How Road Trains Work


How to Play Nice with a Road Train
If you're approaching a road train, you need to not only stay in your own lane, but you need to stay as far left in your lane as possible. Chances are that train of trucks is using its entire lane -- and some of yours, too.
If you're approaching a road train, you need to not only stay in your own lane, but you need to stay as far left in your lane as possible. Chances are that train of trucks is using its entire lane -- and some of yours, too.
(Creative Commons/Flickr/Teddy Fotiou)

We mentioned that one of the dangers for road trains is idiot car drivers. Think of it: These are tired (or, um, wired) drivers piloting more than 400,000 pounds (181,437 kilograms) of freaked-out cows along at an average of 56 mph miles per hour (90.1 kilometers per hour) through countryside so desolate a mechanical issue has to be fixed by a guy flown in to help. That truck will not -- nay, likely cannot -- stop in time for the one car he's seen in 21 hours of driving ... one which has decided to cut him off. That car will be a pancake, like something out of a cartoon.

If you're headed to the Outback for a road trip (for some insane reason), here are a few driving tips to help you not end up looking like a cartoon pancake:

  • Don't ever cut off a road train. Simple physics tells you it will take for-freaking-ever for the brakes to stop so much mass.
  • Don't pass as they turn. If the road train ahead of you has its blinker on, don't try to scoot around in the empty lane. These rigs need so much space to maneuver a turn that they'll use everybody's lane. Everybody's.
  • Don't get all swervy. Don't forget, this is Australia, where the driving is backwards to Americans. So if you're approaching a road train, you need to not only stay in your own lane, you need to stay as far left in your lane as possible. Chances are that road train is using its entire lane -- and some of yours, too.
  • Don't pass unless you can see 2 miles (3 kilometers). Passing a road train 170 feet (51.8 meters) long, even one averaging less than 60 miles per hour (96.6 kilometers per hour), is going to take you a long, long, long time. Before tucking into the opposite lane, make sure you can see at least 2 miles (3 kilometers) ahead before mashing the gas like your life depends on it.
  • Don't slow down. If you're tooling along the roads of the Outback and a road train appears in your rearview mirror, don't slow down so you can get a good look. The truck can't slow down as quickly as you, and there you have it. You're a pancake.
  • As a matter of fact, just stop. If a road train is going to overtake you, rather than dealing with the turbulence, the dust it's going to kick up, and the terror of not slowing down like you're starring in "Drive 3: Roadtrains!," just pull over. Way over. If you choose to let the road train blow past you, pull way off the road and wait for the dust to settle.

Author's Note: How Road Trains Work

Nerds of the 1990s, keep on reading. Normal people with non-nerd interests and people born after, say 1995, you can move on to the next article.

I was assigned this roadtrain article, and the first thing I thought was Shadowrun. I know you did too, fellow nerds. I know your fingers itched for a sack full of six-sided dice and a character creation scheme so convoluted it took days to create a fully-formed, well-rounded character with a background and a future -- who would die at the hands of a low-level Go-Gang in the first session.

Oh, fine, normal people who are still reading. Shadowrun is a dystopian future role playing game, and it has road trains in America. They run only at night, and are driven by artificial intelligence systems just smart enough to pilot the five-trailer rigs in the dark. They don't use headlights, so anybody traveling after dark had to beware these inhuman truck trains. Roll to not be a pancake.

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Sources

  • Australian Road Train Association. (June 30, 2014) http://www.australianroadtrains.com.au/info.asp
  • Bradke, Birgit. "Australian Road Trains in the Outback." Outback Australia Travel Guide. (June 30, 2014) http://www.outback-australia-travel-secrets.com/australian-road-trains.html
  • Freightliner. "Seriously Heavy Loads, Meet Your Match." April 2013. (June 30, 2014) http://www.freightlinertrucks.com/Multimedia/Newsletter/2013-04-April/Article-1/
  • Michigan Department of Transportation. "Transport Permit Glossary Pictures." (July 6, 2014) http://www.michigan.gov/mdot/0,4616,7-151-9625_56949-275017--,00.html
  • Patrascu, Daniel. "Road Trains, Multi-Wheeled Freaks." AutoEvolution. Oct. 13, 2009. (June 30, 2014) http://www.autoevolution.com/news/road-trains-multi-wheeled-freaks-11977.html
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  • Truckers Report. "Facts About Trucks - Everything You Wanted To Know About Eighteen Wheelers." (July 6, 2014) http://www.thetruckersreport.com/facts-about-trucks/
  • Whale World. "Blue Whale." (July 6, 2014) http://www.whale-world.com/blue-whale/
  • Wood, Matt. "Kenworth T909 Powers Ahead in Road Train Configuration." New Truck Search. March 11, 2014. (July 6, 2014) http://www.newtrucksearch.com.au/reviews/2014/3/kenworth-t909-powers-ahead-in-road-train-configuration/

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