The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) has helped launch a campaign designed to enlighten recreational road users such as grey nomads regarding the need for truck drivers to have adequate space, not only while driving on the road but most importantly to safely park their vehicles in order to satisfy the legal requirements of fatigue management.
The Caravan Industry Association of Australia’s research of 554 caravaners or recreational vehicle (RV) drivers who had used a rest stop in the past 12 months revealed at least 25 per cent have stayed overnight or spent more than nine hours in truck rest areas.
It also showed 60 per cent had used a rest stop more than once, while more than three-quarters made the decision to use a rest stop when their trip was underway.
Caravan Industry Association of Australia CEO, Stuart Lamont, said all road users had equal responsibility for road safety.
“Caravan and RV users value safety so this information will help them to understand how to share the road with heavy vehicles, particularly in understanding how such a large vehicle behaves,” said Lamont.
“Our campaign promotes simple information that can reduce frustration, such as the use of UHFs for improved communication between drivers and maintaining speed and road position when being overtaken.
“When preparing to stop for the night make sure you’re aware that truck drivers need to use the dedicated stops to manage their fatigue hours; plan your stops and use the appropriate areas to park and don’t use designated truck parking areas.”
NHVR CEO, Sal Petroccitto, said the partnership between the Caravan Industry Association of Australia and the heavy vehicle industry would save lives.
“Long haul heavy vehicle drivers are often managing fatigue and getting good quality rest is critical to keeping all road users safe,” said Petroccitto. “I’m pleased that we’ve been able to work with the caravan industry on ways to reduce risk for holiday makers and supporting our truckies who keep Australia moving.”
As for a truck driver’s perspective, Heather Jones who heads up the heavy vehicle driver training outfit Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls in Western Australia said she has had some near misses involving caravans or RVs over her 30-plus years driving trucks.
She said she was driving on a highway recently when she spotted a vehicle completely stopped in the middle of the road ahead.
The campervan was being driven by a grey nomad who had ‘pulled over’ to look at some Sturt’s desert pea by the side of the road, a decision that could easily have proven fatal.
“I can’t tell you how close I came to writing off the caravan,” said Jones.
“There was so much adrenaline my legs were shaking, and I thought, ‘How could you be so stupid?’ And it happens all the time.”
Jones, who lives in Western Australia, said poor behaviour from drivers – including international drivers and older drivers – had led to several near misses for her on the road.
She said some older Australians took to the highways in large campervans without necessarily having the adequate experience to handle the vehicles, while overseas drivers could become confused by the road rules.
“I’ve taken my truck bush three times in my life to save other people’s lives, and two of those were international drivers travelling on the wrong side of the road,” said Jones.
“The percentage of overseas drivers involved in accidents in Australia is huge because they forget where they are and drive on the wrong side of the road when they are tired or under stress, which is pretty serious.
“As a truck driver, when you’re forced to take evasive action you only have a split second to make sure that where you are heading off the road doesn’t have any culverts or trees.
“There’s no time to do anything else, so you just hold the steering wheel and pray.
“There’s a huge percentage of truckies who have gone off the road to save other people. It’s a gut reaction, then when you stop you say, ‘Oh my God’ and you burst into tears because you came that close.
“Your whole body is shaking, your knees are shaking, and you sit for a while before you get back on the road,” she said.
To find out more about the Co-Exist campaign head to www.coexist.org.au; to find out more about the HVSI program visit www.nhvr.gov.au/hvsi