As you begin the design process, one of the first things to consider is what type of platform beset meets your needs. Here are your main options:
Each type of platform has its advantages and disadvantages. There are some things to consider.
Usually, as long you can imagine it and it's technically possible, it can be built. But there are a few regulatory parameters you should know about that concern the size and weight of the trailer.
Truck Body platforms are optimum for smaller Mobile Clinics that will be moved on a regular basis. We use medium load truck chassis which are extended to create a 32' (9 meter) and a 40' (12 meter) Mobile Health Unit. These medical vehicles are easy for the medical staff to drive without requiring a driver or specialty driver's license. They are agile and can even be provided in a 4x4 with a winch to safely traverse almost any terrain. If necessary, Odulair can even build off-road mobile clinics on specialty vehicles. Truck body platforms have many advantages with the only main disadvantage being the limitation of size. However, the addition of expandable sides greatly increases the interior space making truck body platforms among the most versatile mobile clinic platform available.
Bumper pull or tow behind trailers offer an economical solution for simple urban clinics. Odulair can custom manufacture a bumper pull trailer, or we can customize a mass manufactured vehicle transforming it into a medical clinic. These trailers can be pulled behind a standard pick-up truck with ample tow capacity. Bumper pull medical trailers are economical and practical in many applications. The disadvantages of these mobile health units are that they will not withstand extreme weight from excessive medical equipment. Also, mass manufactured bumper pull trailers do not meet the same quality and longevity standards as Odulair custom manufactured medical trailers.
Within the United States, critical dimensions for trailers that travel on public highways are regulated by each state. For the National Network (U.S. Interstate and U.S. Designated Highways), the states have adopted the federal size regulations and limitations shown below. On state highways, each state may have limitations that are more restrictive and less than the dimensions allowed by federal regulations. Federal regulations require states to allow reasonable access from the National Network to fuel and delivery. This is to make sure that the tractor and trailer fits on U.S. roads, can turn corners and will fit under bridges. The key items for this are:
Internationally, some countries only allow a maximum width of 8'0" and maximum length of 40' or 50'. It is important to know what your local regulations are and Odulair will confirm before the design process begins.
Gooseneck trailers are best known for their application as horse trailers. They offer sufficient weight capacity for medical applications and can be pulled from the bed of a medium duty pick-up truck driven without a specialty driver's license. Gooseneck trailers can even include expandable sides to increase the interior space. These trailers offer a bridge between a truck body platform and a full-size tractor trailer. They are relatively inexpensive when compared with semi-trailers and can offer reasonable interior space for a mobile medical clinic.
Semi trailers offer the greatest amount of interior space in an efficient package. With double expandable sides, a semi trailer offers 1,000 square feet (97 square meters) of interior clinic space. These units can be configured as a mobile hospital, mobile surgery unit, mobile endoscopy unit, mobile ICU, mobile emergency room, mobile trauma unit, and much more. The tractor to tow these trailers is removable and can be rented or purchased depending on how often you will move your medical trailer. These units can easily be incorporated within an existing facility as a means of faster and more cost effective construction. The only disadvantage to these high technology medical trailers is their price and the need for a specialized driver to transport the mobile hospital from place to place.
Trailer axles may not carry more weight than the DOT limits or what they are rated for, whichever is less. Bumper pull and gooseneck trailers are typically available with one to three 6,000 to 10,000 pound capacity axles. Semi trailers or transporters have two 25,000 pound capacity rear axles.
DOT limits the rear axles of semi trailers to 20,000 pounds each if they are placed over 10 feet apart. If two axles are placed over 8 feet apart, they can carry up to 38,000 pounds combined. If they are placed 8 feet apart or closer, they can carry 34,000 pounds combined. The weight of the total rig (i.e., tractor, trailer and payload) cannot exceed 80,000 pounds.
For example, if you have a trailer that weighs 20,000 pounds empty and a tractor that weighs 20,000 pounds, you can add 40,000 pounds of payload to the trailer before you are at the 80,000 pound limit. If you add 20,000 pounds of interior build-out to the trailer, then you have a payload capacity of 20,000 pounds.
However, weight distribution can be a problem. Most often the overweight problems are with the trailer axles - the challenge being to move the weight forward to the driving axles. So when designing, try to keep heavy things towards the front of the trailer.
Although it sounds obvious that converting a recreational vehicle, coach, or bus would be the most cost effective method of creating a mobile clinic; this is not actually the case. The conversion process requires removing everything that was originally configured within the RV to replace it with medical-grade materials and medical equipment. Often, these bus and coach conversions cost more than a truck body mobile clinic. Additionally, most coaches are not built to be driven every day as many mobile clinics are. They are built as recreational vehicles to be taken on holidays several weeks per year. Therefore, they do not offer the longevity and long-term quality of a custom truck body mobile clinic that will be of similar cost. In some cases, bus conversions are the best vehicle for the job. These include bloodmobiles and some Mobile Mammography Units.
ISO containers are the most rugged of all platforms. They are built to withstand hurricane force winds, torrential downpours of rain, and extreme temperatures. They are constructed of steel and are used to transport cargo from continent to continent on ships around the world. Because of the wide-range use of ISO containers, they can be shipped anywhere in the world for around $5000 - $6000 USD. These are the advantages of ISO container-based units. The disadvantages are that their steel structure is very heavy when compared to aluminum construction mobile clinics, and steel will corrode and rust where aluminum will not. Additionally, ISO containers have an outer dimension of either 20 feet or 40 feet in length, 8 feet in width, and either 8 feet 6 inches or 9 feet 6 inches in height. After construction, the interior width is around 7 feet 6 inches and the ceiling height is either 7 feet six inches or 8 feet six inches. The taller container is called a High Cube ISO Container. This is the type that we use at Odulair in order to provide more ceiling height inside.