The Caravan, or wobble box as they’re affectionately known has a bit of a contentious reputation in Australia, and I’ve always found it fascinating. As we crest a hill in Queensland, with our UHF on channel 40, I hear a barney taking place.
‘Why are they #$*&$% on the road on a day like today?’
‘I’ll smash you!’
‘Why are you doing 80km/h? Stay home if you want to do that speed.’
‘You save fuel doing the speed limit’
Asides from the fact that my kids are in the car (hopefully out of earshot), I’m intrigued, and not long after a number of trucks go past, with a caravan in the middle of them, and can only assume this was the party going hell for leather on the UHF.
Caravans owners cop a lot of hate at times, and whilst any form of altercation is not something we’d recommend I do more often than not, completely and utterly understand why there’s so much hate.
In this post, I want to take a look at what causes the issues, how you can be respectful to others on the road, and how you can help make the road a better, safer place for everyone.
A story about caravans and farm machinery
Before we go too far, I want to share a story that I read a while back, which highlights the hate for caravaners. A lot of people travel Australia, and stop for work, and I read about a couple who’d pulled up at a farm to work for a few months, and were staying in their caravan.
Part of the job was driving heavy, slow farm machinery on the road, and it was mentioned that they had plenty of interactions with truck drivers whilst taking up a good chunk of the road, going slow and ultimately inconveniencing others. Their comment was that everyone was super respectful, and helpful when driving the heavy farm machinery.
However, when they got back in their caravan in the same area, they copped abuse, despite not holding up traffic, or doing anything incorrectly. Same driver, same ethics, and in both cases trying to do the right thing, but caravans have a bad reputation, and cop it often.
Fair? Probably not, but that’s just how it is, often.
Why is there hate for Caravan owners in Australia?
I’m going to dissect a number of points here, which are in no particular order, but are all important:
Speeding up in overtaking lanes
If you want to upset someone, sit at a particular speed, and then increase it as soon as an overtaking lane starts. When it ends, slow down to your chosen speed, and continue on your way.
Don’t laugh. This happens all the time, and in some cases its by caravan owners, and it’s a sure-fire way to make someone as mad as a cut snake. We’ve experienced this in the hills of Geraldton, where we’re sitting behind a caravan doing 85km/h, until an overtaking lane, where the driver suddenly decides every time to do 100km/h.
I’m going to assume that this is simply the fact that overtaking lanes are in areas where the road is better and people are completely and utterly oblivious to the fact that they are blocking a huge amount of traffic, but if you do this, you should probably hand your license back in.
Instead, maintain your chosen speed, or slow down a little if there’s a line of vehicles behind you.
Not using towing mirrors
If you can’t see the line of traffic behind you, its probably because you don’t have the right mirrors. By law, you need to be able to see the past the side of your van, and when most of them are substantially wider than the average car, you need to have towing mirrors.
If you don’t have these, its illegal, dangerous and downright disrespectful to everyone else on the road.
Measure your van, measure your mirrors at the widest point, and if its not wider on the mirrors you need to go to the shops and get yourself some towing mirrors.
No UHF radio, or not using it
Most problems on the open road between two different parties can be quickly, easily and safely resolved by using a UHF radio. I’m going to say it should almost be mandatory to have one if you are towing anything substantial. Put it on channel 40, talk to those in front and behind you where needed, and listen for oversize loads coming the other way.
We use ours all the time to let other drivers know if something is wrong, or if we’re happy to slow down for them to overtake, or if we want to go around someone on a dusty, gravel road.
Parking in truck rest areas
In Australia, the laws surrounding truck drivers and fatigue are tough, and highly policed. Truck drivers doing long hauls will have a log book, and they have mandatory breaks that must take place, or they risk fines.
Truck rest areas are dedicated places for people with large trucks to pull into, and to rest. They are for trucks, and need to be kept clear. I continually see photos of lines of caravans in truck rest areas, and when a big truck comes in and has no where to park, what can they do? They can’t just pull off the road anywhere, or drive to the local car park and have a sleep.
I don’t encourage damage or violence, but if you stop in a truck rest area and make it hard for a truck driver, the chances of something going wrong with your setup are hugely increased.
Find yourself a rest area for caravans, or a caravan park, national park or even pull off the road somewhere safe.
Travelling too close together
When you’re driving along, there should be a substantial distance between you and the person in front, unless you’re overtaking, or getting ready to. If someone comes up behind you, and you’re sitting right up the backside of another vehicle towing a caravan, it makes it twice as hard to overtake.
If they’re sitting up the backside of another towing vehicle, its three times as hard, and any big, heavy truck is not going to be able to get around, so they’re stuck behind you, getting angrier and angrier by the minute.
If you have a UHF radio on the truck driver can ask for a gap to be made, but I’ve witnessed occasions where truck drivers have been stuck behind a number of caravans, with no one responding on a UHF radio, and it turns sour real fast.
Not being respectful of truck drivers on time limits
Everyone has a right to drive on the roads, but there are some common courtesies that should be considered.
Truck drivers literally keep the country running, and for the most part, are amazing guys and girls. They’re also on time limits, drive ridiculous size vehicles and would have to put up with some truly terrible drivers on the road.
Be respectful. Consider the fact that they are being paid to move a load from A to B, and you’re on holidays. They’re driving big rigs, that require a fair bit of concentration and effort, and they can’t manoeuvre nearly as well as you can.
If they want to get around you, help them do it. If they’re stuck at a busy intersection and its safe to slow and let them out, do it. It’ll make you feel good, and it will make them very, very happy.
Driving at well below the speed limit
By its very definition, the maximum speed is a limit; you are not required to drive at it, and many people towing caravans do not. However, there’s laws in place that prohibit you from driving too slowly, or from holding traffic up.
Most people on the road will sit close to the speed limit, and that means if you want to go well under it, you should be considerate of those behind you.
90km/h is generally accepted as a pretty good balance, but if you’re doing 80km/h or less, expect people to get irate.
Yes, you will save fuel, and its safer on your part to go slower, but its disrespectful to everyone else if you are continually holding people up.
Trying to be helpful with no understanding
I’ve seen some absolute corkers on the road, where people towing will slam the brakes on and force a big B double to overtake. If you want to be helpful, understand how big and heavy some vehicles on the road are, and use your radio.
Forcing someone to overtake when they aren’t ready, or confident is a bad move. Pulling off the road onto the gravel and showering rocks everywhere isn’t helpful, even though you might think you’re doing the right thing.
Not getting off the road on a single lane road
Believe it or not, but there are still a lot of single lane roads in Australia, and if you’re driving on one and have a vehicle coming the other way, you need to react intelligently, smoothly and carefully.
Generally the bigger vehicle has right of way, and if you are in a caravan and don’t get off when a truck is coming the other way, its not going to end well for you.
How can you drive respectfully, and correctly?
I was going to say common sense and courtesy probably covers everything you need to do to tow a caravan around safely, but it’s probably not enough. Consider other people, get the right gear, drive carefully and do your best to not give Caravan owners any worse of a reputation than they already have!
Have you witnessed caravan hate?