On the road: changing trends in equine mobile practice - DVM
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On the road: changing trends in equine mobile practice
Economic conditions, fuel costs, other factors affect the mode of transportation


The modern trend

Actually many of these new changes probably began eight to 10 years ago, according to Jeff Blais, sales executive for mobile inserts for LaBoit Inc. "The trend away from larger vehicles and trucks toward smaller SUVs with more compact inserts probably has been happening for the last 10 years or so," he says. LaBoit Inc. (along with others) currently manufactures a number of different-sized cabinets and vet units designed to fit everything from station wagons and vans, which were the original units the company began with, to newer cabinets that can transform the biggest to the smallest of SUVs into a mobile veterinary practice vehicle.

"The desire for better, more fuel-efficient vehicles has been key in the move to more SUV-sized units," says Blais, "but the introduction of more women into the equine practice field undoubtedly has had an influence as well."

Dr. Lisa Eller from the Arthur Veterinary Clinic in Arthur, Ill., agrees, saying, "The current trend of vehicles is a result of more women equine veterinarians, plus a more fuel-conscious mind-set. We are all thinking more green."

Eller's vehicle choices parallel that of the industry as a whole. Starting practice from scratch, she chose a Ford Escort station wagon with a custom-made box insert as her first vehicle. Over the next 15 years, and after getting stuck a few times in muddy fields, Eller moved to a Ford Explorer and a veterinary insert. "I liked the size and room but the gas mileage eventually became a factor," Eller says.

When gasoline prices began rising, mobile practitioners saw both price and access affect their practice. Increases of almost 400 percent in the price of a gallon of gasoline over the last five to eight years began to make mobile equine veterinarians rethink their vehicle choices.

A large truck with a fully loaded insert gets roughly 12 to 14 miles per gallon or less (depending on the make, model and options). A mid-range SUV can push that to more than 20 miles per gallon; in a day involving 100 miles or more of driving, those savings can be substantial.

Many practitioners initially fought higher gas prices by going to trucks fueled by lower-cost diesel fuel, but the price of diesel has caught up and now exceeds that of gasoline, eliminating this choice as a money-saving option.

Even if practitioners don't have an issue with the high price of fuel, there is the occasional problem with finding it in some areas.

In the wake of hurricane damage to pipelines in Texas during September of this year, certain areas of the country faced dangerously short supplies of gasoline. Equine practitioners around Atlanta, Nashville and a few other eastern cities endured a gas shortage eerily reminiscent of the oil embargo days of the 1980s.

Gas prices during a roughly two-week stretch soared to nearly $4.50 a gallon, and the majority of stations simply had no gasoline to sell. Long gas lines were everywhere, and even the suspicion that a gas tanker would soon be arriving caused motorists to begin lining up and jockeying for position near the pumps.

Often veterinarians had enough fuel to make emergency calls on evenings and weekends, but had no way to be sure that they could find enough gas to get them home again. Almost all mobile practitioners left equipment at the clinic to make room for gas cans in their trucks.

Today's vehicle of choice

Gasoline prices and the uncertain economy were the final pushes that seem to have tipped the scale from large trucks to small SUVs.

"I was changing, and so was my clientele," says Eller.

More clients have stables with good wash stalls and working areas, making the need for portable water and hoses (long a stable part of the vet truck insert units) unnecessary.

More clients have accepted the concept of the equine hospital or clinic and are willing to haul in their horses. "I wondered why I ever went to a bigger vehicle and decided that I didn't need quite as much inventory," Eller says.

She switched to a Ford Freestyle that offers better mileage and a lot of versatility.

Additionally, SUVs offer another row of seats that can be reclined for vet storage use and then put upright and used for passengers, infant or child car seats and other personal needs.

"Being only 5'3" and working on horses has taken its toll on me," Eller explains. saying that's the rationale behind her choice of a fuel-efficient, more comfortable, smaller SUV. "I've gotten much smarter," she adds. "I no longer drive out into fields of mud."

What's next?


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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