9 Things Not to Get Wrong When Travelling In Convoy
How many times have you heard “I’ll follow you”.
Now, how many times have you then thought “Oh, sh*t, here we go again… they never follow us properly” or “We’ll lose them at the first set of lights…”.
It happened to me once when my parents were supposed to follow us through the maze of Sydney tunnels on off-ramps. It didn’t end well with us going to Kyeemagh on Botany Bay and my parents ending up in Ultimo, west of the city. Long story short… we were reunited after a very long (and expensive) mobile phone call – well before unlimited call plans.
Anyway, convoys shouldn’t be something to be scared of if done properly.
Convoys are quite simply one car or more following another car (the lead car).
So here’s some ground rules you might like to try on your next trip.
1: Agree on Where You’re Going
Now, I know that this one sound pretty obvious. But, it’s easy to misunderstand or mis-remember where it is you think you’re heading.
Try and agree on an address or point on a map where you’re wanting to go. Perhaps an old photo of the place if you’ve both been there just to confirm that that’s the place.
If the followers are happy to blindly follow, then they need to take responsibility for that decision and travel on in blind faith. But, they still need to know the address or name – just in case the ‘custard’ hits the fan and they need to get there under their own steam.
If you’re the follower, don’t be scared to ask for the destination details. At the same time though, don’t be tempted to head off on some detour or short-cut without being sure what you’re doing AND without telling the leader.
2: Choose Your Start Point Carefully
If you choose a start point for your big trip in the suburbs or and inner-city area, the chances of losing each other at the first change of lights, the first Stop or Give Way intersection or even the first merging lane are huge.
Choose a point out of town that you can all agree on or perhaps that’s easy to find.
When I ran a quick survey on my Facebook page (@dayvcampandtravel) 20% of respondents said that they arrange to meet at a McDonalds. Why? Because, McDonalds are easy to find on the web, on maps, by street signs or just ask a local. Also, if you’re early you can grab a sneaky cheese burger, coffee or visit the toilet. Similarly, if the others are running late, you have somewhere to wait.
By choosing somewhere out of the ‘burbs you’ll also run a lesser risk of losing people at lights etc.
If fellow travellers do get held up at a set of lights or an intersection, the leader may choose to pull over for a while or simply slow down for a while as the others catch up.
3: Turn Your Headlights On
Having your headlights on while in a convoy allows the leader to quickly see who’s behind and how many.
Naturally, this doesn’t quite work during overcast or rainy days or at night time. But, a good leader will develop a talent to recognise headlight and sidelight arrangements of the cars in their convoy.
Having your headlights on also points out to other drivers that you’re travelling together.
4: Sweeps and Tail Enders
When travelling in larger convoys, the leader will most likely appoint a Tail-End Charlie (not their real name) or Sweep.
The job of the Sweep is to be the last in the convoy and to maintain communication with the leader. As part of this role, the Sweep will inform the leader when all cars have come through a particular intersection or section.
At the same time, the Sweep is usually experienced enough to be able to hang back with any member who has a difficulty or issue to offer assistance and support. ONLY after letting the leader know what’s going on.
As well as a Sweep, the leader may ask some one in the middle of the convoy to relay messages up and down the line if the convoy gets stretched out.
5: Know Your Number and Spot in the Convoy
A good leader in larger convoys will also allocate cars with a number and may ask that they stay in that order for all or part of the trip.
In this way, the leader can ask for a radio check at any time and the calls will come back in that order – eg “Car 1 Check”, “Car 2 Check” etc.
6: Support the Leader
It’s important that all cars in the convoy keep an eye out for each other and to keep the leader informed.
The best two ways to do this are to make sure that the car behind you has seen you make a turn and that they’ve followed you through; and that you call up the leader when you make a designated turn or to a checkpoint.
7: Travel With a CB
It’s handy if all cars in the convoy have a CB – in fact 5 and 6 would be a bit hard without one.
The leader will establish a channel for all to be on for the trip – and should identify an alternate channel should the first become crowded or lose quality.
While general chit chat can’t (and shouldn’t) be avoided on the appropriate channels (refer CB UHF Channels ), the convoy should know when to shut-up when the mood changes for some reason or when the leader is trying to control a situation.
It should not be unusual for the leader to maintain communications on other dedicated channels (eg UHF 18, 29 and 40).
I did experience a situation when travelling across the Simpson Desert where 36 Landcruisers were travelling in convoy and all sitting on UHF channel 10. Yes, that’s the channel for convoys, but when all 36 were chatting and we were trying to work with the leader to negotiate a passing point it simply didn’t work. It would have helped in that convoy were on say UHF 24 and the leader had their ears on both – or better still if the passenger had an ear on the convoy and the leader had his on UHF 10.
The job of a good radio operator is to tell the leader what they NEED to know.
8: Courtesy for Other Road Users
Don’t forget that just because you are in a convoy, it doesn’t mean that you own the road.
Others are still using the road and should be given all due courtesy.
Guidance on convoys provided by the Queensland government states “If you are a member of a …. convoy, don’t travel too close together. Other road users will become frustrated if they are unable to overtake safely. The law requires caravans and other large vehicles, outside a built-up area, leave at least 60m between each other. The distance is 200m in a road train area”. (source: www.qld.gov.au)
9: Resist the Urge…
Finally, and above all else, always try to resist saying something like “Mercy sakes alive, looks like we’ve got us a convoy”. (apologies to C.W. McCall – “Convoy”)