Many fire departments throughout Ontario depend on tankers to supply water for fire suppression.


The safe operation of tankers can be more demanding than the operation of other fire apparatus, putting the driver at an increased risk of injury due to collision or accident.

Actions for employers

Employers must:

  • provide training for tanker drivers under various road conditions
  • make workers aware of the hazards of driving tankers

Employers should:

  • develop procedures for the safe operation of tankers

Factors contributing to tanker collisions

Workers should be made aware of these factors which can contribute to tanker collisions:

  • human error factors such as insufficient training, lack of driver experience, excessive speed, inability to recognize danger signs, lack of or failure to follow procedures, disobeying traffic laws, failure to yield right-of-way by civilian drivers
  • vehicle design factors such as weight of vehicle, age, high center of gravity, improper design or modification, retro-fitting non-fire service vehicles, liquid surge, poor maintenance
  • driving surface factors such as poor road design not intended to support the weight or stress of fire service vehicles, severe grades, sharp curves, unimproved road surfaces, adverse weather conditions, soft road shoulders, limited weight capacity
  • emergency scene factors such as emergency scene congestion, oncoming traffic at the scene, maneuvering at water shuttle dump and fill sites

Considerations for tanker operating procedures

To minimize the risk of accidents with tankers, procedures should include the following recommended practices:

  • operate the tanker at a safe and reasonable speed, keeping in mind that partial water tank loads can shift, creating significant instability during directional changes or braking
  • the cautionary speed signs that accompany road signs indicating curves in the road should be considered the maximum speed for a tanker driving on these curves
  • know the weight of the tanker so stopping distance can be determined and road weight limits are not exceeded
  • keep all of the wheels on the travelled road surfaces if possible, as driving on shoulders can create tanker instability
  • tankers should be equipped with back-up alarms and lights that activate when reversing to illuminate the area behind the tanker
  • be familiar with the roads in your response area and avoid poorly constructed or unpaved roads whenever possible
  • when possible, have at least one firefighter accompany the driver of the tanker, to act as a signaler while reversing and assist with equipment operation

Applicable regulations and acts


  • Occupational Health and Safety Act
    • clause 25(2)(a) for providing information and instruction to a worker
    • clause 25(2)(d) for making workers aware of hazards
    • clause 25(2)(h) for taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers

Applicable standards

For a standard on minimum job performance requirements for firefighters who drive and operate fire apparatus, read NFPA 1002 Standard for fire apparatus driver/operator professional qualifications

For a standard on requirements for a fire service vehicle operations training program, including safety procedures for those members who drive or occupy fire service vehicles, read NFPA 1451 Standard for a fire and emergency service vehicle operations training program


Read firefighter guidance notes: