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Off-road driver training at CFA
In the 1990s, CFA built an off-road driving track at Fiskville to teach drivers off-road techniques on sand and at water crossings, not commonly found in national parks and state forests where off-road driver training was being conducted.
By Glenn Jennings
In the early 2000s, there was an opportunity to build additional props to complete a course that met all the requirements of the national competency used by CFA for off-road driving. Importantly, it was an opportunity to teach new skills under controlled conditions in a safer environment.
Drivers would first train using these props then go into an approved training location in a national park or state forest. By doing this, CFA members gained the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to drive in the real world.
Several years ago, work was carried out on a dam at Huntly Training Campus, and CFA took the opportunity to use the excavated soil to build an off-road course on CFA-owned land next to the hot fire training area. This course is in a natural bush setting and is used by many CFA districts and external clients.
Following a tragic incident at a fire in 2006 when Campbells Creek Captain Trevor Day died in a tanker rollover, CFA gave a commitment to the State Coroner to improve driver education at CFA. This led to a discussion paper that supported drivers of CFA vehicles having the required national competencies for both onroad and off-road driving. The discussion paper supported CFA having off-road driver education areas to help deliver these courses.
This discussion paper became the State Driver Education and Endorsement Program which recommended building several more sites across the state. Work is almost finished building an off-road training course at our Longerenong Campus (pictured). CFA is also finalising plans for a facility at West Sale and looking for land near our training campus at Penshurst.
We would also like to build off-road courses at our remaining campuses.
The off-road driver education areas will have engineer-designed and constructed props to teach driving on cross slopes, moguls, timber steps, sand, hills, rocks, mud, water crossings and V mounds. Each prop has been designed to cater for field command vehicles and our firefighting fleet of tankers.
The degree of difficulty provided by the props varies depending on the trainee’s previous off-road driving experience.
Driving instructors across the state are very excited about these training areas because they provide a safe environment to teach our drivers and provide consistency in training across the state. Having the underpinning skills and techniques before entering a state forest or national park gives confidence to the drivers and instructors.
These courses are also intended to be used for skills maintenance and to give opportunities to members to undertake testing as part of recognising prior learning and experience.
To find out how you can learn off-road driving skills, contact your district training staff.