ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Army News Service, July 28, 2008) -- The days of repairing a five-ton vehicle while standing on its tires or lug nuts may soon be coming to an end.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command developed the "mechanic's platform" as a safer way for mechanics to do their job. The platform has one step and is removable so it can be mounted on the tire of something like a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.

Army vehicles do not have a stable area where mechanics can stand while accessing a vehicle's engine compartment during preventive maintenance checks and services. Soldiers end up standing on vehicle's tires or lug nuts to get access to areas they need to inspect. That practice is unsafe, said Sgt. 1st Class Pico Silvio, Field Assistance in Science and Technology Team non-commissioned officer.

"From working in the motor pools, Soldiers' boots may get slippery from mud, grease or oil," he said. "Soldiers may slip on lug nuts, tires or wherever they need to step and climb in order to gain access to the engine compartment to perform their duties."

Silvio said the platform provides a new level of safety that can be used across the Army wherever Soldiers need to repair large vehicles. Soldiers will no longer need to improvise on how they access the parts of a vehicle they need to access.

"With this platform, mechanics and operators don't have to figure out a way to climb on each type of vehicle," said Silvio. "This standardizes the method in a safe and secure manner, eliminating the need to climb and jump off tires."

Although there are some commercial products similar to the mechanic's platform, none are as big, light or collapsible. The platform is made to suit Soldier needs specifically and is light enough for one person to handle, setup and remove. The device can be neatly tucked away on the vehicle using fabric fastener and pins, Silvio said.

The first prototype of the stand is presently out for assessment with a local Baghdad unit that will provide feedback on its use to help in further development.

"Once all feedback is collected, the mechanic platform design will be updated and fabricated for safety testing and a full theatre operational evaluation," said Steven Schehr, associate director for the Quick Reaction Cell at the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, an RDECOM subordinate element located in Warren, Mich..

The safety testing will be conducted at the Army Test and Evaluation Command before the final design is approved and the technology is sent to theatre.

"It is anticipated that all units requiring the platforms would be able to acquire one or be provided a platform by the program manager," said Schehr. "Fielding timelines would be dependent on the receipt of funding, safety confirmation and the time it takes to award a production contract."

Schehr said the mechanic's platform is made of inexpensive off-the-shelf materials and the final design is expected to be reasonably priced.

(Andricka Thomas writes for RDECOM Public Affairs.)