Driving is always potentially hazardous but the risks are amplified in remote locations. This makes it even more important to think about journey management ? have you worked out where to stop for fuel, have you checked the weather conditions and do you have sufficient food and water supplies on board if something does go wrong? These are just some of the questions you need to answer before setting off.
The roads in remote locations are used infrequently so you may not see another vehicle or even another person for an entire day. Collisions in these places can end tragically with somebody losing their life because medical assistance or rescue services don't get there in time. Lost hours, and in some case minutes, can determine whether somebody survives. Following this nine-point plan will help make sure an inconvenience on your next remote journey doesn't become a disaster:
Don't be complacent
Even if you've done the same trip many times before you still need to plan because external factors can change. Not everybody knows exactly where a destination is ? especially if it's a new driver or somebody has only done the trip once or twice before. It's easy in a remote location with a lack of visual stimulus to make a wrong turn. This is often where people get into trouble. Carry out basic vehicle checks like tyre pressure and tread, whether you have sufficient windscreen wash and the condition of wipers. Ensure the vehicle is fit for purpose, especially for a pool vehicle that has more than one regular driver.
Plan for 'what if' scenarios
What if there's been a flash flood and a road is blocked? How would a lengthy detour impact your ability to make it to the next service station? What if you get a puncture? Do you have a repair kit and can you use it? Do you have enough spare tyres? Are they in good condition? Has the suspension been modified? Has a road hazard analysis been done? The more of these questions you can answer, the safer the trip will be.
Consider your route and the weather
Are you likely to experience extreme temperatures? I've been across the Nullarbor a few times where components of the vehicle failed because of the fierce heat. Are there any long uphill gradients over unsealed surfaces on your route and can you avoid them? If not, do you have the traction to get over them in a fully loaded vehicle? Will it be boggy or sandy? Have there been heavy rains?
Safety in numbers
Never travel alone. There should always be a minimum of two drivers so you can swap if one gets fatigued or ill. The passenger is responsible for making sure the driver doesn't fall asleep or lose concentration. When a large vehicle travelling on an unsealed surface blows a tyre, it's very difficult for one person to change it. With two people it's a bit safer.
For every trip into a remote location it's vitally important to have somebody monitoring the journey. They need to know time of departure, estimated time of arrival and planned route. You should have a check-in system every two hours. If a driver fails to check in and can't be reached, searchers can approximate where a vehicle is likely to be if they have to initiate an emergency response. This is proactive rather than reactive.
Never leave your vehicle
It's never a good idea to go walking in these harsh environments, especially if you're already lost. From an air rescue perspective it's so much easier to locate a vehicle than it is to find a person. When people are disoriented they look to find shelter and once they cower under a tree to escape the heat their chances of being found quickly are greatly reduced.
Store plenty of food and water
Sometimes when an incident does occur, people find themselves stranded in these remote locations for days on end. Always make sure to carry enough food and water to see you safely through a long spell in the cabin. Go for snacks that contain plenty of vitamins and minerals ? tinned foods like beans are good, as well as dried fruit and nuts ? but avoid heavy, starchy foods that will induce sleep.
Fit a satellite modem
GPS fleet management technology helps identify where a vehicle has been and where it is but, in a remote location, you often won't be close enough to a mobile telecommunications tower to get a signal. For companies operating regularly in remote locations we strongly advise they fit satellite modems so they are covered even if no mobile coverage is available.
Carry a personal safety device
Even when you have a detailed journey plan in place and somebody is monitoring it, you can't account for all instances. Each person should have a personal safety device that triggers a warning if something unfortunate does happen. The driver sends check-in messages according to an agreed roster with his manager and if the manager doesn't receive the message and he suspects something is wrong, he can pinpoint the driver's location so emergency response teams can get underway. If a driver falls unconscious a mercury switch will indicate that they've fallen over. Travelling too far away from the vehicle will also trigger an alert.
The Work Health and Safety Act means employers must do everything reasonably within their power to keep workers safe from harm. Combining journey management plans with clever technology solutions is the best way to stay safe next time you or one of your team has to head out into a remote location.