Quad Bikes are big, heavy and unstable.

Their high centre of gravity, especially when combined with a load strapped to the back, can result in the vehicle rolling over. According to Safe Work Australia, this has caused nine deaths since 1 January 2015.

This calendar year of 2015 there have been 15 quad bike fatalities across Australia. One in Northern Territory, two each in New South Wales and Tasmania and three each in Western Australia and Victoria and four in Queensland.

As farm and industrial safety expert John Lambert told the Australian Council of Trade Unions:

“The biggest problem with quad bikes is if they roll right over and end up on top of you, they’re so heavy they can stop you breathing, or they’ll generate crush syndrome injuries. And both of those can kill you. The majority of deaths and serious injuries occur on farms and that’s a working environment. In most of those deaths and serious injuries, the farmer is riding responsibly. It’s not people doing stupid things.”

So what’s a Side by Side?

If you don’t already know, Quad Bikes are four wheeled vehicles which a rider straddles and uses a handle bar to operate similar to a motorcycle. Although they are more stable than a motorcycle you can see how incidents can occur.  A Side by Side Vehicle (SSV) on the other hand is a four wheel vehicle which is operated by sitting within the vehicle, using a steering wheel to turn and pedals to brake and accelerate, similar to a road vehicle.

SSV’s offer the same level of fun, excitement and utility as a Quad Bike, but with increased comfort, safety and convenience. The majority come factory equipped with a roll over protection system which can include hard tops, windscreens, and even cab enclosures, and many have removable seats with integrated hand rests, adjustable tilt steering, passenger handholds, cargo trays, 3-point seat belts and quick-attach side nets which provide the best possible experience for rider and passenger. Many SSV’s also have dual key systems; one key that allows the driver to use the full power of the vehicle and another key that limits the speed, reducing the opportunity to operate outside of the driver’s ability.

Alcoa Farmlands are seeing the benefit of SSV’s

Alcoa is best known as an aluminium producer, but they also have a successful farmlands business covering 19,000 hectares of rural landholdings at Pinjarra, Wagerup and Boddington – known as Alcoa Farmlands. While beef breeding is the main agricultural activity, with approximately 12,000 cattle run across the three locations, this enterprise is supported by a cattle backgrounding enterprise, 800 hectares cropping program and grazing of 3000 sheep. In the past 15 years Alcoa Farmlands has planted more than 1,100,000 trees, protected 25 kilometres of streamlines through fencing and revegetation of stream banks, protected wetlands, and protected and enhanced 4500 hectares remnant vegetation and revegetation areas.

Alcoa currently operate a fleet of five quads and one SSV. The SSV was added to the fleet two years ago, following 15 years of using Quad Bikes. Prior to using Quads, 2 wheel off-road Ag bikes were the vehicle of choice.

Safety starts with training

Through recognising the need to mitigate risk to the Farmlands Team, Vaughan Byrd, Alco Farmlands Manager, sought out RAC DTEC for two key reasons; the standard of training delivered by DTEC’s qualified instructors; and the purpose-built ATV track, located onsite at the Perth International Airport

“Our fleet has evolved with the technology available and the changing needs of the agricultural industry. Although we’ve had no major incidents with our Quads we acted on a staff member’s recommendation to add a Side-by-Side, due to its improved safety features and superior carrying capacity. The Quads are great for cattle work, checking and moving livestock, but for our many and varied general maintenance tasks the SSV allows us to also transport the tools and equipment we need.

The training provided by RAC DTEC was great. They provide a combined Quad and SSV course, delivering two units of competency in one day. Our trainer, Don Buchanan, presented the theory but quickly got us out of the classroom and showed us the pre-start procedure, vehicle familiarisation, especially brakes, gears and control layouts.

Basic practical exercises such as starting and stopping quickly progressed to driving over various types of challenging terrains. Safe riding principles were emphasised and we even got into some sticky situations that Don showed us the best way of dealing with! The loading and unloading tips will be invaluable for us and it’s given me the confidence that the team will be able to conduct their activities in a safe and environmentally responsible way.

Even though we are all experienced farmers and have used ATV’s for years we learned so much and had great fun throughout the entire day.”

RAC DTEC use Can-Am Outlanders and Commanders and John Deere Gators generously supplied by our ATV partners BRP, available from Savage Suzuki, Sea-Doo Sport and Leisure and Greenline Ag.

To find out more about how RAC DTEC can help your staff and family stay safe while enjoying these awesome machines visit RAC DTEC or call 6186 4646.