Driving ‘on the edge’ to improve safety skills

Levi Ryland, Seeka trainee orchard manager comes to grips with driving a LUV on a slope under the guidance of Andrew Simpson of Carnz Training Ltd.

Feeling the fear, and not tipping over the edge – that was part of the experience for those involved in courses to learn the safe operation of light utility vehicles on orchards.

Conducted by Andrew Simpson of Carnz Training Ltd in association with Jacks Machinery of Whakatane, the three, two-day courses put 24 trainees “on edge” in order to improve their understanding and skills at handling a range of LUVs.

One exercise involved trainees driving at slow speed along a sidling. Andrew (known as Simmo) instructed the driver to stop when the vehicle was at an angle where it appeared about to tip.

He then pulled the Polaris over so it was resting on just two wheels, where it stayed in balance until he gently pushed it back onto four wheels. Simmo used the dramatic demonstration of the vehicles’ stability to illustrate how, when operated correctly, the driver has time to assess a situation and recover from it.

Confidence boost

“If the driver had come round the corner and up the sidling at speed, they would have tipped over. By going slowly and letting the vehicle do what it’s designed to do, they were quite safe. Not that we encourage driving along sidling like that.”

“It felt pretty uncomfortable,” says Jessie Rogan, trainee orchard manager with Seeka at Te Puke.

“I thought it was going to tip over onto Simmo, but it didn’t.”

Jessie says the two-day course increased his knowledge and confidence in operating side-by-side vehicles. “It’s important we know how to operate them properly. We have gone away from quad bikes and use the Polaris machines for orchard work, such as pollination,” he says.

Steve Donoghue of Jacks Machinery says the courses were so successful that a second series has been planned.

Relevant to all LUVs

“The courses focus on all LUVs, not just the Polaris, so are relevant to owners of any other vehicles too,” he says.

“The feedback we have from those who took part in the first series is fantastic. I went along to watch some of the training and could see the drivers growing in confidence and their enthusiasm for what they were learning.”

Trainees were also taught the unique features of different LUVs, including their transmission and suspension systems. Vehicle maintenance was also part of the training.

“We teach drivers to do a pre-check of the vehicle; not to just jump in and take off. Each model of vehicle is slightly different and they need to familiarise themselves with its capability, and operation.”

Towing experience

Part of the course also included towing a spray tank, initially empty, and then half-full of water, downhill in the orchard. “This gave the drivers the chance to experience the different feel and operation of the vehicle when towing, and learn how to control it.” Simmo says those who took part in the courses did really well, enjoyed themselves, learned valuable new skills and increased their confidence in operating the vehicles.

As well as Seeka staff, employees of other post-harvest and quality assurance sectors, the owners and staff of KW Kiwi Ltd and some of Jack’s Machinery’s own staff took part in the course which was held on the Katikati orchard owned by Stephen Kenna and Phillipa Wright.

All attendees would like to thank Zespri for providing lunch over the six days.

For more information, or to register for the next series of training courses, contactSteve Donoghue of Jacks Machinery email: steve.donoghue@jml.co.nz


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