Road Safety In The Holiday Season

A car overtakes a truck on a highway

It’s the holiday season, which means there will be more tourists in camper vans and caravans on the road.  In regional and remote Australia, this poses one of the biggest road safety challenges for truck drivers. Today, we’re looking at how to overtake or be overtaken safely.

Overtaking tips

According to Main Roads WA, a car requires at least 1.500km to safely overtake a truck travelling at 100km/h. However, if you’re driving a 52m-long truck, travelling at 100km/h and you’re planning to overtake a car and caravan that is 7m long and travelling at 90km/h, you will need 2.174km to pass and the manoeuvre will take 79 seconds.

It’s worth remembering that road trains passing a vehicle at speed also generate significant turbulence which can buffet the car or caravan causing it to sway. 

For inexperienced drivers, this can lead to disastrous outcomes, so you should always be mindful that your truck’s trailers can sway and tyres can throw up loose gravel causing damage to other people’s windscreens.

Stopping distance

Tailgating is when a driver drives behind another vehicle without leaving sufficient distance to stop safely. It’s dangerous because there is no time to react if the vehicle ahead brakes or stops suddenly.  

A fully loaded road train can weigh 22.5 tonnes or more: the weight behind the vehicle means the driver requires a longer distance to stop safely.  

Below is a table that compares the stopping distances for cars and trucks travelling at the same speed:

Vehicle SpeedStopping distance(metres)

Bear in mind that these distances are calculated in optimal conditions. Add wet or slippery surfaces into the mix, and the vehicle needs longer stopping distances. If a vehicle strays onto loose gravel at the side of the road, an inexperienced driver can lose control.

Know your blind spots

When it comes to accelerating or breaking, trucks have certain limitations. Heavy vehicles need more time to stop and more room to make turns. 

The size and shape of a truck make their blind spots much larger than cars, which means truck drivers have to be more vigilant.

You can see this represented in the diagram below, with the yellow areas indicating where a truck’s blind spots are located:

A driver sitting in the cab will not be able to see immediately in front of the truck or beside the truck driver’s door. The blind spot on the passenger side runs the length of the truck and extends out three lanes directly behind the truck.

Dealing with recreational vehicles

While it’s up to everyone to take responsibility for their own vehicle and for road safety, the reality is inexperienced drivers, foreign tourists who may be used to driving on the opposite side of the road, or people driving camper vans or towing a caravan can and do make mistakes.  

The most common is inconsistent speed or panicking when a road train is approaching at speed. Backing off to allow them time to pull over and overtaking with care ensures everyone gets to their destination safely.