What is a Convoy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By: Paco Ayala, Marc Xavier, Besler, Ruticar, n/a, Mario Beauregard
  • Last Modified Date: 28 February 2020
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A convoy is a group of vehicles that travel together to mutual advantage. There are a number of different types, including those that are armed during war to those that travel together through remote areas to ensure that everyone makes it through. The practice of traveling in a group is ancient; some of the earliest convoys were probably groups of traders who traveled together through foreign lands.

Historically, trading convoys have been used for centuries, and some consisted of thousands of individuals traveling together. Many traders traveled in groups across the larger deserts of Africa and the Middle East with large numbers of camels and other beasts of burden. By traveling this way, the traders could protect themselves from raids, and they could also sometimes negotiate better deals on the other side of the desert by bargaining together.

At sea, many convoys are military in nature. War fleets often travel together to support each other, and merchant ships may convoy during a period of hostility to protect each other. During times of war, national militaries often provide support to merchant fleets, and might station several destroyers to travel with a group of cargo ships. Some stunning photographs of naval convoys can be seen from World War II, when ships traveled between Europe and the United States in huge groups with air and sea support to defend them from German U-boats.


On land, a convoy of military vehicles travels together to support each other for combat operations. Big rig truckers may also travel this way as a form of friendly brotherhood. People may also gather in a group to proceed through hazardous weather conditions or remote areas to ensure that, if a vehicle gets in trouble, someone will be there to notice. In such instances, other vehicles can help with repairs, or transfer goods and passengers from the disabled vehicle to a functioning one if it becomes clear that the downed vehicle will not be able to continue the journey.

A convoy of vehicles may simply travel together on a more casual level to ensure that they arrive at an end destination at the same time. For example, a group of people going to a wedding or funeral together generally go in a group. In the case of funerals, vehicles may wear markings that identify them as part of a funeral convoy to ensure that they do not become separated. This form of travel is also useful when only one car knows where the group is supposed to end up; the others cars can follow the lead vehicle to the end destination without worrying about directions.


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