In the next installment of RVDaily‘s caravanners vs truckies part two, we look at a little bit of communication among other things!
Before we get started, we must put some things into context, setting aside the emotion and drama that often accompanies social media. To do that, let’s look at a few myths that are perpetuated on social media and the mainstream press.
Caravanners are clogging up Truck Rest Areas
If you believe everything you read on social media, truck drivers around the country are continually forced to miss their mandated rests because caravans and motorhomes are using designated truck parking areas for their own free camping. I’ve been travelling around this country for the best part of 25 years. I’ve driven in every state and territory of our nation. I’ve spent the last year and a half living full time on the road and, in that time, I’ve covered more than 40,000km. I reckon I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen multiple caravans or motorhomes parked in designated truck-only areas.
I’m not suggesting it doesn’t happen. I just have not seen the evidence that it is happening on the scale suggested. Where I have seen it on a large scale is on the major highways between our capital cities and it probably happens here because of the sheer volume of traffic on these major routes, particularly during long weekends or school holidays.
During these times, every road user who pulls over at a large service station or rest area is competing with each other. Cars, buses, trucks and RVs of all shapes and sizes are fighting for the limited parking spaces available. It inevitably leads to cars parking in RV-only areas, RVs parking in truck-only areas. It tends to turn into a free for all, with everyone equally to blame for the disorder.
I expect many readers will point out the myriad videos and pictures of caravans supposedly filling truck stops as evidence of the problem. The fact is, many of those videos and pictures don’t tell the full story. Take this video as an example. It is often used to highlight the supposed problem of caravanners filling truck stops and preventing truckies from using the sites. The rest area is in Yelgun, NSW and offers parking for cars, caravans and trucks. Further, the video was taken during the popular Yelgun festival and the caravans and campers parked in the site were told to park there by the police.
Caravanners speed up to avoid being overtaken
Sadly, I have to agree that this does happen and it happens quite a lot. Our rig is quite capable of maintaining reasonable legal speed on modest undulating terrain. Many a time we’ve been following a slower RV driver for considerable distances, waiting patiently for an overtaking opportunity only to find, when one becomes available, the slower vehicle suddenly speeds up, making overtaking dangerous or impossible. It is extremely frustrating.
In acknowledging this, I will say that I have experienced this behaviour with drivers of a variety of vehicles, not just caravanners. There have been multiple occasions when we have sat behind a car not towing, driving slowly, we’ve gone to overtake the vehicle and, as soon as they notice it is a caravan overtaking them, they suddenly speed up, while we are overtaking. It is extremely dangerous behaviour.
Caravanners should be forced to drive at the speed limit
This is one that really gets me angry. There are no laws that require any driver to drive at the speed limit and it is completely unreasonable to expect anyone to do so. The speed limit is just that. A limit. It is the maximum allowable safe speed for that stretch of road as determined by roads authorities. No one has to drive at that speed. They must not exceed it. Therefore, driving at 95 in a 100 zone is not illegal and, in fact, it is a perfectly safe practice, especially if you’re towing a large caravan.
Consider if we applied the same logic to the blood alcohol limit. Could you imagine what would happen if everyone was driving around with a blood alcohol reading of .05? It is not illegal to drive at speeds lower than the posted speed limit, however, it is possible to be booked for being an unreasonable obstruction. The road rules vary slightly from state to state however they are consistent on this issue. The Australian Road Rule 125 is the rule that covers this situation. It states:
ROAD SAFETY ROAD RULES 2017 – REG 125
Unreasonably obstructing drivers or pedestrians
(1) A driver must not unreasonably obstruct the path of another driver or a pedestrian.
(2) For this rule, a driver does not unreasonably obstruct the path of another driver or a pedestrian only because—
(a) the driver is stopped in traffic; or
(b) the driver is driving more slowly than other vehicles (unless the driver is driving abnormally slow in the circumstances).
Example of a driver driving abnormally slow
A driver driving at a speed of 20 kilometres per hour on a length of road to which a speed-limit of 80 kilometres per hour applies when there is no reason for the driver to drive at that speed on the length of road.
In other words, you would have to be driving at a speed much lower than 20km/h below the posted speed limit before you would even be considered to be unreasonably obstructing traffic. It is worth clarifying that it is possible to be booked if you are driving at a speed of, say, 90 in a 110km/h zone in an overtaking lane. In this instance, you will be booked for failure to keep left unless overtaking.
What do the real truckies say?
I have quite a few mates who are truck drivers. Not surprisingly, some are also caravanners. This perspective gives them a very real sense of the issue and they understand both sides of the equation. I asked three of my truck driver mates if they could offer just three tips to caravanners that will make their jobs easier. We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk to a few of the ‘other side’ of caravanners vs. truckies in part two. Here’s what they had to say:
Greg W. Truck driver from Victoria. 35 years’ experience.
One of the biggest problems is vehicles moving into a truck’s braking space. Think about the gap you’re about to move into and consider what might happen if the heavy vehicle needs to stop suddenly.
If travelling on the open highway and a truck is overtaking you, don’t accelerate. Let the truck overtake. All heavy vehicles are speed limited by law and can’t go any faster than 100km/h so, if you’re not driving at the speed limit, just let them go around.
When stopping along the highway at parking bays or service centres, remember the large truck parking bays need to be left clear for truck drivers to take their mandatory rest brakes. These rest brakes are the law and, if we don’t take them, we can be heavily fined.
Roger N. Truck driver from Victoria. 30 years’ experience.
Please don’t park in designated truck parking bays. Truck drivers need a minimum of 7hrs rest and 1/2hr breaks at certain times. If you have a UHF CB in your car, monitor channel 40. Not only will you be able to get notified of any emergencies happening in the area, but we can also contact you if we see something wrong with your rig and we can advise you when we are about to overtake you. When a truck is overtaking you, once they are beside you, lift your foot off the accelerator pedal a little. Slowing down makes it easier, faster and safer for us to overtake you. Give us a quick flash of your high beam lights or call up on the UHF to let us know when our trailer has cleared your vehicle, and it is safe to come back into the lane. That’s something all truckies really appreciate.
Graeme H. Truck driver from NSW. 30 years’ experience.
All truck drivers really appreciate communication. If you don’t have a UHF CB radio in your car, consider purchasing a hand-held unit. If you see a truck coming up behind you, talk to the driver on channel 40 and let him know you know he’s there. When you are being overtaken by a truck, slow down to make it easier and safer for them to get past. Flash your lights when the truck has safely passed, he will often thank you by flicking his indicators left to right. Always keep in mind, whenever you see a truck, the driver is bound to a logbook and can only drive a certain number of hours a day. To add to the pressure, truck drivers have to comply with a ‘time slot’. They leave at a certain time and have to be at their destination by a certain time. When the trucks are restricted to a maximum speed of 100km/h and the driver has to take mandated breaks, it puts pressure on him to complete the job in the time slot allotted.
We’ll be back in a few days to bring you the final part of caravanners vs. truckies, so make sure you stay tuned!