Tangipahoa Parish Rural Fire Protection District No. 2 is cracking down on driving of fire truck operators.

In response to multiple accidents involving fire trucks, all volunteer and paid firefighters who drive the fire district’s vehicles will be required to take a defensive driving course by the end of January, according to a new rule approved by the fire board during Monday’s board meeting.

Discussion surrounding requiring a defensive driving course began earlier this year when the district became aware that its insurance rates had been raised upon renewal in April.

The insurance company provides the course free with the only cost coming from purchasing work books. Many other entities already require this course for employees, including the parish’s drainage district.

“I believe everybody needs to take it,” said Dennis Crocker, fire administrator. “We have to be proactive in trying to resolve some of the issues we have having from all of these accidents we’ve been having.”

Crocker brought the topic to the fire board again this week after three Natalbany Fire Department truck were involved in accidents within three weeks.

A Natalbany Fire Department vehicle got into an accident a month ago on the day of the last fire board meeting. Last week, the department got into another accident, this time involving two of its trucks, he said.

Crocker stressed that most of these accidents could have been avoided.

These are the fire district’s trucks, and these accidents reflect on the fire district’s insurance, he said. He used the almost $50,000 insurance increase this year as an example. “...so, I would recommend that any person paid or volunteer who drives a fire district vehicle has to show proof that they’ve attended this class at least once a year,” Crocker said.

Personnel with Ponchatoula Rural and Loranger fire departments have already taken the class. And, Natalbany has an upcoming class scheduled. Hammond Rural takes the class through the City of Hammond. The fire district’s other departments have not reached out to take the class or schedule it, he said.

Drivers in accidents are being drug tested immediately after the accident, he said.

Board members agreed the requirement would be a positive move.

The defensive driving course is an eight-hour class taught by an instructor from the insurance company.

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