How do you make sure that large or oversize emergency vehicles are easily seen and quickly recognised? The answer is simple and straight forward – you paint the vehicle in a single colour and avoid using any complex marking patterns thus ensuring that any unusual shapes or features on the vehicle are visually linked together into a unified form. Complicated designs with different colours can actually add to viewer confusion and the vehicle becomes much harder to identify rapidly. Large or oversize vehicles operated by emergency agencies are often ladder trucks and Bronto skylifts, airport fire trucks or other special-purpose vehicles. I have been fortunate enough to be asked to redesign the livery and markings for two different oversize vehicle types including the Air Services Australia, Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) Rosenbauer Mk 8 trucks located at twenty-one airports cross the country and the new ACT Fire Brigade (ACTFB) Bronto Skylift now operational in Canberra. Both vehicles are painted flourescent yellow/green with no patterned markings, the text has been limited and logo placement has been kept deliberately conservative.
There are many conference presentations, articles and blog posts on record where I have stood up and loudly proclaimed the real-life benefits of simplicity in emergency vehicle marking design. So where does this leave an agency that wants to use the full Battenburg marking scheme on large vehicles? Unfortunately, unless the particular vehicle has a long length of uninterrupted or flat body panels there is not a lot of scope for laying down a carefully regimented band of Battenburg checks. If the vehicle happens to be a red fire appliance and the agency wish is for a red/yellow checker pattern then the likelihood of creating an effective marking scheme is reduced even further by the visual similarity created by red-on-red.
If Battenburg is to be effective, the bi-colour band of alternating squares must be affixed to the vehicle without any interruption or blockage of the pattern by hatches, doors, equipment etc. Unless the Battenburg blocks are collectively united with each other the pattern and the vehicle begin to visually break-up. This is further complicated if a red/yellow pattern is selected for use on traditional red fire vehicles and the Battenburg design becomes unrecognisable (see image below).
If chevron stripes or sillitoe checks are allowed to dominate or overwhelm the vehicle’s major visual cues or landmarks then the ability of a viewer to interpret direction, speed, size and orientation can be made even more difficult. This is especially relevant for a Bronto with the stabilising legs deployed. The body markings must not distract the viewer from recognising the leg structures are extended well beyond the Bronto’s normal footprint. It is important that the legs can be quickly and easily differentiated from the main vehicle body, especially at night. Simple layouts reduce confusion and increase conspicuity.
The final image illustrates how the benefits of a single fluorescent body colour emphasise and passively increase vehicle conspicuity. No single element other than body colour is dominant and the contour markings remain invisible during daylight hours. The stabiliser legs are coloured white so they can be easily seen when extended. Despite at least three opening hatches on each side the vehicle shape and profile remain intact and the boom and vehicle appear as one.