Box Elder County’s newest vehicle could be summed up in a single word: versatility.
The county recently received delivery of a Sherp, a unique all-terrain vehicle resembling a “tank on wheels” that can be used for a wide range of needs. One day, it might be helping get search and rescue personnel closer to the scene of an accident in the mountains. The next day, it could be taking surveyors to hard-to-reach corners of the county.
Typically, ATVs have to go around natural obstacles like swamps or fallen timber. The Sherp, as demonstrated last week by County Emergency Manager Mark Millett, takes these impediments head-on — and usually wins.
The Sherp, which the county paid $122,500 for, was put to good use immediately. It was delivered in the afternoon last Tuesday, April 23, and that very evening, it was deployed to help reach a group of young hikers on the mountainside east of Brigham City. One of the hikers had fallen and broken a foot, and search and rescue personnel used the Sherp to get as close to the stranded party as possible.
“It saved us quite a bit of time” in reaching the hikers, Millett said. It cut down on the hiking time needed to reach the injured hiker, who was able to receive much better care because rescuers were able to reach the hiker more quickly, he said.
Dale Ward, chief deputy for the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office, said the six-figure price tag that comes with the Sherp is well worth it.
“This will cover all areas of the county, not just one department,” Ward said.
During a media demonstration last week at the county sheriff’s complex, Millett drove the Sherp over a pile of large, loose logs, then took it down into a swampy area to show off its amphibious capabilities. The 2,900-pound vehicle sports a Kubota four-cylinder diesel engine, manual five-speed transmission, can carry up to 2,200 pounds and travel at speeds up to 25 miles per hour.
It sports four massive, tubeless tires measuring 63 inches high and almost 24 inches wide, with rubber an inch thick. The tires can be rapidly deflated to gain traction in difficult terrain, and quickly reinflated for travel on more solid surfaces. It can go over obstacles up to 39 inches high, tilting as much as 35 degrees in the process.
According to a fact sheet provided by county officials, “The secret to the Sherp is the weight and balance, and center of gravity, of the vehicle over the huge tires, which can be inflated and deflated while in motion, using the engine exhaust, depending on the terrain.”
The maximum air pressure is three pounds per square inch, and the Sherp is fully amphibious, “with a lot of torque.”
The Sherp can be used as a response vehicle “for any disasters we may face, which would result in compromised, destroyed or impeded roadways and infrastructure, which would inhibit first responders,” the document states. It can also support resource transportation efforts in fighting wildfires, as well as help the sheriff’s office in its efforts to serve civil papers, or patrol the rough, remote areas where people with ATVs often go for hunting or other recreation.
Ward said it could also be useful in rescuing people who get stuck out in the flats of the Great Salt Lake. Such rescues become more frequent when the lake level is low as it is now, and people think they can drive out on the mud flats, only to become stuck.
“We could roll that thing out into the Great Salt Lake and paddle all the way across it,” Ward said. “We probably won’t do that because of the damage it would do, but we could.”
He said the Sherp would have been very useful in the case of a plane that went down in the lake in late December 2017. The wreckage took about two weeks to find, and once it was found, the recovery effort proved to be long, dangerous and costly, as the extremely salty water caused extensive damage to a rescue boat. The Sherp would have been able to reach the crash site while sustaining far less damage, he said.
The Sherp is manufactured in the Ukraine and assembled in Canada. Box Elder County purchased its vehicle from a dealer in Minnesota.
Box Elder County Commissioner Stan Summers said county officials found out about the Sherp about a year ago, and have been considering it as a solution to a variety of needs throughout the county ever since. He said there’s only one other county nationwide that currently has one, and that is in North Dakota.
“We’ll get a lot of good use out of it,” Summers said. “I think it’s going to prove to be a good value for the county.”