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ATV Safety Starts at Purchase

  • Published
  • By SSgt Lauren Douglas
  • Air Force Safety Center

Installation safety is an all-encompassing responsibility to ensure the protection of Airmen and Guardians and vital mission equipment.  An important aspect of installation safety is ensuring the right equipment is purchased for a task and that purchased equipment is used properly. The old adage, “use the right tool for the job” applies to many disciplines and safety is no exception.

There are many considerations in the process of getting “the right tool” for your job. Considering mission requirements, what is the appropriate vehicle for your mission, and being able to provide the right training for purchased vehicles are all important steps in the process.

According to the Air Force Safety Center Traffic Safety and Outreach branch, the majority of all-terrain vehicles and utility vehicles mishaps in the last year were caused by inadequate training and improper operation, which stems from purchasing the right vehicle at the start of the process.

Per DOD and Air Force traffic safety guidance, all operators of government-owned or -leased ATVs, UTVs, or recreational off-road highway vehicles must complete an approved safety training course before operating the vehicle. Attending a formal training would have reduce these mishaps by understanding the limits of vehicles and proper operation for the environment. Proper training courses must be approved by the DoD or DoD Components and include all manufacturer’s safety and operating requirements for the vehicle.

“The overall intent of the guidance is to ensure DAF members are trained on the vehicle and the specific mission,” said Michael Eckert, branch chief, Traffic Safety and Outreach. “The training requires more than just reviewing the owner’s manual. It needs to incorporate the specifics of the vehicle, any safety concerns, and hands-on training for specific mission requirements.” 

In addition to proper training on purchased vehicles, units, MAJCOMs, and FLDCOMs are encouraged to develop local procedures, using risk management, to determine the correct vehicle purchase for their specific mission.

AFSEC identified Air Education and Training Command’s occupational safety purchasing process as a best practice for purchasing unique vehicles, such as utility task vehicles and all-terrain vehicles.

AETC noticed some units were purchasing the highest performing ATV when that level of vehicle was not necessary. To remedy this, the AETC occupational safety team developed a supplemental purchasing form: AETC Form 187: Unique Vehicle Pre-Purchase Form.

“If a unit wanted to purchase a UTV, the first thing they are required to do is go to the AETC supplement that we developed,” said Master Sgt. Erron Farrow, AETC’s occupational safety manager. “This supplement outlines the requirements to consider when purchasing a UTV.”

This form was created to provide specifications on classifying vehicles between safety and logistics.

When selecting a vehicle for purchase, it is imperative they are properly categorized to ensure the appropriate vehicle is purchased for your unit’s tasks.

 Air Force Instruction 91-207 outlines government-owned vehicle training, operation standards, and individual operator requirements. According to Farrow, more detailed guidance was necessary for unique vehicles. A low-speed vehicle to Safety may be considered other government motor vehicle conveyance to Logistics and it is necessary to better specify the types of unique vehicles as they have varying capabilities.

“Under unique vehicles, we have three simple categories: UTVs, ATVs and golf carts,” Farrow said. “After that we have low-speed vehicles which can be gas-powered or neighborhood electric vehicles.”

Farrow further explained the government limits the purchase of LSVs with purchases like a car or small truck, so units are hesitant to use their limited quantity. Purchasing managers are sometimes swayed to get a high-performance UTV because ATVs and UTVs don’t have the same limitations, even though an LSV might be a better fit for the task. 

Classifying these vehicles using AETC Form 187 requires identifying needs such as the terrain requirements. Operating on flight line, operating on grass or sand and other rough terrain could change the vehicle type that should be purchased. The speed, weight limit, fuel source, scheduled maintenance requirements, frequency of use and more are other considerations that should be taken into account.

“From a liability standpoint, people cannot hold a manufacturer accountable for unsafe practices,” Farrow explained. “We have standards and justifications with operation of vehicles for a reason.”

Department of Defense safety professionals are required to keep the nation safe by using the proper equipment for a task, which includes proper purchasing and training for vehicles in use. Purchase with care!

For more information and resources on off-road vehicle safety, visit the AFSEC Off-Road Vehicle Safety page: