Most RV drivers and caravanners want to help other road users including the truck drivers, but as most of us have not actually been in, or driven a fully loaded semi-trailer on the highway, only a few of us know actually how we can help.
Many think they are helping when in fact may actually be making the situation worse by their lack of knowledge and understanding of what is needed.
Here are some ways that RV drivers and caravanners can be Truck Friendly and help other drivers on the highways.
Remember that when you attach a heavy caravan on to your car’s tow bar your car will sag at the rear to some extent. This will have the effect of raising the front of your tow vehicle and altering the angle of your headlights. Low beam will now look like high beam to oncoming drivers and may blind them.
There is no substitute to correct loading of your caravan however a good set of properly adjusted weight distribution bars will help limit this tow vehicle sag and make life more comfortable and safer for approaching drivers. This will also help reduce driver fatigue from drivers constantly looking at oncoming bright lights.
Check out this video on driving at night.
One of the easiest ways to help other drivers is by communication. Talking with the truck drivers via a UHF radio, and them talking to you. If you have a caravan or RV it is a very good idea to invest in a good quality UHF radio for the tow vehicle or RV. You will also find it a great investment in an emergency when you are out of mobile phone range.
The accepted ‘Highway Channel’ used by most truck drivers throughout Australia is Channel 40.
However, if travelling on the Pacific Highway, some other areas and Pacific Motorway in northern NSW and southern Queensland you may find channel 29 is used more frequently by truck drivers and others travelling in those areas.
There is also some valuable information passed on via Channel 40 like road conditions, animals on the road, car accidents, wide loads ahead, roadblocks to avoid up ahead, speed camera locations, cyclists riding two abreast on the highway, and other things of safety interest.
Truck Friendly has a whole section on this web site regarding communicating with wide loads.
Traditionally, caravanners have been using channel 18 to talk amongst themselves but will need to change to Channel 40 to talk with the truck drivers and hear what is happening up ahead or behind, and how you can help.
You will not make any friends by clogging up Channel 40 with a long conversation or swopping recipes and will often be asked, (not always politely) to change to another channel for a chat.
For these reasons, I strongly recommend that you have your radio tuned to Channel 40 and change to 18 or another channel for a longer chat with a fellow caravanner or RV driver.
A full ‘Radio Use Basics and Channel Chart” is available for download from this web site.
See the link below.
You may like to print it out and laminate it for easy access from the glovebox.
Keep it brief and to the point is the rule on Channel 40.
Always keep an eye on your rear vision mirrors and be aware of who is coming up behind you and immediately tune the UHF to Channel 40 so you can hear any truck drivers trying to talk to you.
Having the “I’m Truck Friendly”, large round green sticker on the rear of your van will help the following vehicle know that you are happy to work with them.
Depending on which Channel you normally have the radio set on it is always a good idea to have your name or nickname and UHF Channel 40 and /or 18 in large print (200mm) on the back and front of your caravan or RV. That way a driver behind or oncoming will know you have a radio ‘turned on’ and which channel you are on, so they can call you up easily and identify they are talking to the right person/vehicle.
When you want to communicate with a fellow traveller the best way is to let them know who you want to talk with and who you are.
A simple, “The green truck in front of the New Age van do you have a copy” is usually all that is required?
If you are contacting a vehicle behind you and you have your name or nickname on the rear of your van, you may like to try, “ The red semi behind Ken & Jenny in the van do you have a copy”.
I like to use some feature of the truck so that the driver knows I am talking to him, and I may identify the truck as “Lindsay Brothers”, “the tanker” or other friendly characteristic.
At the end of the conversation I often follow up with “stay safe” or “have a safe trip etc.” It normally gets a thank you or other friendly reply. This also helps when you catch up with them at the servo up the road and can help start a friendly chat.
Another tip is to also identify that you are ‘Truck Friendly’.
By using this term, it will help the truck drivers understand about the Truck Friendly program, the large green stickers and that there are many other drivers out there who want to help.
Other drivers will usually use a similar approach to contact you so keep the radio on to 40 so you don’t miss a call. The other driver may simply want to tell you your push bike has come loose off the back of your van, you are leaking water, some other safety issue or that they are going to overtake.
I have unsuccessfully tried to contact a couple of vans on the highways. Both going the other direction on a dual lane highway. One had his hatch open in the rain and another had his pop top unlatched. A friendly truck driver replied that he was behind the pop top on the double lane and would try and let him know. I don't know how much water damage was done to the one with the hatch open.
It was reported on another occasion that trucks and other caravanners were trying to contact the driver of one pop top van rig out western Qld. to tell him his van top was unclipped and flapping in the wind. This driver did not have his radio on and nearly had many hundreds of dollars avoidable damaged to his van. He had gone to the effort of spending a few hundred dollars having a radio installed but then didn’t have it even turned on.
The UHF’s are a great tool to use, but only useful if turned on.
Choose which is the best channel for you and advertise it on the front and rear of your van, keep it turned on and volume up so you can hear someone trying to contact you. After all that’s why you had it installed in the first place.
It can be quite entertaining at times with some comical characters on the air.
There are some fools out there that clog up the airways with silly noises, and just being a nuisance. Please ignore them as they enjoy knowing they are upsetting someone and you reacting will just encourage them to keep going.
Be polite, keep it short and acknowledge that you have heard and understand the message is the best advice. If you are going to make any sudden changes like braking or turn off the road, let the driver behind know so they can be ready to brake if needed. They may be preparing to overtake and you are turning right or pulling off the road.
Give plenty of warning with indicators and a radio call, and remember a semi-trailer takes a long distance to stop or you may find their bull bar in your caravan’s bed.
Ken’s tip: - My previous vehicle was a BT-50 and the UHF aerial on the bull bar was the same height as the roof racks, so it also acted as a height gauge for low clearances like underground car parks and garages.
Stay Truck Friendly and follow up with a ‘thank you’ or ‘stay safe’ as you may meet them at the next stop down the road.
Click on the link below.