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Tail End Charlie – What do they do?


The last vehicle in a convoy is called “Tail End Charlie” and they perform an important role in the running of a successful convoy and enjoyable trip. A good Tail End Charlie is required to perform vital functions in combination with the Trip Leader and assist with emergency situations or perform back up support for the Trip Leader. 

Some Trip Leaders like to interchange the Tail End Charlie during a trip to give others a chance to have a go at the role, this is ok,  but this can also have a negative effect on the convoy if the driver is inexperienced or guidelines and expectations are not known or communicated by the Trip Leader.

To educate members and Trip Leaders as to how the Tail-end Charlie role should operate and to better manage the trip and convoy process here is a list of functions that a good Tail End Charlie should be expected to perform.

  • Inform the Trip Leader when the convoy has passed through and completed turns at intersections
  • Communicate progress of the group to the Trip Leader as to completion of any obstacles, appropriate speed or stoppages
  • Advise when group has started moving again after a stoppage
  • Ensure correct convoy procedure is being followed as directed by the Trip Leader
  • Check lunch or campsites for anything left behind or for rubbish not collected on departure
  • Keep an eye on the convoy and advise the Trip Leader of any concerns with vehicles or drivers (some, more private messages, can be performed via second handheld radio or a predetermined UHF Chanel to the Trip Leader)
  • Advise if Trip Leader is travelling too fast or slow for the group (Tail End Charlie often gets a better view of the group from the rear)
  • Help with spotting vehicles over obstacles to relieve the Trip Leader so they can get their vehicle further up the Trail
  • Tail End Charlie is often given the task of leading the convoy when the group has to do a U-turn and reverse back along a track
  • Inform the Trip Leader of any following traffic such as other 4WD’s (common sense and courtesy should apply if your group is moving very slowly or followers may need to wait in difficult terrain)
  • Assist the Trip Leader with controlling the convoy and communication if there is a need to move over and safely park to enable passing traffic especially Trail bikers
  • Ensure any communication gets through to the Trip Leader and responded to. Don’t assume a message gets through — get a response.
  • Make sure a simple Thank You is given to other oncoming drivers who may have pulled over to let your group pass by and advise them that you are the last vehicle
  • Rather than the whole group stopping when someone needs to have a quick toilet stop Tail End Charlie can wait with them and ensure a quick catch up.
  • Tail End Charlie should be experienced and competent enough to manage a difficult recovery should the Trip Leader require delegation.
  • Make sure everyone is accounted for when leaving stop points and radio check includes all participants are in vehicles
  • Ensure all vehicles are off the main road or highway when turning onto secondary roads or tracks

Benefits of being Tail End Charlie include:

  • Gain vital on job experience that could lead to eventually becoming a Trip Leader
  • The track is often more challenging after getting chopped up by the other vehicles (more fun)
  • You can stop for a toilet stop anytime you like and don’t have to walk too far
  • No one sees if you mess up
  • You often have a front row seat to the action up ahead.
  • You can blame the Trip Leader if the group gets lost

Even though the Tail End Charlie is the last vehicle in the group, it’s an extremely important position. This driver is often as skilled as the Trip Leader, and has the added responsibilities inherent in being placed last in line. But it’s a good role to aspire to. As you develop your 4WD skills and experience, plan for the day when you will step up and volunteer to be a Tail End Charlie and maybe later, a Trip Leader

Ian Fletcher
Trip Leader and Driver Training Coordinator
Melbourne Jeep Owners Club

Resources and acknowledgements include MJOC Trip Leader Manual, The 4WD Handbook, The Adventure Portal