Question: what’s 50m long, weighs up to 200 metric tons, and careens through the Australian outback at breakneck speed? Answer:
They might not be as famous as other things in Oz (like kangaroos, koalas, and crocodiles), but they’re no less iconic! Trust us, these mechanical monsters rule the roost in the world of Australian trucking. They’re vehicles of a gargantuan size that are purpose-built to ferry an array of cargo across the wild open expanses of the country.
For their size and unstoppable speed, it’s no surprise that road trains are notorious in the Land Down Under. Yet almost nobody knows what it’s like to drive one! That particular privilege is usually reserved for the few men and women who are brave (or crazy) enough to get behind the wheel…
So, we thought we’d shine a light on what’s involved. Want to learn more? Keep reading to discover all about the reality of driving these giant trucks down under.
They Serve a Vital Purpose
The first thing to know about road trains is that they’re downright essential in Australia. To understand why that’s the case, though, you have to appreciate the sheer size of the country and the remoteness of some outback towns. You can drive for days without seeing anything but sun-scorched red dirt and scrubland.
These factors combine to create a logistical nightmare in terms of delivering goods. To make the journey feasible, you need a big, reliable truck that can carry enormous loads. Road trains serve that exact purpose and provide a lifeline to some communities in the process- some of whom are 100% reliant on the cargo they deliver.
They Carry Diverse Cargo
Anything and everything. That’s what road trains transport across the country! From livestock and fuel to machinery and beyond, there’s almost no limit to the type of cargo they can haul.
“But what happens if they breakdown?” We hear you ask. The good news is that these trucks are fitted with first-class communication systems. If something happens (and they can’t fix it themselves), the trucker calls back to base to request help.
That’s a significant change from the old days! Way back when, before modern communication systems were invented, road train drivers had to handle any mechanical mishaps themselves. If they broke down in the bush, it was up to them to find a solution.
It’s Dangerous Terrain
Road train drivers face a host of dangers on a day-to-day basis. First and foremost, they’re traveling across some of the most hostile terrain on the planet! The outback’s a vast and desolate place that claims the lives of people every year.
It’s easy to understand why…
Imagine breaking down in the middle of no-where, in 45 degrees Celsius heat, with limited supplies and no phone signal to call for help. Oh, and don’t forget the deadly snakes and spiders that are everywhere too! As you can imagine, it’s never a good situation to find yourself in.
Yet this is the potential predicament that road train drivers face every day. They have to be highly-skilled, knowledgeable and prepared for any eventuality.
No Highways in the Outback
Another thing to know about the outback is that the roads there are nothing like what most truck drivers are used to hauling freight along. In fact, calling them ‘roads’ is being a little generous. It isn’t uncommon to drive down plain old, single-lane dirt tracks. And heck, these vehicles are so darn big you need a special permit to take them on any standard roads you come across.
These Outback roads are getting better. But you’re still driving along nothing more than a thin strip of tarmac that’s shared with intrepid tourists and locals. This causes its own set of problems…
For one thing, when you’re moving such heavy loads (you’d need to find a weighbridge for sale to find out exactly how heavy your truck is) at high speed, dropping a wheel over the edge of that tarmac can have catastrophic consequences. And some car drivers (especially foreign visitors) don’t realize it’s their responsibility to let the road train pass!
Dodging Fire and Rain
As if these aforementioned hazards weren’t enough, the crazy Aussie conditions add insult to injury. The heat’s one thing (you can literally cook your breakfast on the bonnet), but the wet season can be even worse. It doesn’t just rain here- it floods.
Indeed, it’s common for drivers to get caught up for weeks (and sometimes months) after a downpour. The famous red dirt of the Outback turns to mud in the torrential rain and deep pools of water form as well. Passing through those kinds of conditions is impossible.
And if you’re not dodging floodwaters, you’re trying to avoid bush fires. Huge swathes of Australia are razed by fire every year. The last thing you want is to find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Staying alert, following the news, and being as prepared as possible can literally save your life in Australian trucking.
Getting a License Is Straight-Forward
Given the challenges involved, you might be surprised to hear how easy it is to get an Australian truck driver license. Once you have your car license, all you do is take a test and get it endorsed so that you can drive heavy vehicles with it too!
That’s only the basic truck license though. To drive the heavy or multi-combination trucks, you have to hold the heavy-ridged license for a full year before upgrading to the real big boys. All training’s done on the job too, as opposed to going to a driving school or being put through a program of any kind.
The Wonderful World of Australian Trucking
The reality of Australian trucking is unlike any other. This wild and wonderful land confronts truckers with unique challenges to navigate on a daily basis. However, most people (even local Australians) don’t know exactly what’s involved in the job!
With any luck, this post has shone a light on this particular industry and given you a newfound appreciation for what these truck drivers do for a living! Want to continue your education on the Land Down Under? Search ‘Australia’ on the website now.