A HONDA Pioneer side-by-side UTV has joined the vehicle fleet of the Clapham, North Yorkshire-based Cave Rescue Organisation after a year-long trial.

The Pioneer UTV (utility terrain vehicle) is the first vehicle of its type operated by the volunteers and it was chosen following a thorough selection process last year. Its primary roles include transporting team members and equipment to incidents in remote locations, often across extremely challenging terrain in and around North Yorkshire’s Three Peaks.

“At many incidents, the Pioneer has been able to get to within just 20 metres of a cave entrance or a surface casualty, which is a major advantage as getting trained people and equipment to the location is often time-critical,” said CRO duty controller Rae Lonsdale.

He added: “We attend a wide variety of incidents on a wide variety of terrain and having the Pioneer on our fleet gives us increased flexibility in the way we respond. It’s a massively useful tool and we would definitely buy it again.”

The CRO uses a fleet of three Land Rover Defender 130 4x4s to transport its teams and their equipment as close to incident locations as possible. When ground conditions prevent further travel then the teams continue on foot. Production of these vehicles ended a few years ago, and there is nothing currently available offering the same combination of load capacity and off-road travel capability. This means that in future, the main transport vehicles might have to remain nearer the road, and the team would have further to carry the equipment on foot and reaching those in need of assistance will take much longer.

Honda ATVs and Pioneer UTVs are a firm favourite with farmers in the area and are regarded as an essential tool by shepherds looking after sheep on high ground. On several occasions local farmers lent their machines to assist teams attending incidents by transporting equipment from the Land Rovers to where it was needed. This highlighted potential advantages of adding a similar vehicle to the CRO’s fleet, and it also demonstrated a potential solution for the future, if the teams’ main transport vehicles aren’t able to travel as far off-road.

A Honda Pioneer was purchased in late 2019 for a 12-month trial, at the end of which it would either remain on the fleet, or be sold if it failed to live up to expectations.

After successfully attending its first incident within a few weeks of arrival, it has continued to impress throughout the year. As well as carrying team members and equipment it has been used to transport medical personnel to casualties in remote locations.