There are around half-a-million trucks on Australian roads every year, and while some might think most of what they do is take up room on the road or slow traffic, these truckies help keep Australia going. As many a placard has declared: "without trucks, Australia stops".
But have you ever stopped to think what it might be like to live as a truck driver? To find out, we spoke to truckie, Tony, on the CarAdvice podcast.
You can find the audio interview at the bottom of this article.
CarAdvice: What needs to be done to educate others about trucks?
Tony: I think learners should be able to go into a truck and spend a couple of hours, if possible, and see things from a different perspective. These are the young people that are going to be on the road, and they’re not really aware of what trucks can do.
Having a look at it from a truck's perspective, it will give them a better idea on road courtesy. The only problem would be you have to get a big company involved, and there would have to be some benefit, like a reduction in their 120 hours.
People get frustrated by trucks sitting in the right-hand lane. What’s your take on that?
The signs against sitting in the right-hand lane, particularly on the Geelong freeway, are ridiculous. I could be sitting in either the two left-hand lanes and the right-hand lane is empty, while there are cars doing 95km/h in front of me. I’m not allowed to pass them - I just have to sit there.
Yes, truck drivers get frustrated when people don't move over. But in general, I believe that the rule should apply to trucks and cars.
Trucks are allowed 100km/h on a freeway and [on some] cars are allowed 110km/h. If a truck is passing another truck, doing 95km/h, the truck driver has the right to get past that truck. And the motorist needs to have the patience to allow that driver to get past.
A lot of trucks, when they pass, give them a flash to merge back in - it would help if car drivers did the same thing.
What safety features are trucks equipped with?
We have mirrors on the bonnet that you can look down the side. I have a camera mounted on top of the windscreen, which shows a better view, and records footage if something goes wrong.
We’ve got cruise control obviously and in the new Mercedes-Benz trucks, they have adaptive cruise control. The new European trucks have beepers that go off if you go over the white line without your indicator on (lane-keep alerts).
There are sleep alerts (also known as fatigue alert) that notify the driver if they’re not looking at the road for more than seven seconds, a beeper sounds and vibrates their seat. There's a certain amount of autonomy being built into trucks now that is helping with safety issues.
What happens if you go over 100km/h?
Most trucks are fitted with trackers and the office will be notified or will get a printout once a week or once a month for what speed they’re doing. There’s a certain amount of latitude that has to be given for running off hills. Remember if you’ve got a fully loaded B-double that’s up to 68 tonne, it will push you a little bit over.
What are the key issues you see on the road?
Allowing the fact that trucks are a lot bigger, they have blind spots, they have slower acceleration and stopping rate in traffic, and car drivers need to be aware of those sort of things.
I was involved in an accident last week, where a car got in front of me and didn’t quite make it, and ended up being pushed down the freeway at 100km/h sideways while I was braking. He then span around and ran off the other side of the road.
They have got to be aware that trucks are a lot bigger and a lot more dangerous. There are truck drivers out there who are cowboys, just the same as there are in every industry. But on the whole, truck drivers are fairly courteous and patient, and we've got a job to do, like everybody else. A bit of help would make our job a lot easier.
Listen to the CarAdvice team talk to Tony the truckie below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.