Trucking is a vital part of Australian society. From the furniture in your house to the clothes on your back, everything you’ve ever bought has been transported in a truck – and probably more than one! As the saying goes, without trucks, Australia stops. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to learn how to share the road and make room for our truckies.
The men and women who drive Australian trucks sacrifice a lot to take on their jobs, leaving behind family and friends for long-haul (and lonely) trips. They drive over holidays – including Christmas – and often drive on remote and dangerous roads. But despite their experiences, skills and knowledge, there’s often a negative perception that truck driving is unsafe. While it’s true that many incidents involve heavy vehicles, that’s not the whole story.
Statistics tell us that 80 per cent of multi-vehicle fatal incidents involving trucks are not the fault of the truck driver.
With rigorous training and years of experience under their belts, truck drivers are actually some of the most experienced drivers on our roads. There’s a reason we have to get a license to be able to drive a truck. We’re trained to avoid incidents where possible and face hefty penalties if we don’t comply with road rules.
In fact, truck drivers have better visibility than most others on the road because they sit in an elevated position with a clear line of sight. This doesn’t just let truck drivers see the road ahead, it also lets them see drivers on all sides and make note of their behaviour. For example, if a driver is looking at their phone screen instead of the road, truckies can see this and know to pay more attention to that car.
Top tips for sharing our roads
Everyone has friends and family they want to get home to – which is why we all need to learn to share the roads sensibly. There’s a huge difference between driving a car and driving a truck, and I strongly believe it’s important to educate people on the risks.
Some of the most important rules are:
Not cutting in front of trucks
Not overtaking trucks as they turn
Not stopping in front of trucks suddenly
These rules apply to all heavy vehicles, because they are harder to manoeuvre than smaller cars, and have a longer stopping distance – after all, trucks weigh between 40 and 50 times your average sedan. Trucks travelling at 60km/h require a distance of 83m to stop, so keep a safe distance.
You can help truck drivers when driving at night by dipping your lights on approach. Because truck mirrors are larger and have no anti-glare position, direct light can impact driver vision, as well their fatigue levels. Make sure you use your fog lights sparingly, and only when you need to.
Following these tips will not only make you a safer driver, it’ll also help our truckies get where they need to be – and keep all of Australia moving.
Learn more about sharing the road safely with heavy vehicles at Share the Road, supported by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.
You can also find out more about how to get involved in National Road Safety Week here.
Rod Hannifey is a fulltime driver employed by Rod Pilon Transport in Dubbo. Rod is the pilot and instigator of the TRUCKRIGHT Industry Vehicle, has travelled nearly 6 million kilometres, writes a monthly column “Eye on the road” for Owner Driver magazine and is very passionate about improving both road safety and how the road transport industry is seen by the public. He has just completed a Churchill Fellowship study tour looking at trucks and road safety in England, Canada and the United States. He was made an Honorary Member of the National Road Freighters Association for his contribution to truck safety and previously won the National Professional Driver of the Year award.