High requirements, 50 hours of conversion, crash test: this is how a car becomes a road patrol vehicle

The ADAC roadside assistance vehicles are rolling workshops with around 500 kilograms of extra equipment on board. Before a car can begin its service as a road patrol vehicle, it has to overcome many a hurdle.

Tough requirements apply to road patrol vehicles. "this is more than a workplace, it’s a rolling workshop," says rudolf hofmann, head of the ADAC road patrol equipment workshop. At the ADAC’s technical center in landsberg in Upper Bavaria, he is responsible for the production of some 220 vehicles per year.

In total, the ADAC maintains a fleet of 1700 road patrol vehicles, with almost as many male and female drivers nationwide, mainly on 13.000 kilometers of freeway and in urban areas – day in, day out. Only a few vehicle types can be upgraded to such a special vehicle. A candidate must meet a number of conditions before it can hit the road as a yellow angel mobile workstation.

A catalog lists the selection criteria for road patrol vehicles

The pre-selection of such a vehicle alone takes several months. First of all, hofmann submits to possible car manufacturers a thirteen-page ADAC specification sheet before. The catalog ranges from the possible payload to the height of the loading edges to the installed electrical system. All-round visibility must also be perfect, because a clear view to the rear is important during towing. All requirements comply with the road traffic licensing regulations. This defines what constitutes a roadside assistance vehicle.

The seats must also meet the ADAC’s high standards: "We always order the best equipment so that the drivers sit well. They should be as comfortable as possible."After all, the yellow angels spend a large part of their working day in the vehicle passenger safety also on the ergonomics on, says the chief outfitter.

Rudolf Hofmann is head of the ADAC equipment workshop for road patrols and is responsible for the production of vehicles at the ADAC's technical center in Landsberg, Upper Bavaria. Photo: ADAC

Rudolf hofmann is head of the ADAC equipment workshop for road patrols and is responsible for the production of vehicles at the ADAC technical center in landsberg, Upper Bavaria. Photo: ADAC

When a suitable vehicle model is delivered to landsberg, among other things the back seat must already be removed and the electrical system must be converted according to ADAC specifications. "the car drives virtually naked before," explains hofmann. The typical yellow rotating beacon, however, is already to be mounted on the roof. With the lights on, the vehicle must not protrude more than two meters into the air, otherwise it may be difficult to drive into underground garages.

Every road patrol vehicle candidate must pass a crash test

If a type makes it into the preselection after many filtering processes, the car goes fully equipped into the towing phase crash system. The controlled, precisely planned collision takes place according to the standards of the european crash organization euroncap. Checks are carried out to ensure that the fixtures are securely installed, that the separating grille keeps out any flying parts, and that fixtures do not fly through the area and injure the driver in the event of an accident – and, of course, that the vehicle itself can withstand the loads.

Still deep-seated fright, A few years ago, the German automobile club ADAC was interested in a type of vehicle that practically collapsed in a crash test. Even the passenger cell gave up, which rarely happens. An accident on the road would have had catastrophic consequences. The model was then immediately removed from the list of candidates.

Special equipment for special tasks

The tools, batteries, spare parts and internals carried on board – together weighing around 500 kilograms – make all the vehicles a reinforced chassis necessary. On average, the always fully loaded vehicles are seven years of continuous use on the road, covering up to 500 kilometers.000 kilometers. Manufacturers do not design their standard chassis for this extraordinary load.

The electrics is rebuilt and expanded by ADAC experts. Among the most important additions are a dedicated power management system, a power distribution system and a charge controller for charging the jump-start powerpacks. all vehicles are also equipped with additional, extensive communication technology including GPS. The dispatchers in the roadside assistance centers use it to determine the exact location of each individual helper, so that the next available yellow angel always arrives after a breakdown call.

The right order saves time

The compilation and distribution of tools and spare parts in the vehicle is precisely worked out. every part must be easy to reach, wrongly placed ones cost valuable time and strain the back unnecessarily. "the starting aid equipment and the pylons are just as accessible from the rear as the most important tools," explains hofmann. After all, the drivers could get into dangerous situations if they have to reach the equipment from the side of the car.

Each tool is also enclosed in a foam insert bedded. "this way, nothing rattles, and the driver can see at first glance if something is missing."a drawer in the car can be filled individually by the roadside assistance team.

The tidy appearance the road patrol car is important to hofmann. A yellow angel could not drive up with an old, untidy vehicle and then fix the breakdown. That would not make a serious impression.

After the trial period, improvements are made

If the choice has fallen on a car, "the start-up equipment first a prototype prepared and tested, and then only a small series rebuilt. Initially, only a few riders will take to the roads with this series. Their experiences flow into final series production.

Round 50 hours per vehicle the eight ADAC electricians, mechanics and carpenters in landsberg invest in turning a "blank" into a perfect rolling workshop. Precise work is required here, each part must be fitted with millimeter precision. Only then does the TuV approve the vehicle. At the very end, the trolley is given the unmistakable design of the nationwide yellow angel fleet with many, precisely defined letterings.

E-bikes and quads strengthen the roadside assistance fleet

Hofmann has recently started producing in its workshop also alternative roadside assistance vehicles. ADAC is currently testing two hybrid vehicles. In addition, eight e-bikes with trailers will soon be on the road. "we want to be more environmentally friendly mobile in large cities and at the same time shorten the waiting time for our members," explains hofmann. "our cyclists are faster on the road than a car in dense inner-city traffic and in the immediate vicinity with their roadside assistance bikes." cycling is currently underway in hamburg, berlin, cologne, munster and darmstadt.

The otherwise "normal" E-bikes have the necessary communication technology and a trailer with a special braking system and a loading capacity of up to 60 kilograms – so the most important tool is with them. With this, the cycling angels can help in most cases, for all others, the colleague drives up with the car.

"in rough terrain, for example at festivals and other large events, we also like to use quads as roadside assistance vehicles one," says hofmann. Unlike a large, heavy roadside assistance vehicle, they don’t get stuck in crowds or mud that quickly. Six quads are currently on the road for ADAC, equipped with the most common tools and a cable winch.

And what about drones for roadside assistance?? "we’re quite open about it," says hofmann. "we always look for the best solution."

Read here what martin kunz, editor-in-chief and head of ADAC communications, experienced on a shift with ADAC roadside assistance officer masehe madijd in munich’s eastern region.

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Christina Cherry
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