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Pickup Truck Crash Testing

Rescue personnel will relate the results of crash testing of the real world responses to pickup truck crash scenerios.

SUBJECT: Pickup Truck Rescue
TOPIC: Pickup Truck Crash Testing
OBJECTIVE: Rescue personnel will relate the results of crash testing to the real world responses to pickup truck crash scenarios
TASK: Given photographs of 1998 small size pickup trucks crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, rescue personnel will explain how specific crash test results indicate potential fire, medical and extrication challenges at real world pickup truck crash scenes.

Once again, we turn to the experts at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to gain valuable insight into the challenges of small pickup truck crash rescue. The IIHS is a nonprofit research and communications organization wholly supported by automobile insurers.

Researchers at the Institute's Vehicle Research Center in Virginia conducted 40 mile per hour, 40% offset frontal crash tests of five small size pickup truck models. Models tested included the Chevrolet S-10 LS, Dodge Dakota Sport, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier XE and the Ford Ranger XLT. Each vehicle had a seated and belted crash test dummy as its' lone driver occupant. All crashes were photographed and the trucks extensively analyzed by research engineers. Results of the testing reveal several key areas of concern for emergency responders.

Doors
Each driver's side front door jammed during the crash and required tools to open afterward. The passenger side door however, functioned normally in every case.

Real world implication: With these small size trucks, there is only minimal structural materials to resist crushing. It is important to note that the even with severe damage on the driver's side, the door away from the impact was always able to be opened by using the outside door handle. Make sure at a crash scene you try both doors. Even if one looks bad and doesn't open manually, don't assume both doors are jammed. Try before you pry.

Driver's side rocker panel
Each of the five pickups tested had significant failure of the driver's side rocker panel along the bottom of the A-pillar and beneath the front door. As the hollow rocker panel buckled and crushed downward, the door itself moved rearward and jammed. The doors were crushed rearward enough that in several crashes, the outer panel of the door split apart at the latch end of the door as it was jammed against the B-pillar of the cab.

Real world implication: The failed rocker panel makes a very weak structural area. Extrication crews will find that 'jacking' or 'rolling' the dash will be more difficult because there is no significant strength left to the rocker panel particularly along the lower A-pillar. Make sure cribbing is placed underneath the rocker panel to support this area when a ram or spreader tries to move the dash. Spread the load of the tools across a larger area of the truck by use of a ram plate if practical.

Floorboard failure
As the driver's side front tire crushed rearward, the sections of sheetmetal making up the floorboard in the driver's footwell area tore wide open. Seams of the sheetmetal floor failed along their spot welds as the floorboard buckled upward onto the feet and lower legs of the driver. From inside the trucks, the front tires were actually visible through the ruptured seams of the floorboards below the pedal area.

Real world implication: The floorboard failures mean potential serious lower leg and foot injury and entrapment can occur in actual crashes. EMS responders need to be alert to patient complaints of foot, ankle, lower leg and knee pain. Extrication personnel must check for foot and lower leg entrapment prior to forcing open a jammed front door.

Cab movement
These body-on-chassis vehicles all showed movement of the cab structure which is a separate assembly from the pickup truck bed section. Shifting of the entire cab away from the impact area was evident.

Real world implication: Shifting of the cab will cause the impact side of the pickup to crush inward trapping occupants. All edges along the hinge or latch side of the door will be closed tight. This makes setting up a door to be forced open more difficult. At the same time, the opposite side of the pickup will stretch wider than normal. Both the door hinges and the latch assembly should be visible in the wide seam areas along the door.

Batteries
As the lightweight front ends of these small pickup trucks crushed upon impact, the battery located under the hood was damaged. The Ford Ranger battery actually broke loose from its' mounting and was physically smashed open.

Real world implication: First due companies at crash scenes must quickly determine the location and status of the vehicle's battery. Be prepared to find a battery that is completely broken open, with leaking battery acid splattered throughout the immediate vicinity.

Task: Given photographs of 1998 small size pickup trucks crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, rescue personnel will explain how specific crash test results indicate potential fire, medical and extrication challenges at real world pickup truck crash scenes.


Ron Moore, a Firehouse contributing editor, is a battalion chief and the training officer for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the Firehouse.com ?MembersZone? and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the Firehouse.com website. Moore can be contacted directly at Rmoore@firehouse.com.

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