The Chevrolet Express Van has been around since 1995, and while it’s never going to run down a perp during pursuit, it has obvious applications for law enforcement and EMS in a cargo and transport role. The Express Van looks like an unlikely police vehicle, but as long as police agencies have utilized vehicular power, they have needed automobiles that can efficiently and safely carry prisoners. Today, Chevy’s Express Van is purpose built for this job, though it can also perform admirably as a cargo vehicle. It’s not going to go fast and it’s not intended for patrolling streets, but it is a valuable support vehicle for any police or fire fleet.
In the past couple decades, automakers have transitioned away from the full-size van and placed focus on SUVs. There’s good reason for that, as SUVs provide a comfortable compromise between space, power and agility. But sometimes, what is needed is a giant, and few are more reliable and functional than Chevy’s Express Van.
Among Chevrolet vehicles, the Express Van is the only one capable of acting as a dedicated prisoner transport platform. And though other Chevy models can step into a cargo or equipment transport mode admirably, the Express Van does it better than any other vehicle in the Chevy lineup. In short, this is a tank that fleet managers can load down with everything the rest of the fleet needs. For this reason, the avenues for configuration are obvious. The Express Van generally doesn’t need the kind of visibility that comes with a patrol or pursuit vehicle, but basic lighting and siren additions make sense. More importantly, the Express Van needs to be fitted with as much cargo space as possible and protected from theft, given its role as an equipment and prisoner hauler. To that end, these are some of the upfits that work well with Chevy’s behemoth:
1. Cargo solutions – When customized for cargo, the Express Van comes with more than 310 cubic feet of storage space, and is capable of more than 4,300 pounds of payload capacity. That’s more than any other Chevy police model on the market. However, that advantage can be honed further with the addition of cargo drawers and lockers. Several manufacturers produce custom cabinet and locker systems for Express Vans, and they can be fit together in modular fashion for maximum storage efficiency.
Custom cargo drawers can be sized for any piece of police or fire equipment, and can be secured with electronic or keyed locks for additional security. This is mandatory for weapon and ammunition lockers. Further, custom cabinet manufacturers can produce drawers that slide out on heavy duty, ball bearing rails, allowing multiple people to access the drawers at once and quickly grab the gear they need.
An Express Van tailored to cargo hauling applications is a worthy addition to both police and fire department fleets. In the latter’s case, the vehicle can be used to bring any equipment that responding firefighters need to combat an ongoing blaze or respond to a medical emergency.
2. Prisoner transport systems – Prisoner transport is the other primary role for the Express Van, and it is, perhaps, the more popular approach of the two. Secure prisoner transport is difficult when several people need to be arrested and transported following an incident. Compared to the Express Van, most other police vehicles pale in comparison in terms of interior space, so when several perps need to be moved, the best way to get them all out quickly is with Chevy’s full-size van.
Only a handful of manufacturing firms focus on prisoner transport systems, and among them, American Aluminum is one of the most respected. American Aluminum has developed several prisoner transport modules, compatible with the Express Van, among other vehicle models. The prisoner transport system anchors inside the van’s rear, and can be designed with two or three compartments. American Aluminum uses high grade, steel-milled aluminum, which means it can take a ton of punishment. The module’s doors can as well, as they come with impact locks that can withstand up to 6,000 pounds of force.
These prisoner transport modules are also available with plenty of optional additions, like cameras, monitors, recorders, intercoms, additional lighting and speakers. With a prisoner transport system in place, the Express Van can safely haul many people at once, no matter how unruly they are.
3. Anti-theft technology – Any cargo vehicle is going to be a target for thieves, and that is also true of police fleet vehicles. With the kind of valuable equipment that police carry, like radio equipment and firearms, it is essential that the vehicle is secure, even when the officer needs to step away while keeping the engine running.
Tremco’s anti-theft system is a common choice for protecting Express Vans, When activated, the van cannot be put into park, even when the vehicle’s engine is running. Instead, the only way to restore the vehicle to normal functioning is to deactivate the anti-theft technology using a button covertly hidden below the seat. This button looks like everything else around it, so the only way a thief would notice it is if they knew what they were looking for. Fortunately, very few thieves do.
Of course, lighting, a siren and even traffic preemption hardware make sense for the Express Van and its critical role. But with the addition of cargo or prisoner transport systems, Chevy’s Express Van is a moving fortress.