Contemplating life.


Studying for my C1 licence here in London (you need a light truck licence to drive ambulances here, unlike in Australia), I realised that most North American Type III ambulances don’t have cab-mounted wind deflectors. Yet nearly all european box-type ambulances do.

Compare the wind resistance of the boxes of these two vehicles:


Far more streamlined, which would equate to better fuel economy, less running costs = $

Additionally, they deflectors can house warning lights, heating or air conditioning units, or more space for gear. InsomniacMedic pointed out that though all regular London Ambulances have wind deflectors, the Baby Emergency Transport Service (BETS Ambulance) does not, due to weigh limitations…it was either the deflector, or the incubator.

I personally believe that is the exception rather than the rule.

Now to you, paramedics, purchasers and coach builders, what do you say?



Are you trying to tell us how to build our ambulances now? Next you’ll be telling us that our fire helmets are too large, heavy and poorly designed for actual fire suppression activities! Look, I understand that over in the UK you don’t have the same depth of history and tradition that we Americans have, but you don’t have to try and force your new-fangled innovations and best practices upon the rest of the world.

Let me give you the hard facts.

First of all, in the United States, the air is thinner, which is why we still put O2 on every single patient that we encounter. This thinner air is the reason that all vehicles in the US can ignore the effects of wind resistance, duh. (Yes, in America, “duh” is apparently a valid scientific argument.)

Second of all, in America we design vehicles specifically for American roads. If your response area consists primarily of highways, you should therefore build a roomy ambulance capable of taking up at least two lanes of traffic at a time, thereby blocking other vehicles from trying to pass you. This is a safety feature.

If you live in a rural area with smaller, “difficult to pass” roads, rough terrain, and severe weather, you must build and even BIGGER vehicle with four wheel drive, enormous tires and as many axles as possible. This is necessary in order traverse the rustic terrain while carrying the many, many, MANY emergency supplies that you will need to care for patients during the long hours of transport. (Editor’s note: built in iPads also help to while away the time for both patient and crew).
Finally, in many parts of the United States we’re dealing with a severe overpopulation of insects. Without the squared corners of American Type III ambulances scooping up every beetle and mosquito from our mountains to our prairies to our oceans white with foam, we’d very likely be overwhelmed with swarms of locusts like back in the 1800’s (I think). Is that what you’re trying to do to us? Cover us in BUGS?!?
So don’t get all pushy with your “Hey, Yank. Top o’ the mornin’ to ya, govner. Mayhap a bit o’ plastic or fibreglass on your cab might help your mileage and handling .” Sure, you may SOUND logical and polite with your fancy worded suggestion, but I know that next you’ll want us all to wear green jumpsuits to work!
Besides, you have to remember that we put GALLONS of fuel in our busses, whereas you can only use liters.
So call me back when you put your steering wheels on the correct side of the vehicle. Until then, be safe.

Your American cousins in EMS (because I know that I officially speak for all American emergency responders everywhere).

JD says:

In response to Ron Duckowrth. Hi there, could you possibly link me to some data or studies showing the ‘thiness of air’ in the USA, I personally couldn’t find much, yet am very much interested in reading further into this.


Arban70 says:

Thanks Rom ….LMAO…. the vernacular, not the medical ..

That was big for a while in the mid 1980s, but it’s fallen out of favor for the most part. Keep in mind that below a certain speed, 55 mph or so if memory serves, there is no effect from that sort of thing. Which means that in an urban environment, there is little or no benefit to be gained.

Of late I have seen a few newer van ambulances with aerodynamic front ends, but they seem (because of who is operating them) mostly used for transfers so they might get some benefit if they are on the highway a lot.

If Mercedes gets a wider rear differential on their chassis, they will probably see more penetration into the Type III market. Width being the biggest complaint I’ve heard from people who have worked in Sprinter chassis ambulances. Ford is supposed to be replacing the 20 or so year old design Econoline with the Ford of Europe based Transit. If Ford opts to offer that in an ambulance preparation package, I’d guess that we’ll see more in the way of aerodynamic design, especially if the engines are smaller and less powerful.

Finally, and I apologize for the post length comment, as Insomniac Medic points out, even if they are made of fiberglass, those fairings add weight. And weight is the biggest factor in fuel economy, not aerodynamics.

I used to spend a lot of time studying this and actually had a hand in procuring a number of ambulances over the years. Which doesn’t make me an expert, I just know a bit about this stuff.

flobach says:

Thanks for some great insightful data there TOTW, nice to get an inside scoop.

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