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Ambulance issues

Paramedics have concerns with Montreal's newer vehicles

Last Updated: October 23, 2012

Montreal's newest ambulances, delivered last year, are built on a Chevrolet van base — a change from the Ford chassis of older models. Paramedics say the new fleet has issues, however, and with up to 40 more vehicles on the way, they're worried the kinks won't be worked out in time.

Click on the diagram below to find out about specific concerns.

Tight space in the front cab.


  • Space in the front cab is too tight, paramedics say, causing the taller among them to bang their heads or cramp their legs.
  • Urgences Santé knows about the complaints, but not much can be done with existing vehicles because there's little room behind the seats to enlarge the cab.
Front Suspension

Front Shocks

  • Some paramedics say they find the front suspension too soft. Urgences Santé is working with GM Canada and expects that new vehicles will have different shock absorbers and springs that address the issue.
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Rear Shocks

  • The major concern of paramedics who CBC talked to is the stiffness of the rear suspension, which can cause a patient to be jostled when an ambulance goes over a pothole or rough road.
  • Urgences Santé says the suspension softens somewhat after 60,000 to 70,000 kilometres of use. CBC affixed a camera in the rear cabin of an ambulance and took a test ride. Watch the video at right.
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Cabin Lights

  • The lights in the rear cabin shut off after 20 minutes if the engine's not on.
  • Paramedics say that's an issue because they turn the engine off when doing an electrocardiogram so that there's no interference with the ECG signal. To turn the lights back on, they have to restart the ignition.
  • It's better than Alberta's new ambulances, which start powering down their lights after just five minutes — as CBC Montreal's Peter Akman discovered on a trip to the Quebec factory that makes them. Watch the video at right.
Emergency lights

Emergency Lights

  • To save battery, the new ambulances' siren and emergency lights, like the rear cabin's interior lighting, power down 20 minutes after the engine's shut off.
  • That can be a concern if paramedics have to park a vehicle in a hazardous location and then leave it for a while.
  • But Urgences Santé says that 99% of the time, either the engine can be left running in a special anti-theft mode or there are enough personnel to have someone stay with the ambulance and ensure its lights stay on.


  • For its new ambulances, Urgences Santé was forced to switch to the Chevy chassis that's drawing complaints because Ford stopped making the diesel-powered chassis.


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