If you’ve ever been in an ambulance with an injured loved one en route to a hospital, you know there’s only one thought going through your mind: Gosh, I hope this vehicle is emissions-friendly. Fortunately the EPA has taken the lead by requiring ambulances and fire trucks to have cleaner diesel engines.
As the Washington Post reports, this is causing problems:
A D.C. ambulance rushing a gunshot victim to a hospital Wednesday had to pull over to avoid engine failure that fire officials blamed on an emissions system required by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Paramedics were performing CPR on Nathanial McRae, 34, when an indicator light signaled that engine failure was imminent. They waited seven minutes for another ambulance to arrive, and McRae was later declared dead at Howard University Hospital. Deputy Fire Chief John A. Donnelly said the ambulance delay did not impede McRae’s care.
The technology in question is literally insane. It’s one thing to encourage cleaner, functional diesel engines; it’s quite another to saddle paramedics with something like this:
The diesel engines at issue are designed to cut power if exhaust filters are not kept clean, a process that requires the vehicles be taken out of service for up to an hour every few days to burn off accumulated soot and allow the filtering system to perform well. The process is known as “regenerating.”
So if the filters aren’t kept clean, the engine automatically shuts down. Usually a warning system gives ample advance as to when the filter is getting too dirty, but in this case it failed to activate. And even if everything is working properly, that still means emergency services departments must rotate vehicles to give them time to regenerate, and pay for the filter which has a hefty price tag of $30,000.
Not surprisingly, this has caused ambulances and fire trucks to break down at record rates. After a San Diego fire truck went offline at the scene of an emergency, California lawmakers and the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Southeastern Division got involved. The EPA then approved a rule that gives itself the authority to sanction engine changes to emergency vehicles if requested by the manufacturer. But to take advantage of this, Washington would presumably have to purchase an entirely new fleet of fire trucks and ambulances, a costly endeavor.
If the president wants to constantly remind us how much he cares for first responders, a good first step would be to stop chaining them down with pointless green technologies.