Having just returned from a 2000 km trip south from the Gold Coast, Queensland to Victoria and back, I have had cause to ponder on the abilities of truck drivers.
About four hours from home on our last day we had the unnerving experience of almost being ‘wiped out’ by a semi-trailer.
There was a huge (and I mean HUGE) truck travelling in front of us, complete with pilot vehicles, front and back, with lights flashing. The truck was carrying some sort of oversized machinery.
It was a slow ride, but we weren’t concerned as we were content to travel at 80 kph while towing our small caravan.
As we made our way northwards on an ordinary (two-way) hilly country highway, there was little traffic - and vehicles heading south (towards us) were mostly cautious when passing the behemoth in front of us.
At one stage we could see a white car on the other side of the road, heading our way, closely followed by a very large and long semi-trailer. We assumed they would make careful progress passing the ‘monster’ as they continued along the road towards us.
As the white car proceeded alongside and past the huge loaded truck and the back pilot vehicle, for some reason, the car's driver slowed almost to a stop – remember there’s a loaded semi-trailer immediately behind it.
There seemed nowhere for the southbound semi to go but either into our little Volvo or into the almost stopped white car. The truck driver hit the brakes and all 22+ of his wheels locked in a mass of burning rubber as the back section began to ‘fish-tail’ towards us.
With mighty skill, the semi driver righted his vehicle, managing to miss us by a few inches.
We had no idea where any other vehicles were after that as we were enveloped in a thick fog of black and grey smoke from the skidding tyres. Being temporarily blinded, we slowed our car and waited for the smoke to clear.
Expecting to see mayhem but grateful for being left unscathed, we were surprised to see that everyone had escaped. The truck had miraculously missed ploughing into the car in front of it as well as missing us.
The foolish driver of that stopped car merrily (?!) continued on his way as the clever truck driver gathered his rig back on to the right track and off he also went.
Oh, how we wished we could have thanked him and praised him for his driving skills. But he was on a mission to deliver whatever load he had on board and he had driven off, heading south, while we slowly continued northwards.
The driver of the back pilot vehicle pulled over to the side of the road to regain his composure and maybe (we thought) to report the close shave.
How often do we hear comments bewailing the nuisance factor of large trucks driving along our roads and highways? I know I moan about them a lot, saying that such huge amounts of goods – whatever they may be – should be carried by train and that trucks are a danger to all other road users.
I worry about the safety aspect when out driving, after hearing talk of truckies working over-long hours and the possibility of them taking drugs to keep awake and I often wonder about those truckies and their ability to react in a tight situation. Would they cope? Are they the cause of many road fatalities?
Well, the truckie who had the ability to control his vehicle in the wake of the stupid action of a car driver will forever have my gratitude. His driving skills were magnificent and all I can do is hope and pray that he is an example of the ability held by most other truck drivers on our roads.
A big thank you to ‘our’ truckie on the Cunningham Highway, somewhere near Inglewood, Queensland, on April 16th. You were amazing!
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