MAN teams up with Bevan Group on St John Ambulance’s first purpose-built logistics vehicles

St John Ambulance is preparing to deploy a new fleet of eight specially designed logistics vehicles that will be used initially to provide front-line support to the NHS and local communities.

Vehicles at the St John volunteering, training and operational facility in West Bromwich are, from left, District Lead Sam Blaze, Logistics Team Member Katie Bird, Logistics Team Member Tom Lander, Logistics Manager Paul Pearce, and Logistics Officer Carrie Eagleton
Vehicles at the St John volunteering, training and operational facility in West Bromwich are, from left, District Lead Sam Blaze, Logistics Team Member Katie Bird, Logistics Team Member Tom Lander, Logistics Manager Paul Pearce, and Logistics Officer Carrie Eagleton

Based on MAN TGE flat frame chassis cowls, the 3.5-tonners have been fitted by Wednesbury-based Bevan Group with crash-tested bulkheads and innovative plastic bodies which, as well as being easily cleaned inside and out, are also impressively light.

Early duties will include supplying vital medical equipment to satellite sites, from where it is despatched to re-stock ambulances. Once the events calendar in England picks up again, the vehicles can be assigned to their primary role – ensuring that St John Ambulance volunteers have all they need to provide their potentially life-saving support.

The front-wheel drive MAN sits 190mm lower than a standard TGE chassis cab, while the newly-crowned commercial motor bodybuilder of the year’s plastic box is bonded directly to the chassis, rather than being bolted onto a sub-frame in the conventional manner.

This meant Bevan Group could devise a drawbridge-style, full closure rear door that doubles as a ramp – the relatively shallow load angle allows heavy equipment to be winched onto the load bed. This solution is easy to use and offers a further, valuable weight saving over a tail-lift that would require two LOLER inspections each year, and specific training for operatives.

As a result, the charity’s first purpose-built logistics vehicles comfortably exceeded the one tonne payload target set out by national fleet manager Rob MacIntosh and his team at the beginning of the project.

Strategically based at St John Ambulance locations nationwide, the vehicles carry everything required to build and kit out mobile medical centres at major events and incident scenes. The on-board inventory includes defibrillators, oxygen cylinders, wheelchairs and stretchers, as well as generators and inflatable shelters, all of which is stowed on shelving and in cages.

The doctors, nurses, paramedics and first aiders who freely give their own time to keep communities safe provide a medical service that includes triage, assessment and primary care, as well as potentially life-saving initial care in cases of critical illness and major trauma.

Mr MacIntosh said that in the past St John Ambulance had used two or three panel vans to do the same job as one of the new logistics vehicles, or 7.5-tonne trucks which it had now stood down because of the requirement for drivers without ‘grandfather rights’ to have an additional C1 entitlement on their licences.

“The challenge, therefore, was to come up with a 3.5-tonne concept capable of fulfilling this role,” he recalled. “The vehicle as delivered is entirely fit-for-purpose – everything has a place on the body, and we’ve been undertaking familiarisation training with volunteers from all over the country, so they understand how best to remove and return equipment as efficiently as possible.”

Air-conditioned and fitted with satellite navigation systems and DAB radios, the MAN TGEs are powered by 140 hp engines which are paired, in most cases, with eight-speed automatic gearboxes. To ensure compliance, Bevan Group also installed axle load weighing systems.

MAN is forging a new partnership with St John Ambulance. The eight logistics vehicles are the first to be commissioned, but the manufacturer will be supplying vans of other sizes and specifications over the coming months, as the charity continues to upgrade its fleet.

MAN recommended the Bevan Group to its customer. TGE international and national key account manager Dan George explained: “We selected a sub-contractor that shares our own premium values, and could be relied upon to produce a body able to withstand an arduous 10-year life cycle.

“Having worked successfully with the bodybuilder’s team on other projects involving not only TGE but also heavier models from our product range, we know that its excellent reputation within the industry is well merited.

“What’s more, its market-leading five-year warranty confirms that Bevan Group is prepared to ‘put its money where its mouth is’ when it comes to standing by the quality and consistency of its work.”

St John Ambulance’s Rob MacIntosh added: “Our initial build interpretation meeting with MAN and Bevan Group marked the beginning of a consultative process in which with all three parties worked together extremely well.

“MAN and Bevan Group have done exactly what we asked of them and these vehicles represent a big step forward in terms of our capability, so, of course, we’re delighted.”

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