driver buzzer system

(Click to enlarge)

There is a buzzer system in the tractor that is an extremely important communication link between the tiller operator and the driver. The driver buzzer system is a button located in the tractor's cab that allows the driver to communicate with the tiller operator through an audible sound. 

Buzzer system communication

Years ago this buzzer system was the main source of communication between the driver and tiller operator. Now with today’s modern fire apparatus, the tractor drawn aerial driver communicates with the tiller operator via headsets. These headsets can be hardwired from the tractor to the trailer or wireless headsets can be used. The buzzer system has become a backup communication system between the driver and tiller operator in the event that the headsets are not working. The buzzer system is an emergency safety device.  Although the main body of communication will be through the headsets, it’s vital that the driver and tiller operator are familiar with the audible sound that the buzzer system makes. Tractor drawn aerials use numerous audible sounds to designate specific functions on the apparatus such as compartment door open, jackknife alarm, seatbelt alarm, etc. These audible alarms can sound similar to the buzzer system or worse, the manufacturer simply uses the same sound for multiple different functions.

 It is easy for the driver and tiller operator to become complacent when the buzzer system never gets used.  It can be a dangerous situation if the tiller operator loses communication capability with the driver and tries to signal stop using the buzzer system, but the driver does not recognize what the sound means. The last thing you want to hear from the driver is “what’s that sound?” as the drivers is still moving the apparatus. The driver should know this sound without thinking about it and the sound should be an immediate “stop” action item. Then the driver can ask questions as to the status of the situation and tiller operator.

It important that you specify that the manufacturer changes the audible buzzer signal sound to be distinctly different from the rest of the sounds/alarms on your apparatus. Some departments require that the driver and tiller operator use the buzzer system before they move the apparatus. The signals used to communicate movement with the apparatus are:

  • One continuous buzzer signal by the tiller operator indicates an immediate stop signal to the driver.
  • Two buzzer signals by the driver or tiller operator indicates to the other that the apparatus is ready to move safely in a forward direction.
  •  Three buzzer signals by the driver or tiller operator indicates to the other that the apparatus is ready to move safely in the backward direction.

Buzzer location

It is extremely important to locate this button in an appropriate area so that the driver has easy access to it. Generally a good location for this button is within arm’s reach somewhere on the control panel next to the driver. Because there are so many switches on the control panel it’s key that the driver is aware of the buzzer button location. (Click to enlarge)


During the design phase, the buzzer can easily be placed in an out of the way location which makes it difficult for the driver to access. 


In the below examples, the buzzer button was placed below the steering wheel on either side. The location makes it difficult for the driver to physically see the button, and if the driver was new or unfamiliar with the equipment this location makes it problematic. The driver must lean forward and down to search for the button with their hand. I’ve personally witnessed drivers try to find the button while asking the question “where’s the button at?” If the driver must communicate with the tiller operator using the buzzer system this is the last thing you want them doing while driving the tractor.       (Click to enlarge)