Caravan courtesy tips

Michael Browning — 15 July 2014

Travelling the Newell and New England highways, chasing the feeble sun north in our Colorado 7/New Age Oz Classic combo has made me realise how unaware some caravanners are when it comes to road courtesy. Sure, we are all cruising at 90-95km/h these days, but the B-doubles are all sitting on the 110km/h limit. So caravans are, collectively, the slowest things on the road. We all need to be nice to the road transport professionals who bring us our daily bread and all that stuff made in China.

So here's a quick course in caravanning courtesy that will earn you points with your truckin’ mates…

Road rules

1. Right of way

The heavier, slower vehicle has right of way on a one-lane bridge/entry to a steep hill because (a) it will lose all of its hard-won momentum if forced to stop, and (b) being bigger than you it will hurt you more if there is a collision! As the bigger, heavier vehicle is often you and your rig, let's hope that other road users read this too.

2. You go first

The accepted signal to let someone know that you will let them in to a traffic queue is a long flash (1-2 seconds) on your high beam. Yes, I know it's illegal to use high beam in built -up areas in some states, but good manners count for something, surely. Anyway, if you're towing it's going to take you longer to get up to speed, so what's another car or truck in the queue anyway? You're on holidays – relax!

3. Let them pass

You know from your car driving days what it's like to sit behind a slower vehicle for kilometre after kilometre, fuming and wanting to pass. Well, that's how 90 per cent of other road users – particularly truckies, for whom time is money – feel about you and your home away from home.

So you need to let them know it's safe and convenient for them to pass you, but how? Here some people get confused. The fail-safe system is a few flashes on your left indicator – not a lot as they might think you're simply turning left or stopping. But only do this if the road is clear for long enough for a slow-accelerating large vehicle (like your rig) to pass safely.
If necessary, slow down slightly to ensure the move is made safety – you're not racing and if they have caught up to you, they are faster.

4. Pull in now

Then, after the rear of their rig is a good distance clear of the front of yours, give a longish (two-second) flash to signal that it's safe for them to pull in. In return, you'll get a left-right 'thank you' from the grateful truckie. Your reward. This human interaction will make you feel good!

5. Overtaking

If you want to overtake someone, flashing your lights or putting them on high beam is the same as using capitals in a text message – it’s shouting. Better to put on your right-hand indicator and pull out enough to ensure they see it. Nine times out of 10 they will get the polite hint and move over when they get the chance.

6. Planning to stop soon

If you are planning to stop soon for (a) a toilet break, (b) a break from your partner, or (c) lunch, then you need to let all of those fuming people following know so they don't involuntarily join you for company.

This is where the long, continuous left-hand indicator comes in, accompanied by a few periodic touches (not jabs) on the brake pedal to let them know you're serious.

So have you been paying attention? I hope so, because the next lights you see flashing might be mine!

Have we missed something? Add your caravan courtesy tips below...


caravan tips overtaking pulling in right of way