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Um... because it's fun? It's very old school now but for those old timers who had the chance to experience this, they will attest that as long as the weather was nice, then the ride on the tailboard was a treat and a half. 

Where I worked from 1980-1982, we had 1954 Crown fire trucks with riding the tailboard being the place for the firefighter to ride, no jump seats... The alarm would go off, and you would donn your bunker gear, hop on the tailboard, clip in to the safety harness attached to the hand bar or top rail, push a buzzer button and off you go.

The coolest thing about this for me was the myriad of smells as we travelled through our district that was always lush and green and filled with plants and flowers that smelled wonderful. You don't get that riding inside the cab of the rig...

For those old enough to remember this, do you recall what the actual name was for the bar that you held onto? Linda from Florida asked me and I can't recall the name. Anybody?

- Mike

Subway rail?

Um... because it's fun?

Heck yes it is Mike!!!

Is the buzzer you mentioned for the back step riders to alert the driver that they are ready to go?

or conversely you want to tell the driver to stop, go or backup...

In some of the older rigs, the driver also had a light that came on to confirm that the firefighter on the tailboard had signaled or pushed the button.

No question about it, back in the day, traffic was not really an issue compared to now. Special signage in some of the vehicles when this was still considered an acceptable practice made it clear that no one is supposed to ride on the tailboard.

This is why it is no longer considered an acceptable practice...

NIOSH Line of Duty Death Report:

Call me twisted but I remember when we went over bumps in the road, purposely jumping up to go airborne, maybe even a tad bit of weightless was experienced but overall a great memory and experience in my opinion... but definitely a dangerous thing to do which is why it is now against the law or at least OSHA to do anymore...

unless you are a third world country,

or... in a parade.

Of course now days, it's fun to mess with the new EO's by pressing it when they are doing equipment check in the morning. Or tell the rookies that it is a remote control for hose loading.

you so crack me up and make reading the FFN posts worthwhile sometimes...

I remember those days and it not only was fun, it was a blast.

Mike up around the lower Michigan/Detroit area it was called a grab bar but I'm sure that it had other names according to location.

The waist belt is a good way to ensure that you get dragged behind the rig if you fall.


I was on a department that routinely used them back in the '70's, and quickly determined that the choice between falling off the back step or being dragged was a pair of really bad choices.


I 100% agree with you on those waist belts.  I refused to wear them felling the same as you about the possibility of being dragged.  It was further justified to me when I learned of a rollover accident where a guy was tethered to the rear like that and was beaten to death as the rig rolled.

Andy, Thanks for sharing your local terminology. I seem to recall grab bar myself but again am asking others to clue us in to any other names for the:

tailboard upper bar

rear bar

grab bar


safety bar


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