Thursday Thoughts #11

A quote from the book I am reading, Grave Peril, (one of the Harry Dresden series) by Jim Butcher.

" I'd hate to think the universe wasn't conspiring against me.
It would jerk the rug out from under my persecution complex."

My Thoughts On Truck Drivers.

In particular those who drive those big semis and b-doubles carrying huge weights in freight.
There has been plenty in the news lately on trucks that have accidents because of brake failure. 
Especially coming down the freeway here in SA, that long descent into Adelaide, which is quite steep in some places.

There are arrester beds these trucks can run on to, but often there is traffic in the way or the nearest one is too far away and now there is talk that we need to construct yet another one, closer to the Adelaide end of the freeway. 

Just last Tuesday morning there was yet another out-of-control truck, smoke pouring out of it, speeding down the freeway escorted by police to keep cars out of the way until the truck could finally stop 1.4km into the city. Just up the road from where I live.
Verdict? Brake failure.
Just one more driver who hasn't been properly trained and used his brakes to control his speed coming down the hill. It's a very long hill! 
Overuse overheats the brake pads which then fail.

Now hear this.

Last week on Today Tonight (a current affairs program) a South Australian trucker was featured on the program showing the proper way to come down the hill. 

By using his gears! 
Those huge trucks have multiple gears for a reason! 

On steep descents, at appropriate times, the driver must downshift to the correct gear and by doing so, his truck cannot run above a certain speed. 
When coming to a winding section or a steeper section, gears must be downshifted again, to keep the speed appropriate. 

We were shown a short film with this trucker coming down the hill where most of these accidents occur and the reporter was in the cab with him witnessing the gear changes at the correct times, seeing that the trucker did not touch his brakes even once until slowing down for the lights at the bottom of the hill where the freeway meets Portrush, Glen Osmond, and Cross Roads. It's a four-way intersection.
And that truck did not speed down the hill, but drove safely, still keeping up with traffic.

The trucker then mentioned how too many drivers are not properly trained and use their brakes too soon and too often, thus overheating them, so when they are really needed they fail. He also mentioned that he and his son, also a driver, had driven up and down these same hills for many years, always using the gears, never once having an accident or a brake failure. 

So there it is. 
The big rigs have many gears and they are not there just to look pretty. 
They are there to be used to control speeds instead of overheating your brake pads which will then fail you. 
You could die! Do you want to?
You could plow into many other cars, killing many other people! Do you want to?
Learn to use the gears, please. 

It's my opinion that instead of another arrester bed, huge signs should be erected at certain places along the freeway telling truck drivers to downshift NOW. 
Drivers who don't should get fined. Hugely.

An even better idea would be to resurrect the many defunct train lines all over Australia and send this heavy freight by rail. Get those trucks off roads that were constructed for cars. 
(Freight used to go by rail and I don't know why it was stopped and moved to trucks).

Here are my questions. 
WHY aren't these drivers receiving the proper training in how to manage a fully loaded (or even half loaded) big rig by using their gears? 
Do the companies concerned prefer to write off a truck and its load rather than pay for training? 
Their insurance premiums must be huge. Think how much they'd save if their company was well known for safe driving and no accidents. No brake failures. Certainly they'd pick up more business.


  1. My BIL and his son are both truck drivers who know how to drive. My BIL is retired now, but my nephew trains drivers for his company. One made him so angry at his "cowboy" attitude that my nephew put him out at a motel and called the company to come pick him up.

  2. The drivers I see are all younger and probably grew up with automatic shifts. Knowing to gear down is probably never mentioned.

  3. I hear you.
    And wish that those in power, those who drive, would also open their ears.
    And a related sadness. Some years ago a migrant family having a picnic on an arrester bed were all killed when a truck used it for its intended purpose.

  4. Beats me because I thought all truckers did gear down but obviously they don't. In the old days when all cars were gears, we always saved the brakes by gearing down. I remember when I first started driving it seemed so difficult to get the stick in the correct gear.

  5. All very valid points and questions, River.
    Hubby used to drive trucks and heavy machinery years ago, and he still is dumbfounded when he hears of/sees trucks not gearing down steep descents.

    In some places in W.A., there are signs telling trucks to "use low gear" or "avoid using engine brakes" at appropriate spots on the roads.
    It is an important part of training - unless some younger truckies are fortunate to listen to and be told by the older guys what to do.

    There are too many poor truck drivers out there ... as well as extremely bad car drivers that pull in front of trucks in all conditions - but that is another gripe of mine for another time.

    Too many companies these days rush drivers through - to "get the goods there on time".
    And, customers are pushing for quicker deliveries.
    Rush, rush, rush.
    Safety training (literally) seems to take a back seat in priority.
    So much can go wrong with heavy vehicles.

  6. The beer fairy drove trucks for years, he now says that because of the structure of the way companies work theses days the drivers are now hired by smaller companies who are contracted to larger companies so training has gone out the window all cost cutting and the pay is reduced for the driver as the middle man takes his cut.
    I agree trains should be used more but the are too slow for todays demand for things to be delivered quickly.

  7. Joanne; your nephew makes me proud.

    lotta joy; this is why proper training is so essential for truckies.

    Elephant's Child; that is very sad. Did they not know enough English to see that area wasn't a picnic ground? did they not wonder why there were no tables and seats?

    Manzanita; there are plenty who do gear down, mostly the older drivers who learned back in the day when things were slower and training had to be passed before getting behind the wheel on your own.

    Vicki; we do have a few signs telling trucks to use low gears, I've seen them, but it's not enough. There needs to be more signs that specifically say "gear down now!" I'm appalled too at cars that pull in too close in front of big rigs. They simply don't realise that if something were to go wrong, that truck needs much more than a few yards to be able to stop in a hurry.
    Your last paragraph explains a lot of the problems too.

    Merle; there's another part of the problem. Smaller companies contracted to the bigger ones, where those in charge don't bother to check if drivers have had proper training, they just hand over the paperwork and tell them to "get there on time or earlier."
    It's all rush rush rush and beat the competitor.
    We consumers are at fault too, always wanting things delivered immediately. Personally I'm happy to wait, I know that things take time.

  8. I wonder about the exhaust brakes too? I don't know how they work, but I just guess that they don't use the normal braking system.

    That hill really is a terror for strangers. While I often think some speed limits are too low, I think the speed limit coming down the hill is too high. As I am sure you know, there have been some bad crashes at the bottom at that intersection.

  9. Andrew; I agree the speed limit down that hill is too high. I worry daily for my grandchildren who drive it daily getting to and from work here in Adelaide. I know nothing about exhaust brakes.

  10. Maybe a Ten Speed Automatic Gearbox would compensate for the laziness of drivers, although adding more cost to the truck the savings would show by having less accidents.
    I wonder if a Parachute being towed would assist the deceleration. meaning like those used for aircraft on short runways, just a thought.

    Great post.

  11. Taking your eyes off the road to see what speed you are doing can cause accidents.
    Keeping your eye on the road can sometimes create a fine for speeding?
    You are not permitted to use a phone in one hand and leave the other hand on the steering wheel, however, one may use the unoccupied phone hand to change gear? Hmm.
    Having your speedo readout at eye level and use only an auto gearbox is the safe answer, then again it would increase road tax caused by the lack of revenue from speeding fines. and many garages and chop shops would go broke.
    Happy Driving, Vest.

  12. Truck drivers who don't know how to operate a truck correctly shouldn't be driving trucks!

  13. Vest; the laziness of drivers explains why they can't be bothered changing gears. I've heard some trucks have as many as sixteen gears, I don't think an automatic would cover that. I'm very glad I don't drive, but worry for family members who do use that road daily.

    Lee; some of the trouble is companies hiring non-qualified drivers to save costs. And the trucks aren't properly maintained, again to save costs. How will they feel when their companies go broke because of too many accidents from all their cost cutting?

  14. I notice nobody has mentioned the book quote....

  15. We know all about trucks here in the West and, like you, I wish the government (left or right wing) would have the intestinal fortitude to open up many of the railways that used to run hundred of miles into country areas. The Labor people here, several years ago, said they would bring back putting more goods on rail but it never happened.
    We have a huge hill (Greenmount) coming down from the Darling Ranges which has at least one of those arrester beds but still trucks have not stopped in time. There was a terrible crash a few years ago and I forget how many vehicles were involved (at the bottom of the hill) but still many kms from the city.
    As we are not far from Fremantle you can imagine the number of semis that use the roads not far from our home. They even set the traffic lights on Stock Road to stay on longer so the trucks can get through quicker. Too bad about the people waiting on the side roads waiting for the lights to change.
    Hope you are fully recovered from the procedure you had. :)

  16. Pardon me, the book quote is dopey, not worth shit.

  17. Mimsie; getting goods back onto rail would see a lot of dying small towns get the revival they need and stop some of their young people leaving for the city too. Australia could be opened up again, instead of millions congregating only along the coast.

    R.H. yet it fits in well with the rest of the story. Lighthearted fiction.

    Happy Christine; very scary. The last incident on the Tuesday had the driver, with smoke pouring from his brakes, ignoring the arrester bed on purpose, believing he could still regain control of his vehicle. Idiot. He's been charged with multiple offences.

  18. Is that Harry Dresden, the warlock detective? I bought the season one of the tv show but they cancelled after the first series. I enjoyed the show and I love the quote.

  19. JahTeh; yes, Harry Dresden the Wizard detective. I have the TV series on DVD too, but the stories are different. There are 13 Harry stories and I'm enjoying them, currently halfway through number 5, Death Masks.


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