Like it or not, we share the road with other users, some with much bigger rigs than our own, so it goes without saying we need to drive to the conditions and respect the interests of others on the road.
Trucks are a case in point. They are bigger, heavier and work under considerable time pressure to meet their schedules. In contrast, we’re generally on holiday with our RV in tow and usually without any real time constraints. Given we will normally travel at a slower pace, our actions can have a significant impact on safety when sharing the road with these behemoths of the blacktop.
Here are my top five tips for sharing the road safely...
RESPECT THE SIZE
A quick comparison in size will confirm that a loaded B-double truck can stretch over 19m in length and weigh in excess of 50t, representing a significant mobile mass. These monsters take longer to get up to speed and also to wash it off, requiring much more space to get it done. Keep this in mind before you decide to pull out in front of one, or dive in front after making a risky overtaking manoeuvre.
A UHF radio alleviates some of the risk when sharing the road with faster moving traffic. Many travellers put names on the back of their rig with UHF channel 18, so other road users can communicate and negotiate a safer passage. Given that a large RV will block most of your rear vision, it’s a proactive approach to safety.
Managing the safe passage of trucks and other road users is an inherent part of touring the major roadways, where overtaking lanes are few and far between. The best option is to pull off the road as you pass through a town, where you can do so safely on a sealed surface. Be very careful about doing this on the highway, though, as putting a wheel on to the softer verge can introduce handling dramas as well as shower other road users with stones and other debris.
On the road, once overtaking traffic has moved out from behind you, slow down to help them get past safely, particularly with trucks that are speed governed and take longer to accelerate. You can communicate your plans via the UHF radio to make it a safer process.
If you find the shoe on the other foot when you need to pass a truck, similar principles apply. Essentially, you need a long strip of bitumen to pass safely and consider your own reduced ability to increase speed.
Keeping a little further back from the vehicle in front will give you better vision of the road ahead to pick the best time to pass. And when you do, make sure you allow a generous amount of space before you pull back in front of them – if you can see both sets of headlights that’s generally a good yardstick.
Many trucks travel the interstate legs at night when traffic is reduced, to help meet their schedules. To improve safety, the law requires regular breaks. Of course, there are limited parking bays for a 19m-plus rig to park, so specialist parking bays have been built to accommodate these rigs.
Can you imagine the frustration of truckies when they find an RV parked overnight in one of these truck parking bays? With the increasing popularity of free camping, particularly during holiday periods, many travellers confuse truck parking bays with general roadside stops. Put simply, don’t do it! Find another spot to pull up or use a local caravan park.
If you are keen to get behind the wheel but don’t have the confidence, book yourself into a towing course. There are a range of courses available these days – both on-road and offroad – so there’s no reason not to dip your toe in the water.
Being a considerate road user is all about respecting the rights of others that use the roads for both recreation and work, and that includes our bigger towing brethren.
See you on the trails.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #554 August 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!