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.
One of the easiest ways to help is by communication; talking with the truck drivers via a UHF radio, and them talking back to you. Purchasing a good quality UHF radio for your tow vehicle or RV is highly recommended. 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 in northern NSW you may find channel 29 is used more frequently by truck drivers and others in that area.
Traditionally caravanners use Channel 18 to talk amongst themselves.
There is also some valuable information passed on via Channel 40 like road conditions, animals on the road, car accidents, wide loads ahead, road blocks to avoid up ahead, speed camera locations and other things of interest.
You will not make any friends by clogging up Channel 40 with a long conversation or swapping recipes and will often be asked, (not always politely) to change to another channel for a chat.
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.
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 listening to so they can call you up easily and identify they are talking to the right vehicle. They 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.
A friend reported that trucks and other drivers were trying to contact the driver of one pop top van rig to tell him his van top was unclipped and flapping in the wind.
This driver did not have his radio turned 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 even have it turned on.
Personally, I stay on Channel 40, however as the language used by some people on this highway channel can be a bit rough sometimes, some caravanners or family groups may prefer to stay on channel 18 which is quieter. In general the professional truck drivers on the highway are great, happy to help and very courteous. There can be a few drivers around the cities who use colourful language but they are very much in the minority.
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.
Be polite, keep it short and acknowledge that you have heard and understood the message. Talk clearly and not too fast.
If you are going to make any sudden changes up ahead like braking or turning 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 intend to turning right or are pulling off the road.
Give plenty of warning and remember a semi-trailer takes a long distance to stop...otherwise you may find their bull bar in your caravan’s bed.
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.