Andrew and Peta Murray from Top Wire Traveller travel all over Australia in their truck camper. They’re on the road a lot and often see drivers taking crazy risks when interacting with heavy vehicles. Here they share some advice on what you should and shouldn’t do
An Inevitable Outcome
Imagine you're a blue whale, cruising the oceans. You're big, really big. Over 170 tonnes and 30 metres long, in fact. You're cranking through the water at a steady pace when suddenly a sea lion zips past, cuts in front of you and stops without warning.
What do you think happens next?
Bang! One crushed and very dead sea lion. You’re unharmed, apart from a sore jaw. Thinking through this nasty incident afterwards, you go through what you could have done to avoid the sea lion.
There was no way you were ever going to stop in time… it’s not easy trying to pull up 170 tonnes of blubber. Maybe you could have swerved. No, then you would have taken out a whole school of innocent young tuna. Unthinkable, not an option. It all happened too quickly. The sea lion simply took a risk, which didn’t pay off… an unnecessary risk.
How many times have you seen this exact same scenario play out on our roads? A heavy vehicle is slowing down for traffic lights and three cars dart into the gap, unaware they’ve just taken away the truck’s braking space. Or worse, a car flies past a truck, then stops to make a right turn… or cuts in front then brakes to slow down for an off-ramp.
Let's go back to the blue whale for a minute. He lumbers through the oceans, maintaining a consistent speed. All around him, thousands of fish zip and dart everywhere, hell-bent on getting to their destination in the quickest possible time. It's absolute chaos around the blue whale, a writhing mass of living creatures.
Cars take some crazy risks in traffic like this
Occasionally a fish miscalculates and gets hit by the blue whale. Just like the unfortunate sea lion you hit earlier. The other fish tut-tut, shaking their heads and telling each other those massive blue whales shouldn't be allowed in the ocean. And in fairness, the blue whale isn't always blameless either. Sometimes he loses concentration and runs into another creature.
But overwhelmingly, the crazy fish are at fault. Taking unnecessary risks, being impatient, not understanding how long a blue whale takes to stop.
The open ocean
It's blue whale migration season. Every year you make the long trek to Antarctica and back. You know the way only too well… every current, ocean trench and underwater mountain.
There's one particular spot where you drop into a protected trench, with a favourable current behind you. There are a few dangers though. It's only wide enough for two blue whales to squeeze past each other. That's okay. When this happens you're both well aware of the dangers. Neither of you wants to hit the trench wall and be ripped open by one of those sharp rocks.
So when you want to overtake, you simply call up the blue whale in front. As you pull out to overtake, they back off and let you get past safely.
If a heavy vehicle overtakes you, maintain a consistent speed. Don’t EVER speed up. Back off a little if there’s no one behind you
The real danger is the smaller fish and mammals. The ones who only use this trench once a year. Dopey dugongs wander all over the trench, scouring the trench for seagrass or just admiring the view. When you come up behind a dugong, if they see you they'll panic and speed up for a while. Then they get distracted, slow down and the whole agonising process repeats over and over.
Even worse is when they speed up as you overtake, then sit beside you. There you are, stuck on the wrong side of the trench with a whole pod of humpback whales bearing down on you. If that crazy dugong had simply maintained a consistent speed, you would have been safe around him ages ago.
Consistency is the critical factor here. No matter what speed the dugong decided to go, if he maintained a consistent speed then everyone would be safe, including him.
Has this ever happened to you on the road? It's bad enough when you're in a car, but a truck is a whole different story. If a car baulks a heavy vehicle by slowing down, it takes ages for the truck to pick up speed again.
Drive consistently. Maintain a constant speed and let other vehicles overtake you.
An attitude problem
Worst of all though are the great white sharks. They have a serious attitude problem. Great whites believe they own the ocean and have a right to police everything that dares to swim through their ocean. If they don't like you, they'll eat you.
But there's a problem. Great whites know they can't hurt a blue whale. So they hassle it instead, being annoying just for the sake of it.
Great whites are those drivers who believe they own the road.
- The ones who menace you if you make a simple mistake.
- The ones who deliberately speed up when a truck tries to overtake them. How dare someone try to overtake them!
- The ones who play chicken with trucks, deliberately speeding up and slowing down.
In the animal world, natural selection would cull this species… or give them rows of replaceable razor-sharp teeth so they can truly dominate others.
In the human world though, they're given licences and released onto the roads. They're a particularly dangerous sub-species, especially when the roads are crowded with Christmas traffic.
Of course, not one of us will admit to being a great white. However, if we're honest with ourselves, we've probably all shown glimpses of this behaviour at some stage. Trucks are heavy, can't swerve and need plenty of space to stop. Give them room, show some courtesy, and loads of respect.
Sharing the workplace
The Christmas holiday season means congested roads, impatient drivers and possibly a car full of screaming kids. If you spend all year driving in the suburbs, do yourself a huge favour.
Admit to yourself that:
- You aren't used to driving long distances,
- You aren't familiar with the road you're travelling on, and
- Driving when you'd normally be sleeping probably isn't such a good idea.
And recognise those crazy truck drivers you sometimes encounter in the city aren't the norm. The vast majority of interstate truck drivers are professionals, courteous and respectful of other drivers. You're in their office, their workplace. They’re working. You’re on holidays. Why are you in such a hurry? Show them some respect, be aware of what's around you and take care.
Above all, drive consistently, and have a safe Christmas.