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Proper Tire Pressure Vital for Fire Trucks

Every minute matters when responding to an emergency call. The last thing firefighters want is for improper tire pressure to slow them down, or, worse, lead to an accident. Improper air pressure in tires puts firefighters and their trucks in harm’s way, increasing the chance of an accident or tire blow out.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Firefighter Fatality Reports details several cases of firefighter fatalities related to tire failures.

Full view of Red Osco Tank and Truck Fire Tankner on green grass
Incorrectly inflated tires can lead to disaster

Spotting the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle, civilian drivers may make unpredictable traffic decisions. Potentially putting themselves – and fire crews – in danger.

Having the wrong tire pressure on a fire truck can increase braking distance and create less responsive steering – a dangerous combination when split-section reaction times matter.

Underinflation increases a tire’s potential to blow out. Inadequate air pressure in a tire causes the sidewalls to excessively flex, generating heat. High heat in tires is more likely to cause tread separation or blowouts.

Fire apparatus are heavier and larger than typical commercial vehicles. A tire blowout on a loaded tanker truck or aerial device could have catastrophic results.

Properly inflated tires save money

For fire departments watching their bottom line or volunteer squads trying to stretch funding, maintaining proper air pressure can be an easy way to save money.

Fuel is one of the most expensive items in a fire department’s budget. Properly inflated tires ensure maximum fuel mileage.

A well-maintained tire has a longer lifespan than an improperly inflated one, saving on replacement costs.

The National Fire Protection Association 1901’s Standard for Fire Apparatus general requirement 4.13.4 requires that each tire on a fire apparatus be equipped with a visual indicator or monitoring system indicating tire pressure.

The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of a fire apparatus is determined by the tire’s air pressure, not the axels. On the sidewall of a tire, manufactures must print the maximum weight-carrying capacity of a tire at its maximum safe air pressure.


Making tire pressure checks a part of a fire department’s preoperational checks and fleet management policy can save money and prevent tragedy.