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Like a little old lady on speed: pardon the drug reference, but that’s how my friend Tom describes my driving.

Driving has never been one of my stronger points. I sit right up close to the steering wheel and lean forward to bring my head closer to the road. I go fast to reduce the drive time and like many motorists, I strongly dislike driving behind, beside, or worse still, between large trucks.

I acknowledge my poor driving, but some motorists don't and they're the ones you're likely to hear blaming truck drivers for making driving on our roads dangerous and even for causing accidents. In fact, plenty of research over the years has suggested that both truck driver error and passenger car error contribute to car accidents involving trucks.

Chris Boyle is a Truck Driver who’s convinced that it’s not until people have the chance to travel in a truck that they realise just how challenging it is for truckies themselves to contend the road conditions on local streets and highways, especially in rural areas. I had the opportunity to get a truck driver’s view of the road with Chris last Saturday, when TruckWeek came to Lismore.

A major source of frustration for Chris, as a truckie and a new dad, is when cars cut in front of trucks or drive too close behind him. “The big things I always tell people is that trucks are a lot heavier than cars, sometime 50 times more heavy, and that doesn’t just mean they have the weight to crush little cars, it also means they take longer to stop.” Chris said.

chris

“The other thing I tell people is to make sure they stay in view, because if they can't see my rear vision mirrors I can't see them, and that’s when it becomes really scary.”

With road tonnages expected to double in Australia over the next 20 years, rear vision mirrors on trucks are something we motorists are increasingly having to look out for. But instead of putting more trucks on roads to cope with the increasing freight demands, governments and trucking groups are trialing new ways to reduce truck traffic.

Down in the Dubbo region in Western NSW, for instance, a new system is being trialed with the support of the NSW government and local Councils, to have trucks with bigger loads of 10 to 15 per cent more cargo – as opposed to more trucks - on roads. Director of the National Road Transport Operators Association (NatRoad) and spokesperson for TruckWeek 2010, John Morris, said the concept will be put in place in the next couple of months.

Meantime, as truck freighting booms, down the gurgler goes the nation’s ailing rail industry. North Coast NSW rail campaigner Karin Kolbe is one person who won’t be celebrating this Truck Week. She says trialing bigger trucks with greater freight loads won’t improve driver safety any more than adding new trucks to roads.

“Some freight must move back to rail,” she said. “Rail is a much more viable and safe freight option than trucks, relieving congestion on roads, reducing the number of deaths and protecting the environment. There is already too much freight on our roads… we need to get containers on trains.”

For more facts on truck safety, hit this page.

Posted: Monday February 22, 2010

Published: Feb 22, 2010 1:31pm by philippa.

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