Traveling with more people is beneficial when overlanding because it can spread the responsibility of certain tasks across those participating. Unless a rallying point is being established for groups, driving to and on location in convoy is a good way to travel. Convoy driving is a group of vehicles that are traveling together for mutual support. When planning a trip with multiple rigs and people, it’s a good idea for everyone to understand the rules for convoy driving both on and off-road.
The first thing to do is have a pre-drive meeting with everyone involved. This gives you the chance to lay out the rules for driving and responsibilities certain rigs will have. Establish who will be filling the roles of the lead car, sweeper, marshal, and who will be just following along.
Lay out the plan for everyone detailing the following items:
- The route that will be taken, potential stops along the way, and any obstacles that might require attention.
- Establish a baseline timeframe for reaching either your destination or campsite for the night.
- Detail rallying points for anyone who might fall behind.
- If necessary, make sure everyone has the correct paperwork for where you are going.
- Discuss communication methods to include things outside of cell phone usage (horn honks, lights blinking, ).
Once you’ve laid down the groundwork for traveling in your driver’s meeting, it may be beneficial to detail and highlight some courses of action for unforeseen issues. These can be anything that isn’t planned for such as vehicle trouble, getting pulled over or weather-related issues.
There are a few different roles to fill when traveling by convoy, the first being the lead car. The lead car has sets the tone for how the convoy will be driving. Decisions are made in the lead car and should be followed by everyone in convoy. The lead car also adjusts the overall speed according to the posted speed limit and the limitations of what other rigs are part of the convoy.
The second role is the sweeper. The sweeper acts as a spotter for the convoy and communicates with the lead car if other cars are falling behind. They keep visual contact with the lead car, moves into lanes when the convoy needs to pass slower vehicles and ensures no vehicles are left behind.
The marshal acts as the sheepdog and corals vehicles back into the convoy line. They also move ahead and fall behind as needed and indicated by the lead car. The moderator also acts as a crossing guard of sorts at junctions, but it is not recommended to do this
On-road travel first and foremost should follow all applicable driving laws for where they are traveling. If you are following normal traffic rules and regulations, you will have to make stops and have cars weave into the convoy.
If you find a vehicle intervening in between your convoy, the lead vehicle should slow down gradually. Doing so will hopefully cause the intervening vehicle to change lanes and leave the convoy.
The lead vehicle should always stop at yellow lights to keep the group together. However, if stopped at a stop sign the lead vehicle should only turn when there is enough space to allow the entire group to make a turn.
In order to change lanes, the rear vehicle should move into the required line, blocking any oncoming traffic. Communicating a lane change either through radio or turn signals is important and once the rear vehicle has made the lane change the rest of the convoy should follow suit.
Once you’re ready to transition from pavement to dirt, stop at a marshaling area. Run through the topics covered at the initial driver’s meeting again. Instead of regular rules and laws, cover some more specific issues for where you will be driving. For example, what can everyone expect in terms of terrain; how far you will be traveling; and what time you will be making camp.
Off-road convoy driving should follow the same rules as on-road driving. Laws and speeds, if posted, should be followed more closely to avoid potential damage to any of the vehicles traveling in your convoy. As stated earlier, driving slowly is preferential to moving fast and potentially damaging your vehicle.
Take into account the weather factors. Dirt and dusty roads can cause visibility problems. If it’s been raining, mud and water may cause issues for certain rigs. Winter driving in the snow can take more time to ensure no one is getting stuck.