National Sharing The Road With Heavy Vehicles
 
 


The TRUCKRIGHT 25 Metre 2 Trailer B DoubleIntroduction:
I drive a "B-Double" 25 metre 2 trailer tautliner for Rod Pilon Transport based in Dubbo and travel up to 200,000 kilometres per year carrying various products throughout south eastern Australia. From truck drivers comments on the road and from personal experience I am aware of the need for improved car driver understanding of the difference between driving a car and driving a large heavy vehicle. Some education in this area can only improve the safety of all road users but particularly that of young drivers. Having surveyed High School students (Year 11 & 12) in Dubbo, their replies have confirmed my view that most drivers do not realise the benefits to them of safely sharing the road with trucks. You get a license when you are 17 years of age and hold it until you are 70 and unless your dad or someone you know takes you for a ride in a truck or you are involved in an accident with a truck, you are unaware of the differences involved. 89% of the school replies said they saw an advantage in learning more of sharing the road with trucks while 79% agreed that a short video when learning to drive would be even better. I am hopeful that the following TOP TEN, which has come from truck drivers surveys, will form the basis of such a video and/or be provided in driver handbooks in all states.

Caravaners are another group of road users who can benefit from improved understanding of trucks on the road. Often, Caravaners in the mistaken belief that they are helping a truck about to overtake them, slow down and move to the left. This is the worst possible thing to do as it forces the truck to slow further and it then has to regain even more speed/momentum to be able to overtake. The best thing is to maintain your speed and position until the truck moves out to overtake and only then if you want to assist, back off slightly. Moving to the left only makes it more difficult to control your van on the often broken edge of the road, throws stones up from this mostly unused section and does not make the road any wider. The benefit of CB radio communication can only improve on road safety and CARAVAN CB, (UHF CHANNEL 18 and CB CHANNEL 18) is currently being promoted through a caravan survey I have out and in CARAVAN WORLD magazine who have received so much comment that they have asked me to write an article for them each month to continue to improve the safety of both truckies and Caravaners as well as communication and our on road relationship.

Truck drivers drive cars but not all car drivers drive trucks. Australian Transport Safety Bureau figures show that in accidents involving articulated vehicles (semi-trailers), the truck driver is not to blame in 70% of cases and only partly to blame in a further 15%. This means that the other party causes 85% of these accidents. Surely a strong indicator of the current lack of education in safely sharing the road with trucks. This only shows that without some basic understanding of the differences, some people will take enormous risks to save a few seconds, at the peril of themselves and their passengers.

The TOP TEN has been promoted throughout regional NSW in newspaper and radio during 1999 and in some other capital city papers. It is also the basis for a number of ads on the Aussie FM TOURIST RADIO network (FM 88.0) in NSW and has been produced as community service type ads on the ABC as well as commercial radio. I will be continuing on with this program in the same format, that of promoting one item per month to keep it in people's minds as well as distributing a single page Truckies Top Ten Tips. With this in mind I ask would you be interested in taking part. Any suggestions or ideas you may wish to offer to make the issue more relevant or a format that better suits you, would be very welcome as the only real aim of the effort is to improve road safety for all by SHARING THE ROADS WITH HEAVY VEHICLES. Thank you for your time and please contact me if you would like to be involved. ROD HANNIFEY, 15 KENSINGTON AVE, DUBBO 2830. PH: (02) 6884 7957 or email rod@truckright.com

This is the first of the TOP TEN as provided by truck driver’s responses to a survey to nominate the issues that can improve road safety for all by SAFELY SHARING THE ROAD WITH TRUCKS. The hope is to promote one item per month throughout the year leading towards a safer time on the road for all.

 
 

ITEM 1: CUTTING IN FRONT OF TRUCKS AT TRAFFIC LIGHTS AND ON THE HIGHWAY

Cutting in front of trucks approaching traffic lights reduces the safety margin allowed by the truck driver to give ample room to stop and/or to possibly still be moving when the lights change. If you fill this space you risk being hit from behind. A loaded B-double can weigh up to 50 times that of your average car and it is not physically possible to stop instantly. People do not seem to be aware of the energy required to move up to 64 tonnes of B-double off from a standing start and conversely the energy and distance required to stop one. I have even had the experience of a car overtaking me whilst approaching a red light, only to change from the otherwise empty right lane into the left lane for no other apparent reason than to make me pull up behind them. Drivers of all large vehicles try to utilise the rolling momentum of the vehicle as much as possible by flowing with the traffic and holding back at lights to be still moving when the lights change to green. However, car drivers continually fill this space only to make the truck come to a complete stop and then have to start off from a standstill. You will not save any time on your trip if hit from behind by a truck because you filled the space allowed to slow the truck, rather than come to an abrupt halt centimetres off your bumper and all traffic behind the truck then suffers as well. On the highway many drivers seem to have to get in front of the truck. They pull out in front of a truck travelling at highway speed and put themselves and their passengers at risk of being hit to save perhaps a few seconds. Worst of all is when they then only travel a few hundred metres and as the truck is just starting to pick up speed again, they signal to turn off. Surely it is safer to wait and pull out into a larger safer space, as forcing the truck to brake heavily not only inconveniences the truck driver, but also the traffic following behind. As a pedestrian you would not step out in front of a bus and hope it will stop, so why take a similar risk in front of a truck.

These practices only increase transport costs by higher wear and cost of brake components and increased fuel costs to get the vehicle moving again. One instance will not change the transport cost but this happens across Australia hundreds of times a day. These costs are in turn passed on in higher freight charges. Transport costs in Australia are very low considering the distance involved and the amount of tax, particularly on fuel, the industry pays. The transport industry is running at World's Best Practice and if our roads could be further improved, all road users would benefit from safer travel and a lower road toll, (something we would all like to see). So please, think before you fill the space in front of a truck at lights or on the highway and give the truck driver room to slow safely. Remember, you are only protecting yourself and your passengers.

Safe Travelling.

 
 

ITEM 2: OVERTAKING (OR UNDERTAKING) TRUCKS WHEN TURNING

The "DO NOT OVERTAKE TURNING VEHICLE" sign fitted to the rear of vehicles over 7.5 metres in length allows these vehicles to legally turn from the second or third lane from the curb if needed to get around a corner. With indicators flashing, drivers still come up underneath a truck or trailer about to turn. Many are obviously unaware of the large blind spot to the left and rear of the truck cab. You may have seen stickers on some trucks:

"IF YOU CAN'T SEE THE TRUCK DRIVER, HE CAN'T SEE YOU".

This is well worth remembering. So if you come up behind a truck with indicators flashing to signal to turn, wait back and allow the driver plenty of room. You are helping him and yourself by not filling this space and putting you and/or your vehicle at risk.

Safe Travelling.

 
 

ITEM 3: CARS INCREASING SPEED WHEN A TRUCK ATTEMPTS TO OVERTAKE

This happens in two situations. Firstly, on 2 lane highways where a truck has caught up to a car and then moves out to overtake, the car sometimes inadvertently increases speed, lessening the space available and increasing the distance and risk involved. Secondly, where a truck may have followed a car travelling at 85 - 95 km/hr waiting for a safe place to pass only to reach the passing lane and the car accelerates to 100 km/hr only to slow to its original speed when back in one lane.

Rather than frustrating the truck driver, particularly on flat terrain where he can maintain the legal speed limit, consider allowing him to pass safely and be on his way. You don't want him to be continually behind you and he doesn't want to be seen to be tailgating. Also, in some instances such as when traffic queues up behind slower traffic, other drivers will take risks in overtaking. By sharing the road and considering others you improve your own safety and that of other road users.

A heavy vehicle, due to its slower acceleration and speed limiting restriction, has far fewer overtaking opportunities than the average car. In the past, many truck drivers would move over on steep hills and flash you past with the right indicator, but now this has been deemed illegal and even flashing a left indicator to say it is not safe to pass could be frowned upon. However, where any driver assists you, a simple wave of thanks goes a long way.

Safe Travelling.

 
 

ITEM 4: ROAD SPEED.  This covers the hazards of:

4.1 - Slow moving tractors on country roads, with no rear vision mirrors, can't see and often can't hear the traffic approaching behind them.

4.2 - Large farm equipment in convoy on major highways only have a front pilot vehicle and few make any attempt to assist highway traffic by using CBs to improve safety and reduce risk and frustration.

4.3 - Traffic travelling below the speed limit - we offer a plea to them to consider all other traffic and, with trucks, please remember we can't just accelerate past like another car can.

4.4 - Slow moving trucks on hills - more passing lanes would help but some start too late and or finish too early and traffic is held up behind different size trucks passing others. All I can offer is that we are doing the best we can and a little bit of patience and a friendly wave is better than stressing out.

4.5 - Speed limiting in trucks - the engine does not provide power above 100 km/hr though downhill gravity will allow the vehicle to exceed 100 km/hr. In passing a car or another truck once you reach 100, there is no more acceleration. However, it does allow us to maintain a perfect 100 on flat ground where a car may drift from 95 to 105 and this can be why a truck seems to be continually catching up. All new trucks over 12 tonne are required to be speed limited. The transport industry is aware of the problem with a few speeding trucks. The new 3 strikes legislation, now valid in all states, provides authorities with the capacity to de-register a truck fined for exceeding 115 km/hr 3 times, no matter who was driving the vehicle, the owner or anyone else.

Safe Travelling.

 
 

ITEM 5:  ROAD COURTESY

A simple concept, but along with driver education and awareness of sharing the roads all increasing your own safety, things which are often not given enough consideration. Many people are in a hurry for whatever reason, be it important or otherwise and the speed of life has changed, as have the vehicles we drive. A driver’s attitude can be the biggest danger, to themselves and others. As professional drivers we see many near misses and acts of impatience everyday on the road and like you we are not perfect, we are human, but our aim is to eventually get home safely to our families, most likely yours as well. People often risk their lives and that of their passengers/families to pass a truck or get in front of one to save a few minutes, if that. Is it really worth it? Often it's a large risk for a small gain. Cars chances to pass a truck occur a lot more often than trucks chances to pass a car.

The aim of this program is to save lives by offering car drivers another view. Truck drivers drive cars but not all car drivers drive trucks and with Australian Transport Safety Bureau figures showing that 70% of fatal accidents involving articulated vehicles (semi trailers) are no fault of the truck driver and another 15% the truck driver is only partly to blame. That makes 85% the fault of the other party. This only confirms that better understanding of sharing the road with trucks is needed.

The old practice of flashing cars past has been made illegal. It was only courtesy. Perhaps it should have been part of road law teaching, rather than part of road lore. Lastly, if more people considered others on the road for just a second and/or offered a wave of thanks when someone does the right thing it might lead to less waving of fingers or fists. Road rage is mostly brought on by attitude, whether it's one driver or both. This sharing the road program is aimed at lessening accidents and improving safety for all.

Safe Travelling.

 
 

ITEM 6:  CARS OVERTAKING TRUCKS THEN SLOWING AND ROAD POSITIONING

Often a car will pass a truck at or near the crest of a hill and perhaps not realise how quickly the truck will reach legal road speed down the other side. Having passed while the truck is yet to pick up full speed some drivers pull directly in front of the truck having only considered the speed the truck was travelling at. This only causes the truck to brake heavily or to try and change lanes. Trucks are hard enough to stop, let alone when going downhill and having someone pull right in front of them. Please leave plenty of room before you pull back in front and if you are travelling below the speed limit it may be worth considering staying behind the truck and having it move away in front of you once over the hill.

ROAD POSITIONING: Slowly many of our major roads are being widened to a safer width allowing traffic a gap between opposing vehicles without being right on the edge of the roadway. Many drivers either being used to narrow city traffic lanes or narrow highways travel very close to the centre line. With trucks greater width this is often necessary but with cars you then lose the benefit and safety margin on wider roads, and if you then tow a caravan or trailer these often ride on or cross the centre line where you may hit oncoming traffic or be fined. This can be very dangerous at night if your trailer does not have reflectors or lights fitted to the extremities and the width is not allowed for.

In the event of having to pull off the road for a flat or a breakdown or even by Police request, where possible move well off the roadway. Police always park further out than a vehicle they have pulled over to give the Police officer a safety corridor in front of their car, whilst beside yours. Some people park or leave their vehicle only centimetres past the fog line (the unbroken line on the left hand edge of the roadway) believing this is safe enough, but they don't consider that trucks use all of the lane width up to this line and this practice leaves no room for error. It's an even bigger hazard at night or in the rain. Lastly, if pulling up on the roadside for any reason at night, park well off and make sure your headlights are dipped or off. Blinding oncoming traffic may mean they cannot see your hazard lights or you waving for help until the last second and could even cause an accident. Breakdown reflective triangles as you may see used by trucks could be a worthwhile investment, and may save damage to you or your car should it be in a hazardous position or have no battery power.

Safe Travelling.

 
 

ITEM 7:  LIGHTS

High beam glare contributes to fatigue during night driving. When you see the lights of an oncoming vehicle dip or you are flashed before reaching a crest or curve, dip your lights. By waiting until you see the vehicle before you dip your lights, you are momentarily blinding the oncoming driver. With a closing speed of 200 kph and only a twenty centimetre white centre line between oncoming traffic blinding the other driver is not very clever. On divided highways, refusing to dip because of intermittent shrubbery in the middle can be at least inconsiderate or at worst dangerous to other road users. High beam through a gap in the divider, particularly on curves can be worse than over a crest as you are often not expecting it.

If coming up behind a truck, dip early rather than when right up behind it, as trucks mirrors can be 15 times larger and don't have an anti-glare position. When you move to overtake, one quick flash is a good idea but don't move to high beam until past the trucks mirrors.

Some people now drive around with "fog" lights on all the time. They can be beneficial in fog but not only is it illegal to have them on at any other time, they can be a hazard particularly if not correctly aimed. Also, on billiard table smooth roads the sharp cut off of fog lights would not be continually like flashing high beam as you hit each bump as it is on many of our roads. Also, rear fog lights can make it impossible to see brake lights in use in the rain. In using fog lights in normal conditions you can be creating a hazard rather than a benefit.

Travelling with your headlights on in the daytime or at least turning them on early in bad weather or when traffic approaching is driving into the sun, can only increase your own safety, but please make sure they are on low beam. If going on a long trip, check your headlight adjustment with the extra load or trailer in mind and always carry spare bulbs and check and clean your lights regularly.

Safe Travelling.

 
 

ITEM 8:  CARAVANS

This survey has received good response from Dubbo caravan parks and was published in Caravan World magazine in June 2000 (and again in February 2002) resulting in many replies then and since, and a request to contribute a column to improve the truckie/caravaner relationship on the road.

I drive a two trailer, 25-metre B-double fuel tanker and am seeking comment from vanners on sharing the road with trucks. In my experience the most difficult situation is with a truck catching up behind a van and the van driver, believing he is doing the right thing, unnecessarily slows and moves to the left. By slowing before the truck has pulled out to overtake the van forces the truck to slow, losing its momentum and road speed, which it then has to recover before overtaking. Though moving left can reduce wind buffeting for the van, with a rough or broken edge it can make controlling the van more difficult and can throw up stones from this normally unused section of road. The truck will always have to cross the centre line, so move left only when conditions warrant it.    I would recommend maintaining your speed and position until the truck pulls out to overtake, and if you wish to assist, lift your foot gently off the accelerator, flash the truckie with your headlight flasher when its safe to move back in and then regain your travelling speed.

“Caravan CB”, AM (CB) 18 and UHF 18 is now widely recognised and though unofficial (but within Australian Communication Authority Guidelines) with your van signed front and back, it provides on road communication between vanners and truckies when needed, and if used during overtaking, takes away the guess work of what each party is going to do. Caravan CB has been growing slowly now for over three years and will continue to be promoted through interested caravan clubs, parks and industry organizations and magazines along with, in the trucking industry. Truckies generally use channel 8 on AM and 40 on UHF. Emergency channels are 9 on AM and 5 on UHF (all for 40 channel sets).

The more who join in and participate in “Caravan CB”, the wider the benefits will be. Signs are available from a number of clubs or you can make your own.

FRONT –          CB 18 and or UHF 18 as applicable.              REAR –         CARAVAN CB
(Minimum 100 mm high letters)                                                                CB 18 and or UHF 18 as applicable

With the option of adding your name, eg Bill and Sue, to ensure you get the right van. I’m told this is a good icebreaker in caravan parks.                                    

With caravan speeds often limited by towing vehicle manufacturers capacities and or ratings, it is worth considering the capabilities of your combination as a whole in choosing a safe road speed. My hope would be that secure, suitable mirrors and a proper towing hitch be included, along with putting your unit over a weighbridge to ensure correct weights and improved safety. A CB or UHF radio should prove a valuable addition. You might consider joining a caravan club to access the experiences of others or look to caravan magazines for information or even attending a caravan clinic to see you start off with some experience, rather than learn from scratch on the road, which has seen some learn very costly lessons.

Distributed in the interests of better Road Safety by : Rod Hannifey

I would welcome your comments and suggestions with the aim of improving on road communication particularly between vanners and truckies and improving road safety for all road users. Please write to Rod Hannifey, 15 Kensington Ave. Dubbo N.S.W. 2830 or email - rod.hannifey@bigpond.com

Safe Travelling.

RESPECT THE SIZE AND WEIGHT OF TRUCKS AND IMPROVE ROAD SAFETY FOR ALL.

 
 

ITEM 9:  UNSAFE OVERTAKING

Too many drivers take large risks to save a few minutes on a long trip. I understand peoples frustration at slow trucks on hills and often the speed limit gap between cars at 110 and trucks at 100 means cars may pass quite a few trucks, but cars will have plenty of safe opportunities to pass, they can accelerate quickly, as opposed to the slower acceleration of larger trucks and often limited chances to pass slower traffic. The practice of trucks flashing the right hand indicator to help someone round is now illegal. Some truck drivers may still not be aware of this and it would seem many car drivers still expect it, judging by the number of people who seem to wait to be given a flash and having followed the truck along a two kilometre flat, straight and empty section of road will decide almost on the crest or corner that they must get past this truck. Every truck driver has experienced the same thing many times and the resulting near misses leave you shaking your head in disbelief. A normal semi-trailer is 19 metres long and a vehicle showing a “Long Vehicle” sign (mostly B-Doubles) will be 25 metres long so you are attempting to pass 9-10 cars at once. Perhaps if that thought prompts you to have sufficient vision of clear road before attempting to pass it will be worth remembering.

For safe overtaking:
 1. If you are right up behind the truck you have very little vision, stay back, allowing you to see better.
 2. Be certain you can see enough clear road to pass safely.
 3. Pass quickly but sensibly.
 4. Don't pull back in until you see both truck headlights in your mirror allowing a safe space.
 5. Maintain your speed, don't pass and then slow down. A quick flash of your headlights as you move out to overtake is often worthwhile day or night but at night don't move to high beam until past the trucks mirrors.

To take such a large risk of the lives of all in the car to save a few minutes,

PLEASE - if you can't see, don't pass.

Safe Travelling.

 
 

ITEM 10:  ROUNDABOUTS

From the school survey done in Dubbo and from truck driver’s comments there are two problems. The first is the perception of some including many young drivers that the truck races them to the roundabout. What the truck driver is trying to do is join the traffic flow and still be moving on entering the roundabout. This of course isn't always possible, but when it can be achieved the benefit is to all vehicles. Remember trucks cannot accelerate like cars. Should the truck be forced to stop at the last second by a car trying to beat the truck to save themselves a few seconds, all traffic, particularly on smaller roundabouts can be delayed while the truckie having stopped abruptly, selects low gear and moves off. With a loaded B-Double at up to 64.5 tonnes gross this is done steadily and due to the length sometimes no other traffic can move until the truck is gone.

The second problem is linked to ITEM 2, the "DO NOT OVERTAKE TURNING VEHICLE" signs. Again due to the size of many roundabouts and the length of semis and B-Doubles it is often impossible to travel through, let alone turn, without using more than one lane. If you stay back behind the truck and heed the signs you won't end up in a blind spot or get hit by the trailer as it travels through or turns.

These Top Ten tips on sharing the road with heavy vehicles aim to improve your safety as well as our life on the road. The Australian Trucking Association will continue to pursue improvements in road safety for all road users and welcomes comments or inquires if this Top Ten can help in other road safety projects. If you allow for the size and weight of large trucks and remember they deliver the goods you use (there is nothing that doesn't travel on a truck at sometime) then sharing the road is a benefit to all.  Australia's truck drivers wish you a safe holiday season on the road.

Safe Travelling, Rod Hannifey. Road Transport and Road Safety Advocate 0428 120 560 www.truckright.com.au

 
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