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Heavy Vehicle Road Courtesy

What should you do when overtaking or being overtaken by a heavy vehicle.
Sound advice from a truckies point of view.


The following article was supplied by Doug Tilley.  Doug has over 30 years experience as an Interstate Truck Driver.  Towards the end of this period Doug was also an Oversize Pilot/Escort Owner/Operator.  This coupled with his caravan towing experience makes Doug somewhat of an expert in his field and he shares some of this experience and knowledge.  The Team at would like to thank Doug for sharing these valuable tips from the “truckies point of view”.


What to do if a truck/semi trailer catches up behind you

There is certainly some bad language emitted from some truckies on Channel 40 however this is one of the most important UHF channels when travelling the major highways.  When you notice a truck/semi catching up behind you, switch to Channel 40 and call the driver and let him know you are aware he is there.  Communicate to him that you are prepared to let him overtake as soon as it is safe to do so.  He will appreciate your communication and will often sit patiently behind you until safe to overtake, rather than try to get around at the earliest opportunity.

How and why do trucks/semis travel at 100 Kph even when it is raining and visibility is poor?

The truck’s cabin is sitting high above the road making it much easier to see the white line and the road verge when looking down at it unlike a vehicle lower to the ground where visibility is much more difficult.  A truck with a gross weight of 42.5 to 132 ton (in the case of a triple Roadtrain) is also less likely to aquaplane than a car and therefore can maintain stability on even wet roads.


What do you do once the truck / semi actually commences passing your vehicle and rv?

When the truck starts to pull along side your vehicle and caravan or trailer you will feel the wind buffeting you.  You will also feel it push you along until the rear of the truck has passed you.  Keep as far left as practical and safely as possible and maintain your speed (even with just a little power on to keep your van or trailer straight).  DO NOT HIT THE BRAKE.  After the truck has cleared the front of your vehicle and it is safe for him to pull back in, give him a courtesy flash with your headlights or an "all clear" on the UHF.  This is particularly important in wet weather as often his left hand mirror can be obscured with mud and dust making it difficult for him to judge when he is safely past you.  Remember he is on the wrong side of the road and is anxious to bring his rig back in safety as quickly as possible. 


Should you slow down to allow the truck/semi to pass?

When you see a truck in the distance behind you and you plan to slow a little to allow him to pass, don’t wait until the last minute to do so.  There will usually be oncoming traffic as he waits for his opportunity to pass safely and having to brake behind you will not allow him to maintain the momentum he needs to overtake.

What should you do if you see a truck/semi coming towards you on a narrow road?

The very first thing you should do is gradually reduce your speed.  This gives you more time to react to any situation which may arise and to pick a safe shoulder of the road to pull over and eventually STOP.  If the edges are soft and you get bogged you can easily be pulled out by the truck, however if you force the truck off the roadway and it gets bogged, nothing will pull it out.  If the roadside is dusty and you force the truck off, you will not be able to see any dangers coming along behind him until the dust clears. 

It is always better to pull off the road completely and stop to let the truck have the bitumen, than be showered with rocks from upwards of 94 (Roadtrain) tyres because you wanted to “share” this strip of hard surface.  Be considerate of your fellow travellers, and this includes trucks / semis.

Outback road

When should you dip your lights for oncoming trucks?

As with normal vehicles driving at night, you should dip your lights to low beam to avoid blinding the oncoming driver as soon as you see the lights of oncoming traffic.  If following a truck, don’t wait until you are right up behind him before dipping your lights.  Truck mirrors can be 15 times larger than normal vehicles and do not have an anti-glare position.  When you move out to overtake the truck, do not return your lights to high beam until you have completely past the truck mirrors.


Parking in Truck Rest Areas

Avoid parking in a “Truck Rest Stop” unless absolutely necessary. ie. Fatigued, no other options.  Remember these areas are for the truckies who by law have to have a break every 5 hours, and 12 hours rest after 12 hours driving in any 24 hour period.  If you do stop in a Truck Rest Stop this may mean you will have to endure stamping cattle, air brakes, refrigeration unit noise and other associated noises from these big rigs.

Also see article on Rest Stops

Sharing the road space

Keep in mind that trucks and semi’s are large units and therefore will take a huge portion of the roadway.  When a truck approaches you, increase your own safety by being aware of your position on the road and create as much “buffer zone” between you and the truck by keeping as far left of your lane as you can as you pass each other.  If parked on the side of the roadway whether for just a minute, broken down or even if pulled over by the police, park well clear where possible.  A lot of travellers park only centimetres from the fog line (the unbroken line on the left of the roadway) and with large trucks using all the road, this leaves little room for error.


Share the road
This photo illustrates just how little space there can be when sharing the road with these big rigs.  Keep in mind the vehicle was towing a caravan when this picture was taken.

What should you do when approaching a roundabout and you find yourself beside a large truck/semi?

Roundabouts can cause problems with car drivers not allowing for the need of the truck to possibly use ALL of the roadway.  The “Do Not Overtake Turning Vehicle” sign applies in this instance and you should stay well behind the truck as he will sometimes need to move into your laneway to negotiate the corner. 

Oversize signOversize Pilot / Escort vehicles approaching
When you see a Pilot / Escort car approaching towards you, there are a number of factors you should consider when deciding what to do.  First and foremost slow down to give you more time to react to the situation.

Scenario 1:  If the Pilot / Escort vehicle only has the amber roof light flashing, headlights on and displaying an "OVERSIZE LOAD AHEAD" sign, this will mean the load is between 3.5 m and 4.5 m wide.  If the road is wide there is no need to stop, but slow down to about half your speed and keep well left.

Scenario 2:  If the Pilot / Escort vehicle approaching has the amber roof light flashing, headlights on and displaying an "OVERSIZE LOAD AHEAD" sign – as well as white Wig Wag lights operating, this will mean the load will be between 4.5 m and 5.5 m wide and depending on road conditions – prepare to stop completely moving once again as far left as possible.

Scenario 3:  If all of the above indicators are visible and the Pilot / Escort is also accompanied by one or two Police Escorts, you MUST STOP.  Pull right off the road taking care not to park in cuttings or obscuring road signs.  After the load has passed, check to make sure a second load is not following and pull safely back onto the roadway.

Coming up behind an oversized load without a Pilot / Escort vehicle

If you need to pass an oversized load without a Pilot / Escort vehicle (loads under 3.5m do not require a Pilot unless over length) use your UHF on Channel 40 and let the driver know you are behind him.  He will call you around when safe.  Overtake quickly but safely and thank him when the job is done.  If there is a Pilot vehicle behind the load he will be in communication with the lead Pilot vehicle and when it is safe to do so, he will wave you around to overtake.  Always wait until the direction is given.  In some States it is illegal to not comply with the directions of an Authorised Accredited Pilot driver and you can be fined and lose points of your licence.

Travelling on multi lane roads

Always keep left unless overtaking on multi lane roads.  Why travel within 1 metre of an oncoming car or truck when if you keep left as much as possible you can have 3 – 4 metres, giving more room for error.

Truck Truck


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