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Convoy Safety: Tips for Organizing and Leading a Large Group of 21+ Vehicles

Organizing and leading a large groups of convoy on a 4×4 trail can be a daunting task, especially when dealing with a large group of vehicles. It is important to have a thorough plan in place and to coordinate effectively with all participants to ensure a safe and successful journey.

TIPS fOR SAFETY LEADING Convoy

I grew up observing my father (Robert “Bobby” Jorgensen) and his friends effectively lead caravans of vehicles on weekend trips throughout different parts of the Philippines. My father’s expertise in coordinating large groups of vehicles using two-way radios for communication made a lasting impression on me.

A video demonstrating the application of these principles in a real-life scenario.

Leading 30 Rigs through Burns Canyon (Alpha Team and Bravo Team Coverage).

With the support of my O4lo off-roading group, as well as Nipoj Parnprome from 41.22, JP Jugo, Rod Conde, and Jon from JonDZ Adventuring, I refined these techniques. Here are guidelines for safely guiding a convoy of over 21 vehicles.

Reconnaissace Run (RECON RUN)

Gathering information about the trail before organizing a large off-road event is important. This will help you determine the most suitable vehicles for the terrain, as well as the trail’s width and condition.

Burns Canyon Recon Caravan

One way to evaluate the trail is to conduct a reconnaissance run/ recon run with a small group. Even if you have been on the trail before, it is important to note that trail conditions can change due to various factors. A recon run on tight or narrow trails can prevent accidents by identifying parking spots ahead of time, allowing the convoy(s) to pull off the trail safely if needed.

SETTING up THE EVENT: Number of Participants

Location/venue is key to a successful event. For open spaces like Mojave Desert or Pismo Beach, a participant limit is not necessary. However, for narrow trails or shelf roads, limiting the number of vehicles or keeping the event private is recommended for efficient movement and to avoid delays.

EXAMPLE OF SETTING THE EVENT LIMIT (THE MAX FOR THIS EVENT IS 30 RIGS)

With the right planning, right venue/location, the event can run smoothly and provide a positive experience for all participants. It is important for organizers to feel comfortable leading a specific number of vehicles, as they also bear a level of responsibility for the safety and well-being of all attendees.

Waiver of Liability Statement / Event Disclosure Agreement.

In my experience working in a high-level corporate setting, I have learned that legal action can be taken against anyone regardless of the circumstances. It is important to be aware of potential liabilities and take necessary precautions. You can do this by having them fill out a release and waiver of liability agreement or stating in the video before the event that you are not liable for any injury or damages in the trail.

Assigning Roles/ Division of labor

Once the trail has been planned and mapped, it’s important to identify individuals who will help lead the group. Two common roles in this process are the “Lead” and the “Sweep.” For narrow roads, assign a “Scout.”

BURNS CANYON CHARLIE LEADER JEFF PALMA AND CHARLIE SWEEP: JP JUGO

Assigning Leaders for each convoy(s)

Lead(s) – The responsibilities of the lead include guiding the convoy, determining the pace, communicating signaling the convoy to find safe areas in case of oncoming traffic. The “lead” will also establish the speed at which the group will travel. If, for example, “Group Bravo” is approaching “Group Alpha,” the leader of Group Bravo will decrease the pace for his group.

Sweep(s) – Sweep is responsible for monitoring and communicating traffic at the rear of the convoy, ensuring the convoy stays together as one unit, and keeping the lead informed of the convoy’s status.

Scout(s) – Having advance scouts when traveling on narrow, shelf roads can help ensure the safety of the convoy by signaling any incoming traffic from the opposite direction. They can alert oncoming vehicles of the presence of a large group.

By delegating planning and communication responsibilities to group leaders and filtering them down to the individual units within each group, it will reduce the stress on the event organizer or event leader.

Dividing the convoy into smaller groups

Splitting a large off-road convoy into smaller groups and assigning a lead and sweep to each prevents delays. Without this, one break or potty stop could extend a 2-3 hour trail to 6-12 hours with multiple stops.

ANZA BORREGO EVENT ALPHA LEADER : MP TRAILGROUP

Anza Borrego Convoy

By dividing a large convoy into smaller groups improves organization and coordination. Each group, such as “Group Alpha,” can function independently with a designated lead or sweep in charge. This allows for flexibility, as one group can halt while others proceed to the destination.

When forming groups, place the drivers who like to go fast in the front group, and the more relaxed and slower drivers in the back group.

GROUP ALPHA (FAST GROUP) -> GROUP BRAVO (MEDIUM SPEED) -> GROUP CHARLIE (SLOW GROUP)

PISMO EVENT 2022 DOUBLE WINCH ACTION

It’s important to take into account factors such as driving proficiency, trail mechanic skills, and radio capabilities. By considering these aspects, you can distribute members evenly among groups. Additionally, within each group, the leader should arrange experienced drivers to precede less experienced ones, so that in case a vehicle gets stuck, the more skilled driver can offer help.

O4LO SANTIAGO PEAK EVENT LED BY JEFF PALMA AND KEVIN JORGENSEN

It is also important to consider that other groups or individuals may also be using the trail and your large group can cause delays for them as well. It is also worth noting that in some areas, a permit may be required if the number of vehicles exceeds a certain limit.

Convoy Radio Communication

Clear communication is important when navigating a trail, especially for big groups. To make the most of a single radio, restrict radio use to the lead and sweep, unless there’s an emergency. If group leaders have access to two radios, different channels and frequencies can be assigned to each group for internal communication.

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RADIO CALL SIGNS

Assigning clear and distinct call signs, such as “Group Name + Role” can aid in identifying the position of each member within the caravan. An example of this would be “Alpha Lead” or “Alpha 1” for the lead of Group Alpha, and “Bravo Sweep” for the sweep of Group Bravo. To further avoid confusion, a numerical system can be used in addition to the role. For example, in the Alpha team, Alpha 1 would be the lead, Alpha 2, Alpha 3, and Alpha 4 as the members, and “Alpha Sweep” for the sweep. This system helps to clearly identify the location of each group member within the caravan.

ECHO SWEEP ROD CONDE EXPLANING ALPHA NUMERIC CALL-SIGNS DURING BURNS CANYON EVENT

In the event that a group member needs a break, they can communicate this to their group leader by saying “Bravo Lead, this is Bravo 3, we need to take a break.” The group leader, recognizing the call sign, will then make the necessary stop for the group.

TIME MANAGEMENT

Starting on time is important, group leaders should coordinate with their group members on the meeting time at the trailhead and the time of the driver’s meeting. They should also be in charge of monitoring the time during rest stops to ensure the event stays on schedule.

CARAVAN TO 2N17X TRAIL HEAD

Staggered Starts

Improving traffic flow on the trail can be done by having groups depart at different, staggered times. The time gap between groups can vary from 15-30 minutes or 5-10 minutes, depending on the location/venue and the time spent at POIs (Points of Interest). This method allows the first group to move ahead, find parking more easily, and avoid encountering traffic from the opposite direction. In addition, groups at the front can pass along information about any obstacles or challenges encountered on the trail to the rest of the convoys.

ADAM BROWN LEADING 2N17X O4LO EVENT

Enjoy the Experience! Organizing a large caravan of convoys takes proper planning and communication for a safe and enjoyable trip. Following guidelines such as providing a briefing, assigning roles, and establishing communication can help avoid potential risks and ensure a smooth flow of traffic. Having an emergency plan in place are important aspects to consider. Use this article as a guide to plan your next big event. See you on the trails!

Another video demonstrating the application of these principles in a real-life scenario.

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