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 on your next adventure.
Being budget and safety conscious means some drivers 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!
But having such a large vehicle combination on the road travelling at lower speeds can also be a hazard and inconvenience to other road users.
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.
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 can be much longer at up to 19 meters for an average single trailer or up to 26 meters for a B-Double semi-trailer. When you drive out west and in the Northern Territory, 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 dealing with unpredictable cars, trucks, caravans and road conditions.
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.
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 require 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.
Being Truck Friendly means we can all be more aware and courteous to our fellow road users.