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Global microchip shortage impacting ambulance supply

Posted at 11:20 AM, May 22, 2021

The global microchip shortage is now threatening the nation's ambulance supply.

Ford, which supplies around 70% of the ambulance chassis used in the U.S., shut down production at various plants in mid-April due to the chip shortage, according to the American Ambulance Association and the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services Ground Vehicle Standards.

"Without those chassis, the production of ambulances essentially slows down dramatically," American Ambulance Association Spokesman Mark Van Arnam said. "So that becomes a public safety issue."

Chassis inventories were already at "historically low levels" due to coronavirus shutting down manufacturing plants, Van Arnam explained.

In order to make an ambulance, manufacturers need to first construct a chassis, or frame, to build it on.

"An ambulance chassis contains dozens and dozens of microchips -- more microchips than the average F-150," Van Arnam said,

He said it takes between two to eight months to manufacture an ambulance from a "raw" chassis.

"An ambulance that doesn't start today doesn't deliver two, six, eight months from now," he explained. "So, this is something that has a long-term type of effect. In the second half of this calendar year, there will be a real shortfall in the number of vehicles required to meet the demands of the mission."

In a statement, the American Ambulance Association and Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services said, "complete shutdowns of some ambulance assembly lines [are] highly likely in the near future."

Due to the pandemic, many microchip manufacturers were forced to halt production, Ivan Drury, senior manager of Insights at Edmunds, said in an interview with ABC News. Car companies cut back on chip orders and other technology companies bought as many chips as they could as their sales skyrocketed surrounding stay-at-home orders.

"These little chips are literally everything you buy nowadays -- everything from your cellphone, to the PS5 that you want your kid to have, all the way up to your car, which might have hundreds or thousands of chips in it," Drury said.

The pandemic adds an extra stressor to the need for ambulances.

"The demand is placed on health care and EMS specifically in this COVID era, and having a supply problem with the No. 1 commodity that's required to be in the ambulance business is very, very difficult," Van Arnam said. "That's going to make the job even tougher."

Car manufacturers aren't sure how long the microchip shortage and the resulting shutdowns will last.

"We're seeing shortages left and right, all vehicle types," Drury said. "It's not going to get any better before it gets worse."