Ambulance Driver Training Checklist 2021

Becoming an emergency medical technician can be daunting enough when considering the training needed, but how does learning to drive an ambulance also apply? It may not be a subject you consider when looking to become an EMT, but it’s a very important skill to have as you look into the career. 

What are some of the things that you will have to do when receiving your ambulance driver training, also known as the Emergency Vehicle Operators Course?

Skill requirements learned in the ambulance driver training course include:

  • Reading and understanding state and local vehicle codes. 
  • Knowing how to send and receive messages. 
  • Understanding different ambulance types.
  • Carrying out an emergency run, including a planning safe route and knowing how to function in inclement weather and poor terrain. 
  • Understanding all equipment on and around the ambulance and how to use them safely, including lights and sirens.
  • Knowing how to drive, turn, slow and brake; and back and park the vehicle.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as of 2019, about 75 percent of agencies responding to the survey require their ambulance drivers some sort of emergency vehicle operator course, but that course was not standard across the country. 

In the same study, respondents said that around 50 percent had a program based on the NHTSA curriculum from 1995, and most were between ten and twenty hours of training. Many Emergency Vehicle Operators Courses, or EVOCs, are over a two-day period. 

One important note to remember is that although you maybe certified to drive the ambulance, you will also have to serve as an emergency medical technician, paramedic, or equivalent in your area. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2020 there were only about 14,000 ambulance drivers in the country. That means all other drivers are also certified at least as EMTs. 

While no state or region is the same, the general training checklist is as follows. 

The vehicle operator has read and understands state and local vehicle codes. 

The emergency service vehicle operation code varies from state to state, but learning those codes is still the very first thing that an ambulance driver needs to know and is the first lesson taught by the 1995 NHTSA curriculum. You will learn the laws that apply to ambulance operation, both the types and the specific laws for your area. 

The operator knows how to send and receive messages.

Ambulance Driver Training Checklist 2021

The next step is learning how to communicate while driving your ambulance and knowing the protocols for sending and receiving messages. This includes working with your team and knowing how to signal to the general public where you are headed; it also includes how you communicate with dispatch and run the scene when you get there. 

The operator understands different ambulance types. 

You will learn how to identify a type of ambulance, along with knowing any weight restrictions and how they are operated. Within the same lesson, you will learn how the size and weight affects the operation of the vehicle. 

Learn about CDL requirements for Ambulance drivers!

The operator knows how to plan and carry out an emergency run successfully, including how to plan a safe route to an emergency scene and how to function in inclement weather and terrain. 

Ambulance Driver Training Checklist 2021

In this section, you will show how you have learned the pre run, operational, and post run activities. You will also learn the best practices on how to get to a scene through your city or community, and what to look for when you’re plotting that route.

You will learn how to drive in any sort of weather condition, typically tailored to the specific weather in your region. You’ll also know how to drive on different terrain—or off-road—if applicable.

The operator understands how to take care of and use the equipment on the vehicle and how to use them safely, including lights and sirens. 

Ambulance Driver Training Checklist 2021

Essentially, in this step, you would need to know how to check over any instruments, use the brakes, and know any sort of safety procedure that is important to you driving, including checking traffic before you even head out. 

This also includes lights and sirens and how to use the emergency signaling equipment properly. 

You will learn about the vehicle and all the different things that are under your purview, including knowing how to properly use and check the following:

  • Primary brakes, both anti-lock and the parking brake
  • Steering wheel and mechanism
  • Fluid locations and checks (fuel, brake fluid, transmission, oil)
  • Lights and other warning devices
  • Tires
  • Horns, sirens, and audible warning devices
  • Windshield wipers and windows
  • Mirror

The operator has had driving experience in the vehicle, including knowing how to properly turn, slow and brake; back and park the vehicle.  

Some of the skills you may need to perform while driving the vehicle are:

Ambulance Driver Training Checklist 2021
  • Obeying traffic laws
  • Signaling properly
  • Leaving the curb
  • Controlling your speed
  • Keeping the ride smooth
  • Anticipating traffic issues
  • Using the mirrors
  • Passing safely
  • Driving smoothly

You will also have to show that you know how to turn the vehicle, which includes many of the checks listed above, along with knowing how to use proper speed, yielding right-of-way when applicable, and turning from your proper lane. 

When it comes to braking, drivers will be expected to do all the following, along with anticipating stops and knowing how accelerate slowly and smoothly. 

You will also show that you know how to back the vehicle by checking the location and using your mirrors. 

The operator can drive the emergency vehicle obstacle course in a certain timeframe. 

This course can include and is not limited to:

Ambulance Driver Training Checklist 2021
  • Straight line driving
  • Backing up
  • Serpentine pattern
  • Parallel parking
  • Understanding clearance
  • Conducting a stop

Current rules and tests may vary from state to state, but the previous points are most typically used when teaching an EVOC test. Since training is not standard across the nation, check with your local fire department to find the newest details for this year’s training. 

Another important detail to note is whether vehicle training is included in an EMT or paramedic course that you are considering. Before committing to a course, check to see if the emergency vehicle operating course is included or you would have to take that test separately. 

Regardless of how and when you take the ambulance driving test, remember that the majority is common sense and knowing the size, clearance, and limits of your vehicle. Be aware of other drivers and how they respond to you to make sure you can safely operate your ambulance and get to the emergency scene.


How long is the ambulance driver test?

While it varies from state to state, the test typically lasts about an hour. You may have to complete both a written portion of the test and a practical portion, where you display your skills in an obstacle course. 

How long is my emergency vehicle operators course certification good for?

Check with your state or local jurisdictions, but your EVOC certification typically lasts four years before you must get it renewed. 

What driving license do I need to drive an ambulance?

Ambulance drivers require a valid driver’s license but do not require a specific license as given through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. All drivers must go through the emergency vehicle operations course to receive the emergency vehicle endorsement on their license.  

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