If you use a utility terrain vehicle (UTV), chances are good you have some reason for doing so, and it likely involves either off-road or otherwise rough terrain, or you need to haul something heavy, or more likely both. Many people confuse these vehicles with ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), but there are some major differences. As the name implies, UTVs are designed with utility in mind, whereas ATVs are often used for recreational purposes. In any case, you probably want whatever cargo you’re hauling (including yourself and any passengers) to remain as safe as possible, and that generally includes avoiding accidents. So here are just a few things you should take into consideration when operating a utility terrain vehicle.
- Address safety features. Generally speaking, UTVs are equipped with safety features like seat belts, roll bars, and windshields, items that their ATV cousins tend to lack. But if any of these items are missing you will certainly want to add them. Because UTVs are equipped for off-road driving and they tend to have a much lower center of gravity than ATVs (for the purposes of hauling heavy cargo), they are sometimes converted for ATV usage. So make sure the vehicle you purchase is not lacking any safety features when you buy it, especially if you get it from a private seller. You may also want to add extra airbags. And it’s not a bad idea to install straps, netting, or storage boxes in the back in order to keep cargo from shifting during transport.
- Know your capacity. UTVs tend to have rather large capacities when it comes to hauling since they are often used to move equipment and heavy loads, in some cases over rough terrain. As a result, they may be capable of transporting somewhere in the neighborhood of half a ton, in addition to vehicle occupants. But every truck will be different, so you need to make sure you know the specs for your particular UTV and that you carefully weigh your cargo to make sure it doesn’t exceed the maximum weight limit.
- Secure your load. The last thing you want is for your cargo to be damaged, or worse, to damage you or other drivers on the road. Even if you’re only taking a short trip to unload your goods, it’s important to use clamps, straps, or other means of securing items you plan to transport. Many UTVs have options for built-in or aftermarket piping or caging that can help to steady taller items and give you something to hook straps or cables to.
- Consider the terrain. Any time you’re on rough terrain you could experience an accident. In order to remain as safe as possible, you need to understand the terrain you’re on and the capabilities of your vehicle. UTVs generally put out a lot of torque, which could be very handy on rocky terrain or steep slopes. But if you’re in mud or snow, this may only dig you in deeper. However, if you know the terrain is going to be mucky, you can bring along bags of gravel, a shovel, and sturdy boards to rock the vehicle if needed. Knowing the terrain in advance can help you to prepare for safety.
- Practice common sense. There’s a reason roads don’t tend to exceed a 12-degree incline; it’s so cars don’t start rolling backwards downhill or flip over. And when you’re on rough terrain at a steep incline, the danger is even worse. The point is that you need to have a little common sense. A UTV Guide can help you to find the best utility vehicle to meet your needs, but you’re still the one driving it and you’ll have to make decisions about how to use it. When in doubt, use common sense.