CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

A Trucker Says Goodbye to the Road

From an interesting piece in the Australian Herald Sun:

“The reason I finally quit the job I loved – driving big trucks – was that I didn’t want to kill someone. I realised that times have changed and the dangers were too great.

I realised, to my horror, that I could be held responsible for the death of someone else, just because another driver had not been paying enough attention on the road. It can happen just like that.”

Full story here or after the jump.


Confessions of a truck driver
Article from: Sunday Herald Sun

Dennis Luke

November 16, 2008 12:00am

DRIVING a big rig is not only a job; it’s a lifestyle of freedom, stress, loneliness and a thousand hidden dangers. Veteran truck driver Dennis Luke explains why he had to leave the world he once loved.

I WANTED to drive trucks since I was a kid. I guess it was in my blood.

Every weekend, the family would take a trip around Melbourne on public transport and I became fascinated by all the small and large vehicles we travelled on.

That’s when I decided to be a driver.

They were heady days. I loved the weekends and I couldn’t wait to one day be driving a big truck. It was my big dream.

My father was a bus driver for 35 years and he showed me some of the tricks of the road to keep me safe.

Now I’ve been driving for 35 years myself and I’ve learned quite a lot more about the dangers on our roads.

You have to have all your wits about you when you have 45 tonnes of big truck in your control.

The reason I finally quit the job I loved – driving big trucks – was that I didn’t want to kill someone. I realised that times have changed and the dangers were too great.

I realised, to my horror, that I could be held responsible for the death of someone else, just because another driver had not been paying enough attention on the road. It can happen just like that.

Killing people was never in my job description.

You see us truckies rumbling down the highways but you probably have little idea of what we put up with.

Life is a lot harder for truckies than it was when I was a kid.

Car drivers love to blame the truckies for accidents and other troubles on our roads. A lot of car drivers see the big rigs as nothing more than a nuisance, getting in your way when you want to go faster.

But often the fault for road accidents lies with car drivers not paying enough attention to what’s going on around them.

They are so wound up by a million things happening in their lives that they forget the basic philosophy of driving safely.

Have you ever stopped to think how your continual cutting in front of my truck causes me to suddenly slow down, causing traffic congestion and danger in the line of traffic coming behind me?

And what about when you enter the on-ramp on a freeway and think you have automatic right of way, even though you don’t look to see if there is space available until the last second?

Do you consider that you are causing not only one vehicle to slow, but many in all lanes because you are not paying attention?

And if you are with a number of vehicles on the on-ramp, why do you all expect to gain an instant position on the freeway?

Cars should enter a freeway one at a time, not five or more at a time.

If your vehicle is next to or behind mine, you have the responsibility to merge with my vehicle, not the other way round. It’s pure logic, but some people don’t seem to get it.

Of course, not all drivers are unthinking. Some do their best to share the road with other vehicles.

As a former truckie, I reckon I could fix about 75 per cent of our road and transport problems pretty quickly. It’s mainly about using common sense.

For example, some intersections have not been upgraded for up to 20 years. Until recent work, it had been 10 years since they upgraded Toorak Rd.

And our traffic lights need to work a lot better.

You get up to 10 intersections all operating differently within a short distance of each other.

The road system is obviously not working to its potential. No wonder drivers become frustrated.

Keeping a steady momentum is the ideal for all drivers, regardless of what you are driving.

But with so many interruptions on our roads, it’s hard to keep to a steady pace.

People have to be aware the unexpected happens on our roads.

It is only when we are vigilant that we can be safe.

People need to be taught how to safely drive our tunnels day and night. The Government could try harder to educate people.

The tunnels save time and money, but they can be made much safer for trucks and cars.

I have driven through all of them, sometimes four times in one day, since they have opened and have, like many other drivers, become tunnel smart. I could list 20 ways of making tunnel travel safer.

I know that it’s all about speed and momentum. The uphill sections create their own problems.

The safety issues really hit home the other day when I was travelling on the Tullamarine Freeway.

I had passed Bulla Rd and was travelling at 80km/h because of the volume of traffic, even though the speed limit was 100km/h.

I had 80m in front of me clear, so if there was a tricky situation I had plenty of room to stop safely.

But instead of one or two cars pulling in front of me, which still would have given me enough room to stop if needed, six vehicles pulled in front of me at the same time, within about two seconds.

That didn’t leave me much time or room to react.

The last two cars came within 10m of me and one missed me by centimetres. The driver realised at the last moment that I was there. I had to swerve to the right into the other lane to avoid a crash.

Not that I received any thanks. During the next couple of minutes the last two drivers continued to harass and blame me for just being there.

Some people have funny notions about trucks. They reckon life would be better for them if we were taken off the roads by 5am every day.

But imagine what would happen then. Supermarkets and petrol stations would run out within days.

Then stores that only operate during daylight hours would not be supplied with normal everyday household items.

So no goods for shopping centres, no milk or bread, eggs or petrol. We would all have to get around by walking or cycling. There would probably be riots all over the country.

So take it easy on the roads next time you venture out. And remember that truckies are only doing their jobs.

We all have a duty of care for each other – and that means we have to concentrate on the roads.

Take it from someone who knows.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008 at 12:16 pm and is filed under Etc., Roads, Trucks. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

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May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
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June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
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June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
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June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
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Fondo de Prevención Vial
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Royal Automobile Club
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Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
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American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
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Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
Madrid, Spain

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
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April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
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January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

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Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

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ISL Engineering
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Australian Road Summit
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New York State Association of
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