17 January 2013
AA DriveTech, the specialist division of the AA which provides driver development courses for qualified occupational drivers, believes that the recent cold snap will highlight the lack of coaching that drivers need to temper their over-inflated confidence about the capabilities of modern 4x4 vehicles.
“Feedback from our 4x4 training department suggests that many drivers believe that, when the temperature drops below freezing, these vehicles come into their own and they can drive as normal,” says Fleet Director Simon Stammers. “There is no question that the latest 4x4s have exceptional grip and traction in even the most challenging off-road conditions but this ability will always compromise on-road performance to some degree.
“Our main concern is that many 4x4 vehicles used for work are carrying quite high payloads and often have a higher than normal centre of gravity as a result, which could affect stability in an avoidance manoeuvre. Also drivers must realise that if vehicles are fitted with off-road specification tyres they can expect far less grip on normal roads than a conventional tyre, due to the reduced contact area. An inexperienced driver may not appreciate the consequences of cornering or braking harshly until it’s too late.”
Customer feedback to AA DriveTech reveals that many drivers who use 4x4 vehicles for work have had little or no formal training at all, instead relying on advice and guidance from other, more experienced work colleagues. It appears that any professional training that is given is usually restricted to specialist off road driving techniques.
AA DriveTech now strongly believes that those required to use 4x4s in the workplace should have training in how to operate them safely and efficiently ON road, as well as off-road.
“We currently have nine LANTRA approved 4x4 courses available for at-work drivers, one of which is devoted to all aspects of driving them safely on-road,” continues Simon Stammers. “We would urge those employers which use 4x4s in the workplace to include this training with their drivers as early as possible, so that they are equipped to drive 4x4 vehicles safely from the outset. We can deliver these courses at, in or near clients’ premises if they have a suitable venue. If not we have five different, purpose-made locations throughout the UK, making this training accessible for a large proportion of the working population.”