What Is a Tiller Truck?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2019
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A tiller truck is also known as a hook-and-ladder truck in the US. This type of firetruck uses a semi-truck-type tractor to pull a long, ladder-equipped trailer through often crowded city streets. The tiller truck uses a driver perched high on the rear of the trailer to operate special steering gear that allows the trailer to navigate tight streets. Firefighters are educated to drive the tiller truck in special courses that offer hands-on driver education for the large ladder rig.

As buildings began to get taller and city streets became tighter, fire departments were forced to create new equipment to reach the stranded fire victims as well as to navigate the crowded streets safely. The result was the tiller truck, a semi-like truck that has steerable wheels on the rear of the trailer as well as the front of the cab. The driver on the trailer can drive the trailer straight down the street, even after the truck portion of the rig has made a turn. The rear-control cab has not only a steering wheel, but turn signals, mirrors and brakes.


In addition to the ability to turn sharp corners on the way to a fire, the driver at the rear of the tiller truck is responsible for properly positioning the ladder once at the scene of the fire. The driver must steer the trailer into a position that will be beneficial to the men climbing the tiller truck ladder. Due, in part, to the limited space on city streets, this is commonly a one-shot maneuver for the driver. The tiller also makes it much easier to move through traffic as the rear steering allows for a much more agile technique. This type of truck also allows its driver to remain focused on the traffic in front of the rig without having to use the rear view mirrors as much when passing, changing lanes or making a turn.

Some volunteer fire departments dislike the tiller truck due to the requirement of needing an additional driver to arrive at the truck before it can leave the fire barn. This is often overlooked in favor of the increased maneuverability of the long truck in narrow street districts. Incidental accident damage is often reduced with a tiller truck as the driver is able to better miss parked cars and pedestrians when racing to the scene of a fire call.


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