In the past several articles we have looked at large trucks in general; the weights and even the types that are out there. We looked at specialty trucks and the unique challenges they may present with their designs and configurations. Some of these trucks can be quite heavy as well. Now let’s take a look at the “tractor trailers” or 18 wheelers as they are sometimes called. We will discuss how they are constructed and the challenges they present.
There are two types of truck cabs seen on the highways; the conventional cab and the cab over or flat nosed cab. Both of these cabs are constructed of heavy grade steel framing, utilizing channel and tube construction that is covered in aluminum and fiberglass. Most of the hoods, cowings, deflectors, fender covers and trim are fiberglass. The engine is located forward of the passenger compartment of the conventional cab. To access the engine, the hood either lifts from both sides or hinges in the back and flips forward. On the cab over the engine is midline and the entire cab hinges forward to expose the engine. The same as a custom cab fire truck.
The owners or trucking companies utilize either sleeper cabs or non-sleeper cabs. If the drivers are making short hauls, they may be using the standard cab trucks. If they are making the long hauls, then their trucks will have sleepers. The sleepers are actually constructed as part of the cabs and not added on. These can present more of an issue than the standard cabs due to the extra plastics, foams, metal, wiring, and appliances that are part of the sleepers. During a crash this extra “stuff” can become entangled with the driver or make it more difficult to access the driver. The other consideration is the possibility there may be another driver onboard that was in the sleeper when the crash occurred. Sleeper cabs should always be checked for other passengers and possible family members. Also, remember that the sleepers may contain refrigerators (containing Freon) microwaves, TV, computers and other devices that could be a hazard in your extrication efforts.
Another thing to be aware of are the storage compartments and what they may contain. These trucks are the driver’s home away from home. The seats in these trucks are normally air operated for raising and lowering. A lot of the seats will not only move forward and backwards, up and down, but they will pivot around at 180 degrees. This will allow for a lot of movement to gain patient access without having to displace anything. The other thing that moves and tilts is the steering column. Most of these will move up and down and tilt back and forth. Between the seat and steering column, a fair amount of space can be created. Keep this in mind during your assessment and survey stage of the rescue.
We need to look at the doors next, as they are going to be heavier than those found on a standard vehicle. The latch and handle will also be different than those on automobiles. The door handles are going to be found down low, due to the height of the truck, so they can be accessed by the driver. The latch however, will be located higher on the door. When looking at performing a door displacement, pushing the door away from the latching mechanism will have to be done up higher on the door rather than beside the latch like on a regular vehicle. Some trucks use a double latch system so be aware that may be the case as well. The hinges on the doors will either be a standard style hinge or a piano hinge. The piano hinge will run the entire height of the door and will require a little more finesse to remove. The front window is laminated safety glass just like found in standard vehicles, but rather than being glued in with a mastic sealer, it is set in a rubber gasket. This will not require you to cut the windshield out as it can be removed much easier. The side windows are tempered safety glass as found in most regular vehicles, but are heavier than normal.
Next month we will look at trailer types and scene assessment. The weather is turning nice and it will be great for training, so get in all the training you can before it gets too hot. Stay safe and always strive to be the best you can be.