DRIVER TRAINING VITAL FOR SAFETY AND VEHICLE RELIABILITY
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor BATTLESPACE
‘As slow as possible, as much speed as you need’ – Land Rover Limited driving advice
BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold was taken on the Land Rover Driver Experience course at Dunkeld, Scotland. The course is designed to give new Land Rover owners a point-to-point guide to driving new Land Rover vehicles cross-country and on tarmac road. The instructors tell drivers to ensure that the vehicles are roadworthy prior to and after the course. Inspection of tyres, drive shafts and suspension are critical for road, driver and passenger safety. The recent concern expressed by the U.K. MoD with regard to BOWMAN Land Rovers was addressed during the Experience.
The old leaf-sprung Land Rovers with naturally aspirated engines and no power steering, gave a natural bar to any driver attempting fast cross-country driving in an Army Land Rover at fully laden weight; the leaf springs give a very rough ride at speed thus giving the passengers a great deal of discomfort and difficult handling. The current Wolf fleet are all coil sprung and thus give better driver and passenger comfort and better cross-county capability. Coupled to a more powerful turbo-diesel and power steering the temptation to gun the vehicles over rough terrain is too much for untrained ‘boy racer’ squaddies.
“The photographs in the Land Rover Enthusiast Magazine of Land Rover rallies with the vehicles taking off over slopes exposing the springs and drive train, says it all,” said John Taylor our instructor. “This sort of driving gives good photographs terrible maintenance problems. If the front wheels are off the ground the drive shaft are spinning at full speed and when they touch down they will almost certainly break or damage a half-shaft.”
The MoD has recently restricted the speed limit of BOWMAN Land Rovers to prevent axle and spring damage. This speed limit was taken away when the coil springs were uprated to take the extra weight. However this is unlikely to cure the problem. “What is required is proper driver training to sure that the vehicle isn’t driven to its limits so that the butt stops on the springs are not taking all the strain and thus damaging wheels and suspension. One only had to see the dramatic effect of a damaged tyre on a car’s suspension during the German Grand Prix when Kimi Raikonen’s suspension sheared after continuous vibration from a damaged tyre. “Tyre walls are the most vulnerable parts of the tyre and the areas most likely to be exposed to twigs, gorse spikes and stones. Drivers should be taught to check all tyre walls after long cross-country manoeuvres to ensure that the tyres bare sound. A blow out on the new Discovery weighing 2.5 tonnes or a fully laden BOWMAN Land Rover could easily harm or even kill the occupants, particularly if there was any cargo shift,” Taylor continued.
“Prior to any driver taking over a cross-county vehicle be it a new Discovery of military Wolf Land Rover, the Regiment should ensure that the basics of cross-country driving are understood, planning, safety and environment. Understanding of these three points will ensure driver and passenger safety and less and less equipment and vehicle damage,” Taylor continued. Recent trials have demonstrated vehicles cross-country abilities but that is only half the story.
It is all very well to produce a vehicle that can travel at fast speeds laden or unladen with passengers and equipment but the long-term performance and ability of the driver will enhance and improve the overall ability and performance of the unit. A unit with fast all-terrain vehicles with the best suspension and equipment may be able to operate a mission in fast time over rough terrain, but the manner by which the vehicles are driven and handled could jeopardise the operation overall by attrition and river error. A recent British Army night exercise demonstrated this problem when a