The new WAS 3.5 tonne DCA has arrived. This highly-anticipated vehicle was unveiled at this year’s Emergency Services Show (ESS) in Birmingham, Wednesday 18 – Thursday 19 September 2019.

 John Rumsey, Commercial Manager at WAS UK, unveiled the vehicle in Birmingham, “I believe that our 3.5 tonne frontline DCA is a game changer in the market. A 3.5 tonne DCA really is the ‘Holy Grail’ in terms of ambulance design and we have achieved this by using an aircraft grade aluminium ‘semi-monocoque’ design resulting in the lightest frontline ambulance on the market today. This weight reduction delivers massive savings of up to 20% on emissions and fuel consumption compared to the average NHS front line fleet and, according to our Millbrook tests, this will deliver savings of approximately 2,500 tonnes of CO2 and  £1.5 million in fuel savings per annum for a typical NHS front line fleet. We have achieved this without compromise as it includes a full set of equipment at 280kg and space for five people at 90kg, which exceeds the requirements of EN1789. Our next step is to ensure that the NHS improvement team add this design to the National Specification by the end of 2019.”

The NHS Long Term Plan also makes commitments to cutting mileage and air pollution by a fifth (20%) by 2024 and ensuring nine out of 10 vehicles are low emission within a decade. Director of Operational Services at South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, Neil Le Chevalier, tells us how the arrival of this new vehicle will address key issues affecting the ambulance service head-on, “In South Western Ambulance Trust we do 24 million miles a year – we’re a rural service – so we’re always interested in new ways to be greener. The new WAS 3.5 tonne vehicle is good for fuel economy as well as for the environment.”

Sales Engineering Manager at WAS UK, Tom Howlett explains, “As you would expect from a lighter vehicle, the new 3.5 tonne ambulance provides environmental benefits; it reduces air pollution (CO2) by up to 20% compared to a current national specification van. This enables our customers to meet the target set by Simon Stevens well ahead of the 2024 target. Fuel consumption is also reduced in line with the emissions reduction, in the case of South Western Ambulance Trust this figure will be hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

Prior to the 1990s ambulances in the UK were based on a 3.5 tonne weight capacity, but with the introduction of more and more life-saving medical equipment and loading systems the operating weight of ambulances has continued to increase. The WAS innovative, ‘semi-monocoque’ lightweight aluminium body combined with a state-of-the art chassis system has enabled this previously out of reach goal once again to be a reality, putting the UK at the very forefront of mobile medical technology.

All of the WAS UK test data has been independently validated by Millbrook testing ground.

Emissions and fuel consumption were compared for normal driving, emergency driving and overall.

Lord Carter’s report into unwarranted variation in the ambulance service identified the need to make efficiencies in the ambulance service, including development of a minimum standard ambulance specification. NHS Improvement’s recently launched national ambulance specification provided an opportunity to set a new standard for vehicle specification, with a focus on innovation, the environment and to address the practical challenges faced by the service up and down the country. Neil Le Chevalier comments, “Trusts would welcome a lighter vehicle – it’s something that’s been talked about for a number of years. The new specification is a minimum standard currently, it has been designed to be constantly renewed and updated. There are plans for an innovation group to be set up and I hope that they will also take into consideration the benefits of this newer, lightweight vehicle.

Neil Le Chevalier adds: “In the South Western Ambulance Trust we’d welcome the opportunity to pilot this innovative new 3.5 tonne vehicle. A lightweight, 3.5 tonne vehicle helps to address the issues we’re facing in the service in the longer term together with improved environmental and safety credentials.”

John Rumsey, explains: “The 3.5 tonne DCA is the new vanguard in terms of ambulance design and judging by the results of our recent poll, conducted on social media, more than 60%1 of respondents would like to see the vehicle added to the new ambulance specification. In the future all newly qualified paramedics, technicians and workshop staff will be automatically licensed to drive our vehicles and there will be no need for costly C1 licence tests. We hope that this is a significant development in supporting the NHS recruitment of young paramedics into the Ambulance Service.

If you’d like to find out more information about the new WAS 3.5 tonne vehicle please contact, or speak with Tom Howlett on 07496 982199 or 0845 459 2785.



  1. 1.       Twitter poll of 511 people, 62% responded yes to including a 3.5 tonne box in the National Ambulance Specification