The VW bus that ticks all the boxes to making dreams of independence come true; Tjorrie Kruger tells us why he loves the VW Transporter 6.1 Crew Bus 4MOTION.
As a businessman, property developer, farmer, father, husband and a C6/7 quadriplegic, the new Transporter 6.1 has made Tjorrie Kruger independent.
Tjorrie needed a vehicle with an automatic gear box; space for him to get in and out and manoeuvre inside the vehicle in his wheelchair; 4-wheel drive because he lives on a farm, and as a property developer he often needs to tackle rough and undeveloped roads.
His family loves travelling and exploring the country, and with two talented athletic kids that need to get to provincial competitions, a spacious vehicle was needed that can go anywhere and provides enough comfort for the whole family to travel long distances.
This is his second Transporter, and before this he drove a 4×4 bakkie. With the bakkie, he always needed someone to help him, so he felt that he was never fully independent. With the set-up that he has in the Transporter, he is able to get out and about without any assistance from anyone and can drive safely using hand controls. This completed his dream of independence.
Having been injured in a crash in 2002, the safety features of the vehicle were also an important consideration for him. The new Transporter 6.1 is still the original van that is well-known in the disability sector for its space, versatility and reliability, but now includes all the latest innovative driver technologies and safety features, some of which he can control using buttons on the multi-function steering wheel and therefore enables him to keep his hands on the steering wheel.
Vehicle features accommodates all his needs
So, let’s unpack Tjorrie’s needs as a quadriplegic driver and explore the features of the new Transporter 6.1 Crew Bus to find out why it works for him.
Internal Height and Flat Floor
Tjorrie’s height in his wheelchair is 138cm. The internal height of the Transporter is 139cm. He needs to duck his head coming through the door, but once inside, he fits.
To be able to move around inside, the vehicle must have a flat floor. Designed as a commercial vehicle, the Transporter has a flat floor from the rear door all the way to the front.
Adaptability of internal space
Tjorrie has removed the middle row of seats and the front passenger seat. This gives him the space he needs to move into the vehicle. He parks his wheelchair in the passenger position and then transfers across onto the driver’s seat.
Automatic or DSG Gearbox
As a quadriplegic, Tjorrie needs to drive with hand controls therefore any vehicle he drives must have an automatic or DSG gearbox. The Transporter 6.1 has a dual clutch DSG gearbox. This enables Tjorrie to use the Chairman Industries hand controls. These were transferred from his previous Transporter, so he didn’t have to buy new hand controls. He has full function in his left hand therefore he has no difficulty pressing the button on the gear shift that is needed to move between the gear options. The position of the gear shift on the dashboard is a very comfortable position for a driver using hand controls.
Space To Access Driver’s Seat
Thanks to VW’s design of having the gear shift positioned on the dashboard, it does not get in the way of Tjorrie’s transfer between his wheelchair and the driver’s seat.
Access Into The Vehicle
A wheelchair lift can easily be fitted to either the rear door or side sliding door. Tjorrie uses the SWC lift which he was also able to transfer from his previous Transporter. This lifts him into/out of the vehicle in his wheelchair. The size of the opening of the side door is big enough to accommodate the wheelchair lift.
The 146kW model has powerful 4MOTION capabilities giving it robust off-road capabilities. It provides plenty of torque for tackling those off-road challenges with the option of using a Differential Lock and the Hill Hold Assist.
The Transporter boasts an electromechanical, speed-sensitive power steering which is remarkably light for a vehicle of this size. Even as a quadriplegic, Tjorrie has no difficulty turning the steering wheel with one hand.
For anyone driving with hand controls, the cruise control is an essential feature as it allows them to take their hands off the hand control and drive with two hands on the steering. It also provides an opportunity to rest the arm that controls the hand control, which is particularly important when driving long distances. The control buttons on the dashboard makes the cruise control easily accessed without having to take a hand off the steering wheel.
Rear Camera, Park Distance Control
Due to his quadriplegia, Tjorrie is unable to turn and look behind him when reversing. Therefore, the rear camera that gives an optimised view of the area behind the vehicle on the media system screen, and the Park Distance Control which gives an audible warning if the vehicle gets too close to an object, are essential features for assisting Tjorrie to see what is happening behind the vehicle.
Tyre Pressure Monitor and Assistance Systems
Jumping out the car to have a quick look at a tyre is not an option for anyone using a wheelchair. Being able to check the tyre pressure while sitting in the driver’s seat is a huge plus. It provides an easy way to look after the tyres and ensure that they have optimal tyre pressure at all times. The system warns the driver if there are any deviations from the set pressure. This can save a lot of money on the wear and tear of the tyres.
The Assistance Systems, including the tyre pressure monitor, are controlled using the right-hand button panel on the multi-purpose steering wheel. This gives access to all the Assistance Systems, Audio, Telephone Answering, Vehicle Status Features and Driving Data.
Touch Screen Infotainment and Blue Tooth System
The Bluetooth Infotainment System connects automatically to the driver’s cell phone and all calls can be answered at the touch of the button. Calls can be made using voice recognition via the driver’s cell phone so there is no need to take hands off the steering wheel or even eyes off the road.
Rain Sensing Wipers
Once again, these features enable him to keep both hands on the steering and hand control at all times.
Flip Up Armrest On Driver’s Seat
The armrest helps to provide stability while Tjorrie is driving as he does not have any balance, and it provides elbow support to reduce fatigue in the shoulder. With it being able to flip up, it’s easily placed out of the way when he needs to transfer across.
Having been injured in a car crash already, Tjorrie understands the value of safety features in a car. The Transporter 6.1 is packed with state-of-the-art Driver Assistance Systems, which are more than just ‘nice to have’ for a quadriplegic driver. They include the following:
This helps the driver remain in their lane by detecting if the vehicle veers out of the lane, caused by strong crosswinds. Crosswind Assist will automatically course-correct from a speed of 80 km/h, without the driver being aware.
A strong crosswind can even be difficult for able-bodied drivers to control in a large vehicle like the Transporter, so for any driver who only has one hand on the steering as the other hand is on the hand control, and even more so if it’s a quadriplegic with reduced shoulder strength, this feature adds massive safety value to any driver with a disability.
Driver Fatigue Detection
The vehicle users visual and audible warning signals to recommend that the driver takes a break as soon as it registers driving behaviour that indicates fatigue.
Post-Collision Braking System
The Transporter 6.1 features an advanced safety system that breaks automatically after a collision to prevent a second impact. After a short delay, the vehicle begins a phased braking action down to 9,66 km/h during which time the driver can take over at any point.
Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) and Traction Control Systems (TCS)
ESP improves a vehicle’s stability by detecting and reducing loss of traction (skidding). When ESP detects loss of steering control, it automatically applies the brakes to help “steer” the vehicle where the driver intends to go. Braking is automatically applied to wheels individually, such as the outer front wheel to counter over steer or the inner rear wheel to counter understeer.
Anti-Lock Braking System and Brake Assist (ABS)
The ABS prevent the wheels from locking up under heavy breaking situations therefore maintains manoeuvrability and control of the vehicle.
Twin Halogen Head Lights
Provides optimum visibility at night with excellent illumination to the sides and long-range.
Compliments his lifestyle
So not only does the Transporter 6.1 make Tjorrie a safer driver but it also compliments his lifestyle and provides the space that he needs.
He uses both a manual and power wheelchair depending on where he is going, and both chairs can be accommodated in the vehicle. Running a farm and being involved with multiple property developments, Tjorrie is a busy man and needs to get in and out of his car a number of times per day. This method that he uses where he transfers inside the vehicle is far more energy efficient than having to transfer from a wheelchair that is positioned outside of the vehicle next to the driver’s seat. He also does not need to load the wheelchair into the vehicle as it comes in with him on the wheelchair lift. This is the key to his independence.
It took Tjorrie many years to get to the point where he worked out the solution and found the perfect vehicle for his needs. His previous Transporter worked well for him, but the additions to the Transporter 6.1 was the perfect touch to give him the confidence and freedom that he was looking for.