Operate a four-wheel drive on unsealed roads

This unit of competency describes the outcomes required to safely operate a four-wheel drive (4×4) vehicle on unsealed roads. The unit applies to operating a 4×4 vehicle in a variety of work settings with different terrains. Licensing, legislative, regulatory, or certification requirements apply to this unit in some states and territories at the time of publication and may differ according to jurisdiction.


A person demonstrating competency in this unit must satisfy all of the elements, performance criteria and foundation skills of this unit.  If a specific volume or frequency is not stated below, then evidence must be provided that the following requirements have been performed on at least one occasion:

  • follow applicable workplace safety, environmental and regulatory requirements and codes of practice relevant to operating a 4×4 vehicle
  • follow organisational policies and procedures relevant to operating a 4×4 vehicle, including
  • own work role and responsibilities
  • procedural manuals
  • quality and continuous improvement
  • WHS, emergency and evacuation procedures
  • recording and reporting requirements
  • equipment use, maintenance and storage requirements
  • environmental management requirements
  • communicate and work safely with others in rough terrain when operating a 4×4 vehicle
  • perform pre-start checks of vehicle and equipment suitable to different terrains by checking loads and tyre pressure, selecting navigation aids and advising passengers of safety precautions
  • operate safely, a 4×4 vehicle, on unsealed road conditions and different terrain types, including negotiating steep slopes, by identifying hazards and assessing risks
  • use appropriate range, gear, speed, driving and braking techniques safely when operating a 4×4 vehicle on a steep slope
  • demonstrate safe use of a jack to support a 4×4 vehicle while changing a tyre under relevant road terrains and conditions within the operating environment
  • park and shut down 4×4 vehicle in line with manufacturer specifications and organisational requirements
  • perform and document operational maintenance as permitted by vehicle operator handbook.

Knowledge Evidence

A person competent in this unit must be able to demonstrate knowledge of:

  • four-wheel drive operational information
  • structural differences between conventional two-wheel drive and a four-wheel drive including:
  • recovery hooks and mounting features
  • purpose and use of front wheel hubs
  • factors affecting tyre size, fitment, rating and pressure
  • applicable regulations, standards, codes of practice and established safe practices relevant to the operating a 4×4 vehicle
  • road rules, regulations, permit and licence requirements of the relevant state or territory
  • environmental protection requirements including the safe disposal of waste material
  • prestart checks for 4 x 4 vehicle on:
  • fuel, either diesel, gas or petrol
  • water
  • oil
  • brake and transmission fluid levels
  • battery water levels and electrolyte checks
  • tyres
  • belts
  • leads
  • hydraulic lines and connections
  • air cleaners
  • brakes
  • off-road safety equipment
  • traction devices
  • Types of communication equipment including:
  • personal location beacon (PLB)
  • flares
  • markers
  • phone
  • radio
  • V-Sheet
  • safe operating conditions for a 4 X 4 vehicle
  • interpreting weather conditions to determine suitability for driving
  • determining food, water, PPE (sunglasses, high-visibility vest, etc.) and clothing requirements for journey
  • selecting routes to minimise damage to the environment
  • on and off-road conditions
  • traffic pattern and density
  • visibility
  • loading of four-wheel drive, including techniques to reduce overloading
  • types of environmental risks and hazards associated with operating a 4×4 vehicle on unsealed roads including:
  • rocks and other unexpected obstacles
  • damage to vehicle
  • tidal influences
  • fire in vehicle
  • faulty brakes
  • leaking fuel
  • faulty steering mechanism on vehicle
  • animals and objects in vehicle path
  • crocodiles and snakes in some areas
  • windy or foggy sections of terrain
  • steep slopes
  • side slopes
  • slippery surfaces
  • land slides
  • overhead tree limbs
  • black ice
  • towing trailers
  • other vehicles
  • fallen trees, limbs and logs
  • icy terrain
  • flooded terrain
  • oil on road
  • parked vehicles on road
  • pedestrians on or near the road
  • poor visibility
  • 4×4 driving techniques in different terrains including:
  • smooth
  • rough
  • uneven
  • slippery
  • wet
  • boggy
  • sandy
  • steep or hilly
  • rock
  • icy
  • snow
  • mud, including:
  • brown clay
  • black silt
  • salt pan mud
  • red
  • hard ground
  • water
  • operational knowledge of a 4×4 vehicle, including controls, instruments, indicators and their use
  • tyre management principles for checking, changing and maintenance
  • workplace communication channels and protocols
  • techniques for travelling in convoy
  • problem identification and resolution strategies, and common fault-finding techniques relevant to safely operating a four-wheel drive vehicle
  • types of tools and equipment relating to a 4×4 vehicle, and procedures for their safe use and maintenance
  • maintenance equipment including spares and fluids
  • procedures for recording and reporting workplace information.

Assessment Conditions

The following resources must be made available:

  • workplace location or simulated workplace offering conditions including different terrain on unsealed roads and steep slopes
  • materials and equipment relevant to undertaking work applicable to this unit, including manual or automatic four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
  • specifications and work instructions relevant to workplace requirements and the safe operation of four-wheel drive vehicles
  • personal protective equipment required for operating a four-wheel drive on unsealed roads
  • relevant personnel for the purposes of communicating information.
  • Competency is to be assessed in the workplace or a simulated environment that accurately reflects performance in a real workplace setting.


This course is delivered over one 8-hour day. The course is run with a candidate to assessor ratio of 3-1. The course includes the following:


Two-hour PowerPoint presentation covering:

  • Prestart/post operational checks – load security/fault finding
  • Legal requirements and company policy/procedure – land access
  • Defensive driving techniques – night driving/animals/wet roads/environmental impacts
  • Journey management – fatigue/using GPS/communication/weather restrictions/convoy procedures
  • Four-wheel drive systems – free-wheeling hubs/structural differences 2wd-4wd
  • On/off road driving techniques – hazard identification
  • Emergency procedures
  • This is followed by a one hour written exam on the theory content.


The practical element of this course includes the following:

  • Prestart/post operational checks – load security/fault repair
  • Journey management – food/water etc, programme GPS
  • Driving on unsealed roads – emergency braking
  • Driving on uneven terrain – up/down hills/sand/mud/rocks
  • Changing a wheel on uneven terrain
  • Basic maintenance – Change bulb/fuse, charge a battery/jump start vehicle