Heavy vehicle rest area use – ‘not so black and white’

Caravan road safety researcher and campaigner Ken Wilson, who is also manager of the popular Truck Friendly caravan movement, says the use of heavy vehicle rest areas is a national problem that needs a national solution.

“Governments of all levels also need to be accountable for some of the confusion that currently exists with different laws and standards throughout this one country,” said Wilson.

“All the blame is not with any one group and more can be done by all parties to help remove the ‘us and them’ mentality that currently exists and work together.”

With the Australian Government revealing plans to establish a ‘think tank’ into the issue, Wilson has reposted the views he expressed on the issue back in 2020 – as have since remained unchanged.

Though he added that the problem isn’t as black and white as it may seem.

Wilson believes, “We need ‘truth in use’ signage and legislation to back it up, allowing better policing and penalties.”

In the article, Wilson writes, “Rest areas have been placed at regular intervals along the highways so that all drivers have a safe place to stop and rest. Many, but not enough, are designed for heavy commercial vehicles or fatigue regulated vehicles only.

“Many truck drivers may have been driving the same routes for many years and use the same rest areas on a regular basis and for that reason may assume that it is a ‘truck stop’ – but what does the signage on that area actually say?

Wilson says clearer signage and legislation is needed to prevent rest area misuse.

“The problem has been allowed to get to boiling point and we now have an unhealthy ‘us and them’ mentality between the two road user groups.

“Truck drivers report that they arrive at a heavy vehicle rest area at 2am and often find it filled with RVs and nowhere to park a long B-double.

“They then feel forced to drive on, stretching their safe and legal driving hours to the limit or beyond. The drivers advise that some have been woken in their trucks from their compulsory rest by RV drivers and asked to turn off their refrigeration units as the RV driver finds it hard to sleep with the noise.

“This attitude, and lack of understanding, helps fuel anxiety and frustration in all drivers which often is reflected in dangerous and aggressive driving behaviours by some.

“There are good and bad drivers in all vehicle types. Most drivers want to, and do do the right thing. There is a group in all vehicle classes that either are plain ignorant, do not care about the safety of other drivers, those who are misinformed or uneducated. We cannot fix stupid with a law.”

Wilson says that Truck Friendly is continuing its efforts in helping educate caravanners and motorhome drivers on the correct use of truck stops and heavy vehicle rest areas, and fully supports leaving the designated areas for the fatigue regulated vehicle driver’s exclusive use.

But as Wilson explained, “We all know the intention of the rest areas and the laws are to allow fatigue regulated drivers a safe place to rest, but the governments on all levels have left large grey areas that will make it very difficult to police and enforce intended usage.

“I believe there are many ‘grey areas’ in the differing state and NHVL legislation. The signage is ambiguous, non-consistent interstate and within the same states, non-specific and does not refer to the legislation. There are too many names, symbols and silhouettes, with nonspecific identified legal meanings. The ‘KIS principle’ needs to be applied – Keep It Simple.”

To read Ken Wilson’s full article, click here.

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