Helping vans and trucks share the road

Tim Moss — 10 August 2015

Since I can remember, my family - from uncles and aunts to my pop and nan, my dad and mum and myself - have been towing caravans. I am a truck driver at 30 years of age, and I have seen both sides to this everlasting battle between caravan and trucks.

Just today, I had a lovely couple on a holiday call me up and say “you’re right to pass in the truck, it's all clear”. Well, thanks guys, but which truck are you talking to? And which van is calling? After establishing it was me and the van in front, I overtook them. I really did appreciate that, and it made life easier, but we need to educate both sides on a few things.


First thing - van drivers, if you are calling us on the UHF, this is what I advise you to say (for example):  “Copy southbound behind the Jayco on the Newell Highway” (make sure you state the direction the truck is travelling the highway you are on, and the make of your van or a distinctive sign on the back of it so he knows you are talking to him, remembering there are thousands of trucks out there). Then wait for a reply; the reply is important because, as we can only travel 100km/h, once we have adjusted our speed to match yours, it will take us a few minutes to build up momentum. He or she should reply politely: “Yeah, got ya", then you say "Okay, when YOU are ready, we will back it off a bit for you to pass".

Two things here: move a little bit closer to the left-hand fog line, not over it or you will end up out of shape (it's rough outside the fog line), just enough so I can see down the right-hand side to see if it's clear. I emphasise the YOU because we truckies are the best at judging how much room we need to get these things around and whether we have the momentum and time to do so safely. Ninety per cent of the time we will reply with "Okay, thank you". At this point, keep going at your speed - don't slow down and don't speed up. Wait until we call. Most will say "Okay, guys, I'm on my way". At that point, wait until I'm in the right-hand lane, then and only then, should you slow down but not much as there may be traffic behind me, and if you slow down too much, that may affect them. Keep close to the fog line but not over it or, again, you will end up out of shape and wobble all over the lane.

Once we have cleared the front of your car at a comfortable distance for you, flash your high beam a couple of times or call us and say "You’re clear south-bound" and we will move back in front and either call you and say "Thanks guys, have a safe trip" or we will flash the blinkers a couple of times - our sign of appreciation and a great job well done.


Now, if you don't have a radio, it's simple as well. If you think it MAY be safe for the truck to pass, flash your right-hand blinker a couple of times, keeping your current speed. If we think it is safe, we will indicate and move right but, once again, we have just slowed down to your speed, so we may not be ready yet. Be patient, once we are ready we will indicate into the right lane and only then you can slow down a bit. Once we are clear of your car, flash the high beam and we will merge back across, thanking you with a left and right blinker flash. It's pretty simple and most should understand how this works.


Now to my trucker mates. There's a few things we need to do as well. Be patient. Yes, they (caravanners) are on holidays and we are at work, but they have worked once, so remember 80 per cent are retired and on a tight budget because they have just sold up the family home, bought a car and a van and are living life fancy and free, which is someday what most of us end up doing. Some minus the van!

We all whinge because they're slow, well, because of their budget, they drive slower to get better fuel consumption and keep travel costs down, so they can holiday more. Think about it this way - when most of us buy a truck, we usually buy value for money and, dare I say it, for fuel consumption figures. But we get paid for our better fuel consumption and get fuel rebates from the government. To company drivers (yes, I am a company driver), well, we don't pay the truck’s fuel bill so so what would we know? But these retirees pay for their fuel.

Now, when it comes to overtaking, most won't understand what it takes to steer one of these trucks up a highway, but if they help us, we can help them. Be patient. If they call up, you know what to do. But remember, there is most likely a sweet little lass in the passenger seat just like your mum or gran, so polite language, please! No swearing, they don't like it. Much like if u swore in front of your granny, you'd probably get a clip up the back side of your noggin - I know I sure would!

They may not know what to do as we pass, but just give them some room and try your best. Don't abuse them as you go past or cut in early just because you are now 5-10 minutes behind. Just do as you would do if I had called you round in my banger. If they flash, they flash; say thank you. If they don't, well, they don't have sons or family members to tell or show them our lingo. Also, don't ride their back door, it only makes them nervous and they will panic, move over the fog and get all out of shape, or hit the brakes! Then you will be sitting there screaming "What are you doing?" I know, I’ve been there!

I’ve been the cranky truck driver behind a slow van. But today, after being politely called around by Nanna in front, who was actually in the driver’s seat, I thought:  what if someone from both sides of the argument could educate van drivers and truck drivers a bit? So here is my attempt. People may get a laugh, they may go “Jeez, I didn't know that” and some may say I’m wasting your time, but I know I’ve done my bit.

Thanks for reading, I hope this helps, and safe travels from a fellow traveller.


Caravanners trucks road trains sharing road vans overtaking passing


David Bristow