Dusty Track - Is there a better way ?

Submitted: Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 09:36
ThreadID: 55464 Views:2837 Replies:8 FollowUps:6
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Seen some dust before, but came across a situation over long weekend, whilst with a group of other vehicles in which visibility was so bad as to make me wonder if there isn't a better way to move a group?

I don't have any answers so I thought I'd present the problem.

This section of a club trip was thru some normally damp forrest and
about 25km to our destination, an old disused railway tunnel called Cheviot tunnel that you can have a bit of fun by driving the car thru it.

I wasn't leader at the time and there were about 10 cars following the main dirt road.
I shot off with an 80 series to tackle some tricky tracks and intersected back with the main group 1/2 through.

This drive section which went thru a valley began at dusk and it was fully dark an hour later at the end.

The convoy began quite well but very quickly dust combined with dusk became the issue.
The UHF worked well at the start but soon cars began to hold back from the one in front as the dust got worse and convoy length increased.
As forrest got thicker and night fell and with the completely still air the dust would not settle and headlights began to glare of the dust cloud making it very hard to drive.
I was not with group just then, doing a harder track at the top of the valley and just listening to things deteriorate.
With the convoy now about a kilometer long comms between some vehicles began to break down in the thick forrest, and messages began to be missed.

However to their credit everyone seemed to follow the convoy rule of waiting for the next car at each turn, and this simple process kept everyone on the right track at least.

The dust got to such a level that in some places the road ahead could simply not be seen.

It really was the first time I have seen a complete "Whiteout" in summer.

About 3 vehicles found it so bad that they simply had to stop here and there further breaking up the convoy.
Now that may sound like good practise but conditions were really bad and even tailights dissappeared within 50m on the worse sections, and one or two had to pull up in a hurry to avoid hitting a car, and often you could not tell if you were on the right side of the road.

One car in front of us simply could not see a turn which had a clay
embankment the same colour as the dust and went straight ahead into it but only at about 5kmh.

Another decided the only way to proceed forward was to wind the windows down and he and wife called the road edges as they became visible.
He won the most dusty car award !

I intersected with the group 1/2 way thru and waited till all had passed and took up tail end charlie position.
While the dust was worse here I had one advantage in that I had my own tracklog for the GPS here and we could predict ahead just a little and help a couple who were finding it hard going, as even though the "rooftop brand" maps of the area
are good they did not match the road to within the less than 20 meters required.

2 things may have helped a bit - better radio like the VHF ones the landy club uses bit this probably isn't a realistick ask, however an upgraded UHF CB system
with 25 watts and more channels would have.

The second thing that could help was more precise use of the radio system with less chatter.

Any Suggestions

Robin Miller

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Reply By: Member - bushfix - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 09:45

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 09:45
oh what a let down....I thought you were sitting out back with your guitar there for a moment......:)

no answers except if it has to take time then it has to take time, no higher priority than safety.

I concur with your last statement re radio use.


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Reply By: Member -Signman - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 09:51

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 09:51
I think you'll find that 25w UHF CB is not legal..
Also, even with 25w- in the terrain you speak of, may not be all that effective anyway...
You did mention there were 10 vehicles...over a kilometre..thats only 100m apart..so I can see the dilema.
An option may have been to break the convoy into two.Delegate a second leader & tail-end. And maybe take 2 different tracks???

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 10:18

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 10:18
Hi Signman

25w is certainly not legal yet, however the large increase in its use
does warrant an expansion which we might push for , and the 5 watt isn't enough to cover a convoy particularly in some of Victorias forrests.

Splitting into 2 using 2 different channels though would have been a good idea , espically if conditions could be anticipated.
Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Member -Signman - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 12:47

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 12:47
Can't see the Department legalising 25w..
I really think if they had there way- all CB would be scrapped !!!
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Reply By: Hairy (NT) - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 10:28

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 10:28
Sounds like you would enjoy working in the desert??? not

The old rule mate....dont drive into something you cant see.

Stop, have a beer, wait until the dust settles...
Or hire a bus and you can all sit together.


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Reply By: Shaker - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 10:44

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 10:44
Spread out!
You can always relay messges, although I have never had comm problems in a convoy before, & we do heaps in the high country.
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Reply By: Dasher Des - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 11:17

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 11:17
Robin, being a desert dweller, we often have visability issues with club trips.
Some good advice from the above posts and recomendations that I can make concur with some of the others.

When conditions become too dusty,
Either divide your group into two and take an alternative if possible.
Appoint some one mid way in the convoy to relay messages to the later vehicles. (maybe more if necessary)
Stop the idle chit chat so that everyone can hear whats going on and as often as necessary
Give the anntenna a wipe over to remove the dust as it will affect quality and distance.
I generally find that the hand held two way is in-effective in these types of communications.
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Follow Up By: Dasher Des - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 11:19

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 11:19
PS Following the correct convoy proceedures is also very important, particularly waiting for the following vehicle at change of direction points.

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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 11:35

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 11:35
Hi Dash

Yep , good convoy practise can really minimze the radio needs.

Surprizingly I have not come across as much airborne dust (as opposed to deep bulldust holes) even in the dessert , but I put some of this down to travelling at night.
On reflection all our dessert trips seem to see us camped before dark.
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Member -Walkabout(NSW) - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 12:55

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 12:55
10 cars spread out over about a kilometer, sounds about right for the blacktop!!!
Maybe if everyone in your "convoy" was put in the know about your destination, and how to get there, you could have turned your uhf's off, and the gps bizzo's, and driven along after the dust settled.....glad I wasn't coming towards you.
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 15:06

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 15:06
Just on your last point Walkabout, I was also glad that for once their was no oncoming traffic.
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (SA) - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 13:41

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 13:41
Hi Robin
In trips that I have led in very dusty conditions, spread the convoy out for safety reasons. Once had a convoy of 8 vehicles spread out over 7 kilometres north of Innaminka a few years back. Every person was responsible for the vehicle behind them and radio contact very important. It is important to make sure that the leaders message is relayed to the last vehicle correctly.

How do I know how far the convoy is spread out, pick a prominent marker, eg road sign, old tank etc., take your speedo reading and when the last vehicle has past that point, you will know how far you are spread out.


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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 21:22

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 21:22
Hi Stephen

I think that works better in open country , but on this trip there is an intersecting track about each 1km , and the amount of radio traffic might be to much as the convoy began to lengthen.

Being an observer higher up on a nearby ridge for part of the way was quite revealing to me - and I believe I saw an interesting thing happen in that each car began to form a relationship with the cars in front and behind them to the exclusion of the others and this was mostly shown by simply transmitting over the top of more distant cars.

I like to study human nature a bit and I believe this was a sort of low level survival trait.

Robin Miller

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Reply By: Dave B (NSW) - Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 19:10

Wednesday, Mar 12, 2008 at 19:10
Unfortunately, I have to drive in quite frequently in conditions like that with the dust.
I really don't think there is a hard and fast rule on how to drive in blinding dust.
Where I have the problem is around the Pooncarie area, and the dust varies from a complete whiteout to about 100 metres visibility in very short spaces of time. It depends if there is the slightest breeze to move the dust a bit.
In this respect, what might be quite difficult conditions for someone to drive in, maybe only half a K away, it might be impossible for someone to see, and they don't feel confident moving anywhere in those conditions.
And I think that's the best policy too, if you don't feel that you are safe travelling, why put yourself at risk?
To hell with the fact that you are holding up a few people.
How long would you hold them up if you finish up on your doorhandles in a ditch.
Safety is number one.
Stop if necessary and put your hazard lights on.
You are the only one to judge if it is safe for you to proceed, not someone some distance away from where you are.
I drive the same road four times a day and I don't have any qualms about stopping and putting on the flashers if I can't see where I am going.

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