IN PHOTOS: Vehicles of Vanderbilt 2023-2024

Have a look at the motorized chariots keeping Vanderbilt on the move this year.
An Airbus H135 medical helicopter of Vanderbilt LifeFlight (N104VU) soars into the air from VUMC, as captured on Oct. 9, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Royce Yang)
An Airbus H135 medical helicopter of Vanderbilt LifeFlight (N104VU) soars into the air from VUMC, as captured on Oct. 9, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Royce Yang)
Royce Yang

Most campus residents have, at least, once this year been awakened by a piercing siren or a rumbling helicopter at 2 a.m. On your way to class, you’ve likely seen a CSO truck patrolling parking lots or a VUPD cruiser sitting at the street corner. From the ubiquitous shuttles ferrying people across the Medical Center to the intricate network of service vans maneuvering behind the scenes, each vehicle plays a certain role in the daily rhythm of life at Vanderbilt. As the days turned into months, I’ve compiled this somewhat comprehensive but non-exhaustive guide to the bustling vehicular ecosystem around and above campus that has been keeping Vanderbilt and VUMC on the move.

Police

VUPD primarily operates a fleet of Ford Police Interceptor Utilities. Based on the civilian Ford Explorer, these specialized vehicles often make the news and are a standard staple for police departments across the country. VUPD also has a fleet of unmarked vehicles and a regular Ford F-150 with aftermarket equipment.

CSO

Community Service Officers are commonly spotted around campus streets and parking facilities in Nissan Frontiers or Toyota RAV4s. Recently, they welcomed a small Ford Maverick into their fleet.

VandyRide

You’ve most likely taken a trip in one of these vehicles after a shivering wait on a cold winter night. New this school year is a fleet of Lightning ZEV4 VandyRide buses that traded their gas-guzzling Chevy V8s for some whining electric motors. While not known for having the smoothest ride or outstanding reliability, these battery-powered carriages have more or less spared us from occasions of having to walk across campus alone in the dark. 

Mobility rides

These purpose-built vehicles provide mobility rides for individuals in need. The smaller GEM e6 is used to maneuver around narrow pedestrian paths on campus while the larger Chrysler Voyager is driven on wider roads with more traffic.

VUMO and Auxiliary Services

Here are some of the more behind-the-scenes services. Vanderbilt University Maintenance and Operations, formerly known as Plant Operations, relies on a fleet of golf carts and conventional vans and trucks to keep campus facilities up and running. So, when you catch that suspiciously grimy “Vandy Van” again, rest assured that it is simply on its way to fix things that need fixing. Meanwhile, Campus Dining and Catering and Events, part of Auxiliary Services, navigate daily around campus in box trucks to make sure our residents and visitors stay well fed.

VUMC shuttles

The Medical Center’s version of the VandyRide is bigger, louder and runs all day. These buses transport staff or visitors between VUMC campuses and parking facilities. 

VUMC emergency ground transport

Part of the Medical Center’s emergency operations are ground ambulances branded under Vanderbilt LifeFlight and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital. LifeFlight ambulances are built by Excellance on the Type I Freightliner M2 or the Type III Ford E-450 chassis. Children’s Hospital ambulances are built by Osage on the Type I Freightliner M2, Ford F-550 or Ram 5500 chassis.

Vanderbilt LifeFlight helicopters

This is probably the main reason you’re here. Despite bearing the Vanderbilt LifeFlight name, none of these rumbling rotorcrafts are flown by VUMC itself but by Air Methods, instead. Currently, the LifeFlight helicopter fleet consists of the following nine Airbus helicopters of three different models: 

H130
  • N106VU
  • N107VU

Unfortunately, N107VU never showed up while I had the camera ready. Catch you next year, maybe?

An Airbus H130 medical helicopter of Vanderbilt LifeFlight (N106VU) approaches VUMC, as captured on April 1, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Royce Yang) (Royce Yang)
H135
  • N104VU
  • N105VU
  • N108VU
  • N110VU
  • N135LF

N135LF’s rather perfunctory look is perhaps due to its status as the backup helicopter used when others are not available.

H145
  • N101VU
  • N103VU

Fun fact: N101VU was featured in the music video of “Highway Don’t Care” by Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban.

Other helicopters

Occasionally, helicopters from other operators and entities would visit VUMC. The loudest-of-all award has always gone to the Army’s Black Hawk.

Vanderbilt LifeFlight plane

Unbeknownst to many is the revelation that Vanderbilt has an air force with one plane — just kidding. This Pilatus PC-12 operated by Air Methods under the Vanderbilt LifeFlight name is used for longer-distance air medical transportation. However rarely it appears above campus, you might still find it at your local hometown airport this summer.

A Pilatus PC-12 medical aircraft of Vanderbilt LifeFlight (N911VU) takes off from Nashville International Airport, as captured on Feb. 17, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Royce Yang) (Royce Yang)

So, that’s a quick spin around Vanderbilt’s motorized menagerie this year. Whether you’re zipping through the darkness in a silent VandyRide bus or catching a glimpse of a life-saving helicopter overhead, there’s almost always a trusty chariot to get people and things where they need to be. Next time when an ambulance with flashing lights or an inconspicuous Campus Dining truck passes by, know that it’s all part of the vehicular choreography that keeps the Vanderbilt community on the move.

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About the Contributor
Royce Yang
Royce Yang, Staff Photographer
Royce Yang (‘27) is planning to major in political science in the College of Arts and Science. He can occasionally be observed curating an extensive collection of Bach or attempting to identify helicopters around the Medical Center based on their noise. You can reach him at [email protected].

Comments (4)

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Frank Lazarus
2 months ago

I found this article very interesting. I would never have guessed that the university has such a wide array of vehicles and other modes of transport.
I am the grandfather of a Vanderbilt senior student and will miss glancing at the “Hustler” next year.

G
George Albu
3 months ago

Nice job on this, Royce! 🙂

M
Mark Waters
3 months ago

So we’re just posting delightful articles now? Is that it? Articles full of joyous whimsy and mirth? Count me in.

N
Nadeem Badruz Zaman
3 months ago

Amazing article by an amazing photographer. I was very enchanted by the informative nature and the sheer detail Mr. Yang went into making this.