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Ducato ambulances

Fiat Professional is looking to build on the success it has achieved with UK ambulance service trusts over the past five years. More and more are making the switch to the Ducato.

There are 13 trusts in the UK – three cover Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales with the remaining 10 in England.

Fiat Professional started working with West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust in 2015 and the relationship has grown to the stage where that trust now only uses Fiat products.

Ducato Ambulance accounts for around 70% of the business of the remaining trusts across England and this is growing.

Part of this growth has been influenced by the Lord Carter report into hospital efficiency that advised ambulance trusts to use panel vans, rather than box alternatives, due to savings on fuel and the reductions in the cost of converting.

The report, published in September last year, said using lighter panel vans would save up to £5 million a year on fuel and £56m on conversion costs over a five-year period – £11.2m annually.

The Ducato has a gross vehicle weight of 4.25 tonnes and a maximum payload of 2,065kg so it can easily handle the extra kit required when the van is converted to include ambulance-specific items like stretchers, monitors and other medical equipment.

Other unique selling propositions for the Ducato Ambulance include the fact that it’s a flat-sided panel van, which adds stability and stops the vehicle rolling in the event of an accident. The Ducato also has a lower ride height due to being front-wheel drive. This means converters don’t need to fit a tail lift, but can, instead, convert the van to have a fold-out wedge ramp when the rear doors are opened.

All Ducato Ambulances can also be fitted with air suspension to help lower the ride height even further.

Mike Duggan, FCA National LCV Corporate Fleet Manager, said: “Now panel vans have been rubber-stamped by the Lord Carter report we’re working towards a 100% sole-supply with all trusts in the future.

“We’ve been working very closely with the trusts for years and we’ve registered an increase in the number looking to replace vehicles with Fiats since the report was published.

“While the Carter report has obviously given us a boost, Fiat Professional has won that business due to total cost of ownership on Ducato. It’s a combination of reliability, safety, fuel economy, payload, pricing and the support we offer customers.”

Duggan heads up a team of dedicated account managers for each trust. This ensures there’s a single point of contact for each and they can act as a key liaison between Fiat Professional, build supply logistics from FCA’s head office in Turin, the UK dealer network and the convertor that will turn the Ducato into an ambulance ready for service.

Trusts generally have a fleet of between 250 and 350 ambulances. This equates to around 3,000 vehicles across the entire ambulance trust market.

These vans are driven at speed to get to incidents and they’re covering high mileages of 35,000 on average. Contracts are between five and seven years. The replacement cycle sees around 500 vehicles changed each year.

Duggan knows of one Ducato Ambulance in operation that has covered more than 350,000 miles, acting as a testimony to the van’s durability and reliability.

While minimising vehicle downtime is extremely important for any fleet, for bluelight services it can be the difference between life and death.

Many trusts will have their own servicing departments to keep their vehicles in top shape.

Fiat Professional supports with access to the latest diagnostic equipment for the trusts’ own technicians to help with servicing their Ducatos.

For warranty or more heavy duty repairs, the Ducato ambulances are looked after by the Fiat Professional dealer network.

Duggan said: “We make sure dealers in the network have all the parts ambulances need in stock, things like brake pads and driveshafts that are likely to need replacing due to the high mileages these vehicles are doing.

“It means if a Ducato Ambulance comes in for work, there will likely never be a wait for parts delivery so work can be carried out straight away and the van can get back to helping to save lives.”

Duggan said the trusts are very exacting when it comes to vehicle downtime with a target of 95% utilisation.

Duggan said: “The fact our market share is more than 70% and growing shows there is trust that the network will deliver when they need to get a vehicle back on the road as soon as possible.”