Check the Specs: Prevent problems with your new ambulance

The EMS Manager


 
 

David S. Becker | | Tuesday, June 26, 2007


This first time I picked up a new ambulance from the factory, I had no idea how to conduct a thorough vehicle examination before accepting it and driving it home. A coworker and I looked the ambulance over for a couple of hours, using the hit-or-miss method of reading the specs. At the end of the day, we headed home on our 800-mile trip. About four hours into the drive, the vehicle broke down in a remote area. This was before the days of cell phones, so we had to walk to find a tow truck and spent the next day waiting for the Ford dealer to fix the vehicle. We learned from that trip and changed the inspection procedure of any new vehicle and how we took delivery of ambulances.

If you ve ever taken delivery of a new ambulance with problems later revealed that weren t noted at the factory or dealer, then you know the frustration of trying to fix the problems after the fact. To prevent this situation, develop an inspection checklist prior to delivery of your next purchase. This inspection checklist should cover both chassis and ambulance box and include detailed specifications designed by your organization.

Eyes peeled, ears open

Even one or two minor miscalculations can lessen your satisfaction with the vehicle, so focus on finding any variances and detecting any problems prior to leaving the dealer or factory. It s easier to fix any problems there than once you get the vehicle back to your location.

Before you even see the vehicle, quality control at the factory should find and correct any variances from its internal requirements and guidelines and the customer s specifications. However, sometimes things are missed. Therefore, start your inspection by reviewing the written design and layout specifications for the chassis and box.

A thorough inspection of a new vehicle is at least a two-person job. One method is to have one person read the inspection checklist and spec sheets and have the other person conduct a visual or tactical inspection of the item. As you conduct your inspection, document any items that need correction or repair and provide that list to the dealer.

Line by line

As learned from my experience, the hit-or-miss method of vehicle inspection leaves room for missed issues. So review each spec, line item by line item, checking off each part or system as you inspect it. You should also review any factory spec sheet and conduct an inspection according to that document, comparing it with your own original specs.

Light it up

Although most ambulance manufacturers have made significant improvements to electrical systems, you should test the entire electrical system to make sure that all components are properly working. It s not enough to just turn emergency lights on for a minute or two to see if they re working. A good test: With the vehicle running, turn on all interior, exterior and emergency lights, open compartment doors and turn on the air-conditioner or heater and leave them on for at least 30 minutes. A test like this assesses the electrical wiring of the vehicle in a worst-case scenario to see if any problems or shorts in the electrical system result. It also tests the battery and alternator.

Now shut off all the lights and inspect the electrical panel. Look at your volt/amp meter to make sure all readings are in the normal range for the vehicle. If you conduct this test at least twice, you can be sure that there are no hidden problems.

Don t get all wet

Imagine that after a few weeks of your new ambulance being in service, your equipment and supplies get wet every time you wash the vehicle or drive in the rain. Saying this is an annoyance would be an understatement. To avoid finding out the hard way, ask for a visit to a car wash during your initial inspection or borrow a hose from the dealer and pour water over the entire exterior of the vehicle. Each door has some type of gasket or seal to prevent moisture from getting inside. Occasionally, these gaskets or seals will slip from their proper position or were poorly installed. If anything seems off, notify the dealer or manufacturer and let them fix it, so you don t have to deal with it later.

Get a feel for it

Depending on the vehicle chassis, this part of the inspection begins with driving the vehicle around for a period of time, usually at least 30 minutes, to make sure nothing feels or sounds faulty. Ask your coworker (because you ve definitely brought someone with you) to ride in the back while you drive, or vice versa, to see how the vehicle handles, being watchful for any rattles or shakes. Drive up and down hills, if available in the area, and on the highway at appropriate speeds. Also, reverse and park the vehicle, noting any brake-related issues.

Not just cosmetic

Last but not least, pay careful attention to the paint and any decals applied to your new ambulance. Closely look at the finish and quality of the paint on both the chassis and the vehicle body. Check for any bubbling or areas that don t match the rest of the finish.

What now?

If any problems or defective equipment can t be corrected before you leave, you and the dealer should prepare a written list that details any remaining issues, including expected dates of correction.

Your agency just spent about $100,000 for the new vehicle, and that level of investment requires that you re pleased with the end product. So spend as much time as you need to completely inspect your new ambulance before you take delivery. I ve spent as much as two eight-hour days going over a vehicle before accepting it as satisfactory.

Most organizations only give a cursory look at new vehicles before taking delivery, so let your dealer know when you purchase it that you plan to conduct a thorough inspection at pick-up. In most cases, the dealer will want to work with you to conduct your inspection; if you send them your checklist in advance, they may perform a secondary quality-control check according to your list before you even arrive.

A new ambulance should be problem free when you place it in service, and you can prevent minor problems from becoming major hassles by performing a thorough inspection before it s delivered. Follow these guidelines, and take pride in your new flawless rig.




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