Separate 4X4 licence classing. Do we need it?

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ByMark KendrickOctober 24, 2018
Separate 4X4 licence classing. Do we need it?

With hooning in National Parks raising its ugly head again last week, cries for a licence classification for 4X4 vehicles, or at least off-road licensing, has been called for by some.
This idea comes up every now and again. Motorcycles have their own license, as do heavy vehicles. Should off-road oriented vehicles require a different licence?

Licence Motives

On the safety based technical side, there’s two factors at play. First, it seeks to identify that off-road capable vehicles have different dynamics than road-oriented vehicles. This call also seeks to identify that off-road environments offer different dynamics to on-road situations. A bit of a No-Sh!t, Sherlock situation, really, and very much important.

Top-heavy loads and imperfect surfaces. A recipe for disaster, unless educated.

A little bit of education could prevent dangerous situations including overloading when off-road.

…and then there are politics. NIMBYs. Not In My Back Yarders. The overbearing people who want to limit everyone else from doing something the NIMBY thinks is illegitimate. The extremist greenie element lie squarely in this category. These are the people who get tracks and areas closed to motorised traffic. The empty cans that rattle the most.

Methods

For the technical aspects, training and education is key, and already available. Presently one licence category covers everything from a Kia Piccanto to a 79 Series ‘Cruiser via a Porsche 911, pretty broad strokes of the brush. Some brands of 4X4 give training vouchers to new buyers, and some buyers even take them up on the offer. Nearly all clubs offer training. Many commercial training companies exist. Nationally recognised training modules reflect learning outcomes for off-road driving.
This can satisfactorily ensure that any would-be off-road driver has basic knowledge of vehicle dynamics off road, and hopefully a healthy respect for the environment they are driving in.

Getabout 4WD Training Courses can teach you basic introduction courses, all the way up to advanced driving and recovery techniques.

4WD training courses can improve a driver’s respect for the terrain and teach mechanical sympathy-which also goes a long way to preserving the tracks we drive.

For the politics and NIMBYs, a licence may be just the ticket we need. Laws are changed to suit motorcyclists, because their numbers are known and accountable and that means political persuasion. Gun owners have a voice, because strict licensing means numbers are known, there is accountability and again, political persuasion. Amateur fishers get infrastructure built and non-commercial fishing supported, in NSW at least. Why? Licences. Numbers. Accountability.
National Parks may have an idea of how many cars enter their gates, but State Forests certainly don’t, neither for Crown Land. Unsealed roads exist everywhere, and private properties can’t be regulated either.
A licence might just be the ticket 4X4 owners and off-road enthusiasts need to be able to stand up and be counted. At the moment the Australian Bureau of Statistics doesn’t distinguish privately owned vehicles between road-oriented cars or heavily modified for off-road vehicles. There could be a dozen of us, there could be 300,000. Maybe a couple of million!

Over to you

Do we need an off-road 4X4 licence?

You and I, we are the stakeholders here, it’s our recreation and for many their livelihood.

If we can solve all the world’s problems around a camp fire, throw your ideas around here. The MR4X4 team will keep up with your debates and see if there is much of a consensus in a future blog.