The pink steamroller vs emergency vehicle colour and markings

A few days ago the morning started out normally. I was up early so while I ate breakfast I quickly browsed through the electronic version of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper (SMH). One story with the headline The Pink Wash – Pink Ribbon Inc grabbed my attention. The article had been written by Alyssa McDonald and went on to say             “A new Canadian documentary shows how the devastating reality of breast cancer has become obfuscated by a shiny, pink story of success.” This story twigged my interest as many charities in Australia are now coming under increasing scrutiny about their methods of fundraising. The major issue is the payment of significant collection fees to the intermediate promoters who usually take a massive chunk of the donations in marketing costs. The suppliers selling the pink label commodities in this country are also taking flak about how little of their sales income actually translates into donations. Most of the comments written by readers at the bottom of the Pink Wash article generally supported the author’s point-of-view. The comments included a post from the CEO of a company that had recently agreed to donate money from the sales of a pink licensed product. She disclosed late in the post that she was now having second thoughts about both the pink logo promotion and the morality of the deal made with one of the several breast cancer organisations in Australia.

It was an interesting article…but a few hours later it was hurriedly removed from the SMH website without a trace  (see dead link above). This rarely happens so some of the home truths in the article must have really upset someone with enough shove to have the page pulled from view so quickly. A search of the SMH site revealed several other similar articles titled The Pink Marketing Machine , Breast Cancer and Polar Bears, Its not all Pretty in Pink and the big one, Pink steamrolls all on path to cancer kudos. But all the pink has some people seeing red with anger as other forms of cancer become secondary to breast cancer or the pink fundraising begins to take second place to corporate profits.

Pink Star of Life
Pink EMS Star-of-Life

So what is the pink link to emergency vehicles? It may sound funny but I have a folder on my hard-drive devoted to pink emergency vehicles. The images are stored alongside quite a few other folders containing information about murals on EMS/pediatric ambulances, ghost markings on police vehicles and lime-green fluorescent colour research etc. There has certainly been a steady procession of emergency vehicles wearing pink paint, pink markings or pink logos being released onto the streets over the last few years, especially in the United States.

I tend to take the middle ground when it comes to pink painted vehicles.       The colour is bright and very different, enough to make the vehicle standout from everything else around it. However, there may be recognition problems if the rest of your fleet is white and the local population are somewhat baffled as to why a ‘pink ice-cream truck’ is responding under lights and sirens through an intersection! Remember that other drivers will not be able to read the breast cancer text written on the side. Even if they could, it would probably slow their reaction times further as most people are naturally inquisitive towards anything they have not seen before.

Pink vehicle markings are a bit different, so tread carefully! Emergency vehicles marked with pink stripes or patterns tend to confuse other drivers. People simply do not expect to see or relate to pink waistline stripes or pink contour markings on emergency vehicles. The popularity of the pink day-glo stripe passed thirty years ago so in 2012 a  pink reflective band seen on a passing vehicle provides very little explanation to indicate to the public that the vehicle is permitted to undertake an emergency response. In addition, any attempt to colour-match the pink & white chevrons on the rear would be a definite no-no as the mismatched colour scheme would circumvent most nationally adopted red/yellow standards.

Pink Emergency vehicles
Pink emergency vehicles

In the past I have discussed how advertising agencies contracted to emergency agencies may push for a particular colour scheme or design. These artistic ad agency vehicle layouts may well be contraindicated in terms of effective emergency visibility or conspicuity. When it comes to flying the pink breast cancer flag on emergency vehicles, it should always come down to agency choice as there are usually a number of valid organisational or staff-related reasons for adopting the pink colour scheme. I know of only one other blog (A day in the life of an ambulance driver) that discusses pink vehicles in terms of other cancers. Meanwhile, some response agencies in the United States are now running their vehicles displaying markings indicating they support all types of cancers.

The last word – I doubt that pink emergency vehicles will become common in Australia as a great number of our cement trucks are already painted bright pink, a colour that has been their corporate colour scheme for years.

More general information is available on the Ambulance Visibility website


About John Killeen (Ambulance Visibility)

John Killeen is a former Intensive Care Paramedic who authors the Ambulance Visibility research website & blog
This entry was posted in Ambulance, Chevrons, Emergency vehicles, EMS, Fire, Fluorescent colours, High Visibility, Markings, Police, Reflective and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The pink steamroller vs emergency vehicle colour and markings

  1. Luke says:

    And how does painting a vehicle pink help to cure people with breast cancer exactly?
    Pointless gestures like this infuriate me as they are only motivated by people wanting to feel like they’re making a difference as they carry on with their normal lives, while those of us actually treating these illnesses persist quietly in the background. Aside from all the visibility issues of the vehicles!!
    Great blog by the way – wish the authorities in Victoria would read it!


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