It’s spring and that means it’s time to train another crop of tiller drivers. The Spokane Valley Fire Department spent a few days this week out at the Spokane International Airport taking advantage of a large concrete pad to help crews learn and practice their tiller ladder driving skills. Having an area of this size is critical for allowing new drivers to stretch and grow in their skillset without hitting anything more than a formidable number of expendable cones. The Engineer (driving the front) and Tillerman (driving the rear) work in concert with each other and their fellow crew members (instructors) on foot, using wireless headsets.
Important words and phrases in the Tiller Ladder vernacular include, Push, Chase, JAB, Angles of turn, Where the corners of the apparatus are, and Where the inline position of the tiller is. It truly takes practice, repetition, and teamwork to safely handle these impressive machines.
Using something as simple as a wooden model allows the instructors to teach how the tractor and the tiller exert forces on each other, complicating or enhancing the ability of the ladder to negotiate tight areas.