The Pickup Truck "Autopsy" - Part 2

Pickup Truck "Autopsy" Checklist

As discussed in Part 1, the basic philosophy of a pickup truck hands-on training session is to systematically perform as many rescue assignments on this one vehicle as possible. Upon the conclusion of the training, you'll find there won't be much of the truck left. Participants will have accomplished most tasks that can be expected to be needed at an actual crash scene.

In Part 2, we continue exploring various vehicle stabilization and hazard control procedures.

Photo by Ronald E. Moore
With the front door removed, a jammed third door must still be opened.


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
Prying or spreading at the bottom of the third door will cause the bottom latch to release.


TASK L: Open a third door at its top and bottom latches.

If the acquired truck has a third door, a crew should simulate that it is jammed. The members' assignment is to force the door open at the top and bottom latches. By using a power cutter unit to cut into the top of the third door frame near the roofline, the top latch can generally be sprung open. A more efficient method of forcing the third door open is to use a power spreader at the rocker panel latch to force the door outward, pushing it off the rocker panel latch assembly.

Photo by Ronald E. Moore
Once the bottom of the third door is released,the door frame/B-pillar can be cut. This releases the top door latch mechanism.

A bottom latch on a third or fourth door is not difficult to force open as long as the door is being moved outward. This bottom latch is more resistant if you try to force the third door directly to the rear of the truck. That's not the way it normally opens so it will resist your efforts.

TASK M: Widen and remove the third door at its hinges.

Again, with a third door present, the crew can force it rearward and use a cutting or spreading technique to completely remove it from the truck. Hinges on third and fourth doors are relatively weak compared to those found on the front doors.

TASK N: The "double-wide" door evolution.

Working on the passenger side of the truck, simulate another jammed front door. The assigned crew will force this door open by attacking it at the hinges. On a pickup truck with no third or fourth door, once both hinges have been broken or cut, the front door should be removed completely.

If a third or fourth door is present, a "double-wide" door evolution can be practiced. The front door should be opened at the hinges. Simultaneously, the door frame/B-pillar of the third door is cut completely through. This releases the third door top latch assembly. Leaving the front door and third door attached to each other, place a tool such as a power spreader inside the bottom of the rear door. As the tool opens, it forces the entire front and rear door outward until it opens, allowing a "double-wide" side door evolution to be completed. This is a very efficient task that just takes a little pre-planning before the work begins.

Photo by Ronald E. Moore
Simultaneous attacks at the front door hinges and the top latch of the third door are coordinated as a single effort.

Now, we will look at the single most effective rescue evolution that would gain the most access to all occupants of the pickup truck.

TASK O: Total roof removal.

Assign a crew to completely remove the roof. Remind them to cut all seat belts prior to lifting the roof. Request that the personnel cut the rear C-posts first on both sides before they cut the front A-posts. This sequence steadies the roof the longest until right at the last minute when both front posts are cut. Remember to set the roof structure in a safe area on the training grounds with the roof posts down. The same crew must then render all cut metal areas safe to complete their assignment.

At this point in the training session, we have completely removed all obstructions along the sides of the truck cab and above any trapped occupants' head. Rear seat patients in a crew cab truck would typically be accessed and extricated at this point. Let's simulate that a driver and front passenger remain trapped. It's time now to get all that junk in front of them out of their way. Our training shifts now to working with the dash and front firewall assembly.

TASK P: Wheel and column - cut the steering wheel ring.

Assign a crew to cut and bend away a portion or all of the steering wheel ring. Regardless of the cutting tool used, do not allow a rescuer or any cutting tool to get in the airbag's "inflation zone" at any time during this evolution. Remember, a loaded driver's side front airbag at an actual crash scene can deploy out a depth of 10 inches from the steering wheel. Keep this inflation zone clear at all times!

Photo by Ronald E. Moore
With both hinges broken and the top door latch free, pressure is applied to force the "double-wide" doors to open as a single unit.

TASK Q: Passenger-side dash "roll."

Assign a crew to "roll" the dash up and away from a simulated front-seat passenger. Remember the challenge of working at a crash scene with a new pickup truck that has a third or fourth door. When considering "rolling" the dash of this extended cab pickup truck, the diagonal distance from the bottom of the C-post to the dashboard near the top door hinge exceeds the maximum extended length of all current model hydraulic rams on the market (unless ram extension pieces are added). Plan ahead. Be creative but safe.

TASK R: Driver's side "jack" the dash.

This is generally the better way to move the dashboard, firewall, steering wheel and column, and brake pedal away from a trapped front-seat occupant. Make strategic cuts in the A-post between the door hinges. Remove a "notch" of the A-post. Place a lifting or spreading tool in this opening and raise the structure vertically. Upon completion of this assignment, the front-seat patients would typically be able to be extricated.

In vehicle rescue training sessions, I hate to leave metal around that hasn't been worked with. Let's continue now with some extra stuff.

TASK S: Move or remove the brake pedal.

Utilize your rescue equipment to move and then remove the brake pedal.

TASK T: Move the driver's side of the front seat rearward.

This will be a challenge because you pretty well crushed and crumpled that front A-post. See if you can figure this assignment out. It simulates a realistic crash-scene challenge.

Photo by Ronald E. Moore
The results of a successful "doubler-wide" door evolution causes both doors to open on the third door's hinges.


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
A "double-wide" door evolution can be accomplished even if the roof has previously been removed.


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
The spreader moves in to push the third door out from the rocker panel latch.

TASK U: Remove the back of the front seat.

Here's a task designed to make the crews familiar with the structure of the pickup truck's seat framework. Assign a crew to remove just the upright portion (the seatback) of each front seat.

TASK V: Remove the entire front seat assembly.

Now, simulate that a person is trapped in the back seat. This patient still has a portion of a leg or foot crushed under the front seat. Totally remove the entire front seat assembly, a bench seat or both bucket seats.

TASK W: Remove the rear wall of the cab and the front wall of the pickup truck bed.

Simulating an extreme situation where access to the cab must be gained through the rear wall of the truck, crews will first move or remove the front metal wall and framework of the pickup truck bed. Next, they will move or remove the rear wall of the truck cab along with the upright portion of the crew cab rear seat if it is present. This is a challenging exercise that trains the crew to work under some unique pickup truck rescue situations.

At this point, your crews have pretty well peeled the "skin" off the pickup truck "banana." There should not be much truck left and that's a rewarding sight. Listed below, however, are several other evolutions that could be done with another pickup truck the next time one can be acquired for training purposes.

Photo by Ronald E. Moore
A successful "double-wide" door evolution on a pickup truck "convertible."


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
Note how total roof removal allows rapid extraction of all rear seat occupants and those front victims not trapped by the dash or column.


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
The diagonal distance from the bottom of the C-pillar to the A-pillar by the top door hinge is 64 inches. How will you "roll" the dash with no B-pillar?


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
This steel pipe and A-pillar bracket strengthens the dash in side collisions. The bracing also allows most of the dash to move as one unit when "rolling" or "jacking" the dash.


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
Power spreader tips, inserted into the notch cut into the A-pillar, will allow the tool to "jack" the dash.


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
The dash raises along with the wheel, column, pedals and instrument console when "jacking" a dash.


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
The A-B-C pillar cut on the top side of the roof should be made at the roofline. With the roof laid flat, the posts remain up out of the way. Note how the driver's side C-pillar was cut incorrectly.


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
Access through the rear of the cab in an extreme situation such as tractor trailer truck underride requires removal of the truck box, rear cab wall and back of the rear seat. How would you do it?


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
With the tilt column removed at the knuckle joint, a trapped driver can be extricated more efficiently.


Photo by Ronald E. Moore
Simply placing a power cutter into the knuckle joint of the tilt column allowed the tool to quickly sever the column at its weakest link.


Optional Tasks for Additional Training

  • TASK A1: Force the hood at its hinges.
  • TASK A2: Total hood removal.
  • TASK A3: Total roof removal with windshield glass attached at the top roofline.
  • TASK A4: Stabilize the vehicle on its edge, with the driver's side down.
  • TASK A5: Move the steering column separate of the dash evolution.
  • TASK A6: Total removal of the steering column at the dashboard.
  • TASK A7: Make an opening in the undercarriage floor pan of truck while it is stabilized on its edge.
  • TASK A8: Jacking and shoring evolution to lift the vehicle.

Overall Training TASK: Using this University of Extrication information, inspect 1998 model year pickup trucks to identify the location and operation of various new technology features and determine changes necessary in your department's current vehicle rescue standard operating guidelines.

Reviewing The 1998 Model Year

We review the current "state of the art" for pickup trucks manufactured as 1998 model year vehicles. This listing indicates the new technology features of this class of vehicle and the features or equipment that will influence our fire, rescue, and medical procedures at pickup truck crash scenes. Can you think of any more?


Ronald E. Moore, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is program director for the Fire & Emergency Television Network (FETN) and American Heat Video Productions, located in Carrollton, TX. He is available on-line at and looks forward to sharing additional vehicle rescue information with interested persons via the Net. Part 1 of this article was published in the June 1998 issue.