Caravanning and the use of RV’s has grown in popularity over the last few years with more and more people opting for the seemingly carefree lifestyle on the road for that round Australia ‘big lap’, annual holidays or just a weekend away.
Many caravanners & RV drivers are retirees who now have the time to explore all those special places that Australia has to offer. You will see the ‘Grey Nomads’, as they are affectionately called, on their annual migration escaping the southern cold winters travelling up and around in the tropical climates of Queensland and the Northern Territory.
In many cases this may be the first time many drivers have towed a 6 or 8 meter or even longer caravan behind their car or 4 X4’s.
There are many web sites and training courses available that can assist with the do’s and don’ts of setting up, loading and towing a large caravan so that you can hopefully enjoy a safe and trouble free holiday.
The average caravan and tow vehicle is a very large and long combination to control on the road especially without any formal training or experience.
I strongly recommend enrolling in a towing course before setting off, you will always learn something new.
Many caravanners are on a limited budget and safety conscious so they often travel at slower speeds on the highway for safety, better handling and lighter fuel consumption. The less fuel you have to buy the longer you can spend on the road.
Having such a large vehicle combination on the road travelling at lower speeds can also be a hazard and inconvenience to other road users especially the trucking industry, so a friendly and helpful attitude to other road users is essential to ensure we all get to our destinations safety and on time.
When you reach your destination I am sure you will want to relax and enjoy a friendly chat about your drive knowing that you have made everyone else’s day as enjoyable and safe as possible. It is always a nice feeling knowing that you have helped someone else.
The purpose of the Truck Friendly Program is to help caravanners, RV drivers and other road users assist the many truck drivers who work, and in some cases live on our roads and highways.
Being courteous on the roads and understanding what will assist the truck drivers will help make everyone’s journey safer and less stressful.
The average passenger car is light weight, small in comparison and has good acceleration and can therefore usually overtake other vehicles quickly, safely and in a much shorter distance than the larger caravan, RV and truck combinations. Cars also often typically travel at or close to the maximum speed limit of the highway.
A tow vehicle and caravan combination however can be often around 13 meters long or longer, have much slower acceleration, much longer braking distances, be dramatically affected by load distribution, cross winds, swaying and often travel at speeds much less than the average passenger cars and maximum highway speeds for driver safety, handling and fuel consumption savings.
An internet search of ‘caravan sway’ will produce many links to see some dramatic videos on the subject of loading a caravan correctly.
The fully loaded semi-trailer however can be much longer at up to 19 meters for an average single trailer or up to 26 meters for a B-Double semitrailer. When you drive out west and the Northern Territory however you will often come across larger road trains which can be up to 53 meters long which is over 4 times the length of the average car/caravan combo.
If you could imagine for a moment driving while towing 4 caravans and their 4 tow vehicles all joined together you can see it is a mammoth task that needs careful planning and judgement by the driver who is on the road with other often unpredictable cars, trucks and caravans and road conditions.
These trucks often try and travel at close to the maximum allowed safe speed on the highway but in many cases are speed limited so that they can only travel at a pre-set maximum speed which is often the road speed limit or just below.
This combination of their huge size and weight, slow acceleration, speed limiting legal requirements and safe driving practices means that these trucks will take a lot longer to overtake another vehicle or caravan combination, and need a lot longer distance to stop in any emergency.
This will severely limit the opportunities for a truck to overtake other long vehicles like an RV or tow vehicle and caravan.
When these trucks are fully loaded they can carry many tonnes of cargo but there is usually only a few square inches of rubber on the road for each tyre so they have a much longer safe stopping distance which must also be allowed for by the professional truck driver.
Truck drivers, by law, are limited to the amount of time that they are allowed to drive within each 24 hour period.
To help limit driver fatigue and potential accidents, heavy fines can be applicable if a truck driver spends more than 14 hours behind the wheel without a regulated break. Therefore you will see many designated ‘truck stops’ along our highways where truck drivers can pull over and have a sleep before resuming their journey. Most truck drivers know the roads they travel well and know where these truck stops are. They then plan their driving times around reaching certain truck stops at a certain time.
All driving times, rest breaks and other information must be recorded in a log book and produced on demand to the authorities to help prove the truck drivers have actually had a sleep or they risk very heavy fines.
Many trucks also have GPS systems installed so that the truck owner can identify where they are at any time.
As their time is so heavily regulated on the road, every hour on the road is precious to the truck drivers as they try and get home safely to their families or destinations before their allowed driving time has expired.
A truck driver on a 10 hour shift, driving at 90kph will travel 100km less than if he was able to drive at 100kph.
If truck drivers are held up by slower drivers, it may mean missing seeing their children or family and throw them behind schedule at a designated time to load or unload at a loading dock.
It may also mean they miss a load the next day and cost them many hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lost income.
These load/unload times are called windows, and the window will only be open for a short time to use the loading dock at a supermarket otherwise they will be told to come back some other time which may be the next day. This is so other trucks are not held up by one late arriving truck.
Time is money.
This leaves the truck driver with little option but to sit and wait till he can get his truck unloaded or loaded again. He can’t pick up the next load until they have unloaded the first load.
This can be the difference between keeping his contract with his customer and seeing their family tomorrow instead of today. Missing their child’s concert appearance or just seeing them before they go to bed can have a big impact on any family person and relationships.
“The knock on effect of being caught behind slow drivers that they cannot pass, can have a huge impact on their financial, social and personal lives.”
It is hard for a family to have one of the parents away from home working most of the time and this can cause stress on the relationships and lead to the breakdown of the family unit.
It is little wonder that some drivers get very agitated and even aggressive when inconsiderate drivers travel in close convoy or speed up at overtaking lanes etc. not allowing other vehicles to pass and get on their way.
Please read more on how you can help become Truck Friendly.