Part 3 : “Re-Imagining the Box” as the Central Idiom to a Re-Configurational and Cross-Configurational Highly Adaptive Emergency Services System.
Starting with True Strategic Thinking -
Just as the armed forces undertake Strategic Planning exercises to ascertain the inputs and likely outcomes within 'theatres' of combat, and so the specific types of equipment and vehicles required, so the leaders and tacticians of the UK's core Emergency Services should theoretically be positioned to understand - with perhaps even greater clarity – their own operational remits and operational contexts.
[NB The Economist magazine/newspaper recently published an article in which it illustrated how some American and European Emergency Services had used what was in essence 'parallel learning' from the Armed Forces when dealing with Terrorist related casualty incidents].
This said, it must also be recognised that the armed forces typically have innately simplistic hi-level goals and hi-level methods for achieving them, whether defence, attack, peace-keeping or humanitarian.
In comparison the Emergency Services face a broader set of 'on call' challenges for those on the ground, so although needing to deal with a far narrower 'operational theatre' have many more 'call variables' when actually in the field, even with standard procedures in place.
Thus perhaps even more so given the nation's immense reliance upon the three services, the nation would gain from the Police, Ambulance and Fire-Rescue services undertaking similar 'deep-level' thinking.
Wherein all facets of vehicle use and solutions provision would be extensively re-considered, with the guiding principles of efficiency and effectiveness promoting fresh thinking for exploratory alternatives.
The prime alternative being the major task a complete re-design of the UK's inter-connected ES system upon a highly rationalised, modular-tech based, logistics-hub basis.
Ordinarily it is perceived that higher effectiveness can only be obtained through higher public spending, but the challenge of improved effectiveness can be matched by the spur of fresh thinking and solutions innovation.
Seen time and again in UK industry when facing severe problems, it was new and original thinking about the problem faced, and the solutions sought that altered the trend-path of history. One of the greatest being the original 1959 Austin Mini, designed 'from scratch' with Issigonis's innate modular thinking, from technological, user and production standpoints.
Hence the car was effectively designed as a 'traction head' (transverse mounted engine, gearbox and half-shafts to wheels on subframe, itself attached to various 'back-end' body types). But moreover it had unrivalled internal space for driver and passengers for its size, because of innovative engine and suspension/wheel packaging, and critically was engineered to meet the requirement for speedy body welding and paint; hence the external seams for easy access by welders and a central dash binnacle through which the vehicle body 'paint-line skewer' passed.
As Issigonis proved with aplomb, it often lateral thinking – not simply a 'good money after bad' – will very likely generate new cost-savings and productivity improvements.
[NB As part of the Western World's necessary eco-based structural re-invention, fresh thinking is needed more than ever, and the edicts of Edward de Bono ripe for reconsideration].
Given the typically expensive leasing, and through-life running costs of Emergency Service vehicle fleets, a major re-think about vehicle types and indeed the whole system (from both geographic or service category perspectives) is needed.
[NB to this end the recently rebuffed integration of London's City Police into the Metropolitan Police should be reconsidered, since much could no doubt be learned by both Forces, the City service assisting the Met with anti-attack and the Met assisting the City with more proficient cost amortisation. With the City Police's iconic red vehicles now serving most obviously, but descretely, as diplomatic protection, much of the former 'Red Dragon' identity of has diminished].
The Task Vehicle Paradox -
To state the obvious, different vehicle types undertake variously different roles, each typically chosen and adapted to either balance the cost v performance equation, or bias to one side of that equation, depending upon budget and context.
Hence Beat Officers in one region may have to try and bundle a suspect into the back of a small cheaply leased Hyundai hatchback, hand-cuffed to a 'make-do' hand-strap in the roof, with no decent restraint or separation; whilst a Traffic Officer in the same constabulary may have had the comparative 'tool efficiency' of a high-powered Volvo T5 estate of yesteryear, or today a similar Sport or M series BMW or Audi RS.
Thus we see that whilst some dedicated or highly adapted vehicles enable police personnel in their roles, others effectively impede. Inevitably not all vehicle solutions are perfect, but it appears that (as with road-side cameras) since the 1990s there has been budget provision for those vehicles which could be termed 'money earners' through driving fines, whilst budget constraints have been obvious in the everyday traditional urban policing roles.
It should therefore be remembered that “the better the tool, the better the job” for all concerned.
Vehicle Types -
Land-based vehicles have evolved in relation to general automotive engineering – as will be simply discussed hereafter, with specific reference to the opportunity for vans.
Perhaps most prolific has been the use of aircraft by the Police and Ambulance services. Helicopters notably able to cover large distances quickly, and respectively able to provide eye-in-the-sky surveillance (general or call) and to speedily reach and recover injured persons from otherwise problematic off-road and remote locations.
At the more conventional ground level, the last decade has seen the introduction of more localised quick response vehicles, notably so on two wheels given their urban speed advantage with both motorcycles and bicycles. Two wheels long been deployed by the police, though in and out of favour at different times; for both intentionally slow pedal-based high visibility, friendly “Dixon of Dock Green” type 'community policing', with an increased use of powerful motorcycles to meet quick response situations and high-speed on-highway pursuits.
Similarly, yet more so, the use of specific car types has evolved to meet various role requirements. From the standard 'Patrol (or UK 'Panda') car used for the everyday, to the high-speed, increased equipment needs of traffic units, the quick-response needs of armed 'weapons-deployment 'units, through to the needs of 'search and sniff' dog units typically for drugs and other contraband.
However it may be the case that effectively operating as specific role mobile accommodation devices - varying in volume and 'fitted-out' for one of a myriad of tasks - it appears likely that it is the van that offers the greatest possible progress toward advancing the “CapEx Cost vs Service Quality” equation.
The Van -
From 'Paddy Wagon' to C4I Comms Centre -
For decades from the 1920s to the 1970s the standard police van remained virtually unchanged. The once simple trusty 'black maria' or 'paddy wagon' itself little more than a side-bench, grille-divided panel van fitted with by the 1960s a service radio; used for the housing and transportation of both “cops and robbers” as the situation required, whether that be crowd enforcement or bank villains.
Yet with the growth and specialisation of police tasks the once simple van has evolved into a wide suite of very much task-tailored van types, so requiring a range of volumetric body-sizes, security devices, and a broad spectrum of function specific internal fittings.
Today in operation police vans span everything from needs of old-style 'paddy wagon' (though updated) through to highly technical “C4I” (Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence) centres operating in-situ.
The following list provides a general insight into the models used by London's Metropolitan Police:
(Standard Body, Low-Level Adaption - Constabulary Marked)
1. Personnel Van -
standard crew-cab (std or mid top) – police personnel only
2. Protected Personnel Van -
mid or hi-top crew cab – for possibly violent situations.
(mid or high top, given long hours in van and need to periodically stand)
3. 'Duty Van' –
half-window, std or mid top - police personnel and arrest suspects (rear section cell)
4. 'Dog Section' Van –
half-window, std or mid tope – akin to std crew-cab (rear dog kennel)
5. Equipment Van -
standard panel van – equipment only
6. 'Commercial Unit' -
standard panel van or half-window – for roadside repair of police vehicles
7. 'Camera Van' -
standard panel or crew cab – traffic safety use (camera hidden or visible)
(Bespoke Body, High Adaption – Constabulary Marked
8 Equipment Van (large) -
'Luton' body, large volume - for equipment
9. 'Observation Van' (large) –
'Luton' body, large volume – for crowd observation
10.'Command Unit' -
'Luton' body (with few windows) – C4I unit for in-situ reporting
11.'Secure Transport' –
Strong-box 'Luton' body (with security windows) – high-risk prisoners
This illustrates the diversity of van types currently in use within the UK
Although effectively task dedicated, with a requirement to maintain or better functionality, the crucial point is that to not view these vehicles as pre-designated complete vehicle types.
In reality, each van consists of its general systems: body, trim, chassis, powertrain, electrical, plus its dedicated systems specific fittings.
The body much modified to suit the desired application; whether that be a standard bodied van straight off the production line, with requisite low-level adaption, or a wholly dedicated bespoke body mated to an ex-factory standard 'chassis-cab' using the consummately professional but also relatively expensive services of an authorised vehicle conversion specialist.
[NB as the term denotes, “chassis cab” being a normal front-end of van or truck, but with the rearward portion of the chassis left open for fitment of specific body type: eg large “Luton” box, frame rails with drop-curtains, cage, 'drop-side' bed, lift-bed etc].
It is here in the 'Modularisation' of the rear body section that fundamental gains could be achieved.
“Function, Not Form” -
Of course, the larger and heavier the vehicle becomes because of the size and weight of those fittings the greater impact it has upon the performance of a vehicle, especially important if a quick response unit such as an ambulance.
[Eg. in the 1980s the London Ambulance Service actually had Sherpa vans fitted with Rover V8 engines to address the much increased vehicle mass, so increasing fuel costs].
Nonetheless, ultimately in use terms, 'the van' simply consists of the forward located driving area (the cab), with the major portion of its dimensions related to the task related functionality – whatever that may be.
Beyond this prime spacial and task utility, the ideals of product-service quality, good ergonomics for driver and passengers, and invariably (as exemplified historically) bias toward either good on-road performance (engine and chassis) for quick response, or toward markedly improved fuel economy for general use, so as to obtain this advantage in the reduced running costs of the fleet.
[NB it must be noted that this once invariable trade-off between performance and fuel economy is now being reduced with the use of petrol/diesel electric hybrid power-trains; an electric motor for fast acceleration, sustained with internal combustion engine, set out either in 'series' or 'parallel'].
Thus, in this new-age of propulsion possibilities, it is high time that Emergency Service Vans be not viewed from their historical perspective – which itself stemmed from sadly inevitable ad hoc evolution – but in a new light recognising the fundamental intersect of chassis/powertrain and body; and the vital roles each must undertake for both broad society in the ecological sense and the individual(s) (personnel and public) when the contextual need arises.
Such a new perspective would allow for a revolution in new thinking about the very construct of the 'box-van', its internal and external reconfigurability and critically the opportunity to achieve better regional and nationwide cross-fleet inter-operability and so marked efficiencies.
These to be gained from flexibility improvement of the overall logistics system – Standardisation as its philosophy and Re-Configurability as its technical approach.
By viewing best practice in other operational fields lessons may be learned and 'ideology transfer' prompting an interpreted 'technical transfer' of those high efficiency solutions.
To Follow -
A few 'best practice' examples in which such a philosophy and approach has revolutionised the cost benefit equation.