Testing equipment on a sled is a necessary component of the certification process for many types of equipment and products. Everything from a child safety seat to ambulance cots and equipment must be tested to a standard and then certified. This certification process ensures that each occupant of a vehicle is protected in the event of a crash or accident. For ambulances and the components and equipment they carry, most of the testing is done on a sled. A sled is an impact simulator that is used to produce reliable and repeatable crash test results in a controlled lab environment.
Most common certification processes are attributed to a set of standards prescribed by the SAE, Triple-K, NFPA, and CAAS. Four primary SAE practices dictate most of the certification processes for ambulance and ambulance components in the United States and around the world. Seven recommended practices were developed by the SAE in conjunction with NIOSH and the Ambulance Manufacturers Division of the NTEA. These procedures are:
- J3027 Patient Litter
- J3026 Seating and Restraints
- J3043 Equipment Mount Test
- J3059 Occupant Excursion
- J3102 Floor Sub-structure Test
- J3058 Cabinet Test
- J3057 Modular Body Test
At Calspan, we are often asked many of the same questions by organizations across a wide variety of industries. Although many questions you may have are better answered in a more personal communication format, we will address some here so you can plan your testing with some knowledge.
How many tests are you required to perform?
Most regulations require a different number of tests; it is not always as simple as one test for one product. If design changes are required for a product, each change, and each model will require a different test. For example, if an ambulance bed is placed in the cab differently than one already tested, the change will have to be re-tested.
What types of tests are required?
Each item may have different requirements, an ambulance technician’s seat and a CPR seat have to be tested with a frontal test, rear test, curb side, and driver’s side test of the ambulance cab. You do not have to test this type of equipment within an ambulance; instead, an ambulance-like structure placed on top of the sled is used to run tests in a non-destructive environment.
What do I have to bring with me?
In most cases, at Calspan, you are not required to bring anything with you other than the product to be tested. We supply tools, equipment, and virtually anything else you would need to make corrections, do fabrications, or otherwise enable a successful test.
What are the compliance requirements like?
The compliance testing process is a pass/fail, given to you once you pass or fail the test. You receive a data report and the raw data to prove that a test has been passed. You can submit the paperwork if asked a question to prove regulatory compliance.
Do we keep crash tested equipment
Under almost every normal compliance circumstance, you are not required to keep any equipment that has been tested. The data, video, and other materials given to you at the end of the test can be used as proof that a successful test has been completed. There may be some reasons to keep tested equipment, and it may be useful in the event of a legal action, however; it is not required for certification.
CRS, or child restraint systems, are typically kept for 3 to 6 months.
Are ambulance equipment tests dynamic?
AMD testing is both dynamic and static, often requiring more than a single set of tests to be performed to fully comply with regulations and standards. The primary difference between static and dynamic testing is that equipment is not reusable when used in a dynamic test. In dynamic testing, you do not always have to test and pay for an ambulance to be destroyed; however, the equipment being tested may be damaged and rendered unusable.
Some final advice:
We have been running sled tests for many years, and we see many of the same problems come through our doors on a regular basis. If you don’t know exactly how you should be approaching a test, let us know and we will help. Seemingly simple engineering mistakes can cost time and money, a single weld may not hold during a crash event, a custom design may not hold your equipment properly. Consult an expert before you spend money developing a device or testing a piece of equipment that you are not familiar with.
Sled testing does not have to be a barrier of entry to the ambulance and child safety marketplace. Each component has to be certified before it is used, and becoming familiar with the testing process and procedures can only help you develop a better and safer product.