Ambulance Box Remounting Option Remains Popular with EMS Agencies

Al Petrillo explains why, instead of purchasing a newly built ambulance, many EMS agencies are choosing to remount an existing patient module on a new chassis.
Instead of purchasing a newly built ambulance, many emergency medical services (EMS) agencies around the country are choosing to remount an existing patient module on a new chassis.

Reasons EMS agencies give for remounting include the cost savings of not having to purchase a new rig and keeping their current module when it still serves their needs in terms of patient care, as well as medic and patient safety.

Irina Hot, senior director of aftermarket for REV Ambulance Group, says REV has been remounting ambulances since 2010, first with its AEV, Leader Emergency Vehicles, and Horton Emergency Vehicles brands; however, after building a 65,000-square-foot remount facility in Jefferson (NC), the facility now handles remounts across all REV ambulance brands—the aforementioned three brands plus Road Rescue and Wheeled Coach, as well as three brands being sunsetted, McCoy Miller, Frontline, and Marque.

“We will take on non-REV brand vehicles on a case-by-case basis, but our focus is to provide support for REV brand ambulances, including those three brands which are being sunsetted,” Hot says. “The scope of a remount for a department will depend on the customer’s individual budget, their particular situation, and whether or not the module will need changes or upgrades.”

Hot notes that REV’s remount center typically sees five different areas that customers choose to upgrade on their patient modules. “The most popular upgrade is a light upgrade,” she says. “For example, going from halogen lighting to LED lighting is popular. And, as new LED lighting comes on the market, some customers are choosing to upgrade their lighting to what’s currently available.”

 A patient module gets prepped for painting prior to being remounted on a Ford chassis. (Photos 1-3 courtesy of REV Ambulance Group.)

2 Remounted ambulances at REV Ambulance Group’s Jefferson (NC) facility.

Another common item that customers choose to upgrade, Hot says, is a cabinetry upgrade. “They either choose an entirely new configuration or go with a facelift like installing new sliding doors,” she points out. “Cot upgrades are another area chosen for modification, with many customers going with the Stryker PowerLOAD system.” Graphics sometimes need to be changed to make a remounted rig match newer graphics on a department’s ambulances, Hot adds, and requests for electrical system upgrades are sometimes requested where the customer is going from analog to multiplex systems.

Hot says that based on the REV remount center’s experience, about 30 percent of its remount customers are doing a lift and set, putting the existing patient module on a new chassis with no module changes, while 70 percent are taking the opportunity to do additional work to the module while it’s being put on the new chassis.

Chad Newsome, national sales manager for P.L. Custom Body and Equipment Company Inc., says P.L. custom remounts its own brand of ambulance as well as many other manufacturers’ brands. “P.L. Custom is a Ford QVM (quality vehicle modifier) as both a manufacturer and a remounter,” Newsome says. “We’ve seen a variety of reasons why customers choose to remount a patient module on a new chassis. In fact, we have a customer for whom we have remounted the patient box four times, which spreads the cost of ownership over a number of remounts and gives the department a much better life cycle cost instead of buying several inexpensive new rigs over a period of years.”

Newsome notes that some customers like the interior layout of their module and want to continue using it without the expense of purchasing an entirely new rig, while other customers might want to keep their patient box but want to switch from a diesel to a gasoline-powered motor or vice versa, or perhaps replace the chassis because of corrosion due to heavy use of road salt in winter.

3 After painting and any patient module modifications, the box is mounted on the new chassis.

4 P.L. Custom Body and Equipment Company remounted an ambulance patient module for the Bridgeton (NJ) Fire Department on a new Ford F-550 chassis. (Photos 4-6 courtesy of P.L. Custom Body and Equipment Company.)

5 The interior of the patient module on Bridgeton’s remounted box.

6 The completed remount for Bridgeton.

7 A remounted patient box on a Life Line Emergency Vehicles ambulance gets a completely new paint job. (Photo 7 courtesy of Life Line Emergency Vehicles.)

Inside and outside the patient module are where customers get very specific about the changes they want made. “The remount changes might be a relatively easy set,” Newsome observes, “something like checking the electricals and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) system, updating the cab for new intersection lighting, and doing some painting. Some customers want all their halogen lights replaced with LEDs or switch from first generation to the latest generation LEDs or change to a different brand of LED lighting.”

Newsome continues, “Or a customer may want a total repainting of the module and may want to add six-point seat belt harnesses to the seating in the back, which means we have to open up the walls to weld in the plates to hold the harnesses. Remounting seems to be popular with a lot of our customers, and the one thing that we stress to every department seeking a remount is ‘Buyer beware,’ know what you’re getting with the remount, and make sure you get a list of users for references.”

Dan Ingersoll, engineering manager for Life Line Emergency Vehicles, says that Life Line does about 50 remounts a year, always putting the existing patient module on a new chassis. “Some of our customers are remounting because they have a chassis that has reached its mileage limit, and they like their existing patient box and want to keep running with it,” Ingersoll points out. “Other customers have had front end collisions with their rig, where the box is not damaged, so we are able to remove it and remount it on a new chassis.”

Ingersoll notes that before Life Line takes in a rig for a remount, it likes to know what type of unit is coming in, know what the customer needs to have replaced, make a list of the things to be checked out to start, and review that list with the customer. “We might find there are some items that will need to be upgraded once we tear it apart,” he says. “For example, we might have to do some body work and then repainting before we could put it back together.”

Often customers will request changes to the interior of their patient module to match a newer ambulance in their fleet, Ingersoll says. “We have had units go through here where the box has been remounted four times,” he notes. “We are working on one that’s been lightly used by a small community where the box was originally put on a chassis in 1991. But the departments with a higher turnover for remounts are the larger municipalities that put a lot of mileage on their rigs in a shorter period of time.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.

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