Off-road enthusiasts are calling for Australia to introduce a new licence for 4WD drivers amid a rise in blokes with kitted up vehicles getting bogged on outdoor adventures.
Tow truck drivers have been making a fortune rescuing Aussies ‘with all the gear and no idea’ as drivers with ‘no skill level’ get stuck on beaches, grasslands and muddy bushland surfaces.
Many are unaware of how to safely operate these vehicles on surfaces other than tarmac, before they get stuck or break down hundreds of kilometres from help.
Pat Callinan says licences should be introduced to ensure that drivers have safety based education before they hit off-beaten tracks.
He says motorcycles and heavy vehicles have specialised licences, and calls for one applying to 4WD because off-road terrains have different dynamics than on-road environments.
A number of inexperienced drivers who are buying kitted out 4WD’s and other expensive vehicles are getting bogged on beaches and other surfaces
4WD enthusiasts are calling for the recreational activity to require a licence to increase safety and regulation
‘For the technical aspects, training and education is key,’ he writes on his blog, Pat Callinan’s 4X4 Adventures.
‘Presently one licence category covers everything from a Kia Piccanto to a 79 Series ‘Cruiser, to a Porsche 911. They’re pretty broad strokes of the brush.
He recommends that Australia introduces an offroad licence to ensure drivers can safely handle off-road environments.
‘This can satisfactorily ensure that any would-be off-road driver has basic knowledge of vehicle dynamics off road, and hopefully a healthy respect for the environment they are driving in.’
Mr Callinan said permits would also help to regulate the hobby as the government would be aware of how many people partake in recreational four wheel driving.
He said there could be up to 2 million 4WD fanatics who are missing out on policy changes because the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not distinguish between privately owned, road-oriented, and off-road cars.
Tow truck drivers have been making a fortune rescuing Aussie blokes ‘with all the gear and no idea’
Many who have opted to spend their weekends taking their new 4WD’s out onto to the beach, desert or grasslands are usually unaware on how to safely operate these vehicles on these surfaces before they get stuck or break down
‘Laws are changed to suit motorcyclists, because their numbers are known and accountable and that means political persuasion. Gun owners have a voice, because strict licensing,’ he said.
‘Amateur fishers get infrastructure built and non-commercial fishing supported, in NSW at least. Why? Licences. Numbers. Accountability.
‘A licence might just be the ticket 4X4 owners and off-road enthusiasts need to be able to stand up and be counted.
The call comes as one Queensland company reported 11 rescues of bogged vehicles over the Easter long weekend.
James Stewart, director of Driving Solutions, told Daily Mail Australia that more drivers purchased expensive off-road vehicles to travel around and see Australia during the coronavirus pandemic while international borders were closed.
‘There’s more people travelling around Australia so the number of bogged vehicles is more visible,’ he said.
Queensland towing company Clayton’s Towing reported 11 rescues of bogged vehicles over the Easter long weekend on beaches north of Noosa and along Fraser Island. (Pictured: One of the bogged vehicles)
Driving Solutions director James Stewart (pictured) says many new drivers are taking newly purchased 4WD’s out onto different terrain for the first time with ‘no skill level’
‘The cars [4WD’s] are more compatible [with off-road terrain] now and it makes drivers more comfortable and overconfident. Eventually conditions are catching people out.’
‘They [drivers] then usually give us a call and think, ‘Oh s**t, I wish I had done this course’.
Stewart’s company runs a specialised 4WD course that helps Aussies develop safer off-road driving skills.
Stewart says he only ‘wishes’ his business could reach new 4WD drivers before they make their ‘first mistake’.
‘Four wheel driving is the most dangerous driving,’ he continued. ‘The tracks are a living organism and forever changing due to the weather conditions.’
‘It’s important to get an understanding of what your car can do and what the driver can do.’
Andrew Boyd from Toyota Land Cruiser Club of Australia believes many Aussies are buying 4WD’s without being properly informed by dealers on how to safely operate them.
Many who have opted to spend their weekends taking their new 4WD’s out onto different terrain are usually unaware on how to safely operate these vehicles on new surfaces before they get stuck or break down
James (pictured) heads Driving Solutions which offers event and drive team services along with extensive driving training courses in Sydney. One of the main training courses at Driving Solutions is 4WD driving training
‘They [buyers] take them out of the showrooms. The dealers would not tell these people the different buttons to press,’ Boyd said.
‘They then take them out to the beaches and get into all sorts of trouble.’
Boyd recalled a time he had just purchased a new 4WD when he was in his 20s and took it out to a beach for the first time.
He soon found himself bogged in the sand but was fortunately helped by a driver passing by who informed Boyd that his tyre pressure was the reason he was stuck.
‘Someone drove up to me and told me,’ Have you let your tyres down?” Boyd recounted.
‘When I got home my brother told me to join this club. It taught me how to drive these vehicles,’ he added.
David Wilson from Adventure 4WD agreed with the point that there are now more drivers than ever off road after the pandemic – hence a higher number of incidents.
David Wilson from Adventure 4WD explained that crashing down or getting bogged while driving on new terrain can be an ‘expensive exercise’ and driver training can help mitigate the chances of a breakdown occurring
A 24-year-old man became stuck in the black soil on Tuesday night after his 4WD veered off road near the outback town of Aramac. The man, who was not from the area, ended up walking nine hours in the pitch black along Torrens Creek Road
A group of travellers have been slammed for driving their Maseratis worth upwards of $150,000 onto a popular beach – only for the luxury cars to get bogged in the sand dunes
‘Post-Covid there’s been a massive spike in interest in Aussies wanting to travel around the country and plenty have bought new or second-hand vehicles to do just that,’ he said.
Wilson explained that crashing down or getting bogged while driving on new terrain can be an ‘expensive exercise’ and driver training can help mitigate the chances of a breakdown occurring.
‘Budding travellers can reference plenty of sites that are helpful to offer pointers to vehicle operation and management. That’s good and so too experience sourced from a practical course, the sort of thing we do here at Adventure 4WD.’
It comes as another driver earlier this week walked for nine hours for help after their 4WD became bogged in black soil in outback Queensland.
A 24-year-old man became stuck in the black soil on Tuesday night after his vehicle veered off road near the outback town of Aramac, according to the ABC.
The man, who was not from the area, ended up walking nine hours in the pitch black along Torrens Creek Road to find help and was eventually found by a local resident who contacted police on Wednesday.
The conditions in the area had recently changed from dry to soft and muddy due to heavy rainfall.
Police reported that the man had been located about 30 kilometres from his vehicle and was ‘travelling from Townsville’ without ‘any knowledge of the area itself’.
Where to take a 4WD course
Australians are being urged to take a 4WD course before going off road.
Courses cover all the basics of 4WDing including an understanding of the 4WD system, buttons, maintenance, fault checking, identifying the smoothest routes and travelling on different types of terrain.
New South Wales
Driving Solutions 4WD Driver Training – Eastern Creek – one day course – $305
Great Divide Tours 4WD Training – Eleanora Heights – two day course- $690
Getabout Training Services Off Road Skills – multiple locations – one day course – $425
Toyota Land Cruiser Club of Australia 4WD Training – Yagoona & Willowglen – 1 evening & two day course – membership fee (varies)
Australian Offroad Academy Offroad Fraser Island – Sunshine Coast – one day course – $995
Australian 4WD Sand Course – Bribie Island – one day course – unknown
4WD Adventures 4WD Introductory – Morayfield – one day course – $230
Brisbane Hinterland Introductory Off Road – Brisbane – one day course – $300
Driven Training Recreational 4WD Course – Yatala – one day course – enquire
4WD Training Services – Canberra – unknown – enquire
Mountain Top Experience 4WD Training – Rawson – two day course – $340
Safetrek Basic 4WD Course – Melbourne – two day course – $370
Tasmanian Offroad Adventures ‘Sand’ and ‘Bush’ Course – Launceston – one day course – $250
4WD Tasmania Basic 4WD Course – southern Tasmania – two day course – $220 per person
Adventure 4WD 4WD Training Introductory Course – Lyndoch – one day course – $485
Pindan Tours 4WD Courses – Flinders Ranges – various – enquire
Western Wilderness Bush & Sand course – Pinjar – one day course – $365
Eureka 4WD Introductory 4WD Course – Bellevue – one day course – $275