Ecologists Gareth Lang and Rachel Taylor from BSG Ecology’s Newport Office, recently went to Whitecliff Off-road Driving Center in Coleford, Forest of Dean to get some industry-standard 4×4 training. The one-day course has BORDA (British Off Road Driving Association) accreditation and meets the requirement set by the Health & Safety Executive’s PUWER (Provision & Use Of Work Equipment Regulations) Act. It aims to ensure the trainee has good understanding of off-road driving techniques, both practical and theoretical.
Off-road driving competency is a necessity for survey work on many upland sites (in particular). The course covered topics ranging from control and use of your vehicle to how to and when to perform vehicle checks. The theory section was similarly wideranging. Gareth and Rachel found that much off-road driving theory can appear counter-intuitive, such as the necessity to apply the accelerator to regain traction and slow down during descent, or repeatedly turn the steering wheel from lock to lock to get out of sticky mud.
The practical element allowed Gareth and Rachel to put theory to the test in the grounds of a disused quarry. Terrain here included loose gravel, heavily rutted sloping tracks, and water-logged mud. This enhanced the usefulness of the training, as its application in the field was immediately clear. Techniques for the ascent and descent of hills (including reverse ascent), dealing with failed hill climbs, side slopes, emergency stops, and loss of traction were also covered. Each scenario was fully risk assessed prior to an attempt being made, and consideration was given to finding alternative easier routes (which were not taken!).
The course provided an appropriate level of training for practical application in the field, as well as being a fun and nerve-wracking day out. The slopes negotiated on the day were far more extreme than would be encountered in the field, and also far beyond what our health and safety policies would allow us to consider tackling. In this light, the course has more than sufficiently armed our surveyors with good practical experience, confidence, and essential knowledge for safe off-roading!