Special vehicle converters: BAUS Emergency Transport Technologies
BAUS ETT specialises in the conversion of emergency service vehicles according to European standards
During the past ten years, UAE-based Emergency Transport Technology (ETT) Middle East has modified and delivered over 500 emergency service vehicles including ambulances at its factory in Dubai for the GCC markets. The specialist converter boasts clients such as ADNOC, National Ambulance, Burjeel Hospital, and Al Salama Hospital in the UAE and PACDA in Oman.
Established as a regional subsidiary of Australia-based Emergency Transport Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of Byron Group, ETT Middle East faced an uncertain future three years ago when Byron Group was placed in administration. A lifeline came from Germany-based BAUS Advanced Technologies (BAUS AT), the biggest manufacturer of ambulances and emergency vehicles in Europe, entering into a joint venture arrangement with ETT Middle East and re-branding the company as BAUS Emergency Transport Technologies (BAUS ETT).
Steve Hill, managing partner, business operations and development, BAUS ETT, explains the transition which has set the pace for ETT’s market expansion and potential for diversification.
“We needed to find a new partner with expertise in engineering, testing and supply chain. At the time, GCC markets such as the UAE and Oman were beginning to adopt European standards for ambulance restraint systems. So, it was a natural progression for us to partner with a leading European manufacturer, and since then, our synergy has led to market expansion in the region,” says Hill.
Steve Hill, managing partner, business operations and development, BAUS ETT.
BAUS ETT offers the manufacturing expertise of BAUS AT to customers in the GCC through German engineering with its Poland-based factory being the largest ambulance conversion facility in Europe which delivers customised vehicles to 26 countries. This offering has expanded BAUS ETT’s production capacity and reduced lead time for large orders in the GCC; for example, in Oman where the company has supplied over 30 vehicles to the Royal Oman Police and Public Authority for Civil Defence and Ambulance (PACDA). The engineering, design and sales negotiations were handled by BAUS ETT, and the vehicles were manufactured and shipped from BAUS AT’s plant in Poland.
“We deliver large orders through the BAUS AT factory in Poland, especially if compliance with European standards such as EN 1789 is mandatory. Generally, emergency service vehicles in Europe and Australia undergo significant customisation and testing before deployment. As an Australian company, we benefit from the engineering expertise required to operate in Australia which has among the highest standards in the world for ambulance restraint systems and crash testing. With our partnership with BAUS AT, we are now able to also comply with the highest European safety standards,” says Hill.
Vehicle selection depends on customer choice, budget, and availability. In most cases, customers procure vehicles themselves and deliver them to BAUS ETT. Additionally, vehicle manufacturers engage with BAUS ETT as the official bodybuilder, combining it with their aftersales services. BAUS ETT also procures vehicles directly on a case by case basis, depending on special customer requests.
Hill explains the ordering, manufacturing and testing processes: “We could modify any light-duty and medium-duty vehicle. When we receive inquiries and specifications for ambulances from hospitals or clinics, we’d like to know, primarily, what level of care they intend to provide and the terrain on which they intend to use the vehicle. Customers may also have preferences such as automatic transmission, 4x4 configuration, and advanced safety features and auxiliary air conditioning. Accordingly, we agree on the vehicle model, transmission, axle configuration, interior design, equipment or furniture selection, and so forth. For volume businesses, we manufacture prototypes for customer approval before production.”
After design approval, the lead time for a vehicle can range from 3 to 4 months. BAUS ETT places orders with the OEMs for their ambulance kits which include special wiring harnesses and additional batteries. Meanwhile, vehicles delivered to the BAUS ETT factory are stripped down, front seats are removed and work begins on the internal structure, flooring, wiring, and installation of lights and sirens.
“All our vehicles have their own electronic control systems, a CPU that controls the lights and sirens, programmed and tested at our Dubai facility. We integrate our control systems with the OEM control systems via the CAN bus protocol,” says Hill.
Irrespective of where the vehicles are converted, the ambulance restraint systems are tested in accordance with the EN 1789 standard, which specifies requirements for the design, testing, performance and equipping of road ambulances used for the transport and care of patients. The standard, specifically, contains requirements for the patient's compartment.
“We do not compromise on the safety of our vehicles, but take into consideration the experience of local paramedics and their familiarity with equipment to improve the vehicle ergonomics. Every fixture or furniture installed in the ambulances are tested according to the EN 1789 standard. To maintain the quality of our European testing in the UAE, we utilize a third-party inspection company to certify vehicles assembled in our Dubai factory as compliant with the EN 1789 standard,” says Hill.
BAUS ETT also provides warranty for its ambulance furniture or fit-out equipment in addition to the OEM warranty. The company maintains service vans for mobile repair and maintenance.
“Service requests may come through the dealer or directly to us, depending on the type of aftersales contract we sign with customers. However, we prefer the customers deal with only one service provider. If we are involved in procurement of vehicles from the OEM or dealer, we become the primary contact for the customer. If the OEM or dealer gives us the contract for bodybuilding, then customers need to contact them. We can assign our technicians at the dealer workshops so that both teams can service vehicles simultaneously. In such cases, the dealer would be the first point of contact. Alternatively, we can train technicians at the dealer workshops to service our equipment,” explains Hill.
BAUS ETT is using its ambulance conversion expertise to expand into related applications such as wheelchair accessible vehicles and non-emergency patient transport vehicles. Other specialised conversions include mobile workshops, X-ray screening vehicles, outside broadcasting vans, welfare buses, mobile clinics, mortuary vehicles, and luxury minibuses.
“BAUS AT is also a leading manufacturer of box body modules and the company adopts the best material and technology to produce the lightest box modules in the market. We see new growth opportunities in this segment,” says Hill.
Another emerging market for the company is 4x4 conversion of minibuses to enable off-road transportation of people, particularly tourists. BAUS ETT handles such projects as the regional distributor of Australia-based Bus 4x4 Group, a second stage manufacturer specialised in 4x4 bus conversion.
“4x4 converted minibuses are becoming popular among tour operators in this region. We cater to this market with the help of Bus 4X4, which is a leading converter of 4WD vehicles in Australia that supplies custom built vehicles for mining, school transportation, and motorhomes. We procure the 4X4 conversion kits from Bus 4X4,” says Hill.
“We would do 4X4 conversions for specific business applications in the Middle East; however, we refrain from converting vehicles for personal adventure or outdoor enthusiasts. We take pride in the fact that we build vehicles that save lives or maintain law and order. Our core business will always be emergency service vehicles,” says Hill.