Sadly, emergency rescue vehicles get too much use. Disasters, natural or man-made, place a great deal of pressure on rescue services trying to take care of a high number of victims in a short period. To this end, a high-tech rescue vehicle capable of carrying up to four patients has been designed under the pan-European research and development EUREKA network.

The key result of the EUREKA E! 3722 4 SAVE project was the development of a new type of double-deck four-stretcher ‘box kit’ that can be adapted to fit a range of on- and off-road vehicles. The box kit uses high performance materials such as titanium and carbon fiber to be self-supporting and offer weight reductions of up to 50% compared with previous products.

The project also developed aluminum extruded sections as guidance rails for the stretchers, specially protected links and pivots from high-grade steel with clamping guards, new fittings for different DIN and NATO stretcher standards and space-saving collapsible seats with retracting belts for the paramedics.

The aluminum guidance rails were produced using a world-first aluminum stamping process, while an intelligent balancing system involving mechanical and gas piston springs was employed for easy and maintenance-free operation. The four-stretcher carrier is adjustable at the front and rear end to cope with different patients’ varying states of shock, while rounded profiles are used throughout the kit to ensure maximum safety for the patients and the rescue team.

These materials and techniques allowed the system to surpass current safety standards, while achieving weight reductions and giving the box kit the ability to withstand a loading of 10 G – the equivalent of an unbraked impact at 30 km/h (18.6 mph). According to the German project co-ordinator, System Strobel, the rescue vehicles fitted with the box kit are easy and safe to operate, and simple to clean and disinfect.

To develop the box kit System Strobel, a company that has been building ergonomic rescue, ambulance and emergency response vehicles for more than 20 years, worked closely with Austrian partner EMPL in adapting a Unimog (a range of multi-purpose 4WD medium trucks produced by Mercedes-Benz) subframe. EMPL is a manufacturer of customized heavy goods vehicle bodies with particular expertise in the adaptation of box bodies to Unimog off-road vehicle sub-frames.

The end result of the EUREKA E! 3722 4 SAVE project is a self-contained loading and unloading system that is particularly suitable for the off-road vehicles needed for rapid access to disaster zones. It is due to start production later this year.