West Midlands Ambulance Service Vehicle Mechanics
A look at the the vital role the mechanics of the West Midlands Ambulance Service play in saving our lives.
Fame!! It appears that everybody in the world is clambering for their 15 minutes in the limelight. A chance to show off a gift, or just be daft in the hope that people will find them amusing. The world has consumed it and it continues to feed the hunger engrained deep within people.
Words like “Star” and “Hero” are used without any thought of the meaning, but because that’s what we see and hear every day when we talk about people in the public eye. Who is a hero? A person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Does any of that sound like a footballer or actor?
To me, the real meaning of a hero goes much deeper. We are surrounded by quiet and unassuming heroes every day, walking amongst us without the want or need to bellow about their achievements or indeed require your approval.
One such group of people are paramedics. Specialist medical professionals who respond in hi-tech lifesaving vehicles equipped with the latest in medical technology ready to be administered if needed. Saving lives is not an easy job, but that is the demanding task that paramedics of the West Midlands Ambulance Service do on a daily basis.
Two ready ambulances ready to go
Every day, you will see ambulances whizz past you, sirens screaming and lights flashing, expertly navigating through traffic and on to a destination and the challenges that face the crew on arrival.
Those vehicles are Fiat Ducato vans. Over the next three years, WMAS will be taking delivery of 300 state of the art versions using a unique ‘Core Capture’ construction method and aerospace type build materials, to ensure that the new ambulances are the lightest and most technologically advanced vehicles in service use today.
The trust is currently the only service with no operational vehicles more than five years old and to keep the fleet in tip top condition, they have a crack team of skilled mechanics working tirelessly for our benefit.
The Garage magazine was lucky enough to be given access to the Stafford Hub workshop where we observed its inner workings and mechanics performing their daily routines.
I chatted in great length with Martin Corley, Workshop Supervisor for Staffordshire and Shropshire, who gave me an insight into the pressures of keeping this hi-tech fleet operational and what it means personally to be involved.
Martin spoke passionately about his work and working for WMAS. He felt that in many ways, he was part of helping save somebody’s life. “I am part of the patient care cycle. We know that, when a vehicle leaves the workshop, it is ready to transport a patient completely safely and in comfort. We may not be out on the front line, but our role is a vital cog in a wheel that turns 24hrs a day, 365 days a year”.
Martin explained that, the role of the mechanics is to ensure all vehicle repairs and services are completed accurately, efficiently and within MoT standards. The team is responsible for servicing, repairs and preventative maintenance for all of the vehicles operated by the trust.
He continued: “each vehicle that visits the workshop will start with its own job card. The fleet number and registration number are entered along with the job start date and time. The chassis number is also recorded, along with the mileage.
A rear door replacement
“Once the vehicle is situated, the mechanic will perform a full check of the ambulance, starting with the vital organs – the engine, brakes, suspension and steering, before moving to the inside, where they will check the mechanical stretcher, oxygen and related equipment. Once these checks have been made, they will also check to see if the crew has left a note with any issues they experienced with the ambulance whilst on shift. Once the mechanic identifies any issues, he will start the process of replacing any parts needed. He will record what items have been replaced, along with a reason why. He will also register the start time and completion time of that particular repair”.
All parts used are either genuine or OEM. Martin explained: “We use genuine and OEM parts as it is the only safe choice. Emergency ambulances are able to travel up to 15mph over the posted speed limit and so we wouldn’t risk using anything that could potentially cause an issue. It is the same with tyres. It is important to remember that a fully laden ambulance currently weighs more than 4.1 tons so we have worked closely with Michelin and after extensive trials we opted for their Cross Climate model. The model was chosen for its durability and the capacity to deliver the best possible performance throughout the seasons and the conditions we experience each year. As a result, we do not have to change between summer and winter tyres”.
The workshop is filled with the latest in ramps and equipment. The Stafford hub contains a 3-tonne scissor lift, a twin hydraulic ram 2-post lift with a 5 tonne capacity and an 8-tonne 4 post lift. They also operate Texa diagnostic equipment, with Milwaukee power tools all neatly stored in brand new Dura cabinets. However, the team has also designed and developed bespoke tools that enable the mechanic to complete a variety of jobs in half the time.
As a further string to their bows, the team also replace and repair any rear door issues, as well as identifying ramp component failures and repairing when applicable. They will also replace any outside decal damage.
Martin has been instrumental in the design on the new models by liaising with Fiat on a number of issues raised with older models, which included a more rugged side door opening mechanism to limit failure. They are also working directly with Fiat on a clutch that can last 80,000 miles and their light bar manufacturer to produce a reduced weight type that replaces the current 15Kg model.
Old style rear lightbar
Martin continued: “our close working relationship with Fiat and our vehicle convertor is paramount as we continually strive towards designing the most technically advanced vehicle we can. We are constantly exploring design innovations that can help with reducing CO2 emissions and fuel costs and helps our operational staff by making the ambulance easier to work with while on calls. All of these cost savings enable the trust to invest in additional front line staff – something we are all grateful for”.
Martin concluded: “the trust has invested heavily over the years on the very best vehicles and the latest technology, combine that with a stringent maintenance programme and of course the highly skilled staff working for the service, the people of the West Midlands are cared for by the safest hands in the country”.
It is safe to assume that we all take for granted that when needed, an ambulance crew will turn up and deal with the situation promptly and safely. We never consider what condition the vehicle is in or even how it got to you, just as long as it did. The truth is, the mechanic is just as important as the paramedic attending you. This skilled profession and the dedication of Martin and his team means you will never have to wonder if the ambulance will be delayed or suffer a malfunction. You can be safe in the knowledge that the West Midlands Ambulance Service will never let you down.