. Irving is the second city in Texas using these trucks, Dallas being the first.
Tiller trucks are designed to better maneuver around congested areas and narrow streets around town. Driving a Tiller truck is a two-man job.
“The vehicle has been in the fire service for a very long time, but it’s a relatively new concept in the South,” Assistant Fire Chief Tony Harvey said.
The Irving Fire Department began doing research on the Tiller trucks in late 2014.
“With some of the construction and stuff going on in the city, it has started becoming denser and more populated in tighter spaces,” Station 12 Captain Darrell Hall said. “We realized we have places that some of our equipment has trouble getting into.”
A committee approached the Irving City Council to propose the purchase of the trucks. Committee members even took a trip to the West Coast in July of 2015 to observe Tiller trucks in action.
“We set up a trip to California,” Hall said. “California has a lot of departments that have Tillers, because they’ve been tight quarters for a long time. They showed us their trucks, let us drive their trucks, and showed us what they were capable of doing. Even more important for us, it told us what you should do and what you should not do.”
One of the trucks will be going to Station Three to cover the southern part of Irving, and the other will be going to Station 12, which is slated to open in July, to cover the northern part of town. All the personnel assigned to the two stations have received over 40 hours of Tiller training to learn how to operate the front end and the back end of the trucks while maintaining constant communication with one another through wireless headsets.
“The Tiller truck has a standard driver and in the back is the trailer, which also has a steering wheel. That driver is called the Tiller man,” Hall said. “He can steer the back of the truck so we are able to maneuver around some pretty tight areas. We want each guy to be crossed trained in both locations, so no matter what situation comes up, we can get the job done and get it done safely.”
“There’s four different scenarios we have to drive through,” fire equipment operator Steven Hall said. “A lot of this is stuff we’ve done before but on straight axle equipment, so whenever you get to do this on a Tiller rig, it’s a totally different game. We’ve spent several hours getting used to that before we actually start driving on the road with the public.”
The new trucks also give firefighters more space to store equipment.
“We’ve got so much compartment space that we have not had in the past,” Darrell said. “The trucks are set up for firefighting and rescue operations. Every piece of equipment has a place now. It’s wonderful to be able to have so much space that even as the department needs to change we can put more equipment on the truck, which we haven’t had the ability to do in the past.”
The trucks are scheduled to go into operation in July once Station 12 opens. There is the possibility more than two Tiller trucks could be protecting Irving in the future.
“Our personnel who’ve been training on them ask questions like, ‘How come we didn’t do this 20 years ago?’” Harvey said. “Maybe when another station comes up for a ladder truck replacement, it could be a consideration.”