1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post Large ambulances

    Why purchase the big (freightliner type) ambulances. Big or Not Big that is the question.

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Cuzz, some of the benefits that are gained by upsizing to a Freightliner type chassis is that they more often come standard with air brakes. Air brakes save some money (not alot but some) on brake maintenance and when you have an air system, you can add things like air ride suspension, air ride driver seat and a "kneeling" rear end that drops for loading and unloading of patients.

    Depending on your equipment needs, there is usually alot more compartment space but I have found that if you don't use a big rig like that and don't run extrication, fire calls, search and rescue or rope rescue, the space is wasted, big time.

    One of the drawbacks to having such a large vehicle is that they sometimes don't fit in the normal ambulance bays that are designed for van type or pickup type boxes. The ride can vary between feeling like a tractor trailer to a bread truck. They are sometimes wider, have longer wheel bases and for somebody used to driving a van type ambulance, they take ALOT of training to get used to, especially in turning radius. They are also alot heavier and that can make a difference if you have bridge weight limits, off road areas and or muddy terrain.

    The inside can be roomier for the crew, head height can be quite extensive and room to move about is great. However, no matter how big you make the rig, you can only really carry two boarded patients, or one Pt lying on the stretcher and one on the bench. If you had alot of walking wounded, they're great.

    A couple of the ambulance squads around me have them and they rave about them but they did say that it took alot of training to get used to. Of course, if people in your crew are used to driving fire trucks, like myself, it should be no problem.

    The bigger rigs can also have options such as light towers for night ops at accident or fire scenes, generators and a host of other toys.

    Hope this helped. Peace and stay safe.

    Rescue Lt. Kevin C. (aka Pokey)

  3. #3
    Da Sharkie
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I think the big chassis are a waste. Most departments don't need it. As stated they don't run extrication equipment on tehm or use them for anything but an ambulance.

    I have worked on boxes on both Freightliner and International chassis and they both ride like crap. They sway too much because the box is too light for the chassis and they bounce like a son of a b*tch over bumps for the same reason, even with an air ride suspension. The cab does, however, give a little more space for the crew to sit. Me, I'm a short guy so I don't really care about head room but for taller guys it is goo but not really a big difference.

    The reason tjses beasts need a air system to lower the back end is because of the extra height because of the truck chassis. I never needed an air system on any van or other module rig I ever worked on. The modules on tehse rigs are teh same as they put on van or pick-up front chassis so there aren't any real changes to the configuration of a box other than what may be speced in the bid for layout. As Pokey said, yaou are still only going to take 2 boarded patients in the rig.

    The best ambulance I have ever riden in or teched a call in is a Road Rescue mounted on a heavy duty E-350 chassis with a box. The thing rides like you're on a sheet of glass. We carry a mini set of jaws and run at the A.L.S level adn STILL have plenty of room to put all of our little add ons in the compartments and inside cabinets. Not a bad rig at all. Teh only thing is it cost $!20, 000, which isn't more than the behemoths cost.

    Whichever rig you may be looking at, I would suggest true airhorns somewhere on the rig. Those little electronic things in the siren just aren't as good for getting teh attention of people too busy with their cell phones to get out of the way.

    *****Pokey, I am not ripping your opinions or information, I am just making an attempt to give a balanced argument to the information you posted. Take care, be safe and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. God Bless.

    I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it. You can't prove anything.

  4. #4
    Firehouse.com Guest


    The question of Big or not big, depends on the time honored tradition of..it depends on what your capacity is. The area you cover, and the department you work for. Looking at if from an FD perspective, it would be feasible where I work to have extra equipment on board for the FF's to have tools available if needed. Especially on the highways if you don't want to cram a rescue, pumper, etc. on the roadway. Now where I work at, the BLS provider wouldn't need it cause they do no rescue work, extrication, etc. They don't need to worry about jumping out, grabbing an airpack, some hand tools and advancing an attack or back-up line. So while I have seen them purchases as a waste because they are big and look nice. It all comes down to what its used for.

    The following is my opinion only and doesn't reflect that of any dept./agency I work for, deal with, or am a member of.

  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Ok, we've talked about how the chasis affects the box, but what do you think about the Freightliner chasis compared to a Ford mechanically? I've had problems after problems with Ford and Freightliner is a proven long haul rig. Our 1998 Ford 450 has already had a transmission replaced with only 20k miles a year 1/2 ago. We currently run with 3 Fords ('90, '91, '98). We're taking deliver of our first Freightliner fall 2001. It's replacing the '90 Ford 350 Rescue Ambulance which will get "unloaded" and serve as a 4th due until it dies. We've had nothing but problems with this rig. On top of it, it's a dog and can't handle the payload (jaws, combi, rams, portable pump, scbas, hand tools, cribbing, etc). The Freightliner will handle this no problem and plus, it will serve as a backup rescue to neighboring squads for station coverage when they're out. The added cab space is a plus as well. Also, after testing out the pre-air rides compared to the post air-ride, they are comparable to a van ride. Eventually our entire fleet will be phased out of Fords (except the Excursion), even medical transporters. Enough of replacing the Fords after approximately 8 years of service. However, only time will tell with these heavy rigs. Hopefully 10 years down the road I will be right and not have to perform a "open -mouth-insert-foot" routine.

    **Opinions above are my own, no one else could dare come up with what I do **

    J. Haney
    Whitehouse First Aid and Rescue Squad

  6. #6
    Da Sharkie
    Firehouse.com Guest


    There is another oprion out there for cab and chassis for an ambulance. Boston EMS runs Chevy and GMC truck chassis on their rigs. They don't happen to like the Fords all that much. Most of us forget about GM when it comes time for ambulances but it is an option. I remember reading an article a few years ago and they stated that the GM chassis gave a amoother ride and has more crew room for personal items, great if you have to work a long shift. The City and County of Honolulu EMS runs their rigs on Dodge chassis. They have been running Dodges for years on their rigs too. Just a few more options to throw into the mill when getting a rig.

    I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it. You can't prove anything.

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    we have used big trucks for close to 20 years. internationals with big boxes. strictly als transport units (they do carry 2 scba). crew of three. big truck gives you lots of room for two pts. equipment and supplies not jumbled into the cabinets. i think we started using the big trucks after we ran the wheels off of f-350's in the 70's. started with fords, then went to int. when they offered the lighter duty air rides. we do a in frame engine overhaul around 100k, and can get 200k out of a truck. durability of the larger trucks is our reason for using them. after three years, they are not yet total junk.

  8. #8
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I have to put a word in on the Chevy truck chassis for an ambulance...

    We have a 1992 Chevy with a 454 in it and it's the worst ambulance I've ever used. We break the serpentine belts all the time, go through a set of front tires every 6 months and the engine just dies whenever it feels like it. Completely unreliable. But, in the Chevy's defense the gasoline engine we bought is its real downfall. If it was a diesel, it may be ok.

    Ford builds chassis for ambulances. Chevy builds a great truck, but they're not good ambulances.

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