The former executive manager of CFA Fleet Services first joined CFA in 1981 as a design engineer in the mechanical services division.
Over the next 30 years he was instrumental in a number of fire truck upgrades that still protect firefighters today.
“After we lost firefighters on Ash Wednesday I committed myself to improve our equipment so it would never happen again,” Robert said.
“Working in CFA you quickly learn you have to be very meticulous in your design because people are really relying on what you do – there are dire consequences if the truck breaks down. Whatever we did needed to be up to the best standards possible and needed to be reliable.”
Robert was actively involved with the design and development of many lifesaving initiatives that members may now take for granted.
One that stands out is the Rollover Protection System that earned him an Australian Fire Service Medal last year. This was the first system to give some protection to the crew when they are on the back of a truck that rolls over.
In addition, vehicles were also fitted with an intercom system to allow them full communication with members in the cabin.
“A lot of people owe their lives to the rollover protection system. In terms of occupational health and safety, CFA is way in front of the rest of the world as a result of this work.
“We introduced the low water level alarm into trucks after the Linton tragedy in 1998. Crews now receive a warning if their water tank gets down to a quarter full, so they know to head back and refill.”
Robert put in a significant amount of research and work into converting CFA’s fleet of fire trucks from petrol to diesel power, as a precaution against fuel vaporisation.
“At that time the diesel powered fleet wasn’t up to performance standard. The torque and power wasn’t right – it took a bit of research to get the right balance and do what we needed to do.”
Robert and his team were also responsible for implementing the vehicle spray protection system, the crew protection safety system and heat shielding on trucks.
“When I left CFA last year I realised that there wasn’t a truck at CFA that I hadn’t been involved with. That made me feel quite proud.
“These initiatives really are a combination of the enthusiasm of the people I worked with. If you don’t get the support then these things don’t happen. We all had the same direction, approach and concerns and my role was to implement it.
“I was surprised to receive this award but it’s a nice recognition of my career over the last 30 and a half years.
“I got a lot of satisfaction out of working for volunteers. There’s a great sense of purpose at CFA and that’s why I stayed as long as I did.”