Drums beat a marching rhythm. Pageant princess adjust their sashes. Cowboys and girls check their horses’ tack. Muscle cars idle, and scouts wait patiently. It’s parade season! Across our nation, this scene plays out nearly every weekend of the summer. Idling in the mix of marchers, floats, animals, and performers, will be hundreds of historic military vehicles. The olive drab trucks, tracks, and jeeps convey a sense of historic pride and remembrance to our parades. The audiences greet these old warhorses with waves, nods of approval, or even salutes.
But before you shift into low and release the clutch, make sure you consider the safety of you, the audience, and your vehicle.
Everyone loves a parade. Seeing a historic military vehicle roll along the route is inspiring—for the audience, and for you, the driver. With everyone smiling and waving, it is hard to imagine that a parade presents a unique set of risks to the audience, our vehicles, and us.
The most common parade accidents include children being injured while running toward floats for candy, performers being hit by vehicles and participants falling off the floats. But what about risks surrounding our OD vehicles? What sorts of things should you consider before pushing the starter button?
This will sound like common sense advice, but you might be surprised how fast a parade pops up in your schedule. You may think Flag Day or the Fourth of July is weeks away, but I swear, time moves faster, the closer it is to a parade date. You may have had good intentions of bleeding your brakes or lubing the chassis before parade day, but there is a good chance, the morning of the parade, you will be saying a silent prayer that your battery isn’t dead as you crawl into the driver’s seat.
Okay, so if you didn’t finish your spring restoration projects, there are a few things you can do on parade day and still be safe:
*Start and drive your vehicle around the block a few times. Get about 15 minutes of drive time in before you load up everything to go to the parade staging area. Make sure your brakes are engaging and your radiator is cooling.
*Clean out the extraneous stuff—items that can be stolen, dropped, or lost. It’s a parade, not a historical reenactment.
*“Tires and Brakes. Tires and Brakes” Those are the two things between your vehicle and an accident. Make sure they are in top-notch order. Check your tire pressure. Hydraulic or air brakes must be able to stop the vehicle within a prudent distance and be capable of overriding the engine moving in a forward direction at idle speed. The emergency brake is not a substitute!
*Be sure you have your driver’s license, your vehicle is tagged correctly, and that it is insured. It is not a bad idea to have proof of vehicle registration, as well. If your foot slips off the clutch and you careen into a pack of Shriners, you want to be sure you aren’t going to try to rely on your good looks to get you out of a predicament with the law.
*Prepare an emergency tool kit that includes some basics like a tow strap, pliers, vice grip, and gloves. You aren’t going to repair a vehicle in the parade, but you do want to be ready to get it out of the way of other parade units should it break down. Be sure you have a fully charged fire extinguisher.
*If you are towing a trailer, make sure you attach safety chains.
*This shouldn’t have to be written, but there are still guys who think it is really cool driving around town with an M2 machine gun in plain sight or Thompsons in scabbards mounted to the side of jeeps. Okay, we all get it…but that 28-year-old parent of two who sees “a truck with a machine gun toward City Hall” might see it in different light. Use some common sense and cover your weapons while in transit. And for Pete’s sake, don’t stand up behind that propane-fueled M2 and squeeze off a few rounds during the parade! You might know it is harmless, but that cop or conceal-carrying citizen on the sideline might not know that. You don’t want to be the recipient of “friendly fire.” Cover the weapons while in transit, and leave them unmanned and unhandled during the parade.
*Review the parade organizer’s guidelines. There may be a few parades in the country that still allow day-of-the-event drive-ups, but most have realized the horrendous liability involved. They will require an acknowledgement of parade rules and, most likely, a signed waiver of liability. Make sure you have that paperwork ready.
Follow the Leader
*Before you pull out into the procession, introduce yourself to the unit that will be in front of you and directly behind. Tell them you are driving an historic military vehicle that is safe, but they should be aware of it and its pace.
*If you have any banners or items hanging on the exterior of vehicle, make sure they are secured. Before you ease out into the flow of the parade, make sure that everyone in your vehicle is seated and any child riders know to whom they are answerable.
*While it looks great in historic photos, riding on the tops or hoods of vehicles is just downright stupid and dangerous. You don’t know what you will have to stop for in a parade route. This isn’t the race to Berlin. Make sure your passengers are all safe and secure. If they fall off and crack their head open, you can be sure you will spend more time with lawyers than you do with historic military vehicles in your future.
*Visibility is key to safety. If you have armored visors or flaps, leave them up or open. If you are parading a large truck or track, have a designated guide on foot that serves as the direct, on-pavement eyes for the driver. Roll down all windows so that any audible signals can be heard.
*Just like any military convoy, “Maintain your intervals.” Don’t crowd the unit in front of you or be a hindrance to those behind. Be fully aware of any animals or people accompanying the parade on foot.
*Maximum speed in a parade is generally 5-10 mph. Know what your parade marshall has set as the limit. Basically, if you are in 3rd Gear, you are going to fast!
*Remember, it is usually unlawful for any person to ride in a drawn trailer, the exception being for the purpose of a parade. This does not mean driving to or from the parade, but rather, along the parade route. There are no “special waivers” for transporting people to the parade. If the high school football team wants to ride in your 6x6, be aware of how many you can legally transport.
*Drive the route…don’t sway back and forth across the route path. It might look cool or even get a little tire squeal, but the risk of hitting a kid retrieving candy just isn’t worth it. Do not exit the route except where designated by the parade organizer.
It’s about the History
Stick around after the parade. You will be surprised how many people saw your vehicle and are interested in learning more. A parade is a chance to share a bit about the history represented by your vehicle, as well as being a goodwill ambassador for our hobby.
Be safe, be open to following the rules—even if you know better, and...
Preserve the Memories,
Editor, Military Vehicles Magazine and Military Trader